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31-05-10, 05:49 AM
New thread...........

Chinese See Intel, Surveillance Role for Airships


Published: 31 May 2010

TAIPEI - Chinese academic, commercial and military institutions are aggressively studying the use of lighter-than-air (LTA) platforms for a variety of missions, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, special operations, transpor-tation over rugged terrain and as communications relays.

A recent unclassified report issued by the U.S. National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC), "Current and Potential Applications of Chinese Aerostats (Airships)," addresses these issues.

Issued March 23 by NASIC's Open Source Intelligence Analysis and Production Flight, the paper is the first known unclassified report on China's military LTA research.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) is looking at the development of airships and aerostats for a variety of military missions, said Richard Fisher, vice president of the Washington-based International Assessment and Strategy Center. The PLA already uses aerostats for ground force exercises.

"The implication is that the PLA has radar that could perform ground mapping as well as air-search missions," he said.

Though efforts have so far involved small platforms, the PLA is funding development of larger aerostats and airships able to operate at strategic altitudes of 10,000 meters or higher, which would allow surveillance of Taiwan from China, he said.

"For the PLA, having a networked formation of large airships over the East China Sea or South China Sea could offer the potential of an inner-space satellite system that could operate for a week at a time, conducting a range of surveillance, navigation assistance and communication relay missions, especially useful should an adversary attack China's outer-space satellites," he said.

The NASIC report concurs. China is considering the use of "super-altitude airships" for early warning detection to supplement existing early warning networks. Normally an altitude of 15 kilometers and higher is considered "super altitude," the report said.

"More Chinese scientists and researchers have become engaged in airship research, especially in the area of military applications," the NASIC report said.

"Because of its vertical takeoff and landing, and fixed-point air stationary capabilities, load capacity, low noise and low energy consumption, it is cost-effective and is very valuable for reconnaissance and surveillance, emergency communications," the report said.

Defense News found more than 30 Chinese academic, corporate and military institutions and facilities on the Internet conducting research on LTAs, including the Aircraft Flight Test Technology Institute, Air Force Engineering University, Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Beijing Institute of Space Mechanics and Electricity, Beijing University, Beijing Institute of Space Mechanics and Electricity, Donghua University, Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, National University of Defense Technology, Unit 94362 and Unit 94201 of the PLA in Shandong, and Wuhan Huazhong University of Science and Technology.

Chinese companies producing airships and aerostats are openly promoting them as surveillance and special operations platforms on company brochures and on their websites.

The Suzhou Fangzhou Aeromodeling Co. produces an "investigative security surveillance airship" for use by the police or the military. The Hua Jiao Airship Co. makes the HJ-3000 airship that it advertises as a surveillance, minesweeper and special operations platform.

"Equipped with special facilities, it can carry special military forces to fight against terrorists, riots, forest fires and hostage rescue," the company Web site said.

The Beijing Buaa Lonsan Aircraft Co. produces the LS-S900 airship for use as a surveillance platform. It can be equipped with a camera, infrared thermal imaging unit, radar and a signal relay.

The Aerospace Life-Support Industries Co, produces the FKY-1, which can handle small missions of up to four personnel and carry a variety of sensor payloads.

Not to be confused with the FKY-1, the Chinese Academy of Surveying and China Special Vehicle Research Institute developed the FKC-1 helium unmanned airship with a "practical ceiling" of 1,000-plus meters and capable of surveillance missions by the military or police, in particular for "counter-separatist" campaigns, Fisher said.

"A poster at the 2008 Zhuhai Air Show illustrated this airship conducting battlefield surveillance as part of a network of unmanned aircraft and unmanned helicopters," he said. The company has released Internet imagery of the FKC-2, roughly 30 percent larger, but without any performance data listed.

The NASIC report notes there are increased calls in China calls for greater research and development of LTAs in the future.

"The Chinese will have an important opportunity for their airships to be on par with international standards in 2010 or 2020." ■

E-mail: wminnick@defensenews.com

31-05-10, 05:59 AM
India To Open Competition for New Aerostats


Published: 28 May 2010 16:49

NEW DELHI - India, which bought three radar-equipped aerostats from Rafael in 2005, has thrown open the competition for a new batch of three to the global market.

Last month, Indian Air Force officials asked the Defence Ministry to prepare a request for information, which is to be issued in the next two to three months to BAE Systems, Israel Aerospace Industries, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Rosoboronexport and Thales, ministry sources said. The aerostats must be able to carry a payload of 2,400 kilograms to 15,000 feet for 28 days at a stretch, including radars that can spot aircraft and missiles up to 30,000 feet and out to 300 kilometers.

The Air Force intends to integrate the aerostat radars with the three Airborne Warning and Control System AWACS being purchased from Israel.

The balloon-borne radars can virtually act as AWACS themselves, an Air Force official said.

India has deployed its three aerostats along the Pakistani border in the state of Punjab.

The country eventually seeks to own 13, the Air Force official, said.

The payload would consist of air and surface surveillance radars, electronic intelligence and communication intelligence gear, and V/UHF radio telephony equipment and Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system.

The Navy also wants to buy aerostats for coastal security.

The new batch will be bought at a competitive price, said analyst Mahindra Singh.

09-06-10, 04:30 PM
U.S. Army Awards Lockheed Martin $142 Million for Additional Persistent Threat Detection Aerostat Systems

14:21 GMT, June 8, 2010 AKRON, Ohio | Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] received a $142 million award from the U.S. Army to begin production of additional Persistent Threat Detection Systems (PTDS) to support coalition forces.

The Department of Defense is making a concerted effort to rapidly increase the resources available to help warfighters detect improvised explosive devices (IEDs). PTDS is a tethered aerostat-based system, capable of staying aloft for weeks at a time, that provides round-the-clock surveillance of broad areas. The Army began using the system in 2004.

“The PTDS delivers real-time surveillance and actionable intelligence to our troops to help them in life-threatening situations,” said Stephanie Hill, Integrated Defense Technologies vice president at Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Sensors. "These eyes in the sky protect soldiers and civilians and let the hostiles know that they are constantly being watched.”

The PTDS is equipped with multi-mission sensors to provide long endurance intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and communications in support of the United States military and its allies.

The Army's firm-fixed-price undefinitized contract action enables Lockheed Martin to begin work on the systems while final contract terms are negotiated. The latest systems are in addition to the previous ones the Army ordered from Lockheed Martin in the past six months. The majority of the work on the systems will be performed in Akron, OH, with additional work in Cape Canaveral, FL, Moorestown, NJ and Owego, NY.

Filled with helium, PTDS provides low-cost, continuous communications and persistent surveillance capabilities not possible with other types of manned and unmanned aircraft. Attached by a high-strength tether to a re-locatable mooring system, PTDS carries different types of surveillance equipment to conduct multiple missions.

30-06-10, 05:12 PM
Blimps could replace aircraft in freight transport, say scientists

Helium-powered ships could be carrying freight – and even passengers – in as little as a decade's time

Juliette Jowit guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 30 June 2010 15.53 BST

An example of the future of airship freight carrier by German company CargoLifter. Blimps could replace aircraft in a decade. Photograph: cargolifter.com

Fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers and other foreign luxuries could be part of a global revolution by carrying cargo around the world in airships instead of planes, one of the UK's leading scientists has predicted.

The government's former chief scientific adviser, Professor Sir David King, now director of the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment at the University of Oxford, told a conference that massive helium balloons – or blimps – would replace aircraft as a key part of the global trade network as a way of cutting global warming emissions.

Despite languishing in sci-fi B-movies for most of the last 70 years, King said several major air and defence companies, including Boeing and Lockheed Martin, were working on designs, and the US defence department had recently made a large grant to help develop the technology.

As a result, the helium-powered ships could be carrying freight – and even passengers – in as little as a decade's time, King told the Guardian.

"There are an awful lot of people we talk to who say this is going to happen," said King. "This is something I believe is going to happen."

King was speaking this week at the World Forum on Enterprise and the Environment in Oxford, which has made transport a major focus of debate about global efforts to cut the greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels, which are a major contributor to global warming and climate change. In Europe 22% of greenhouse gases are from transport, compared with 28 from heat and electricity, 21% from industry and construction and 9% each from agriculture and homes, according to the European Environment Agency.

Emerging support for blimps is one of the more colourful developments in a more general trend towards looking beyond the most obvious solutions for reducing pollution as major economies such as the UK struggle to meet pledges to de-carbonise their economies over the next few decades.

Airships would be too slow for some high-speed airfreight, and would not be needed to carry the majority of cargo for which much slower ships are suitable. But with a speed of 125kph (78mph), and much lower fuel costs, plus a carrying capacity potentially many times that of a standard Boeing 747 plane, blimps could in future carry much of current air freight.

A recent report on mobility by the Smith School, for example, quoted an estimate by one developer, UK-owned SkyCat, that it could carry twice the weight of strawberries from Spain to the UK of a standard cargo plane, with a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, much of which is from avoiding the huge fuel burn a jet engine uses to take off.

Other benefits included the possibility that airships would not need to use airports if they were fitted with "lifts" to pick up and land cargo. This in turn would reduce the need for trucking goods to and from transport hubs, and allow less well-connected areas, perhaps in inland Africa, to take part in international trade, said King. For the same reasons the blimps could also be used to reach devastated areas in need of humanitarian aid, he said.

The essential idea of airships – that they are buoyed by being lighter than air – can be traced back to the use of air lanterns in the third century BC. The technology began to come of age when the Frenchmen Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis d'Arlandes made the first flight in a balloon in 1783. By the 1920s airships were making regular trips across the Atlantic, and in 1929 a graf zeppelin circumnavigated the planet in just over 21 days.

The craze for blimps came to an abrupt halt after the death of many people when the Hindenburg caught fire in New Jersey, US. However research and development "languished but never halted", said the Smith School report.

12-07-10, 03:06 PM
Old Technology Takes Flight Again With LEMV

Northrop Says Airship Offers Long-term, Continuous ISR for $50 an Hour


Published: 11 July 2010

What is it about airships? The U.S. Army is the latest to join a decades-long - but so far elusive - effort to revive technology that flourished then floundered 70 years ago.

The Army is paying Northrop Grumman $517 million to build three giant airships that would hover more than 3.8 miles above battlefields for three weeks at a time, their cameras and radars continuously collecting intelligence.

It's a fast-paced program. The first of these Army Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicles (LEMVs) is to begin operating in Afghanistan in 18 months.

At 302 feet long and 84 feet tall, the LEMVs are being designed to operate unmanned, controlled from a station on the ground. They're to be equipped with newly developed VADER radars for tracking vehicles and troops on the ground, infrared and optical video cameras, and antennas and receivers for intercepting radio signals.

As described by the Army, the LEMV is to be "an autonomous, long-endurance platform" that enables "continuous over-the-horizon communications, wide-area surveillance," target reconnaissance, intelligence gathering and other missions.

The Army is depending on the airship's "unique performance characteristics" to make long-term continuous surveillance affordable. Today, it's too expensive because it must be done by manned and unmanned aircraft and satellites.

