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SALT LAKE CITY – The U.S. military has begun testing massive high-tech dirigibles — designed to provide battlefield commanders with a bird's-eye view of cruise missiles or other threats — in the skies over the Utah desert.
An unmanned 242-foot-long balloon was launched Wednesday morning about 80 miles west of Salt Lake City. It stayed aloft for about three hours before it was pulled back down as planned, according to Paula Nicholson, a spokeswoman for Dugway Proving Ground.
Officials said the aerostats will be less expensive to maintain and operate than conventional aircraft-based radar while providing battlefield commanders a bird's-eye view of threats in a given area.
Vast tracts of military-owned desert were chosen for
the testing because of their remoteness and resemblance to
the mountainous, arid environment of Afghanistan, the military
said in a statement.