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Updated 2:12 PM EST, Wed, Jan 29, 2020

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Saudi Arabia Buys Airships from the US to Spy on Houthis in Yemen

High spy

(Photo : Lockheed Martin) Lockheed Martin Persistent Threat Detection System of the type bought by Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has bought a battlefield surveillance system from the United States whose core consists of tethered airships, and will probably deploy these systems to Yemen where the Saudi Arabian Army is facing a rising tide of losses in men and equipment to Houthi rebels.

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency said Saudi Arabia bought "aerostat" surveillance systems in a deal worth $525 million. This tethered aerostat-based system is called the "Persistent Threat Detection System" (PTDS) by its maker, the U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin.

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At the center of the PTDS system bought by Saudi Arabia is the 74K Persistent Threat Detection System Aerostat, which is a helium-filled, lighter-than-air airship that provides ground troops with long-range intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and communications assistance. The tethered balloon carries an array of different sensors and payloads.

Saudi Arabia bought 10 PTDS systems; 14 ground moving target indicator radars; 26 MX-20 electro-optic infrared cameras and 10 communications intelligence sensors.

Mooring systems with powered tether with embedded fiber optics, ground control systems and associated installation hardware are also part of the deal

Lockheed Martin said PTDS is equipped with multi-mission sensors to provide long endurance intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and communications. It noted that PTDS was recognized as one of the U.S. Army's Greatest Inventions of 2005 by the Department of the Army Engineers and Scientists.

PTDS is basically a wide-area, secure communications backbone for the integration of threat reporting from multiple available sensors.

It consists of an aerostat; a tether; a mobile mooring platform; mission payloads; a ground control shelter; maintenance and officer shelter and power generators and site-handling equipment.

Lockheed Martin delivered its first Lighter-Than-Air-based persistent Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) systems to the U.S. Navy more than 75 years ago.

In December 2016, the U.S. approved a Saudi government request to purchase 153 M1A2S tanks as part of a $1.15 billion package.The Saudi government said it wanted the tanks as "battle damage replacements" for tanks lost in combat in Yemen to the Houthis.

The Saudi Arabian Army has apparently lost over 20 M1A2S Abrams main battle tanks to Soviet-era anti-tank guided missiles fired by Houthi rebels backed by Iran, and the Saudi government is now buying more tanks from the United States to replace rising losses.

Saudi Arabia leads a military coalition of 10 Arab states that has been fighting in the Yemini Civil War since March 2015 to restore to power the legitimate regime of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi ousted by Shia Houthi rebels militarily supported by Iran.

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