The French procurement and technology agency, Direction générale de l’armement (DGA), launched a tender to procure tethered balloons dedicated to observation.
“The DGA has launched a European call for competition to provide the [French] Army with tethered balloons equipped with optronic balls to provide real-time observation and surveillance capability day and night,” the French Ministry of Armed Forces announced on May 31, 2022.
The tender calls for the procurement of ten units under a 12-year contract which include the development of the balloons and the trailer for their storage and attachment.
The system must have a small logistical footprint, remain operational in difficult environmental conditions including wind, dust, and heat, and be usable by a limited crew of operators that are not specialized in aerial systems.
Back to basics
Balloons as a means of observation is nothing new. The French pioneered this field in the 18th century, when they used the invention of the Montgolfier brothers to monitor the battlefield during the French Revolutionary Wars.
They were abandoned at the beginning of the 20th century with the development of aviation but found a new role during the Second World War as tethered barrage balloons were used to defend strategic locations from attacking aircraft.
Though tethered balloons are now making a comeback as an observation solution, they will have to compete with captive drones. In May 2022, the DGA awarded the company Elistair a contract to deploy its Orion 2 wired drones for the surveillance of some of its strategic sites.