During the months preceding the first Gulf War, Kuwaiti security forces were faced with unique surveillance challenges. Forces needed to maintain awareness of activities along the interior border with Iraq, along the coast of the Persian Gulf, as well as in the surrounding airspace. Without total domain awareness, the nation was particularly vulnerable to attack.
The Kuwaiti government turned to TCOM, the leader in persistent airborne surveillance, to solve the border surveillance issues using an aerostat system. Just two months after becoming operational, a TCOM LASS (Low Altitude Surveillance System) provided vital early warning of the Iraqi invasion that allowed the Kuwaiti Royal Family to escape. The TCOM 71M Aerostat system had been operating continuously at high altitude for 6 days when, in the very early hours after midnight, its radar payload provided the first alert of Iraqi helicopter activity and mass crossing of Iraqi tanks across the Kuwaiti air and land borders.
A radar operator at the site was credited with alerting the Kuwaiti Air Force Officers of the impending invasion. This early warning allowed security forces to arrange the safe departure of the Emir and his family from Kuwait. TCOM employees at the LASS site continued to operate the system for four more hours during the invasion before safely fleeing the site.
Since the initial detection of invading Iraqi forces, TCOM aerostat surveillance systems have been an integral component to Kuwaiti border security programs. Currently, a TCOM 71M Aerostat system provides persistent surveillance along the Kuwaiti borders, simultaneously detecting and tracking low flying aircraft, surface vessels and ground movers. Ultimately, the Kuwaiti borders – and Kuwaiti citizens – are safer thanks to TCOM persistent surveillance systems.
The most sophisticated and capable system cannot be used effectively if the individuals who operate and maintain it are not properly trained. Therefore, the TCOM Training Group provides aerostat system training to meet this need. The Training Group and Technical Documentation Group are integrally tied together as vital elements of the Integrated Logistics Support of our Aerostat Surveillance Systems wherever they are deployed.
One significant advantage of TCOM aerostat system training is the ability to use our Manufacturing and Flight Test Facility (MFTF) in Elizabeth City, NC, which provides excellent facilities for both classroom and hands-on training of customer personnel. The classroom training is based on material prepared by our experts in our Technical Documentation Group and can be shaped to meet unique customer requirements. The training prepares Flight Directors to fly and manage the aerostat system, and trains technicians to maintain all of the mechanical, electric and electronic equipment in the system. The technicians are also trained to assist in launch and recovery procedures.
The MFTF hangar is so large that trainees can actually fly our smaller aerostat systems inside without concern for adverse weather conditions. It also allows trainees to perform many hands-on activities on our larger systems. Additional on-the–job aerostat system training on these larger platforms is provided at the operational site location. OJT training for smaller systems can be accomplished right at the MTFT facility.
TCOM’s tried and proven training approach to aerostat system training has been an important contributor to our continuing success as the leading worldwide supplier of Aerostat Persistent Surveillance Systems. The TCOM training team has prepared military and civilian customer personnel from many diverse nations to keep TCOM Aerostat Surveillance Systems fulfilling their missions for decades.
Following customer acceptance of the turnkey system, TCOM provides enhanced aerostat Lifecycle Support (LCS) of the system that will significantly benefit the End User for the life of the system.
TCOM’s proven approach to aerostat lifecycle support for fielded systems is based on our expertise in anticipating each system’s needs, balancing availability with affordability, and assigning Headquarters and Field personnel familiar with the system. The support assumes that Operation & Maintenance of the system is being performed by properly trained customer personnel using TCOM supplied documentation, and includes the following elements:
Mod Kits to implement system improvements and/or Upgrades that are driven by emerging needs from customer, feedback from field or operators, or improvements supplied with newer systems.
Based on many years of experience operating and maintaining aerostat systems, TCOM’s proven aerostat Lifecycle Support has helped to increase aerostat systems availability in an efficient and cost effective manner. To better support our expanding business base, TCOM increased our support capability by adding a well-equipped Logistics Center at our MFTF in Elizabeth City, NC.
TCOM provides single point responsibility for the overall system performance and continuing aerostat support essential for the reliable and consistent performance of the Aerostat Surveillance System.
After the system has successfully completed all its formal testing at our Manufacturing and Flight Test Facility (MFTF), it is shipped to the customer. TCOM’s Field Operations & Support (FOS) group, supported by TCOM’s headquarters design and systems engineering groups, provides the in-country expertise for on-site installation, on-the-job training and integration into existing networks.
TCOM FOS pools of field engineers have trained and experienced personnel with the skillsets to supply a turnkey aerostat support solution from installation and checkout (I&CO) of the system to when the system is handed over to the customer for operation and maintenance (O&M). TCOM has installed aerostat systems in more countries than any other aerostat system manufacturer.
