Fighting IEDs From the Air

Utilizing sensor-carrying lighter-than-air balloons and unmanned aerial vehicles allows for a lot of anti-improvised explosive device capability to be brought to bear relatively quickly, Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, said Dec. 11. “To put a sensor on an aerostat, it’s pretty easy [and] you get a quick capability from the air,” he said during a meeting with reporters in Washington D.C. LTA vehicles, sometimes employed at, or near, forward bases, work well with UAVs to combat IED emplacement, he said. Metz said use of these assets as well as other airborne platforms is all part of the approach that the US is taking to leverage all “three dimensional capabilities” in the fight against IEDs. JIEDDO has looked either to use existing sensors on UAVs, helicopters and even high-flying U-2 reconnaissance aircraft in a new way to counter IEDs or to develop new sensors for this purpose that are tailored to fit these platforms. The challenge with coupling new sensors on airframes is ensuring that the host aircraft’s air worthiness isn’t affected. Metz said. “You have to go down a lot of safety routes, it takes a long time,” he said of altering existing platforms.