The airship will cost $25,000 or less to operate for a month, said Alan Metzger, LEMV program director for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. That works out to about $50 an hour.

Other reconnaissance aircraft cost much more. According to some estimates, a Predator UAV costs about $5,000 an hour to operate; a Global Hawk, about $25,000.

The LEMV will look like two blimps that have been squeezed together to make one especially wide one with merged envelopes.

But it's not a blimp - it's a hybrid airship, Metzger said.

A blimp is a nonrigid airship - that is, it has no internal framework - filled with helium that makes it lighter than air, thus it flies. It uses engines to maneuver while airborne.

The LEMV will be a nonrigid airship filled with helium, but it will not be lighter than air. Rather, it will derive about 40 percent of its lift from its aerodynamic shape and the forward momentum from its four vectored-thrust ducted propellers. It will have to keep moving to get aloft and stay there.

Despite its large size, the LEMV can be launched and recovered from just about anywhere, Metzger said. A small airport or even an open field will do.

"It can take off and land within a quarter of a mile," he said. And if there's a decent breeze, it can take off virtually straight up.

It can land in much the same way and be moored to a mast until it is sent aloft again, he said.

Not everyone is convinced that the Army is on the right track with the LEMV.

Brandon Buerge, an aerodynamicist and consultant to airship companies, said a hybrid airship like the one the Army wants can't meet the service's requirement to stay aloft for 21 days. It will run out of fuel long before that, he said.

The Army's requirements state that:

■ The LEMV must be able to carry up to 2,500 pounds of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) equipment and communications gear. A generator will produce 16 kilowatts of electricity to power the equipment.

■ The airship must be able to cruise at 20 knots at 20,000 feet and dash at up to 80 knots.

■ A "rapid deflation device termination system" is required so that the airship can be forced down in the event flight controls are lost, and "for protecting the possession of sensitive payloads."

■ ISR gear must be equipped with "interfaces to allow destruction to prevent enemy capture."

The first of the three LEMVs is scheduled to be inflated next May, just 11 months from the mid-June contract award, Metzger said. The first flight will be two months later, and five months after that - December 2011 - it's off to Afghanistan.

The aggressive schedule is possible because the airship relies mainly on proven technology, Metzger said. Diesel engines will power the propellers and the generator. The fabric that will make up the airship's envelope "is very mature, it's been built before," Metzger said.

"To get it done in 18 months, it needs to be a low-risk solution," he said. From a technology perspective, the airship "is very conventional."

Buerge is skeptical. It would take an airship two or three times larger than Northrop's LEMV to lift the amount of fuel needed to stay aloft for three weeks, he said. The problem is that during the early phase of its flight, when the airship is full of fuel and at its heaviest, it has to burn a lot of fuel to generate the aerodynamic lift it needs to fly.

But building a much bigger airship causes other problems, Buerge said: Weight would increase substantially, it would require fabrics that are tougher than any now in use and it would require bigger engines, which would add still more weight.

"I sincerely hope that they succeed," Buerge said. A successful LEMV could give the entire airship business a boost, "but when I get out my calculator, it's hard to see how it will work."

Metzger insists that Northrop's LEMV is "very low-risk."

Northrop has contracted with Hybrid Air Vehicles, a British firm, to design the airship. Fabric will be supplied by Warwick Mills, a New Hampshire company; and ILC Dover, a Delaware maker of blimps, spacesuits and inflatables, will build the envelope at a former Navy blimp base in Oregon.

Although the Army's focus is on the airship's potential for protracted ISR missions, there are a number of other possible uses, from patrolling U.S. borders and hunting drug smugglers to performing aerial assessments and providing emergency communications after disasters.

The LEMV can be operated as a manned airship and stay aloft for four or five days, Metzger said.

A heavy-lifting version of the LEMV could haul disaster relief supplies and other cargo and land it in places that lack airports, such as Haiti after the January earthquake, Metzger said.

For decades, airships have maintained a firm grip on the U.S. military's imagination - but not a place in the inventory.

In the 1980s, the Navy considered buying squadrons of them to serve as lookouts to protect ships against cruise missiles. Ultimately, that idea didn't fly.

More recently, in 2003 the Missile Defense Agency began developing 500-foot-long High Altitude Airships that were intended to hover over the U.S. for a year at a time to warn of missile attacks. The program was canceled in 2008.

Meanwhile, in 2005 the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) set about building the Walrus, a giant airship that would be able to transport 1,000 tons of equipment or an entire Army brigade "from the fort to the fight." The Walrus expired in 2006.

Undeterred, DARPA launched the ISIS program in 2009. This time the research agency wants to build a 1,000-foot helium-filled behemoth that would hover 12 miles above a battlefield, possibly for years, staring down at enemy troops, vehicles and aircraft and keeping track of friendly forces. The ISIS airship could take flight around 2018.

Airships remain popular - in concept, at least - because they promise very long-term loitering capability at a very low price, said aviation consultant Hans Weber.

"The requirement for an unblinking view is the real driving factor, and only airships can do that," he said.

Except that so far, they can't. In case after case, for various reasons, the cost-benefit ratio just hasn't worked out in favor of airships, Weber said.

12-07-10, 03:49 PM
Could you tow an airship to altitude like you'd do with a glider, or do they have too much drag for that?

28-08-10, 01:46 AM

SOURCE:Flight Daily News

AUVSI: Northrop Grumman reveals LEMV airship is convertible

By Stephen Trimble

Northrop Grumman says a newly launched hybrid airship will be able to lift as much cargo as a Lockheed Martin C-130E Hercules.

The US Army awarded a contract less than 50 days ago for the Northrop/Hybrid Air Vehicles team to demonstrate the long-endurance, multi-intelligence vehicle (LEMV) as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform.

But Northrop chief engineer Michael Addison says the same aircraft can lift a 15,875kg (35,000lb) payload by removing the ISR payload and making other modifications.

"By using the same hull and changing some of the configuration of the solid structure underneath, we can also provide a substantial heavy-lift capability," Addison says. "It will be a modification done without changing the basic hull, so that's exciting."

Addison's lone briefing chart for his presentation said the "heavy/mission lift configuration" can haul a 15,875kg load over a 1,852-2,778km (1,000-1,500nm) distance.

By comparison, a US Air Force fact sheet lists the C-130E as capable of delivering the same weight of cargo over a 2,315km distance.

The LEMV program, however, is aimed at proving a hybrid airship can be effective at the ISR mission, perching over a target at 20,000ft for a period of 21 days. The airship is designed to carry a 1,133kg payload for three weeks.

The ISR payload includes a ground moving target indicator radar, full motion video, communications relay and communications intercept.

Northrop is scheduled to complete a preliminary design review within two weeks, Addison says. First flight remains on track for the end of the 2011 with inflation scheduled in the late second quarter next year.

02-09-10, 03:38 AM

SOURCE:Flight International

Lockheed Martin still pursues hybrid airship future

By Stephen Trimble

Losing a half-billion dollar contract award will not discourage Lockheed Martin from continuing to pursue hybrid airships as a future business.

The company's advanced development programmes (ADP) division instead has released a new marketing campaign, with a promotional video posted on YouTube on 24 August revealing new details about the company's technology.

Lockheed systems engineer Bob Ruszkowski confirms the company "absolutely" sees opportunities for new business, despite losing a competition for a $517 million contract from the US Army in June.

A Northrop Grumman/Hybrid Air Vehicles team instead won the deal to build the long-endurance multi-intelligence vehicle (LEMV), for deployment to Afghanistan in early 2012.

"We are exploring opportunities for hybrid airships beyond LEMV," Ruszkowski says.

Lockheed lost the contract despite investing significantly in hybrid airship technology. The ADP, or Skunk Works, division manufactured a demonstrator aircraft called the P791, which first flew in January 2006.

© Lockheed Martin

"The P791 demonstration aircraft still exists. It's still in our hangar. It's available to use again for other demonstrations," Ruszkowski says. "We learned quite a bit from it, and we're exploring other opportunities for hybrid airships."

In the new video, P791 programme manager Bob Boyd and other programme officials describe details of the hybrid airship technology.

The P791 is described as guided by a two-axis thrust vectoring system that is steered by fly-by-wire flight controls. The tri-hull airship is built using a "high-strength, lightweight woven material that's heat-sealed together", Lockheed says.

Lockheed's hybrid airship also incorporates an air cushion landing system with four pads, which both soften landings and "grab" the ground so no mooring equipment is required.

The company plans to offer a hybrid airship as both a surveillance and cargo aircraft. In the latter configuration, new versions of the technology scaled up to seven times its current size could haul as many as 300 freight containers at a time, Lockheed says.

The video also offers hints that Lockheed sees an opportunity with hybrid airships to break into the commercial aircraft market for the first time since the early 1990s. Its future airships will be designed to offer availability rates on a par with commercial aircraft, of between 95 and 99%, the company says.

04-11-10, 03:25 PM
Northrop Grumman's LEMV program completes three major milestones

November 04, 2010

In just four months since signing a $517 million agreement with the United States Army to build three airships with 21-day persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability, Northrop Grumman's Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) program team has completed three important program milestones. The team is headed toward its fourth, the Critical Design Review (CDR), by the end of first quarter FY11.

"In less than four months time, we have completed our System Readiness Review (SRR), Initial Baseline Review (IBR) and our Preliminary Design Review (PDR) which looks at the hybrid air vehicle design, ground station infrastructure, and ground and airborne system software," said Alan Metzger, Northrop Grumman vice president and integrated program team leader of LEMV and airship programs.

The June 14, 2010, agreement provides for the design, development and testing of the first long endurance airship within an 18-month time period. "We have made great progress to date and have a great partnership with the Army. As we move forward, we look to inflate our first vehicle next spring, and our first flight is scheduled for mid-next summer," Metzger said. "Upon completion of the development ground and flight testing phase, we expect to transition to a government facility and conduct our final acceptance test in December 2011. It's a very aggressive, almost unprecedented schedule from concept-to-combat with a first of its kind system."

In early 2012, LEMV will be transported for demonstration in an operational environment. The program then transitions from the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command (USA SMDC) control to the project manager for the Army's unmanned aircraft systems.

Northrop Grumman has designed a system with plug-and-play capability to provide warfighters with a system that can rapidly accommodate next generation sensors as emerging field requirements dictate. "Our solution readily integrates into the Army's existing Universal Ground Control Station (UGCS) and Deployable Common Ground System (DCGS) command centers and ground troops in forward operating bases-the main objective is to provide US warfighters with persistent ISR capability to increase awareness of the ever changing battlefield.

"LEMV is longer than a football field, taller than a seven-story building and will remain airborne for more than three weeks at a time, delivering a high level of fuel efficiency. Fuel costs are minimal at $11,000 for a 21-day period of service. It's very green," Metzger added.

Northrop Grumman has teamed with Hybrid Air Vehicles, Ltd. of the United Kingdom using its HAV304 platform, Warwick Mills, ILC Dover, AAI Corporation, SAIC and a team of technology leaders from 18 US states and three countries to build LEMV. Northrop Grumman will provide system integration expertise and flight and ground control operations to safely take off and land the unmanned vehicle for worldwide operations.