After the aerostat system has been manufactured and tested, the payloads that were selected in the system design phase are then integrated onto the aerostat to complete the Aerostat Persistent Surveillance System. The system undergoes final testing to verify that it meets the customer’s operational requirements.
TCOM begins system integration by mounting each payload in the locations chosen to provide the correct field of view, to minimize interference from other on-board payloads and to correctly balance the aerostat for flight. If required, TCOM can provide gimbal mounting for stabilization and INS/GPS for geo-referencing. Environmental packaging is added as required for lightweight weather protection, lightning and environmental protection. The size and weight of the payloads will dictate the load distribution for payload mounting trusses laced onto the aerostat structure. Power for the payloads is provided from power distribution modules in the on-board avionics. Two-way communications for data and control is provided to the Aerostat System Ground Control Station. Here, at the ground control station, the data for the different sensors is correlated and displayed on a common operating display to verify successful integration. Where required by the customer, the data from the ground control station can be disseminated to multiple remote stations with recording and archiving and a full set of analysis tools. A comprehensive testing program is generated to ensure that the integrated system meets all the end user requirements.
The result of TCOM’s approach to the provision of Aerostat Persistent Surveillance Systems is unmatched and well documented. TCOM has provided aerostat systems with integrated multiple active and passive sensors in more countries around the world than any other aerostat system provider.
TCOM produces the most advanced, state-of-the-art and reliable aerostat systems in the world. This is accomplished by having the latest aerostat manufacturing technology, equipment, facilities and tooling to bring our advanced designs to life. We offer capabilities and experience manufacturing aerostat and airship flex structures, mooring stations, avionics, tethers and ground support equipment.
TCOM is the only LTA Company in the world that has a facility devoted to aerostat manufacturing, airship manufacturing, assembly, flight test and training operations – all in a single location. We manufacture the world’s largest aerostats and are capable of manufacturing, inflating, rigging, and testing them all while protected from the weather inside our hangar. We also perform integration and flight testing onsite at our new flight pad. Our aerostats are manufactured using highly engineered, TCOM-designed base fabric. The fabrics are then seamed together using specialized equipment designed by TCOM for the sole purpose of building our flex structures. Once assembled, they are air inflated and tested, then inflated with helium. After helium inflation, the hardware and rigging is installed which prepares the aerostat for integration with the rest of the system.
Our new, state-of-the-art mooring station manufacturing facility is conveniently located adjacent to the hangar. All assembly and testing of the mooring stations is conducted in this central facility. Prior to integration with the aerostat and surveillance components, the mooring stations are passed through a rigorous acceptance procedure to ensure all functionality. Once the mooring structure, boom, tower, and other major portions are assembled together, integration of the machinery, electrical and hydraulic systems takes place. The system’s avionics are also designed and manufactured by TCOM in an environmentally controlled area located at the headquarters facility. After all the components are procured and inspected, material kits are put into the shop for assembly and unit testing. TCOM employs a highly trained and experienced staff dedicated to wiring all the electronic items for the aerostat, mooring system and ground station. In addition, we build swivel slip-rings and perform tether termination and break testing, and perform thermal cycling and stress testing.
Once all of the electronics components have passed unit test, they are assembled together as a functional system and fully tested against rigorous acceptance standards. If payloads are available, they can be integrated at the electronics manufacturing facility or later with the complete system at the hangar. After the aerostat, mooring system, and avionics subsystems are completed, they are integrated together at the new flight pad, located at the Manufacturing and Flight Test Facility. Flight tests then begin as the complete system functionality is tested.
The Elizabeth City aerostat Manufacturing and Flight Test Facility enables TCOM to provide customers with an unparalleled level of quality assurance, training, ongoing operations and field support services. This facility has become the East Coast hub for all airship maintenance and assembly activities. The ability of TCOM to manufacture complete systems, rather than just sub-assemblies, provides us the flexibility to change quickly when needed to accommodate our customers’ needs.
Every security mission requires a unique set of sensors integrated onto a TCOM aerostat design to form a platform system that will meet the customer’s persistent Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) mission. At the heart of every TCOM Aerostat Surveillance system lies a proven design process that effectively blends customer needs and superior engineering to create the system that will meet all of the customer’s functional requirements in a cost-effective and reliable way. The aerostat design also ensures durability and performance for the life of the system. – See more at Aerostat Lifecycle Support
TCOM engineers begin the aerostat design process by gathering a full understanding of the customer’s surveillance mission and operational environment. Based on this understanding and years of expert knowledge and experience, the engineers select the ideal sensor suite that will be integrated onto the Aerostat. TCOM designs also take into account the required communications, power, EMI/RFI stabilization and heading reference systems to provide a high availability airborne surveillance system. Our engineers excel at designing the ground control station as well as the fiber-optic powered tether that carries data and command information from the aerostat to the ground station. TCOM promotes, encourages and supports design engineering in their quest for technical excellence and innovation by providing the analysis tools, state-of-the-art analysis software and test facilities to enable cost effective innovative solutions to challenging aerostat design requirements. In addition, processes and mechanisms are in place to spawn new initiatives and identify emerging technologies so that TCOM engineering is always ahead of the technical curve. – See more at Support from Start to Finish
TCOM’s Engineering Design group boasts an experienced staff of experts in civil, mechanical, electrical and systems engineering, aerodynamics, analog and digital communications, tether design, airborne and ground power systems, hydraulics, meteorology, logistics, installation, training, field engineering, operations and other disciplines necessary for the implementation of full-scale turnkey aerostat design projects. At TCOM we don’t just engineer superior products – we engineer success.
