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Sure, it took an extra year or so, but Northrop Grumman has finally penciled in the first flight of the giant surveillance airship it’s building for the U.S. Army. The Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle — a football-field-size, helium-filled robot blimp fitted with sensors and data-links — should take to the air over Lakehurst, New Jersey, the first or second week of June. K.C. Brown, Jr., Northrop’s director of Army programs, crows: ”We’re about to fly the thing!”
But at a special forces industry conference here in Tampa, Northrop’s Brown surprised Danger Room with a hard date range: LEMV will lift off between June 6 and 10, he says. After a brief trial around Lakehurst, the 300-foot-long airship will motor south to Florida to be mated up with a custom-designed gondola containing the blimp’s cameras and radios.
If the gondola fits as planned and all the gear functions, the pilotless LEMV will cross the Atlantic in “early winter,” bound for “a theater” for a front-line demonstration, Brown says. We’re sure the “theater” in question is Afghanistan. If war commanders like what they see in their new giant spy blimp, the Army could order up more copies, Brown says.
Never mind airworthiness and sensor integration: The biggest danger, according to Brown, is the weather. Airships are “subject to buffeting by winds and by thunderstorms.” Operators have to plan carefully to keep their airships away from storms.
Despite airships’ checkered past, Northrop is optimistic the LEMV will survive the elements and its combat debut. The company is already looking beyond the initial Afghanistan trial. The LEMV can do more than hover and spy. It’s also a potentially useful cargo carrier. The current model can carry 20 tons of supplies. A scaled-up version could carry hundreds of tons — and at a fraction of the cost of fixed-wing airplanes.
Originally posted by shambles84
I think this report is just full of hot air , seriously though why do they even need something like this when they have drones and satellites all pointing down at Earth . Like another poster said its a sitting duck and a pretty good terrorist target .
Originally posted by dashen
How much does it cost? Why was it so hard to use tech that was essentially developed 100 years ago?
USA! USA!edit on 23-5-2012 by dashen because: (no reason given)
Originally posted by sligtlyskeptical
I am wondering how such a ship will avoid enemy fire. And what happens when it gets hit? Does it blow up like most blimps? Talk about a sitting duck!
Originally posted by dashen
Spy blimp? Isn't it a bit hard to be covert when, y'know, you're the size of a football field.
Evidently, I may have offered this up to the wrong forum. Apologies.