Senate questions need for two airship programs

Lawmakers weigh pros and cons of competing blimp programs by Army and Air Force

The Army and the Air Force both have programs in the works for high-altitude, long-endurance surveillance airships, and the Senate Armed Services Committee wants to know the rationale for having seemingly duplicate efforts under way, reports Noah Shachtman at Wired’s Danger Room blog.

The Army is scheduled to launch its 300-foot Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle airship in January 2012, while the Air Force is working toward deployment of a 340-foot-long airship being developed through the second phase of the Blue Devil project in the same time frame. Both airships would carry large sensor payloads and even process information on board, notes the committee in its recent report on next year’s DOD budget.

Because of these advanced capabilities, the airship programs have merit the committee acknowledges, but at the same time it questions the need to fund similar programs in a time of severe budget constraints.

Reader Comments

Thu, Jul 7, 2011 J. James

I wonder too. It has yet to be seen which airship is more deserving of use. They may do basically the same thing, but the two themselves are radically different. The Blue Devil seems to have more impressive spying capabilities and the raw capacity to crunch the data. But the ship itself is an ancient design clearly inspired by Zeppelins from 100 years ago. It's got less speed, endurance, durability, and yet it's cheaper and thouroughly proven. The LEMV, on the other hand, isn't a blimp at all. It's a hybrid airship/VTOL/flying wing. It's endurance is staggering, it is more versatile, fast, and supremely resistant to greivous damage. But it's also more expensive, untested, and has less data-crunching power. It's a real toss-up as to which one wins. I'm betting the LEMV.

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