AF pact pumps up base protection

As part of its response to the June 1996 terrorist bombing of a U.S. Air Force military complex in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 airmen and wounded 250 others the Air Force this month awarded TRW Inc. a $495 million contract to build intrusion-detection systems for U.S. military bases worldwide.

The contract called the Tactical Automated Security System (TASS) grew out of the Force Protection Initiative launched by then-Secretary of Defense William Perry just weeks after a bomb ripped through the Khobar Towers U.S. military housing complex in Saudi Arabia.

TRW received the initial "emergency" TASS contract in October 1996 and since then has raced to install 120 sets of sensor systems in Southwest Asia. TRW has focused mostly on the vast Prince Sultan Air Base which is the new Saudi Arabian home of 4 000 airmen and troops who were relocated from the Khobar Towers area.

Capt. Nathan White the TASS program manager for the Air Force's Electronic Systems Center (ESC) said he expects TRW to complete the installation of the initial TASS systems in Bahrain the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia by the end of October. White said ESC then plans for TRW and two small-business contractors that will be selected this month to provide mobile smart sensor systems to all three military services and other interested government agencies.

The Air Force plans to provide TASS kits which include sensors and computers packed in hardened transit cases to security teams in squadrons that face deployment with a typical forward operating base "requiring a tractor-trailer load of equipment " White said.

Craig Carter the TASS program manager for TRW said the company developed its TASS solution relying primarily on commercial sensors "used in security systems by industrial parks prisons and [stateside] military bases where they store sensitive items."

Southwest Microwave will provide its line of microwave sensors which blanket a base perimeter with pencil-thin radio beams that act much like radio-frequency versions of electric eyes. TASS also includes technologically enhanced versions of old-fashioned tripwires. All the sensor systems feed information into Pentium PCs from Gateway 2000 Inc. These PCs are housed in command posts which serve as the brains of the TASS system. They run map-based software provided by Intergraph Corp.

Carter said the TASS sensor suite includes a thermal imager provided by Texas Instruments Inc. This imager allows U.S. security personnel to zero in on radiant body heat to view a person at night in dust or in fog.

Racal Communications Inc. developed the radio communications system which ties together the sensors using commercial frequencies. Ted Neiman the business development manager for Racal said the sensors feed a digital signal into a miniature transmitter that sends data back to the command post computers.Besides the Air Force Carter said U.S. Army forces in Bosnia have expressed interest in TASS. And the Energy Department has indicated an interest in the program.

The initial TASS deployment to Saudi Arabia has started to pay dividends according to the Air Force News Service. "It is leaps and bounds ahead of what we've had " Staff Sgt. Victor Pickering of the 4409th Security Police Squadron told the Air Force News Service.

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