Hovering above virtually every US military installation in Afghanistan is a large white balloon, a ubiquitous symbol of the technological might behind America's efforts here. Ranging in size from about 75 to almost 120 feet long, these helium-filled blimps are armed not with the latest weaponry, but with a sophisticated array of cameras that help pinpoint and deter insurgents. From 1500 feet in the air, state of the art optics can capture the minute details of a broad swath of the countryside in real time, making intelligence gathering and threat detection far easier for commanders engaging an elusive enemy.
Field Rep Isaac Eagan with one of the balloons undergoing service in Siah Choy
Though hugely beneficial for US troops, these balloons are viewed less positively by the local population. For many unused to modern technology, they are an invasion of privacy, and certainly, the insurgents are not fond of them in the least. Accordingly, when the contractors who operate the balloons retrieve them for maintenance, they are often found riddled with bullet holes, though they are sturdy enough to withstand significant fire.
For more details on these eyes in the sky, read the following New York Times article: http://tinyurl.com/6vbwm2e
Afghanistan Field Rep