Source: Northrop Grumman

05-11-10, 04:16 AM
More on this.............

Northrop’s Huge Army Spy Blimp Floats On

By Spencer Ackerman November 4, 2010 | 1:11 pm

Northrop Grumman’s ginormous experimental spying blimp is progressing rapidly, the company wants you to know. In barely a year, Northrop predicts, it’ll be ready to test in an “operational environment.”

The Army awarded Northrop a $517 million contract in June to develop a trio of unmanned, seven-story, football-field sized mega-blimps called Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicles. If successful, the blimp will stay in the air for up to three weeks at a time, using 2500 pounds’ worth of “sensors, antennas, data links and signals intelligence equipment” to capture still and video images of civilians and adversaries below and send the pictures to troops’ bases. It should work with the Army’s standard drone-controlling system, called the Universal Ground Control Station. And it’s a hybrid, lifted into the air by helium and propelled by four diesel engines.

In Afghanistan, the Army’s Warrior drones provide what intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance experts call “persistent” views — that is, they hover above a given area for long periods of time taking pictures — but the drone can’t stay aloft for anything close to three weeks. One Army official involved with the project judged that it would take 12 advanced Reaper drones to replicate the blimp’s functions.

According to a Northrop statement, the blimp passed three initial tests that judge the feasibility of its design, its ability to talk to a ground station and the success of its software. The company says it’ll inflate the first blimp in the spring and fly it in the summer; all tests are supposed to finish by the end of 2012.

The Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle isn’t the only supersized spy blimp in the works. Last year, the Navy announced it wanted blimps that could see across the light spectrum and use laser radar to identify potential targets. C4ISR Journal reported in August that the Air Force has teamed up with the Pentagon’s bomb-stopping task force, known as JIEDDO, to create another mega-blimp specifically to hunt down improvised explosive devices. And Lockheed Martin won a $400 million contract with Darpa last year to build a 15-story blimp (!) called the Integrated Sensor Is Structure, a robo-blimp that can “track the most advanced cruise missiles at 600 km and dismounted enemy combatants at 300 km.” None of these blimps are in the air yet, but somehow the sky feels crowded already.

Illo: Northrop Grumman

Gubler, A.
05-11-10, 07:23 AM
This looks like the British Sky Cat LTA tech has found a home... Good that.

05-11-10, 07:49 AM
Yup, the airship design is by the UK Hybrid Air Vehicles, see their comment below...............

Hybrid Air Vehicles maintains its own portfolio of proprietary LTA intellectual property and know-how which includes all such property that was in the ownership of ATG and SkyCat Group Limited.


30-11-10, 02:50 PM
TF Iron Launches Blimp Over FOB Andar

(Source: US Army; issued Nov. 29, 2010)

The Precision Threat Decision System (PTDS) blimp inflates in preparation for first flight at Forward Operating Base Andar Nov. 17. This "eye in the sky" has three different cameras, as well as night and bad weather sensors. (US Army photo)

GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- Task Force Iron Rakkasan launched the first flight of the blimp over Forward Operating Base Andar Nov. 17.

The blimp, properly known as a Precision Threat Detection System (PTDS), allows a 360-degree, all-weather, birds'-eye view of the surrounding area, with very little restrictions.

The PTDS requires two people to operate it at any given time. Alfred Henderson, a PTDS crew member, specializes in the maintenance of the system's platform but, like all of the operators, is well trained on the entire system.

The system operators require an extensive background of qualifications. With few exceptions, everyone working with the PTDS has prior military service. Additionally, most of the crew has civilian knowledge working in defense programs and contracting.

"(The defense contractor) ensures everyone working with the PTDS has a lot of experience and versatility," said Henderson. "Each operator is fully capable of operating this system, as well as handling the difficulties that come with living and working in a combat area."

The "eye in the sky" has proven to be a great asset to the American Soldiers in Afghanistan. The operators are able to watch the Soldiers on patrols and provide them with a view they would otherwise lack. Viewing the area from above eliminates the enemy's ability to hide behind a wall or in a ditch.

The blimp has the ability to view the area using three different camera views, as well as seeing at night and during bad weather.

"The camera lets us see more than the enemy wants us to see," one of the operators said.

Insurgents in Andar District seem to be quite aware of the impact the new blimp will have. Almost immediately after the blimp took flight, insurgents unsuccessfully attempted to shoot it down.

PTDS system operators Michael Baumgartner and Robert McGuire both served previously in the Air Force.

"This is a great way for us to continue to serve our country," Baumgartner said. "We can help the Soldiers to be more effective on the battlefield and perhaps even help to save a life. Any job that supports the troops is worth working hard for."

"We look forward to increasing the security bubble in Andar District with the help of the blimp," said Lt. Col. David Fivecoat, commander of 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry (Task Force Iron), 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division. "The insurgents will have a hard time hiding when the PTDS is up and watching."


02-02-11, 12:44 PM

SOURCE:Flight International

LEMV airship design gets US Army approval

By Gayle Putrich

Northrop Grumman's long-endurance multi-intelligence vehicle (LEMV) airship programme is running according to schedule, the company says, having completed its critical design review in late November.

The next step for the massive intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance system being built for the US Army is hull inflation at the final assembly site, which has been decided but not disclosed.

"There are three upcoming major milestones in the next 10 months," says Alan Metzger, Northrop's vice president and integrated programme team leader for LEMV and airship programmes. "We'll have hull inflation in the spring and first flight of the airship test article by mid-to-late summer. Upon completion of the development ground and flight testing phase, we expect to transition to a government facility and conduct our final acceptance long endurance flight just before year's end. In early 2012, LEMV will participate in an army joint military utility assessment in an operational environment," he adds.

Under the June 2010 contract with the army's Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, LEMV is to be designed and developed within an 18-month time period.

"It's a very aggressive schedule to deliver from concept-to-combat in this time period," Metzger says.

Described as "longer than a football field and taller than a seven-storey building", the airship will be capable of remaining aloft for 21 days at a time. Northrop's partners in the venture include UK-based Hybrid Air Vehicles, as well as US-based AAI and SAIC.

05-03-11, 02:47 AM
Army Wants Spy Blimps to Psych Out Insurgents

By Spencer Ackerman March 4, 2011 | 11:16 am

Blimps aren’t exactly known for striking fear into the hearts of men. But the Army’s betting they can still make insurgents in Afghanistan feel like they’re living in a panopticon.

Lots of bases in Afghanistan have surveillance aerostats floating above them on a tether, thanks to a program called RAID. Cheaper and easier to operate than drones, the balloons have helped troops spot insurgents as they plant bombs, Lt. Gen. Michael Oates, the outgoing leader of the Pentagon’s anti-bomb squad, told reporters this week. The fact that the blimps are tethered means their spy gear can only view a set area, but the Army sees them providing an even bigger psychological advantage.

In a pre-solicitation released Wednesday, the Army asks industry to prepare an “Aerostat Deception system,” giving small units blimps that can “deceive insurgents with the appearance of enhanced capabilities.” Insurgents see the aerostats floating above bases, the idea goes, and figure they’re being watched wherever they are.

It’s not like they’d be pure decoys, though. The aerostats the Army wants would still perform “surveillance at 1000 feet above ground level.” But they’d also carry a decoy payload “simulating a surveillance system,” making it look like the blimps are more powerful than they are.

Of course, the military might soon have super-powerful blimps, these ones untethered to any base, for use in Afghanistan. The “Blue Devil,” seven times the size of the Goodyear Blimp, will carry a dozen sensors, all talking to each other through a supercomputer, and could be deployed by the fall. By 2012, Northop Grumman hopes to have its Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle floating at 20,000 feet above Afghanistan. That’s a blimp the size of a football field.

These are far more modest, a mere 15 feet in diameter. But you put enough of them in the air, visible to insurgents, and maybe the Taliban will feel like Rockwell in that ’80s video.

Photo: National Guard

24-03-11, 04:35 AM

SOURCE:Flight International

Skunk Works P-791 airship revived as civil cargo-lifter

By Stephen Trimble

Less than a year after losing a major US Army order, Lockheed Martin will revive and scale-up the P-791 hybrid airship to carry at least 20t of cargo under a new contract signed by a Canada-based commercial start-up.

Aviation Capital Enterprises, Inc., of Calgary, has ordered the first airship, which is rebranded the SkyTug, for delivery from Lockheed's Skunk Works division in 2012, says founder Kirk Purdy.

"We're actually well along into the design of a 20t lifter," Purdy says. "The system requirements are close to frozen for that."

©Lockheed Martin

While the first SkyTug will be demonstrated next year under an experimental license to potential buyers, Lockheed will deliver a second hybrid airship to Aviation Capital in late-2012 for launching certification tests with the US Federal Aviation Administration, Purdy says.

"Lockheed is taking us through that right now," Purdy says. "This is not a surprise to the FAA. They've been briefed."

Although Aviation Capital has not signed up any firm customers, discussions are ongoing with "strongly interested parties" in the Middle East, Brazil, Mexico and Canada for the SkyTug, Purdy says.

The concept also adds to the list of active programmes involving hybrid airship designs.

Lockheed first flew the P-791 demonstrator five years ago, but the company lost a bid for a half-billion dollar long endurance multi-intelligence vehicle (LEMV) contract, which the army awarded last June to Northrop Grumman and Hybrid Air Vehicles.

The LEMV programme requires Northrop to deploy the first aircraft in December to Afghanistan to provide aerial surveillance over 21-day missions, or carry up to 6,900kg (15,000lb) of cargo as far as 2,400nm.

Two months after losing the LEMV contract, Lockheed's Skunk Works officials still predicted a bright future for the P-791. "It's still in our hangar. It's available to use again for other demonstrations," Bob Ruszkowski, a Skunk Works system engineer, said in August. "We're exploring other opportunities for hybrid airships."

The first SkyTugs will be designed to lift 20t payloads, but future designs could be scaled-up to carry from 50 to several hundred tons of cargo, Purdy says.

"We're creating an industry here," he adds.

08-04-11, 11:59 AM

SOURCE:Flight International

US Air Force joins airship demonstration race with Blue Devil 2

By Stephen Trimble

An $86.2 million contract award last month reveals the US Air Force will seek to prove if airships can replace fixed-wing aircraft on some surveillance missions over Afghanistan.

About nine months after the US Army launched its long-endurance multi-intelligence vehicle (LEMV) programme, the air force awarded defence technology start-up MAV6 a contract, Blue Devil Block 2.

MAV6 chief executive David Deptula confirms an airship will be deployed to Afghanistan in January to demonstrate a lighter-than-air vehicle with a multi-intelligence payload.

That timing coincides with the army's plans to demonstrate the LEMV airship under a $517 million contract awarded to Northrop Grumman/Hybrid Air Vehicles last June.

Deptula, who retired three months ago as the air force's deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, says the Blue Devil concept pre-dates the launch of the army programme.

Deptula does not consider Blue Devil and LEMV as competitive programmes, but as complementary systems.

