UK troops using barrage balloons to spy on Taliban

Balloons are armed with sophisticated cameras, electronic listening devices.

London: British troops are reportedly using 60 feet-long ‘barrage balloons’ to spy on Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

Armed with sophisticated cameras, radar and electronic listening devices, the large, unmanned balloons – tethered at over 2,000feet – send live film footage to forward operating bases.

The ‘aerostats’, costing GBP 5 million each, are also used to eavesdrop on insurgents’ mobile phone and radio calls from several miles away.

Images and audio evidence captured by the balloons are sent electronically through secure systems to a mobile monitoring station operated by a Light Electronic Warfare Team (LEWT).

The information is then processed before being sent in encryp­ted messages to Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) for analysis.

“The Taliban are starting to realise that these barrage balloons can see and hear everything, so the enemy can run but they cannot hide,” The Daily Mail quoted a senior source, as saying.

“Where these have been used, we have seen a reduction in the threat. An added benefit is that the local community feel safer as we quickly make them aware of the balloon’s capabilities.”

“Thus, the aerostat has a deterrent factor on potential adver­saries and develops a sense of security among the population, as it watches the area with an unblinking eye – constantly watching areas of suspected insurgent activity,” the source added.

When asked about the technology, a Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesman said: “We cannot comment on specific intelligence, ­surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance systems, but we are always striving to provide our troops on the front line with the best technology to help them bring security to Afghanistan.”