Military airship programs plagued by wide range of problems

The Defense Department has invested more than $1 billion in at least nine airship programs across the military services in an effort to provide persistent surveillance to ground troops, but so far has almost nothing to show in operational airships, reports Defense News.

Two of the most publicized programs, the Air Force's Blue Devil 2 and the Army's Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV), have had serious development problems. Blue Devil, which had missed deadlines, technical setbacks and cost overruns, was cancelled by the Air Force, while LEMV is struggling with missed deadlines and questions about its design, the story said.

The Navy's piloted MZ-3A blimp, which is used for research and testing systems, is the only working airship at this time, the story said.

Reader Comments

Mon, May 7, 2012

These situations are never as simple as a two paragraph blurb can convey.

Fri, May 4, 2012 Joe Bloggs London, Blighty

I think J.James is correct in what he says, but the one big factor that has resulted in a change of attitude by the USAF, is that the US are giving up in Afghanistan and planning an early withdrawl. The US Army LEMV can be modified for heavy lift or long range point to point cargo operations, so is much more useful in the longer term as an LTAV design.

Wed, May 2, 2012 J. James

The Blue Devil wasn't "cancelled", per se, it's a bit more complicated than that. The airship is already nearly ready for flight, but instead of installing the airship's surveillance payload, the Air Force wants it delivered to them without the systems installed, and deleted it's deployment to Afghanistan. The reasons for this are more political than technological, as the cost overruns and development hurdles were largely placed there by the Air Force itself, which only compounded the fundamental issue of the prototyping schedule being absurdly brief and unrealistic. 18 months from design to flying prototype? Are they crazy? And the cost increases are based mostly on a report the Air Force published itself which tripled it's estimated operating cost on the false basis that it would be shot down regularly(which, as anyone with experience with Afghanistan's huge army of moored Aerostats could tell you, is ridiculous). It's a colossal waste of potential, really. They bought the airship but now they want to literally prevent it from doing anything useful? Where is the logic in that? Senators of both parties in charge of the army budget are furious at this frivolous attitude the Air Force is taking, and you can expect to see pushback against the decision to cancel.

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