Unlike the heavylift capability provided by LEMV's all-new hybrid airship, Blue Devil relies on conventional airship vehicle designs, Deptula says. The TCOM-built airship is nearly 113m (370ft) long, with a payload compartment measuring 7m long by 3m wide by 2.1m high, he says.

Although named Blue Devil Block 2, the airship demonstration bears little resemblance to the previously unpublicised Block 1 effort.

Deptula describes Block 1 as the air force's follow-on to the US Marine Corps' Angel Fire programme, which integrated a wide-area airborne surveillance payload with instant playback capability with a Beechcraft C-12 Huron airframe.

Besides changing from a fixed-wing C-12 to an airship, the Block 2 programme also includes a sensor upgrade.

The air force will integrate both the Sierra Nevada Gorgon Stare and BAE Systems/Lockheed Martin autonomous real-time ground ubiquitous surveillance imaging system as wide-area airborne surveillance sensors. A pallet with a ground moving target indicator payload will also be integrated, along with signals intelligence sensors, Deptula says.

MAV6's concept envisages the Blue Devil Block 2 as the mothership of a vast surveillance network, co-ordinating with other airships and the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper unmanned air system with Gorgon Stare to provide unblinking coverage over a huge area, Deptula says.

The USAF fielded the first Gorgon Stare payload earlier this year on the MQ-9 fleet. Each payload includes 10 camera apertures, increasing surveillance by an order of magnitude over the single aperture of the MQ-9's multi-spectral targeting system camera.

06-05-11, 03:30 AM
Rethinking Heavy Lift

May 5, 2011

By Bill Sweetman

Under a little-publicized program sponsored by the Pentagon, a small Southern California company is working on a design that is radical even by the quirky standards of buoyancy-aided aircraft: a rigid-hulled aircraft that varies its density to land and take off vertically.

After Congress pulled funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (Darpa) Walrus program in 2006, Frank Cappuccio, boss of Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works, commented that the idea of a partly buoyant air vehicle with a 500-ton payload, three times that of an Antonov An-124, “just didn’t pass the giggle test.”

But the idea is not dead. Advocates say a buoyant vehicle has the potential to carry more cargo than any practical heavier-than-air machine at much lower cost and using far less energy per ton-mile. It is faster than a ship, can serve inland destinations and does not need a long runway.

The air vehicle portion of the Northrop Grumman Long Endurance Multi Intelligence Vehicle (LEM-V) is intended to be adaptable into a tactical transport demonstrator. Lockheed Martin’s LEM-V contender is the basis of a Canadian-funded program to develop a commercial transport vehicle for Arctic energy support.

Northrop Grumman’s teammate, Britain’s Hybrid Air Vehicles, and Lockheed Martin are using similar technology, with non-rigid, pressure-stabilized, multi-lobe hulls. The multi-lobe hull generates some lift, so the aircraft are heavier than air, using aerodynamic lift and thrust vectoring as well as buoyancy to fly.

This overcomes a big operational and economic problem of a conventional airship—it is efficient in flight but almost impossible to handle on the ground without a mooring device and a large crew. These craft cannot, however, take off vertically or hover with a full load, so they need a runway, even though their lift off speeds are low.

The new Defense Department program uses different technology. Aeros of Montebello, Calif., founded by Russian-born Igor Pasternak, seemed like an outsider in the Walrus contest. But the company is now the sole-source supplier for a project called Pelican, funded via the Pentagon’s Rapid Reaction Technology Office, reporting to Zachary Lemnios, deputy director for defense research and engineering.

In 2012-13, Aeros plans to fly the Pelican, a 230-ft.-long, 600,000-cu.-ft. demonstrator for its rigid-aeroshell, variable-buoyancy (RAVB) technology. Inside the shell, comprising a load-bearing frame of carbon-fiber trusses covered by thin-gauge rigid panels, will be a membrane to contain the helium lifting gas. Inside that membrane will be pressurized pump-fed tanks. More helium under pressure in the tanks makes the vehicle heavier, and less makes it lighter.

The initial Pelican is not designed to have a payload, but to demonstrate the aeroshell, the variable-buoyancy system (a test rig has been built under a Darpa contract) and a flight-control system that integrates aerodynamic, buoyant and thrust-vectoring effects to allow the craft to take off and land vertically and to hover. In later and larger versions, the variable-buoyancy system will allow the craft to load and discharge cargo without venting gas or needing external water ballast, while remaining heavier than air for stability on the ground.

The variable buoyancy system is expected to be more responsive than the air-filled ballonets that are used to adjust lift on non-rigid airships, which have to maintain forward speed or be moored at all times.

Some technologies needed for very large vehicles would be left to the second-generation RAVB test aircraft, a 440-ft.-long, 3.8-million-cu.-ft. vehicle with a 60-ton payload. Those features would include a combined diesel and gas propulsion system and the ability to superheat helium for takeoff. After takeoff, the helium would cool to ambient temperature and the vehicle would use aerodynamic and buoyant lift to cruise—80-100 kt. at up to 10,000 ft. Aeros has also experimented with techniques for extracting water from the engine exhaust to compensate for fuel use. (Superheating and water extraction were tried in the 1920s and 1930s but have not been used since.)

The 60-ton vehicle is unfunded, and a 200-ton, or even a 500-ton version is further in the future. Aeros says its vehicles will be able to transfer loads on and off ships and discharge without landing. The company argues that survivability may be better than some expect: The underside of the gas membrane is under no pressure, so will not leak much if punctured, and the hull structure is redundant and lightly loaded. Nobody expects these aircraft to fly into hot landing zones.

Despite the fate of Walrus, the support of technological strategists such as Lemnios indicates that not everyone is laughing.

Photo: Aeros

23-06-11, 01:44 AM
Northrop: LEMV On Track For 1st Flight This Year

Posted by Bradley Peniston | June 22nd, 2011 | Paris Air Show 2011

Artist's conception of Northrop Grumman's LEMV airship / Northrop Grumman image

By BRADLEY PENISTON • PARIS — On June 11, Northrop Grumman partially inflated the three-fabric bag that will help lift its LEMV airship on a first flight later this year, said Alan Metzger, the company’s vice president and integrated program team leader of LEMV and airship programs.

It was an unofficial milestone on a program that has hit all of its official ones, Metzger said. One year ago, the U.S. Army signed Northrop to a $517 million deal to build three lighter-than-air (LTA) surveillance vehicles and provide up to five years of support.

The largest airship built in a half-century, the 300-foot LEMV is designed to loft a 2,500-pound payload up to 30,000 feet for three weeks at a time, he said. In April, the carbon-fiber composite frame was largely complete; in May, the airship’s German Centurion engines arrived for testing.

Metzger said Northrop will deliver the first LEMV by year’s end, and the Army to declare it initially operationally capable soon thereafter.

If that happens, the airship will have gone from concept to flying in 18 months.

“It’s going to be sporty, but we’re on track, and we’re doing well,” he said.

The press briefing kicked off with a flashy video that started with “Transformers”-style motion graphics and crescendoed to an aural and visual assault that vaulted from ordinary weapons-marketing fare into Michael Bay territory.

But Metzger was scarcely less dramatic in his vision for LEMV and its variants.

“Why LTA?” he asked. “Basically, it is going to redefine persistent surveillance.”

Flying a three-week mission requires under $15,000 in fuel costs and far fewer people than any kind of manned aircraft could, he said.

The airship’s speedy development? “It could very well redefine the acquisition process for future acquisitions,” he said.

And the aircraft’s potential to spawn cargo-carrying variants?

“We think there will be a [cargo or logistics] market that will be revolutionized by lighter-than-air,” he said.

Metzger said Northrop is already “working with a few customers about converting what we have into some kind of low-cost lift” vehicle, he said.

LEMV isn’t the Pentagon’s only airship effort.

In March, the U.S. Air Force launched Blue Devil Block 2, awarding an $86.2 million contract to MAV6, a startup company run by former USAF ISR chief David Deptula.

Metzger said the Air Force is seeking three- to five-day endurance, far less then the Army’s three-week requirement for LEMV.

“I don’t believe Blue Devil is a competitor at all,” he said.

Lockheed Martin is also in the airship business, having won a $400 million DARPA grant in 2009 to build a prototype reconnaissance airship that can stay aloft for years at a time.

23-06-11, 10:40 AM

SOURCE:Flight Daily News

PARIS: Northrop Grumman proposes a 'civvie' LEMV

By Stephen Trimble

A commercial customer could be announced within 12 months for a new heavy freighter version of a hybrid airship in development for the US Army, Northrop Grumman said.

The commercial market appears to be evolving rapidly even as a Northrop/Hybrid Air Vehicles team is still assembling the first long-endurance multi-intelligence vehicle ordered by the army a year ago.

"This week we have begun parts of the inflating process," said Alan Metzger, vice-president and integrated product team leader for LEMV and airship programmes.

Nineteen sections that comprise the structure of the balloon will be inflated over a period of several weeks, he added.

The army could buy as many as three of the optionally manned hybrid airships, which rely on both buoyancy and aerodynamic forces to achieve lift.

An undisclosed customer within the army intends to demonstrate that the LEMV can perch at 20,000ft (6,100m) over a three-week period with a 1,133kg (2,500lb) payload that includes four high-definition electro-optical/infrared sensors, a signals interceptor, radar and three communications relay antennas, Northrop said.

If the LEMV is successful, it could replace the equivalent of up to 25 fixed-wing, medium-altitude surveillance platforms, Northrop added.

The same vehicle with a few modifications is already being offered to the commercial freighter market.

The cargo version can be designed to carry up to 18,143kg for 1,000nm (1,185km). Required design changes include a new freight floor added to a payload bay, an enlarged fuel/freight module and hover pads added to the landing skids, Metzger said.

Northrop's interest in the commercial market is moving forward after its chief competitor - the Lockheed Martin SkyTug - teamed with a Canadian start-up to produce a hybrid airship for the commercial cargo market. Meanwhile, the US Air Force has also signed an $82 million contract with MAV6 to develop a surveillance airship with one-week endurance.

"Lots of people have ideas, and they're all good ideas," Metzger said. "What we have is a vehicle."

06-07-11, 04:35 PM
Giant Spy Blimp Battle Could Decide Surveillance’s Future

By Noah Shachtman July 6, 2011 | 7:00 am

How many giant experimental spy blimps does the military need over Afghanistan, exactly?

That’s one of many questions the Senate Armed Services Committee is asking after an intramilitary battle has erupted over what many expect to be the future of aerial surveillance. The Army and the Air Force each have their own football field-sized airships in the works; the Senate panel wants to know why it should pay for both — especially as the Air Force seems fickle about its model and keeps changing the spy sensors on board. Legislators are asking: What gives?

This is more than some obscure bureaucratic hair-pull. The answer to those questions — and the winners of those fights — could determine the direction of U.S. intelligence-gathering for years to come.

Here’s why. Surveillance drones like the Predator and the Reaper are starting to lose just a bit of their sheen in military circles, even though their number of “orbits,” or combat air patrols, has more than quadrupled in the last five years. Giant spy blimps are the new hotness. They can stay in the air for much longer than any drone. Instead of a Predator’s single camera, the blimps can carry a whole bunch of surveillance equipment, because they’re so freakin’ huge. Any one of those sensors could spy on an entire town at once. There’s even enough space on board the airship to process all that data in the sky, easing the burden on overloaded intelligence analysts.

