The U.S. military will reportedly spend a cool one billion dollars on the purchase of additional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) gear to assist soldiers deployed in Afghanistan.
However, DoD spokesperson Geoff Morrell emphasized that the additional funds won’t be used to buy “more Predators” or other high-end drones.
Rather, the money will help troops fortify perimeter surveillance with “aerostats [spy balloons] and fixed-camera positions.”
The new equipment is also expected to help pinpoint insurgents who plant IEDs, while more precisely tracking enemy troop movements.
“[The Persistent Threat Detection Systems] has a wide area range that can also cover down on roads,” explained Morrell.
“[And] when daisy chained together throughout a battlespace it soaks up the terrain and becomes eyes in the sky.”
As Wired’s Spencer Ackerman notes, Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, requested the additional spy gear in anticipation of a seasonal return to fighting by the Taliban, which is expected to be “exceptionally intense” this spring.
“Commanders in Afghanistan tether balloons mounted with cameras and sensors to towers on their bases for an expansion of their ability to spot threats for a fraction of the cost of a drone.
“[And now], the Army’s even looking to mount dummy balloons as a way of psyching out insurgents,” he added.