The U.S. Air Force is looking for low-cost approaches to counter high-altitude balloons.

“Adversarial, long-range, high-altitude balloons (HABs) represent low-cost threats capable of en masse employment that compromises the confidentiality and security of our nation,” Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio wrote in a May 28 business notice. “We are looking for information on capabilities that address high-altitude balloons using cost-appropriate systems and methodologies that effectively mitigate, neutralize or eliminate associated risks.”

“Information can be provided in any form (e.g. white paper, PowerPoint presentation) and should focus on demonstrating creative solutions capable of operating at high altitudes and addressing multiple targets,” the command said. “The government is interested in learning about solutions that can operate above 50,000 feet, visually detect targets and engage multiple threats with its payload.”

In February last year, Raytheon Technologies [RTX]-built AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles fired from fighter jets took down a Chinese surveillance balloon off the coast of South Carolina and three other unidentified objects off the coast of Alaska, in the Yukon territory of Canada and over Lake Huron (Defense Daily, Feb. 16, 2023).

After those incidents, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) hinted that it had adjusted the filters of its North Warning System (NWS) radars to be able to detect and follow slow, stratospheric balloons, which are also less susceptible to infrared detection as temperatures are more than five dozen degrees below zero at 35,000 feet and above.