Gassing Up

By Sebastian Sprenger / April 2, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter spoke enthusiastically this morning about plans for a significant increase in the number of camera-equipped aerostats over Afghanistan as a cost-effective way of looking out for insurgent fighters and IED emplacers. Then, this afternoon, the Defense Logistics Agency said it is looking for a contractor to run a facility in the country where liquid helium is converted into gas -- just the kind often used in blimps and tethered balloons.


To be sure, the request for information doesn't say specifically what the gaseous helium would be used for. But the circumstances suggest a connection.

The contractor would be required to always have gas on hand -- even in the event that the conversion is for some reason unavailable, the RFI reads. "To satisfy this no-single-point-of-failure requirement, the contractor may provide on-site storage containers to store gaseous helium previously produced at the facility," according to the RFI. The production schedule is simple: 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Defense officials prefer a portable facility, like one mounted on a skid, that the government would lease on a monthly basis, the RFI reads.