A sign of the spy blimp’s rising stock: Retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula — who, until recently, was in charge of all Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) programs — is now the CEO of MAV6, a Vicksburg, Mississippi, startup building one of these next-gen airships for the military.

It’s part of a project called “Blue Devil.” The behemoth, 340-foot-long blimp and all of its spy gear should be ready for Air Force duty by January, Deptula promises. And if Blue Devil works as promised — staying four miles above Afghanistan for five days at a time — drones could suddenly seems like an expensive anachronism.

“It brings to bear a completely different concept for ISR: multiple sensors on one platform integrated with on-board processing and storage. It’s the first time we’re using a modular system on an aircraft to host a variety of sensors, and they can be rapidly changed for new or different sensors in a matter of hours,” Deptula tells Danger Room. “We’ve got the world’s largest ISR payload — and ‘real estate’ to host it, and nearly a supercomputer on board to process what they find.”

The Pentagon is planning to spend $4.5 billion to mount 15 more drone air patrols. The costs of operating, maintaining and processing the information from the roboplanes runs about $8,000 per hour. Deptula claims Blue Devil would run $1,000 per hour, because it requires fewer people (although that’s just an educated guess; the thing hasn’t flown yet). “A handful of Blue Devil orbits could achieve significantly greater ISR effectiveness for a fraction of that cost and save billions,” he insists. For now, the Air Force is spending $211 million on one of Deptula’s blimps.

The Senate Armed Service Committee digs the idea. “There are many platforms and systems that advertise ‘multisensor integration,’ but almost always the different sensors … cannot view the same piece of terrain at the same time,” the committee notes in its recent report on next year’s Pentagon budget. “Blue Devil is different: this QRC [quick reaction capability] is designed to give ground forces a new capability to detect, locate, identify, and track targets seamlessly, building on concepts and practices pioneered by special forces to tightly integrate sensors and pursuit operations.”

But the committee “is concerned about recent turmoil in program plans,” according to the report. For starters, Blue Devil isn’t the only ginormous airship heading for Afghanistan. The Army has one in the works, too.

It’s called the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle, or LEMV. It’s being built by Northrop Grumman, the defense contracting behemoth. It’s allegedly going to start casting its “unblinking eye” by January. And the LEMV supposed to stay in the skies for weeks, thanks to a combination of lighter-than-air helium and the aerodynamic lift you’d ordinarily see in an airplane. Initial cost: $517 million, for three airships. But, according to InsideDefense.com, the Pentagon is already asking for another $28 million.

Which naturally has lead the Senate Armed Service to ask why we need both of these things.

“These developments raise the question of the value of Blue Devil Block 2,” the committee report reads.

“The Army now plans to deploy the LEMV to Afghanistan in the same timeframe as Blue Devil Block 2. Moreover, the Army is now planning to rapidly equip LEMV, after it is first demonstrated, with the same sensor systems that were originally planned for Blue Devil Block 2,” the committee adds. “The sensor changes raise questions about how effective and useful it will be, while progress in the LEMV program raises the issue of whether Blue Devil Block 2 funds would be better invested in LEMV program acceleration and expansion.”

LEMV may not be able to stay in the air quite as long as advertised. A recent technical presentation (.pdf) noted that the airship might stay aloft for a mere 10 days at a stretch.

Yet the Air Force is showing some signs of ambivalence about its Blue Devil airship. Turns out, the air service has grown rather attached to its current gaggle of spy planes.

That’s ironic, since it wasn’t that long ago that Defense Secretary Bob Gates complained that getting the Air Force to field more Predator and Reaper drones was like “pulling teeth.” The upstart robo-planes were a threat to the air service’s established, man-in-the-cockpit fleet. Now, however, the upstarts have become the establishment. Drones form the bedrock of the Air Force’s surveillance effort.

“Big Safari” — that’s the code name for the Air Force office in charge of special intelligence programs — doesn’t appear to be quite ready to shift gears again. Especially not when shifting gears means putting a small company like Deptula’s in the driver’s seat.

“The Air Force transferred responsibility for Blue Devil recently to the Big Safari Program Office, which promptly proposed wholesale changes to the program — an entirely different platform, continued use of legacy [c]ameras, and different SIGINT [signals intelligence] sensors,” the Senate report notes.

Most of those changes were ultimately beaten back. But there are still open issues about the future of Blue Devil — and how the airship relates to its past.

The Blue Devil program started by packing a bunch of sensors together onto a turboprop plane. That surveillance gear includes eavesdropping equipment that can pinpoint a chatty militant’s location, as well as the Angel Fire “wide-area airborne surveillance system,” or WAAS. It’s a hive of nine separate cameras, each one shooting at a very slow rate and at a slightly different angle — allowing a whole town to be watched at once.

On the Blue Devil turboprop plane, the WAAS sensors and the eavesdropping unit can tell each other where to look or listen. According to the committee, that combo is now “making significant contributions” in southern Afghanistan, “particularly in support of prosecuting high-value targets.” In other words, it’s helping the military hunt down and kill militants.

But Deptula — and the Air Force — don’t just want to move that gear onto the airship for the second phase of Blue Devil. There’s talk of upgrading the WAAS sensor, from nine cameras to 92. Plus, the blimp has room for more and bigger antennas. And the more and bigger antennas you have, the easier it is to pinpoint locations. The blimp could be a much better eavesdropper. The Air Force and the ear-men at the National Security Agency are still wrestling over which signals intelligence package will fly on the airship.

Even muddier is the Air Force plan for what to do if the spy blimp wows the military if and when it goes to Afghanistan; there’s no follow-on effort in the budget, at the moment.

Making things murkier still is that there are two more giant blimp programs making their way through the military’s development chain.

The Armed Services Committee is kind of fed up. It’s demanding that the Pentagon appoint a single point person who can sort out which airship projects make sense, and which don’t. This is supposed to a time of coming budget cuts, after all. The sky is pretty big. But it’s not big enough for all these king-sized blimps.

Illo: Mav6

11-07-11, 02:42 PM
WSGI Completes Additional Flight Testing of Argus One UAV in Preparation for Yuma Flight Exercise

(Source: World Surveillance Group Inc.; issued July 8, 2011)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL --- World Surveillance Group Inc., a developer of lighter-than-air unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and related technologies, announced today that it has completed additional testing of its Argus One UAV in Easton, Maryland in preparation for the airship's flight testing and demonstration at the U.S. Army's proving ground facility in Yuma, Arizona.

The recent series of Argus One flight testing focused on improvements to the electronic control systems and the gas bag stability system as well as different engine and propeller configurations. The Company has also been able to evaluate the overall flight stability and maneuverability of the airship and its performance at various altitudes up to 2,500 feet in differing wind and weather conditions.

In preparation for the Argus One's testing at Yuma, WSGI has also built and tested redundant backup systems for the airship, including propulsion packages, onboard electronics and gas bag systems.

WSGI also announced today that it has decided to accelerate its integration of certain unique customer payloads into the pod bay of the Argus One UAV prior to its flight testing at Yuma. As a result, WSGI has agreed with the test directors at Yuma to reschedule the Company's test dates from July 11-22 to later in the third quarter of 2011. WSGI has focused on constructing a modular sensor bay on its airship that is capable of hosting various sensors and payloads with a simple plug and play architecture that provides power, an airship inertial navigation system and environmental data.

In part as a result of the continued successful flight testing of the Argus One in Easton, WSGI has received strong interest from potential partners to test and demonstrate the Argus One at Yuma as a mobile platform for specific suveillance and communications packages. WSGI is adjusting its testing program to accomodate such potential partnership relationships and has begun to prepare the Argus One airship to provide increased power and payload capacity to support the unique requirements of the specific sureveillance and communications packages.

Glenn D. Estrella, President and CEO of WSGI, stated "We are extremely excited by the potential of the Argus One airship being used as a mobile surveillance and communications platform. We believe adjusting our testing and demonstration schedule of the Argus One so that the airship can include specific payload packages when it flies at Yuma is a critical step towards commercialization of our Argus One UAV."

Michael K. Clark, WSGI's Chairman, added, "We have been provided with important opportunities to pursue potential partnership relationships to further the development and commercialization of our airships and we intend to take full advantage of such opportunities to move our Company forward in the interests of all of our shareholders. We look forward to demonstrating the capabilities of our Argus One UAV at Yuma in the near future."

World Surveillance Group Inc. designs, develops, markets and sells autonomous, lighter-than-air UAVs capable of carrying payloads that provide persistent security and/or wireless communications solutions at low, mid, and high altitudes. WSGI's airships, when integrated with electronics systems and other high technology payloads, are designed for use by government-related and commercial entities that require real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance or communications support for military, homeland defense, border control, drug interdiction, natural disaster relief and maritime missions.


15-07-11, 03:59 AM

SOURCE:Flight International

US Army deploys Skystar-180 aerostats in Afghanistan

By Arie Egozi

The US Army has taken delivery of its first three Skystar-180 tactical aerostat systems in southern Afghanistan, with the equipment primarily intended for use in a force protection role.

Delivered by Israel's RT LTA Systems, in partnership with Fairfax, Virginia-based Focus Consulting & Services, the systems are due to be followed by a further three aerostats scheduled to arrive in August.

The Skystar-180 is a small tactical aerostat which carries a Controp T-Stamp electro-optical/infrared sensor. This provides 360° coverage from an altitude up to 1,000ft (305m).

Once airborne, the payload is operated from a portable control unit which displays real-time imagery and the exact coordinates of objects of interest.

The Skystar-180 is a trailer-based, towable system, which can be easily redeployed to alternate locations using a light military vehicle.

Other Skystar systems are already in use by customers worldwide, including Canadian forces in Afghanistan, Israeli defence forces and the Israeli police.

RT LTA Systems is a subsidiary of Aeronautics Defense Systems - one of Israel's leading manufacturers of unmanned air systems.

28-07-11, 04:49 PM

SOURCE:Flight International

Helium leak forces Lockheed airship down on maiden flight

By Stephen Trimble

Lockheed Martin is investigating why a high-altitude airship was forced to make a controlled landing less than 4h after lifting off on a maiden flight that was supposed to last several days.

The high-altitude long-endurance demonstrator (HALE-D) rose to 32,000ft after lifting off at 05:47 from Akron, Ohio, on 27 July, but then experienced a serious anomaly, Lockheed said.

Helium was escaping from the airship's gas envelope, preventing the demonstrator from ascending to 60,000ft, the company said. The US Army's Space and Missile Defence Command (SMDC), the project's sponsor, directed Lockheed to land the aircraft as quickly as possible.

© Lockheed Martin

Lockheed said the airship was losing helium but was still under control during the descent, falling a rate of 6.10m/sec (20ft/sec) - or slower than a parachutist. However, the airship landed in a wooded area on top of trees in southwestern Pennsylvania. Local officials were still trying to reach the site of the airship's landing on the evening of 27 July.

