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Detecting moving objects automatically is a key component of an automatic visual surveillance and tracking system. In airborne thermal video, the moving objects may be small, color information is not available, and even intensity appearance may be camouflaged. Previous motionbased moving object detection approaches often use background subtraction, inter-frame difference or three-frame difference. In this paper, we describe a detection and localization method based on forward-backward motion history images (MHI). This method can accurately detect location and shape of moving objects for initializing a tracker. Using long and varied video sequences, we quantify the effectiveness of this method.