20 May 2002
Source: Mapquest.com

The Tethered Aerostat Radar System: http://gomwg.faa.gov/aerostat.htm

Aerostat Mission

The Tethered Aerostat Radar System is a balloon-borne radar. The primary aerostat mission is to provide radar data in support of other federal agencies involved in the nation's drug interdiction program. One aerostat, located at Cudjoe Key, Fla., transmits TV Marti, which sends American television signals into Cuba for the U.S. Information Agency.

"Fat Albert"

Aerostat Features

The aerostat is a large fabric envelope filled with helium. It can rise up to 15,000 feet while tethered by a single cable, which has a maximum breaking strength of 26,000 pounds. The aerostat network consists of three sizes of aerostats and three varieties of radar. The smallest aerostat is about twice the size of the Goodyear Blimp. The 275,000 cubic foot, aerodynamically shaped balloon measures 175 feet long by 58 feet across the hull, with a tip-to-tip tail span of 81 feet. The aerostat system lifts a 1,200 pound payload to operating altitude for low-level radar coverage.

US Air Force on the TARS: http://www2.acc.af.mil/library/factsheets/tars.html

Cuban attempt to jam TV Marti: http://www.is.lt/ratekona/jamming/page062.htm

President Bush, July 13, 2001:

It gives me great pleasure to announce the Director, Office of Cuba Broadcasting, Mr. Salvador Lew, a well-respected journalist and member of the Advisory Board for Cuba Broadcasting. I have told Mr. Lew that my number one priority is to make sure that Radio and TV Marti are broadcast clearly to Cuba allowing every Cuban citizen access to accurate news and information. In order to do that, I have instructed him to use all available means to overcome the jamming of Radio and TV Marti. Once we open the flow of information, the demands for freedom will ring stronger than ever.

Radio/TV Marti website (in Spanish): http://www.ibb.gov/marti/

Commerce Business Daily, July 26, 1999:


Category: R--Professional, Administrative and Management Support Services (PROCUREMENTS)

Date Published: July 26, 1999

Contact: U.S. Information Agency, Office of Contracts, 301 4TH STREET SW, Room M27, Washington, DC 20547 POC Contact Point/Contracting Officer: Herman Shaw (202) 205-5414

OPERATIONS AND MAINTENANCE (O&M) SUPPORT FOR TV MARTI SYSTEM AT CUDJOE KEY AIR FORCE STATION (CKAFS) SOL IA-2105-S923-4946 The United States Information Agency (USIA), International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) has a requirement, subject to availability of funding, for a Contractor to operate and maintain the TV Marti broadcasting facility located at CKAFS in Cudjoe Key, Florida. This facility receives a satellite feed from USIA/IBB Washington, DC, and provides an uplink feed to the aerostat transmitter for broadcasting via a television channel frequency for broadcast to Havana, Cuba. All equipment for this work is provided by the United States Government. System drawings, manuals, and other pertinent documents are provided at the TV Marti facility. The Contractor shall furnish an experienced technical staff on a firm-fixed price (FFP) basis to operate and maintain the TV Marti broadcasting system according to applicable Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules and regulations and using best practices engineering procedures and as described in the appropriate National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) documents. System enhancements, supplies, parts, out-of-scope repairs and engineering, testing, etc. will be handled under a cost reimbursable contract line item number (CLIN). The Contractor shall automate the current reporting procedures to provide timely O&M information to the Government. The automated network shall include items of both normal and critical nature, such as, but not limited to: real time operations parameters; preventive maintenance instructions and scheduling; incident reporting; system failure alarms; notification; statistical analysis; system improvement recommendations; procurement; training; broadcast logs; quality control and assurance; spares and equipment inventory; and material support. The successful offeror will assume responsibility from an incumbent contractor. The period of performance shall be one (1) year with four (4) yearly renewal options. The solicitation will be released on or about July 20, 1999, and will close thirty (30) days after the solicitation issuance date. Access to Solicitation No. IA2105-C9234946 is available through USIA Website address: www.usia.gov. Telephone requests for this solicitation will not be honored. All responsible sources may submit an offer which will be considered. (W-203 SN357675)


Sailing high above Cudjoe Key is the blimp commonly called "Fat Albert." There are two Fat Alberts, actually, one on the ground while the other is in the air. Fat Albert is used by the U.S. government for several purposes, including radar for aircraft and boat traffic (especially for drug enforcement) and weather. The blimp is also used to broadcast "TV Marti," a U.S. television station targeted toward an audience in Cuba.

Airborne view of Cudjoe Key TARS site looking northerly.