Lockheed is waiting for the remnants of the aircraft to be returned before investigating the cause of the original helium leak.

It was not immediately clear how the incident would impact the army's interest in the programme. HALE-D was expected to demonstrate the abilities of a high-altitude airship to function as a communications relay system for several days.

The mission was aborted before the airship could reach a high altitude, and the flight ended less than 3h after it began.

29-07-11, 03:19 AM
Let me see...
"still under control during descent"

"landed on top of trees" miles from take off area.

"waiting for remnants of the aircraft"

"Lockheed Martin"

Why on earth would you land something on trees, miles away, destroy it and claim it was under control?

Maybe I'm slow but I feel I'm missing something here, SNAFU comes to mind so does BS!


I get it now, the descent was controlled, the landing was what we used to call a "CRASH".

Clever, aren't I?


01-08-11, 05:14 PM
Gallery: The Blimps of War

By Lena Groeger August 1, 2011 | 7:00 am

For seven decades, they were a curiosity, a relic of a lighter-than-air future that never quite came true. But in recent years, airships have once again become a major force in aviation. The Pentagon has gone especially blimp-crazy, pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into advanced -- and massive -- surveillance airships that can stay in the sky way longer than any drone. Here are some of the new Blimps of War.

Blue Devil

This "freakishly large" airship would hover 20,000 feet above ground, using its on-board supercomputer to spy for miles around. The power comes from up to 12 different sensors, including an eavesdropping unit and nine tiny cameras that talk to each other while adjusting precisely where to look and listen. After collecting all that data, the Blue Devil has enough real estate on board to do much of the processing in the air – no human analyst required.

According to retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, "it could change the nature of overhead surveillance." For one, he estimates it'd be a lot cheaper, costing about $1,000 per hour (compared to the $8,000 of other airships).

The construction of this longer than a football field blimp is still underway, but it's expected to be ready for the Air Force by January. Right now, the same surveillance gear that would be used on the airship is already in Afghanistan atop four Blue Devil planes.

Photo: USAF


Darpa's supersized ISIS (or Integrated Sensor is Structure) is a technology packed 450-foot long airship that would perch 70,000 feet in the air. The unmanned vehicle is designed to float at its Heaven's eye view for up to 10 years, zipping along at up to 115 miles per hour to reach anywhere on the globe in 10 days.

The ISIS would be pretty impressive with just its surveillance and tracking capabilities – 187 miles for people on the ground and 373 miles for cruise missiles in the air. But what really distinguishes it from other monster blimps are its new technologies. Its array radar system could spot any movement on or above the battlefield – in high res. The hull, made of super lightweight material, would be much stronger than conventional materials and last 10 times as long. And the whole airship can also take care of itself via solar-regenerative power, absorbing sunlight by day and generating energy with fuel cells at night.

The airship will provide "unsurpassed situational awareness," according to Darpa. ISIS is still in the design and simulation phase, but we're hoping to see a small demonstration prototype by 2014.

Photo: Darpa


Hovering above the jet stream, this autonomous high-flying airship would be able to survey millions of miles of airspace for months. The HALE-D is part of the U.S. Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command’s High Altitude Airship (HAA) program. Lockheed Martin claims that the airship technology enters "into a realm that gives users capabilities on par with satellites at a fraction of the cost."

Unfortunately, its first test flight this week didn't go so well. The airship encountered some technical difficulties at 32,000 feet, and crashed into the woods of New Freeport, Pennsylvania. Authorities are now trying to fetch the shriveled Hale-D from the tree tops. Better luck next time.

Photo: Lockheed Martin


Launching into the sky like a weather balloon, the HiSentinel80 is just one of a family of autonomous, high-altitude, long-endurance airships being developed for the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command.

It's made of super thin translucent fabric which folds down to a small cube but inflates to 200 feet in the air. It runs on internal solar panels and can survey a 600-mile-wide radius. And since it's perched 13 to 15 miles high, it's safer from enemy attack or bad weather. The HiSentinel80 had its first successful flight test last November, and is now in the process of more testing for environmental effects and military utility.

Photo: U.S. Army

Navy MZ-3A Manned Airship

This do-gooder airship patrolled New Orleans from above after the oil spill. The Navy sent the 178-foot blimp (which uses less fuel than a helicopter or plane) to help clean up, direct large skimming ships to patches of oil, and search for trapped turtles, dolphins, birds and whales.

Photo: U.S. Navy

Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence (LEMV) Airship

The Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence (LEMV) airship has been likened to an "unblinking eye," soaring for weeks at a time and aiming its bundle of infra-red sensors and signal intelligence system at anything below. What makes the LEMV so special (besides its "more than 21 days of unblinking stare") is a hybrid propulsion system, which combines helium and an aerodynamic design that gives it airplane-like lift.

The defense contracting corporation Northrop Grumman got a $517 million contract last year to build three of the monster spy blimps for the military. The Army plans to deploy them to Afghanistan, but we won't see the first LEMV until at least January, if not later.

Photo: Northrop Grumman

Persistent Threat Detection System (PTDS)

While some blimps fly freely, others are anchored to ground. The tethered Persistent Threat Detection System (PTDS) is supposed to provide long-endurance intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and communications at a low cost.

The U.S. Army has been using these around-the-clock systems in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2004 – they're up to at least 37. That number is increasing. This past April the Pentagon announced pouring up to $1 billion more for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance gear in Afghanistan, mostly in the form of balloon mounted cameras and aerostats. A cheaper alternative to drones, the tethered blimps may also deter insurgents from planting make-shift bombs, a rising problem in Afghanistan.

“When daisy chained together throughout a battlespace it soaks up the terrain and becomes eyes in the sky,” says Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell.

Photo: U.S. Army

Sanswire-TAO STS-111

This, um, unusually shaped blimp (111-foot long, 11-foot tall) is designed to wiggle through the wind more easily than a clunky round airship, thanks to its multisegmented body. The flying silver worm is propelled by helium in the first segment, and can deliver its payload via an air drop system that separates from the airship.

We haven't seen much new activity around the STS-111 since it its first test-flight in 2009, but Sanswire has several other elongated airships in the making, including the Argus One, the SkySat and the Stratellite.

Photo: Sanswire


The Aeroscraft, touting ship-like payloads and helicopter-like operations, is designed to be a blimp that acts like a U-Haul. Need to transport 500 tons of troops and cargo? Sure. No airstrip? No problem. The Pelican would be able to land anywhere on land or water, its army unit ready to fight within six hours. This "tri-phibian" (air, land, sea) project was based on Darpa's Walrus program, which was cancelled in 2006. But the aviation technology company Aeros is determined to keep hope alive with Pelican. A (relatively) small prototype, supposed to carry a mere 60 tons, is due to fly sometime by the end of 2013.

Photo: Aeros

02-08-11, 01:50 AM

SOURCE:Flight International

ISIS poised to become the ultimate eye in the sky

By Stephen Trimble

About a decade ago the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) conceived of a new kind of radar antenna.

Though the invention of active electronically-scanned arrays (AESA) had already revolutionised surveillance, by transforming a single radar antenna into hundreds of coordinated transmit and receive (T/R) modules, DARPA wanted to reduce the size of the T/R module even further.

Instead of a roughly 7.62cm- long module, the agency wanted something closer to a microchip, which it named Lightfoot.

A single Lightfoot chip would emit a signal with only one-tenth of the power of a module-sized transmitter-receiver, but it could also be built for a fraction of the cost.

The cheaper, lighter and more flexible material promised jaw-dropping possibilities, such as constructing AESA arrays larger than office buildings.

© Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin's ISIS airship is to be equipped with a "radar of unprecedented proportions"

Radar signal strength is a function of power and aperture size. An integrated antenna so large can spot a person walking down the street nearly 200 miles away.

However, most of the publicly-known applications for the Lightfoot radar technology have disappeared, including the ill-fated Space-Based Radar programme.

One surviving programme, however, is perhaps the most ambitious - Lockheed Martin's Integrated Sensor is Structure (ISIS) airship.

In the normally dry budget documents released by the US Department of Defense, the ISIS is described as packing a "radar of unprecedented proportions".

At full scale, the airship's radar will measure 6,000m².

By comparison, the aperture on the Northrop Grumman E-8C joint surveillance target attack radar system (JSTARS), which is still the US Air Force's primary and largest sensor for detecting moving targets on the ground, is less than 5m².

The aperture on ISIS raises the number of T/R components by several orders of magnitude.

Most AESAs measure the amount of T/R modules in hundreds or low thousands, but the ISIS array will be filled with four million such components on microchips.

This ultra-high frequency (UHF) and X-band antenna will be stored inside a stratospheric-roaming airship capable of staying airborne for up to 10 years, without landing to refuel.

Instead, the ISIS carries a bank of solar panels on top to recharge the fuel cells powering the sensor and the vehicle's propulsion system. To keep the airship as light as possible, ISIS also introduces a new composite-laminate fabric with an extremely high strength-to-weight ratio.

Even so, the sensor itself will form 30% of the total mass of the airship.

The system is designed to perform at least three different functions. It should detect moving targets out in the open in the air or on the ground with its X-band antenna, and find stationary targets hidden under camouflage nets or a dense canopy with the radar's UHF frequency.

DARPA launched the ISIS programme in 2005, but the USAF plans to take it over, starting in 2014.

In 2009, an industry team, including Lockheed's airship designers at Skunk Works and Raytheon's radar engineers, beat a Northrop Grumman team for a $400 million contract to design and demonstrate a sub-scale prototype system.

The ISIS demonstrator is now scheduled to make its maiden flight in late 2013, from Lockheed's airship manufacturing base in Akron, Ohio.

The vehicle will be steered overland to the tip of the Florida Keys, where it will remain perched for a flight test period of about three months. Afterward, the vehicle will be at the disposal of US Southern and Northern Commands for a period of about nine months.

It could be used in Southern Command's counter-narcotics operations over the Caribbean, or the border patrols of Northern Command.

The demonstrator should be followed after 2015 with a full-scale operational system, but the USAF has not yet committed funding.

The performance by the demonstrator will likely make the difference, as the USAF begins to consider its budget priorities in the second half of the decade.

Lockheed and DARPA are approaching the demonstration flight carefully.

Although the flight was originally scheduled to begin in 2012, the timeline had slipped by last year, to March 2013.

Earlier this year, however, programme officials decided to delay the maiden flight by another six months.

The delay will allow Lockheed's suppliers to complete bench tests on key radar components before buying materials for production, Lockheed said.

• Click through a DARPA presentation on the ISIS programme, from 2009


03-08-11, 02:59 PM
New Type of Flying Vehicle in Development

(Source: Voice of America; issued July 30, 2011)

A California company is developing a new type of airship for transporting cargo and, possibly, passengers. It is not an airplane and not a blimp, but has elements of both. The vehicle uses new technology and has commercial and military applications.

The new flying ship from the Aeros Corporation is called an Aeroscraft, and is designed to carry more than 50 tons of cargo and make deliveries thousands of kilometers away.

