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Blimps & LTA Craft | New Systems Tech | R&D - Contracted | Sensors & Guidance | USA

Return of the Navy Blimps?

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TCOM 32M aerostat(click to view full) In the aftermath of World War 2, blimps and airships found themselves gradually phased out of the US military. That didn’t really begin to change until the 21st century (see April 2005, “USN, DARPA See Blimps & HULAs Rising“). The heavy-lift WALRUS project may have been canceled without explanation; but aerostat programs like JLENS cruise missile defense and its smaller RAID local surveillance derivative, and airships like the HAA/ISIS program, remain. The US Navy is also experimenting with aerostats for communications relay, surveillance, and radar overwatch functions – and this has become a formal program. What’s driving this interest? Four things. One is persistence, in an era where constant surveillance + rapid precision strike creates a formidable military asset. A second is cost, especially in an era of rising fuel prices. A recent US NAVSEA release offers figures that starkly illustrate the gap in surveillance cost per hour between an aerostat and planes or UAVs: * Land-based 71-meter aerostat: about $610/ hour * MQ-1 Predator MALE (Medium Altitude, Long Endurance) UAV: about $5,000/ hour * E-2C Hawkeye AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System) aircraft: about $18,000/ hour * RQ-4 Global Hawk HALE (High Altitude, […]

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