UK may invest in spy balloons to boost intelligence gathering

The UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) may invest in a fleet of spy balloons to facilitate surveillance and intelligence gathering.

According to Desir, a magazine produced by Mod (pdf), its military procurement arm is turning to “balloon-based” systems to better “exploit” the stratosphere.

The new equipment, similar to the Chinese spy balloon that was shot down over the United States last month, will be developed under Project Aether.

Last year, ministers signed a £100 million contract with a US company to develop a “screwless platform for stratospheric communications” and for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance purposes.

Surveillance balloons fly between 50,000 and 80,000 feet, making them less susceptible to turbulence.

Ross Corbett, Project Aether’s Military Requirements Manager, said in the latest edition of Desider: time.

“Our theory is that the turbulence experienced by an airplane flying at 40,000 feet is not present to the same extent in the stratosphere.

“If so, we can fly very light aircraft for long periods of time without worrying about being exposed to turbulence. This could be a layer of the atmosphere with very little traffic or weather. there is.”

Conducting a test flight

Corbett said the ministry is considering both “balloon-based” and “fixed-wing systems.”

He said it would be better to have “variety of features” including “platforms that roam the stratosphere for longer periods of time” and other platforms that can stay there for “shorter fixed periods”.

He added that the project is currently undergoing test flights with prototypes from three industry partners: Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), Voltitude and Airbus.

Corbett added: NATO allies.

“I really think the future capabilities of these platforms will be a key factor in winning the battles ahead.”

In response to a question about the balloon from The Epoch Times, a Defense Department spokeswoman said, “We regularly review our capabilities and it is inappropriate to comment further while evaluation activities are ongoing. It is.”

SNC won a UK government contract last year for a ‘stratospheric screwless platform’.

Since then, the company has successfully tested balloons that took off from southwest Arizona, then drifted northeast across cities in many other states.

According to a press release posted on SNC’s website at the time, the company was “delighted” with the result.

The press release added: We are confident that his HAB will meet the mission requirements of not only our MOD customers, but also other of his SNC partners around the world. ”

According to SNC, the balloon will embark on a 60-day pilot flight this year.

Epoch Times photo
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace poses for a group photo during the second day of the NATO Defense Ministers’ Meeting at NATO Headquarters in Brussels on October 13, 2022. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images)

security review

Last month, British Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace announced that a security review would be launched after a number of Chinese spy balloons were spotted over the Americas.

The announcement comes after the United States imposed sanctions on six Chinese organizations involved in supporting Beijing’s surveillance balloon program.

“The UK and its allies will consider what intrusion into these airspaces means for our security,” Wallace said.

“This development is another sign that the global threat landscape is getting worse.”

US and Canadian forces shot down a Chinese reconnaissance balloon and three other unidentified flying objects in North American airspace within nine days of early February.

Another Chinese balloon was spotted flying over Latin America on February 3.

On February 4, a US military jet shot down a 200-foot high-altitude surveillance balloon over the Atlantic Ocean. The balloon then traveled from Alaska across Canada and the United States.

A senior defense official told reporters the balloon flew near “many potential sensitive sites”.

U.S. President Joe Biden has said he had previously considered shooting down the balloon, but opposed the move due to the fear of harming civilians on the ground.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Mao Ning confirmed that the balloons over the United States and Latin America are both Chinese, but insisted they were civilian weather balloons.

At the time, a senior U.S. State Department official told the Epoch Times that high-resolution images showed that the equipment on the first balloon was “clearly for intelligence surveillance and does not match the equipment installed on weather balloons.” said.