A demonstration model is being built outside Los Angeles, with funding from the U.S. Defense Department. It's in a hangar the Navy once used for its helium-gas-filled surveillance blimps. The test vehicle is 75 meters long and 30 meters wide, and should be ready to fly late next year.

Edward Pevzner of Aeros says it will get to hard-to-reach places.

"[This vehicle is ideal for] the north of Canada, Alaska, where big oil and gas exploration is going on, same as the Amazon region, or the continent of Africa, which is very poorly developed," said Pevzner.

Aeronautical engineer Tim Kenny says the key to the system is a new technology that allows the craft to go up or down without removing or adding weight, as is required on conventional airships. Unlike blimps, this craft requires no ground crew. And unlike blimps, it is not always lighter than air. Kenny says it is sometimes lighter and sometimes heavier than the air around it.

"The whole shape will be filled with helium throughout the whole vehicle, and then internal to that, we'll have the variable buoyancy system," Kenny explained.

The helium provides lift for the craft to go up, and when the helium is compressed, the craft loses its buoyancy and can land. Control and propulsion are provided by propeller-engines powered by aviation fuel. Kenny says the craft's light weight and rigid structure are made possible by new technology.

"Advancements in composites have really motivated and moved this industry a lot farther along," Kenny noted. "They're able to combine composites to aluminum and build lightweight structural components."

The demonstration model should fly by late next year. If it works as planned, even bigger versions may be on the market in a few years.

The U.S. military is interested in the ship's potential. So is industry. Commercial applications include moving turbines to hard-to-reach wind farms that generate electric power. The company says once the ships have proved their mettle hauling cargo, modified versions could also be built to ferry passengers.


05-08-11, 02:30 AM

A Defense Technology Blog

Laser Comms for Blue Devil Surveillance Airship

Posted by Graham Warwick at 8/4/2011 4:50 PM CDT

Looks like the US Air Force's Blue Devil 2 large surveillance airship could become the first ISR platform to be deployed operationally with a high-bandwidth laser communications system to downlink multi-gigabits of sensor data.

A special notice issued by DARPA reveals the 350ft-long Blue Devil 2 will be equipped with optical communications terminals being produced by AOptix Technologies for DARPA's Free Space Optical Experimental Network Experiment (FOENEX) program. These terminals can transmit data at up to 10Gbps over ranges up to 200km, according to AOptix.

Graphic: MAV6

The optionally manned Blue Devil 2 is to be deployed to Afghanistan, where it will stay aloft for up to a week at a time, carrying a 2,500lb payload of more than a dozen wide-area surveillance, full-motion video and signals-intelligence sensors, with an airborne supercomputer to enable automated cueing between sensors.

DARPA's special notice reveals the agency is to buy three additonal FOENEX optical modems from John Hopkins University's Apllied Physics Laboratory (APL) and upgrade them to 40Gbps. These additional modems are to be delivered to the USAF's Big Safari office for the Blue Devil 2 program, to support independent test and evaluation in the fall.

The special notice also reveals the Blue Devil 2 program bought the FOENEX optical terminals from AOptix not understanding it also needed the optical modems from APL to get robust communication performance. According to the notice the modem provides automatic gain control and forward error correction to enable error-free comms even in turbulent atmospheric conditions.

Free-space optical communications will be integrated with lower-capacity radio-frequency links to provide a robust network capability previously demonstrated in flight under DARPA's ORCA (Optical RF Communications Adjunct) program.

06-08-11, 12:38 AM

SOURCE:Flight International

Airship resurgence faces pivotal year

By Stephen Trimble

By the time this article appears, a new airship design supported by US military funding may have become the second to complete its first flight event this year.

A third airship programme is trailing a few months behind, with at least two more to enter flight testing within two years.

The resurgence of the buoyant aircraft type has been sudden, and the range of new designs diverse.

They span the range of altitude from 20,000ft (6,090m) to the stratosphere, of missions from surveillance to cargo, of lifting power from conventional to hybrid, of crewing from optionally-piloted to fully unmanned - and of endurance, from a few weeks to a decade.

Military spending leaves no doubt about the sincerity of the military's interest.

© Lockheed Martin
The Lockheed P791 hybrid airship (above) was defeated by Northop's SkyTug for the LEMV contract

In barely more than five years, a total of more than $1.13 billion has been invested in the US military's four biggest airship programmes, with a $149 million contract awarded to the Lockheed Martin high altitude airship (HAA) in 2005.

The US also handed $400 million to Lockheed for the Integrated Sensor Is the Structure (ISIS) in 2009, $500 million to Northrop Grumman in 2010, for the long-endurance multi-intelligence vehicle (LEMV) and $80 million to start-up MAV6, for the Blue Devil Block II airship.

Beyond those programmes are several groups working on smaller contracts, or still looking for support.

These include two new hybrid airships still looking for a commercial or military customer: Aeros Aeroscraft and the Lockheed/Aviation Capital Enterprises (ACE) SkyTug.

The latter is based on the Lockheed P791 hybrid airship, which was defeated by Northrop for the LEMV contract.

So far, military officials have not committed to continue any single programme beyond the prototype and demonstration phase.

Untethered, manned airships were once valued patrol vessels in the military inventory, but largely disappeared about 55 years ago as fixed-wing patrol aircraft reached maturity.

In the last decade, unmanned aircraft systems have redefined the expectations for long-endurance flights.

Frank Pace, president of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI), recalled a time in the early 1990s when the company had to persuade the US Air Force that the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) should be designed with 24h endurance, not 10h as the Air Force requested.

Now military officials in every branch want even more endurance than the 36h flying range of Northrop's RQ-4 Global Hawk.

The new objective for several development projects is to keep an aircraft on patrol for at least several days, if not weeks.

Options for meeting this ultra-long range requirement include hydrogen-powered fixed-wing UAVs, including the AeroVironment Global Observer and Phantom Ray. But the military also has funded Lockheed's HAA to meet the same requirement, leading to the high-altitude long-endurance demonstrator (HALE-D) taking the skies on 20 March.

Designed to carry a 226kg (500lb) payload with a 3kW onboard power supply, HALE-D was expected to demonstrate the feasibility of an airship performing a communications relay mission.

The airship's first flight, however, ended less than 3h after it began, due to an anomaly that is still being investigated.

The airship reached only a little higher than half the objective altitude of 60,000ft, before being commanded to descend.

Its payload was still transmitting data to the ground station even after the vehicle landed atop a patch of trees in southwest Pennsylvania.


Lockheed considers the flight a partial success, as the vehicle demonstrated both lift-off and a functioning payload.

The HALE-D is unusual, in that it is as an airship designed to fly above 60,000ft, but it is otherwise a conventional blimp that uses lighter-than-air gas as a lifting mechanism.

Such airships are limited by physics to lifting payloads that weigh less than the amount of air displaced by the gas envelope.

Lighter-than-air craft are also more difficult to handle on the ground, as winds can complicate the process of landing and unloading passengers or payload.

The alternative to these airships is a hybrid that relies on some combination of aerostatic, buoyant and aerodynamic forces to generate lift. Such hybrid airships have existed for nearly a century, but have seen a recent surge in innovation.

A new design of hybrid air vehicles mixes elements of a buoyant airship and a fixed-wing aircraft for lift, and a hovercraft for taxiing on the ground.

The design stems from the work of Roger Munk, an airship pioneer who died last year.

After HALE-D's first flight, the second airship scheduled to follow is the Northrop/Hybrid Air Vehicles' (HAV's) LEMV.

Munk founded UK-based Hybrid and spent a decade promoting the hybrid airship design, but died just a few months before it was selected by the US Army to perform a $500 million demonstration.

In late June, Northrop announced it had started inflating the first of 19 sections within the aluminium hull of the LEMV. Separately, the company had already received pylons, nacelles and production engines from German firm Centurion Engines (formerly Thielert).

As of late June, LEMV was still on track for first flight by late July or August. The location of the first flight is still undisclosed.

Northrop officials have discussed assembling the airship in either Tillamook, Oregon, or Lakehurst, New Jersey - both former airship bases.

Northrop vice president Alan Metzger, briefing reporters on LEMV at the Paris air show in June, declined to confirm the location.

The Northrop LEMV is still based on the hybrid design pioneered by Munk - and still bears his mark. Munk's contoured and flattened hull is still present, with a pair of longitudinal side lobes.

Unlike many previous hybrid airships, the LEMV does not have a circular cross-section. Its more elliptical shaping is designed to provide lift similar to an aircraft wing.

Indeed, the LEMV relies on aerodynamic shaping to generate nearly half of the vehicle's lift, with the helium-filled gas envelope providing the rest.

Underneath each side lobe is a pair of air cushions, which are intended to greatly simplify ground operations.

The air cushions help to moor the aircraft on land by sucking down on to the surface, eliminating the need to tie down the aircraft with ropes.

"Hybrid airships have been around a long time," Metzger said in June. "But there really hasn't been one built in modern times of this magnitude."

Following a roughly three-month period of flight tests, Northrop plans to deliver the LEMV to the US Army's Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) later this year.

The army intends to deploy the LEMV to Afghanistan, where it will instantly become one of the most capable intelligence-gathering assets in the country.

Northrop estimates that a single LEMV airship can perform the work of 15 equivalent fixed-wing medium-altitude aircraft.

Its intelligence payload includes nine independent systems, including a communications interceptor, four electro-optic/infrared cameras, three communications relay antennas and a synthetic aperture radar for ground moving target indication with 360º coverage.

LEMV, however, may not be the only new airship deployed to Afghanistan early next year.

The air force has quietly funded a more conventional airship - the M1400 - under the Blue Devil Block II programme.

It is being developed by US-based firm MAV6, a defence company now headed by David Deptula, a former lieutenant general who served as deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance until retiring in December.

Neither Northrop nor MAV6 officials consider themselves in competition with the other, although both vehicles are designed to provide a similar multi-intelligence capability at medium altitude. That is where the similarities end.

The M1400 "is based on a conventional lighter-than-air airship", Deptula said. For MAV6, the objective is drive a new revolution in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability, not in airship design.

The air force intends to deploy to the M1400 early next year to Afghanistan with a variety of sensors - including possibly wide-area airborne surveillance systems, such as the Sierra Nevada Gorgon Stare.

Deptula envisions that the Blue Devil Block II programme can evolve into much more than just another medium-altitude ISR platform with longer endurance.

With computing power equivalent to 2,000 single-core servers stored onboard, the MAV6 vision for the M1400 is to become the central node in the air force's constellation of surveillance and intelligence aircraft.


In this vision, surveillance platforms including the RQ-4, E-8C, LEMV, MQ-9 and others would transmit sensor data directly - via line-of-sight link - to Blue Devil, which would use its onboard servers to process the data and filter out meaningless information.

The remainder would be sent to ground stations, reducing the need for increasingly valuable bandwidth capacity.

"People are just beginning to realise the tsunami of data coming off these platforms," Deptula said.

06-08-11, 12:41 AM
Post moved, wrong thread!

