Terrorist activities are tearing the fabric of stability and civil society in many nations across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Government and private sector forces are using a mix of basic and advanced technologies to help deter and defeat the asymmetric threats presented by mainstream terrorist organizations and their associate groups.
Counter-terrorist forces, and units in closely aligned missions, are increasing their reliance on unmanned air systems (UASs) for operational- and tactical level decision making. The UAS’ increasing popularity for these assignments can be gleaned, in part, from developments at Insitu.
The Bingen, Washington-based company’s ScanEagle and Integrator UAS platforms continue to serve customers around the world. Indeed, SDArabia Weekly Print readers who attended the 2015 IDEX may recall the successful demonstration of the Integrator UAS during an exposition live flight event.
Mark Russell, Insitu’s MENA business development executive,noted that his prospective and current customers’ requested or stated needs,are for fundamental capabilitiessuch as EO (electro optic) and IR (infrared). “It is this capability gap that most nations need to fill. Insitu specializes in this area with two ‘best in class’ systems: EO900 and MWIR 3.0,” he pointed out, and then explained the two systems “are key providers of critical Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance information used in counter terrorand asymmetric warfare mission sets, as well as anti-piracy,anti-poaching, oil/gas pipeline and renewables surveillance, human trafficking, protecting sea lanes and transportation infrastructure, and so on.”
Asked to provide several MENA customers, Russell responded, “Perhaps a better question might be ‘where are we not?’ as we are active acrossthe region and experiencing unprecedented growth across MENA.” The executive further noted the recent addition of ScanEagle 2 to the company’s family of products “will add to our ability to provide information so our customers can make superior decisions.”
In an adjacent product space, Raytheon’s Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment (RAID) enhances counter terrorism and asymmetric warfare by supporting border patrol,maritime domain, drug enforcement interdiction and high value target/arena surveillance and protection missions.
Raytheon initially developed RAID to meet the critical need for persistent surveillance in Operations Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Iraqi Freedom. RAID consists of infrared and other sensor systems, elevated on a stationary platform, capable of detecting hostile troop and equipment movement at great distances.
Antoinette McBride, the company’s program manager for RAID,pointed out “More than 500 fielded systems and 20 configurations have been deployed because it is proven technology with a distinguished service record. With several hundreds of thousands of hours of operation, the RAID system has maintained excellent operational readiness. The systems have been deployed extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan by the US Army, and have also been delivered to NATO.”
A US Foreign Military Sale of RAID units to Iraq is pending.
Raytheon envisions further expansion of RAID’scurrent baseline technology. While the system’s technical capability has evolved rapidly and significantly since 2003, from elevated standalone sensors to integrated/netted sensor systems that support precision targeting, “We envision further evolution through the application of custom sensors and advanced interoperability with other platforms to satisfy growing mission requirements,” McBride concluded.
Back on the ground, AS&E is another familiar, expanding brand in the MENA counter-terrorism fight. Chuck Dougherty, the company’s president and CEO, said histechnology “has proven to be the most effective technology to detect organic compounds such as explosives and gases. Critical infrastructure security is being redefined when you look at terrorist activities like the recent museum attack in Tunisia. With mobile and fixed site offerings, we can optimize our technology to be used in malls, parking lots, etc.”
AS&E’s products are used broadly through MENA at major high-risk facilities, holy sites such as Mosques, military bases, border crossings, and critical infrastructure facilities such as oil and gas refineries. “Wherever there is significant terrorist activity, there is a clear need for AS&E’s products because of their ability to detect explosives, like VBIEDs[vehicle improvised explosive devices], with Z Backscatter® technology. Our X-ray systems are also utilized to detect drugs, contraband, and counterfeit goods and smuggled items to avoid duties,” the Billerica, Massachusetts-based executive emphasized.
Marty Kauchak, SDArabia’s US correspondent.