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Airship to support US troops in Afghanistan

A new unmanned airship just larger than the length of a football field will take to the skies in just 18 months to aid US troops in Afghanistan.

Northrop Grumman has been awarded a $517m (£350.6m) to develop up to three of the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) systems for the US Army.

Under the agreement, awarded by the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, Northrop Grumman will design, develop and test a long-duration hybrid airship system within an 18-month time period, and then transport the ship to the Middle East for military assessment.

The LEMV will be capable of reaching altitudes of 20,000ft for a three-week period, and it will operate within national and international airspace.

To develop the airship, Northrop Grumman has teamed with UK-based Hybrid Air Vehicles, Warwick Mills, ILC Dover, AAI Corporation, and SAIC.

Northrop Grumman will provide the system integration expertise and flight and ground control operations to safely take-off and land the unmanned vehicle.

An in-depth look at the future of airships can be read by clicking here.

Readers' comments (14)

  • It all looks very pretty, but what on earth would it be used for? and why does it need to be airborn for 3 weeks? I'm sure this $517million could be better used clearing the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

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  • Anonymous, I think you will find that they already have the money for the Gulf oilspill - from the shareholders of BP.

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  • Erm, for an intelligence gathering vehicle it's not exactly inconspicuous is it? And helpfully labelled with the words 'US Army' too....

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  • Anonymous, why airborne for 3 weeks?

    It's for intelligence gathering, it would be a little inconvenient if it wasn't in the air for as long as possible...

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  • After deployment of the blimp, foot soldiers will be issued with flintlock rifles and dry powder. The gattling gun will replace 50mm cannons, and Hummvies will be replaced by horseback cavalry.

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  • If you're the enemy trying to stay out of sight, how would you feel about not being able to do that for three weeks at a time or longer. I can see pinpoint artillery sighting from 20k feet up as well. I think it's good if they can keep it from getting shot down.

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  • Not exactly going to dodge SAM rocket is it! As for the oil spill I wonder how many at the White House and Congress will benefit from 50% being wiped of BP shares? Another UK company heading for foreign ownership?

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  • I recently read that the US forces were fed up paying for the local bandits in Afghanistan to transport their gear through iffy territory, so heavy lifters above all the mess below would be useful for resupplying remote positions.

    Regarding the oilspill, there was one last year off the Australian/Indonesian coasts that took 10 weeks to plug yet I don't remember a lot of comment or concern (for the devastated Indonesian beaches/coastline/ fishing areas/ environment) in the US at the time. It is surprising that the penny didn't drop with the US politicians then, that fixing unanticipated well hiccups in deep water was not easy. I thought it was obvious to everyone.

    Maybe the US should have spent some money to learn how to do engineering under a mile of water, or at least encouraged the oil companies to do so - looks like it could have come in handy.
    Some posters in the US even expected the US Navy to come in and fix the leak as if by magic - nuke it perhaps.

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  • "....and it will operate within national and international airspace."
    errr... what other kind of airspace is there, within which will NOT operate? What does this sentence mean?

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  • What a shame it is an American Airship. There has been an airship company, which may now be called Hybrid Air Vehicles that has been operating from the famous airship hangers at Cardington in Bedfordshire for a very long time and in the 1980 and 1990's nearly became world beaters. This system of long term, slow speed at height surveillance has been available for development for a very long time. With the up to date electronics it can be a formidable boost to satellite observations that can be limited by orbit positions and weather. All power to their elbows, the terrain in Afghanistan has always beaten non-tribal forces but now there may be "eyes in the sky" that will help bring this conflict closer to an end. Poke fun all you want but anything that will give us an advantage in this area should be welcome.
    Trevor Best

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