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US Army’s mammoth spy blimp readies for debut

Northrop Grumman has given a tentative schedule of the flight of the giant surveillance airship. This airship has been built for the United States army. The project is already running late by an year. The airship has the size of a football field, is filled with helium and has data links and sensors fro various purposes. The multiple-intelligence-capabilities vehicle having long endurance is likely to fly in the first or second week in the month of June over Lakehurst area of New Jersey. Northrop’s director of army programs, Mr. K. C. Brown Jr. has confirmed the reports by saying that they are about to fly the ship.

Mammoth Spy Blimp

Army and Northrop are hoping for good lick regarding the actual and smooth operation of the flight. These robot blimps are very hard to build and fitting them with communication equipment and military grade sensors and filling them with helium is also an arduous task. But these airships also offer great benefits like long flight times and low cost.

The missile-armed and highly computerized airship of Air Force by the name Blue Devil 2 was to be tested in Afghanistan. But because of certain integration problems the test run was cancelled. The small-in-size MZ3A research blimp of Navy has also been grounded because of insufficient work. Army purchased and took over the project. The LEMV project has also been lagging in schedule as its first flight and combat deployment was originally planned in the year 2011.

In a special forces industry conference held at Tampa, Brown said that LEMV’s first flight will occur between 6th and 10th June. The 300 foot long airship’s trail at Lakehurst will be brief. The airship will then move towards Florida where it will be joined with a Gandola that contains the blimp’s radios and cameras. The Gandola has been custom made and specifically designed for the airship.

Brown says that if all the gear functions and the Gandola fit the ship properly, then the pilot-less LEMV will be crossing the Atlantic Ocean in early winter and will head towards a theater for a real testing and demonstration. The theater in all probabilities is likely to be Afghanistan. Brown further adds that if the war commanders like the functioning and working of the vehicle then they can order more of such airships.

Brown says that the LEMV can help assist the army in removing the gear and weapons from Afghanistan at the time the U.S. troops withdraw from the country. The alternative becomes all the more attractive as Pakistan has imposed a blockade on all the roads into Afghanistan. An up-scaled bigger version will be able to carry hundreds of tonnes of supplies and will also much less than the airplanes.

Brown says that the biggest danger to the airship is the weather and not sensor integration or air worthiness. The airflow of the winds and thunderstorms can cause instability in the airships. The operators have to plan carefully so that these airships are away from the storms. An enhanced version will be able carry hundreds of tonnes of supplies and will also cost much less than the airplanes.

Via: Wired

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