- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 20, 2022

The Department of Defense will spend millions of dollars on a fleet of high-tech surveillance blimps to help control the flow of narcotics and illegal immigrants along the border with Mexico.

According to a report from Stars & Stripes, the Pentagon will spend $52.2 million to operate and maintain up to 18 blimps known as Persistent Threat Detection Systems (PTDS). The blimps can be outfitted with sensors and cameras and record minute details on the ground from a height of up to 15,000 feet.

The Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Border Patrol, will use the blimps to monitor the border, with maintenance being funded by the Pentagon, according to Stars & Stripes.

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin said similar blimps were first used in Afghanistan in 2003 by U.S. and coalition troops. Insurgents on the ground were perplexed because they didn’t move, fire missiles or drop bombs, Lockheed Martin said in a statement.

“It was only when insurgents began to notice coalition forces anticipating some of their covert operations that they realized those alien-looking airships had been watching — and recording — their every movement,” Lockheed Martin said.



In 2015, a high-tech U.S. military blimp intended to detect a missile attack caused havoc when it pulled free of its mooring at Aberdeen Proving Ground near Baltimore and floated into Pennsylvania. The free-floating blimp dragged along more than a mile of cable and knocked out power to thousands of residents in the area.

The blimp floated for several hours, prompting Pentagon officials to scramble jet fighters to monitor it along the route. It finally deflated and landed in a wooded area about 150 miles away in Pennsylvania, according to the Reuters news agency.

• Mike Glenn can be reached at mglenn@washingtontimes.com.

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