TCOM recruits and retains top talent from high-level positions in military, government and technology sectors, expert engineers from top-ranked schools, and skilled technicians with proven experience. Our team of dedicated professionals consists of a diverse blend of innovators, designers and support staff.
We offer an excellent benefits package, including medical, dental, vision and a 401(k) retirement plan. In addition to generous holiday and vacation schedule, the company has an established compressed work week schedule in which all employees work a 9/80 schedule (80 hours worked in 9 days) which enables the company to close every other Friday.
TCOM headquarters are strategically located in Columbia, MD, minutes from government offices and decision makers in Washington, DC, and mere miles from the Baltimore/Washington Airports and the Port of Baltimore. The modern facility houses the high-tech engineering and support laboratories, as well as the national and international marketing departments and administrative staff. In addition, the facility is home to the high-tech electronics lab, where the aerostat surveillance equipment and antennae arrays are tested and assembled before installation. The Columbia, MD facilities are home to a diverse staff of innovators and experts, all dedicated to providing aerostat persistent surveillance at the most affordable cost.
TCOM’s state-of-the-art manufacturing, production and testing facilities are nestled into a picturesque valley across 225 acres just outside Elizabeth City, NC. The main hangar is a massive 300,000 square foot metal structure that can accommodate vehicles up to 150 feet in height. This 1000 foot long hangar is home to nearly all manufacturing and testing for the entire line of TCOM aerostat balloons. At full capacity, the hangar can accommodate up to six fully-inflated 71-meter aerostats. Within the hangar, a separate, environmentally controlled “clean room” is devoted to the fabrication of individual sections of the larger aerostat hulls, and to the assembly of the smaller models.
Adjacent to the hangar complex is the ground systems manufacturing facility. This newly completed 40,000 square foot building houses two 300 foot long bays along with heavy-duty overhead cranes to lift and rotate components during construction. The assembly, testing and integration of all ground winches and mooring systems takes place within the ground systems building. The addition of this new facility is a result of TCOM’s continued growth and commitment to innovation. A 28,000 square foot Integrated Logistics Support facility is located next to ground systems building.
TCOM also maintains a separate 24,000 square foot aerostat production facility approximately 7 miles from the main campus. This secondary facility focuses on the manufacturing and testing of smaller aerostats and mooring systems, and offers the logistical convenience of railroad access. In each of TCOM’s facilities, the highest levels of security and quality assurance are always enforced.
Thanks to the unique nature of TCOM’s manufacturing equipment, cutting-edge technologies, and expert engineers, the Elizabeth City facilities have become the central East Coast hub for all commercial aerostat and airship maintenance and assembly activities.
The name TCOM is synonymous with the aerostat and with airborne persistent surveillance. Over the past 40 years, TCOM engineers have introduced countless innovations including advanced materials, clean room construction, modern payload integration techniques, reliable ground based power systems and simplified ground control equipment. Our ongoing advancements continue to revolutionize LTA system design and manufacturing techniques. TCOM aerostats are the standard to which all others aspire. Here are just a few reasons why:
From the shores of the Adriatic to the glaciers of the Arctic, from conflict zones of the Middle East to the border regions of the United States, TCOM airborne persistent surveillance solutions provide actionable intelligence from an elevated perspective. Our surveillance systems have served as vital components in applications as disparate as television and radio broadcasting, drug traffic interdiction, illegal immigration prevention, communications intelligence, air defense surveillance, electronic intelligence, troop and vehicle monitoring, and insurgent detection.
TCOM persistent surveillance systems can be customized for deployment over air, land or sea. The complete systems provide total domain awareness, improving mission effectiveness and efficiency. In every environment, TCOM systems provide mission-critical details in time for decision makers to take appropriate action.
At TCOM, we take pride in offering complete surveillance solutions at a low operational cost. When contrasted with alternative airborne surveillance methods, TCOM aerostat solutions offer superior performance with an operational cost that is nominal by comparison. Round-the-clock deployment for periods of over 30 days with minimal maintenance reduces man hours, fuel and other logistics costs. The low price of operation and the superior level of coverage make TCOM aerostat surveillance solutions the clear choice in an era of limited resources and heightened threats.