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Author Topic: Army Readies Its Mammoth Spy Blimp for First Flight  (Read 864 times)

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Offline Ken

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Army Readies Its Mammoth Spy Blimp for First Flight
« on: May 25, 2012, 12:12:22 PM »
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/05/massive-spy-blimp/

Army Readies Its Mammoth Spy Blimp for First Flight

TAMPA, Florida — 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!”

It’s fair to say Northrop and the Army are crossing their collective fingers for the flight to actually take place, and smoothly. Giant airships promise huge benefits — namely, low cost and long flight times — but it’s proved incredibly hard to build and equip the massive blimps with military-grade sensors and communications … and fill them with helium.

The Air Force’s highly computerized (and potenitally missile-armed) Blue Devil 2 airship recently ran into integration problems, forcing the flying branch to cancel a planned test run in Afghanistan. (Although the service had never been too hot on airships in the first place.) The Navy meanwhile grounded its much smaller MZ-3A research blimp for a lack of work until the Army paid to take it over. The LEMV seemed to be losing air, too, as Northrop and the Army repeatedly delayed its first flight and planned combat deployment originally slated for the end of 2011.

As recently as last month Northrop and the Army declined to comment on the airship’s new flight schedule. Northrop VP Brad Metzger’s boast from last summer that the $500-million LEMV prototype would “redefine persistent surveillance” seemed hollow.


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.

Noting Pakistan’s continuing blockade of roads into Afghanistan, Brown proposes that the LEMV could help the Army remove its weapons and gear from from the landlocked country as U.S. troops withdraw. “It presents an attractive alternative.”

Yes, if the giant airship actually flies in June — and works as advertised.

“If mankind is to survive, then throughout man’s history except for a very few years the word “ship” will mean “space ship.”
Arthur C. Clarke

Offline Langenator

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Re: Army Readies Its Mammoth Spy Blimp for First Flight
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2012, 12:36:28 PM »
Hopefully the use of Lakehurst, NJ isn't a bad portent.
Fortuna Fortis Paratus
“In the house of a wise man are stores of food, wine, and oil, but the foolish man devours all he has.” Proverbs 21:20
"We are content with discord, we are content with alarms, we are content with blood, but we will never be content with a master." -Pashtun malik, 1815


Offline Dale00

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Re: Army Readies Its Mammoth Spy Blimp for First Flight
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2012, 09:44:09 PM »
I must be missing something. It is a massive, slow moving target. How do you defend it against ground fire?

The Taliban must be licking their chops.
"Test everything. Hold onto the good." 1 Thes 5:21

Offline oldguy52

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Re: Army Readies Its Mammoth Spy Blimp for First Flight
« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2012, 11:09:48 PM »
I must be missing something. It is a massive, slow moving target. How do you defend it against ground fire?

The Taliban must be licking their chops.

That was exactly my first thought too. Are they making the skin out of kevlar or something?
O.G.

"Stupid is supposed to be painful, it's nature's way of learnin' ya" - Me, 1994

When one finds himself living in interesting times, it is prudent to become as uninteresting as possible.... Me, 2011

Offline Bill Quick

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Re: Army Readies Its Mammoth Spy Blimp for First Flight
« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2012, 12:24:50 AM »
"You can get a lot farther with a kind word and a gun than a kind word alone."  --   Al Capone

Offline Amisheggpicker

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Re: Army Readies Its Mammoth Spy Blimp for First Flight
« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2012, 05:14:53 AM »
its's not to spy on the taliban .....its to spy on us....hahahahah!
Proverbs 21:20  In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil,

but a foolish man devours all he has.

Offline Bill Quick

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Re: Army Readies Its Mammoth Spy Blimp for First Flight
« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2012, 11:16:30 AM »
Well, then, I supposed Second Amendment supporters need to start agitating for shoulder-fired SAMs.  :D
"You can get a lot farther with a kind word and a gun than a kind word alone."  --   Al Capone

Offline Langenator

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Re: Army Readies Its Mammoth Spy Blimp for First Flight
« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2012, 12:58:45 PM »
I must be missing something. It is a massive, slow moving target. How do you defend it against ground fire?

The Taliban must be licking their chops.

You just need to get high enough.  A few thousand feet is all it takes.

There are a whole bunch of bases in Afghanistan that have stationary sensor blimps, and to the best of my knowledge, the bad guys haven't managed to shoot any down.
Fortuna Fortis Paratus
“In the house of a wise man are stores of food, wine, and oil, but the foolish man devours all he has.” Proverbs 21:20
"We are content with discord, we are content with alarms, we are content with blood, but we will never be content with a master." -Pashtun malik, 1815

Offline SilverDeth

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Re: Army Readies Its Mammoth Spy Blimp for First Flight
« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2012, 02:27:25 PM »
Quote
Well, then, I supposed Second Amendment supporters need to start agitating for shoulder-fired SAMs. 

Wudda ya mean "start?"   ;D
"There are many things worse than dying, and there are some things far more important than living."
- Me, 2004

Offline Amisheggpicker

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Re: Army Readies Its Mammoth Spy Blimp for First Flight
« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2012, 03:19:33 PM »
did anyone see the article on drone being used in the United States?
Proverbs 21:20  In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil,

but a foolish man devours all he has.

Offline SilverDeth

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Re: Army Readies Its Mammoth Spy Blimp for First Flight
« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2012, 05:37:58 PM »
Yeah  I did see that article - for the record, I considered those things tools of tyrants from the first one I saw on popular science years ago.  Nintendo-killing made easy.  So, the next logical step - When will our betters start blowing us up hellfire style with their new flying terminators for growing "non-EPA-regulated" green beans in unsanctioned gardens?  
« Last Edit: May 26, 2012, 05:40:18 PM by SilverDeth »
"There are many things worse than dying, and there are some things far more important than living."
- Me, 2004

Offline Amisheggpicker

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Re: Army Readies Its Mammoth Spy Blimp for First Flight
« Reply #11 on: May 29, 2012, 08:35:53 PM »
Bill, you got your wish...hahahahh!
http://www.infowars.com/drones-shot-down-over-texas/
Proverbs 21:20  In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil,

but a foolish man devours all he has.

Offline AKAREAPER

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Re: Army Readies Its Mammoth Spy Blimp for First Flight
« Reply #12 on: June 01, 2012, 09:30:41 PM »
Hopefully the use of Lakehurst, NJ isn't a bad portent.

Thats what I thought

Offline Ken

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Re: Army Readies Its Mammoth Spy Blimp for First Flight
« Reply #13 on: June 02, 2012, 12:52:33 PM »
Looks more like a flying Field Station. (Which means spying on countries, not individuals.)

Looks like it can also be upgraded, modularly. 

Once they get Fusactors going, I like to see one with a combat Laser. (2 2MW lasers, I think.)

Real combat support!  (Real overkill, for monitoring citizens.)
“If mankind is to survive, then throughout man’s history except for a very few years the word “ship” will mean “space ship.”
Arthur C. Clarke


 

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