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Tags: pentagon | budget | balloon | surveillance

Pentagon Boosts Budget for Balloon Projects

An ultra-high altitude balloon launch
An ultra-high altitude balloon launch. (Charles Slate/AP)

By    |   Tuesday, 05 July 2022 10:04 AM EDT

The Pentagon plans to spend almost 10 times as much on balloon projects this coming fiscal year as it has in the past two years combined, according to budget documents reviewed by Politico.

The balloons, which fly at between 60,000 and 90,000 feet, would be added to the Pentagon's surveillance techniques for a variety of missions. This includes eventually being used to track hypersonic weapons that are being developed by China and Russia.

Balloons, which harvest complex data and navigate using AI algorithms, can be very useful in augmenting expensive satellites in tracking such missiles.

"High or very high-altitude platforms have a lot of benefit for their endurance on station, maneuverability and also flexibility for multiple payloads," Tom Karako, senior fellow for the International Security Program and Missile Defense Project director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Politico

Budget documents show that the Pentagon plans to allocate $27.1 million in fiscal year 2023 on balloon projects after it spent some $3.8 million on the idea over the past two years combined.

After the Department of Defense carried out tests for years using high-altitude balloons and solar-powered drones to collect data, provide ground forces with communication and mitigate satellite problems, the Pentagon is transitioning the projects to the military services to collect data and transmit information to aircraft, Politico discovered in Department of Defense budget justification documents.

The balloons can supplement work performed by traditional aircraft and satellites, with the advantage being that stratospheric balloons can be built and launched at a fraction of the cost and time. For example, to launch and operate balloons for weeks or months would cost only hundreds of thousands of dollars, while launching and operating aircraft or satellites would cost millions, or even tens of millions of dollars.

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The Pentagon plans to spend almost 10 times as much on balloon projects this coming fiscal year as it has in the past two years combined, according to budget documents reviewed by Politico.
pentagon, budget, balloon, surveillance
296
2022-04-05
Tuesday, 05 July 2022 10:04 AM
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