By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 20, 2012

Part blimp, part kite: Military testing Helikite for use over Afghan skies

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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The U.S. military is testing high-tech “battle kites” as a method of lifting communications and surveillance equipment above isolated bases in Afghanistan.

The battle kites aren’t designed to get involved in dog fights. They are built to fly over forward operating bases that are too small to support the large aerostat blimps familiar to troops at larger facilities such as Kandahar Air Field.

The blimps are useful tools for soldiers guarding the bases because they carry communications equipment, cameras and night-vision devices that can zoom in on any suspicious activity — they can even watch for trouble near friendly forces operating nearby.

But many of the bases in Afghanistan are too small to sustain the larger aerostats, according to Maj. Peter Moore, product director at the Army’s Fort Belvoir, Va.-based Rapid Equipping Force. “We are looking at small, more tactical aerostats that can be used at those small bases,” he said.