The US justice department’s counterterrorism division has revived its plan to acquire balloons to keep the border between Libya and Tunisia under surveillance, saying that following the failure of Lockheed Martin and TCOM, two other US firms are still in the running, according to the French website, Africa Intelligence.
The website said the US, which is the main provider of funds for the electronic surveillance system on the border with Libya, is preparing to give Tunisia another helping hand with its security.
According to the website, the US Department of Justice is planning to revive its plan to acquire tethered aerostats to complement the land-based system which has already been installed by Aecom and URS with financing from the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency.
“The aerostats could be installed at the southernmost tip of Tunisia, where the US electronic “wall” has not yet been completed.” It explained.
Africa Intelligence said that the first version of the project, which was initially launched in 2019 as part of the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program, provided for the acquisition of three or four aerostats for an estimated $23m: it was abandoned four months later, however, mainly on cost grounds.
“The plan initially attracted American defence giant Lockheed Martin and the TCOM group, which was able to highlight its experience in surveillance of the US-Mexican border for the Department of Homeland Security and US Customs & Borders Protection (CBP). Lockheed Martin quietly dropped its surveillance aerostat business, however, which had never really taken off, while TCOM’s bid was judged to be too costly for the Tunisian project.” Africa Intelligence further explained.
It said that at least two less well-known companies are still in competition: Novetta, a specialist integrator of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) systems which has just been taken over by Accenture, made a proposal involving the use of 12- and 17-metre aerostats in 2019.
“It long looked to be the favourite to get the contract but is now facing competition from surveillance aerostat specialist Drone Aviation Corp. This company has proposed its WASP system, which uses a 6-metre balloon and a towable ground station. It can be equipped with a range of captors, including L3 Wescam MX-8 cameras. According to the company, the system can detect a person at a distance of eight kilometres.” The website added.