18-08-11, 03:24 PM
MAV6 Selects Rockwell Collins for Blue Devil Block II Program

(Source: Rockwell Collins; issued August 17, 2011)

WASHINGTON --- Rockwell Collins is playing a key role on the U.S. Air Force Blue Devil Block II unmanned aerial system (UAS) by providing a full suite of systems that will enable the 335-foot-long airship to provide persistent surveillance for the military.

The U.S. Air Force awarded the $86.2 million Blue Devil Block II development contract to MAV6, a defense technology company, who chose Rockwell Collins to equip the airship with a flight control system, vehicle control system and radios. In addition, Rockwell Collins’ networking solutions will provide real-time, ad hoc communications capability for the program. Rockwell Collins will also provide the ground control station leveraging capabilities from the company’s Simulation & Training Solutions business for the Blue Devil Block II program.

“The Blue Devil Block II provides a surveillance network that will coordinate with other airships and UAVs for full continuous coverage over a large area,” said Dave Vos, senior director of UAS and Control Technologies for Rockwell Collins. “We are combining solutions from our broad portfolio of communication and navigation and control systems offerings for this program.”

Rockwell Collins delivers comprehensive communication, navigation and flight control capabilities for the UAS market in the U.S. and throughout the world. The Blue Devil Block II is the latest UAS platform program Rockwell Collins will provide with reliable, cost-effective solutions.

Rockwell Collins is a pioneer in the development and deployment of innovative communication and aviation electronic solutions for both commercial and government applications. Our expertise in flight deck avionics, cabin electronics, mission communications, information management, and simulation and training is delivered by 20,000 employees, and a global service and support network that crosses 27 countries.


30-08-11, 01:16 AM
New aerostat to protect troops in Afghanistan

August 29, 2011

Carolina Unmanned Vehicles, Inc. (CUV), Raleigh North Carolina, announces an order for a new version of their Lightweight Aerostat System (LAS). The new LAS, being procured by Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) in support of the US Army Rapid Equipping Force (REF), will become part of an Aerostat Deception System (ADS) that simulates an Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance capability for small tactical units in Afghanistan and other locations.

The REF mission is to rapidly provide urgent capabilities to the US Army forces employed globally by harnessing current and emerging technologies in order to improve operational effectiveness. The LAS-ADS consists of an ISR deception payload attached under a small specially designed tethered blimp, called a Helikite, and a trailer Carrier that stores the Helikite and the required winch, sensors and helium tanks. CUV will provide the aerostats and all ground operating equipment while GTRI will develop the deception payloads. The LAS-ADS blimp can fly at 1000 feet for low cost, long term coverage for 24 hours a day for a week or more without maintenance or downtime. LAS-ADS will be tested by GTRI and the Army, and if found suitable, will be deployed to Afghanistan for further operational evaluation.

Traditional aerostats cannot operate in high winds unless fairly large, typically with 200 Lb of lift or more. This large size makes them unsuitable for deployment to small isolated bases. LAS uses the patented Helikite lifting aerostat from Allsopp Helikites of Great Britain. Helikites have lifting surfaces that generate aerodynamic lift to support the blimp in winds which would drive traditional designs into the ground. With the Helikite LAS can be smaller and more mobile than traditional aerostat systems yet still operate in high winds. The LAS-ADS will be able to fly in 70 knot wind. With superior mobility, mission utility and adverse weather capability, LAS still requires only two people for all operations. Versions of LAS are suitable for surveillance / security, communications relay and research for Defense and Homeland Security missions. It operates for weeks at a time at a fraction of the cost of comparable aircraft or Unmanned Air Vehicles. CUV has previously developed versions of LAS for the USAF, Sandia National Laboratories, and a large defense contractor.

Source: Carolina Unmanned Vehicles

30-08-11, 05:56 PM
WSGI gives update on Argus One UAV testing

August 30, 2011

World Surveillance Group Inc. (WSGI), a developer of lighter-than-air unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and related technologies, announced today that the Argus One airship successfully passed the physical inspection and analysis conducted by the flight safety board at the Yuma proving ground facility. The safety board initially approved the Argus One airship and accompanying onboard systems for tethered flights and, after successful demonstration of tethered flights, the Argus One was approved for free flight tests.

Unfortunately following such approvals, the Company was unable to conduct flight testing of its Argus One UAV at the Yuma proving ground facilities due to an unforeseen incident that occurred while maneuvering the UAV into its hangar. The events, which resulted in minor damage to the envelope of the UAV, were caused by unexpected strong wind gusts that hit the Argus One UAV broadside while the airship was being moved into its hangar due to the weather. The resulting tear to the airship envelope was unrelated to flight capabilities of the airship itself or the accompanying onboard systems.

The Company is working with its technical partner, Eastcor Engineering, to repair and enhance the airship's envelope and expects to complete such repairs by September 9th. WSGI is currently discussing new flight test dates with the flight operators at the Yuma proving ground facility, anticipates finalizing these dates shortly and expects to return to Yuma in September or October. Meanwhile, the Company plans to continue flight testing the Argus One in Easton, MD in preparation for the upcoming Yuma flight exercise.

The Company will provide additional information on flight testing in Easton, MD as well as the definitive dates to conduct additional testing at Yuma.

WSGI's President and Chief Executive Officer, Glenn D. Estrella, stated, "While we are very disappointed at the unfortunate incident that resulted in our inability to execute the flight tests we had planned for Yuma, we remain optimistic about the unique capabilities of our Argus One airship design based on the results from our numerous Easton flight tests. We are actively in discussions with the directors at Yuma to reschedule new testing dates to get back to Yuma as soon as possible and will continue our testing in Easton in the interim."

Source: WSGI

06-09-11, 12:20 AM
Via DiD........

Time for TARS Along USA’s Southern Borders

Sep 05, 2011 15:21 EDT

TARS, deployed

An aerostat is a lighter-than-air craft that relies on a ground tether for movement and sometimes for electrical power as well, as opposed to blimps which are self-powered, free-flying craft. The US military has slowly come around to the benefits of aerostats in an era that requires persistent surveillance, but features high fuel prices.

The RAID program has morphed into the tower-centric GBOSS, and progress on the naval front remains slow, but the $1+ billion JLENS advanced aerial surveillance program is still moving ahead, and Lockheed Martin has delivered its PTDS aerostats to the front lines for ground surveillance duties. TARS is also part of this mix, with several firms participating in the program…

What is TARS?

TARS is a counter-drug program that’s currently funded by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Counter Narcotics, Counter Proliferation, and Global Threats. The US military has been using TARS aerostats since the 1980s, and before 1992, the TARS network was in the hands of the US Air Force, Customs Service and Coast Guard. A 1992 bill transferred management of the system to the Pentagon/Air Force.

Both USNORTHCOM and USSOUTHCOM undertake Counterdrug/ Counter-Narco Terrorism (CD/CNT) missions around the traditional drug-runner flight paths along the Mexican border, the Florida Straits, and the southwest Puerto Rico/ Caribbean regions, even using E-2 Hawkeye AWACS aircraft in the course of their duties. TARS will not replace other methods, but it will supplement them with an around-the-clock component. As a bonus, a radar with these detection capabilities can also notice items like low-flying cruise missiles, and so TARS is explicitly tasked with contributing to NORAD’s air defense as a secondary mission.

TARS consists of 4 major parts: the aerostat and airborne support equipment; the radar payload; the tether and winch system; and the ground systems.

The program uses 2 sizes of helium-filled aerostat made by TCOM or ILC Dover: one is 275,000 cubic feet in size (186’ long x 62.5’ in diameter x fin span 68.6’), while larger aerostats are 420,000 cubic feet (208.5’ x 69.5’ x 75.5’). The Teldar fabric hulls contain 2 chambers separated by a gas-tight fabric partition: the upper chamber is filled with helium, while the lower chamber is a pressurized air compartment with a sophisticated system of sensors, blowers and valves to control the air pressure. Either type can operate up to 15,000 feet, but 12,000 feet mean sea level is the norm.

Aerostat power is developed by an on-board, 400 Hz generator, fed by a 100-gallon diesel fuel tank. All systems, including the generator, are controlled via an aerostat telemetry link. A pressurized windscreen compartment underneath the aerostat contains and protects the radar, a Lockheed Martin L-88. It’s designed to filter out ground clutter and detect “low-level targets,” from low-flying aircraft to speedboats, and has a published detection radius of 200 miles. That will vary, of course, depending on aerostat altitude and the size/composition of the target.

Operators launch the TARS aerostat from a large circular launch pad containing a fixed or mobile mooring tower, depending on the site configuration. The mooring system contains a large winch with 25,000 feet of tether cable. All radar data is transmitted to the ground station, then digitized and fed to the various control centers for display. TARS sites also field a doppler weather radar, wind profiler, and ground weather station, which complement forecasts and weather warnings from the Air Force Weather Agency.

TARS’ contract management office is located in Newport News, VA, and the logistics hub is located in El Paso, TX Operational sites are listed as:

• Yuma, AZ
• Fort Huachuca, AZ
• Cudjoe Key, FL
• Deming, NM
• Lajas, Puerto Rico
• Marfa, TX
• Eagle Pass, TX
•Rio Grande City, TX

Aerostat maker ILC Dover is a Lockheed Martin STAR supplier, and TARS overall is touted as a Lockheed product. In 2000, Lockheed Martin Naval Electronics & Surveillance Systems-Akron won a USAF contract to upgrade 6 Tethered Aerostat Radar System sites.

ITT Systems Division is the TARS support integrator.

Note that the aerostat TARS systems should not be confused with BAE’s TARS reconnaissance pod, which also performs surveillance, but does so while attached to a fighter jet.

Contract & Key Events

TARS aerostat

Aug 31/11: ITT Systems Division of Colorado Springs, CO receives a $32.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to provide resources for the Tethered Aerostat Radar Systems Program at 9 locations throughout the United States. Air Combat Command AMIC/PKC in Newport News, VA manages the contract (FA4890-08-C-0005, PO 0055).

22-09-11, 04:26 PM
Indian Report Criticises Air Force Use of Aerostats

Posted on September 22, 2011 by The Editor

India’s Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has criticised the nation’s Air Force for failing to keep two Israeli-supplied aerostat-based radars in operational condition. The equipment was acquired for a combined total of 676 million Indian Rupees ($14 million).

One of the systems was damaged in 2009, while deployed on India’s western border, after air force personnel failed to properly monitor forecast weather conditions. The damaged sensor is unlikely to be available for another two years.

Meanwhile, the fabric on the other aerostat has started decaying, leading to the leakage of excessive amounts of helium.

The CAG said the service’s failure to sign a deal with Israel-based Rafael to fix the problem led to it spending an extra Rs10 million ($200,000) per year on gas supplies.

“The case shows improper planning and an unprofessional approach on the part of the Indian air force, for optimal utilisation of a system that was procured at a huge cost,” the CAG said.

Source: Flight Global

22-09-11, 05:39 PM
Military Struggles to Find Helium for Spy Blimp Surge

By Dawn Lim and Noah Shachtman September 22, 2011 | 6:30 am

Storm in a teacup story............the USA was selling Helium at rock bottom prices just a year or so ago, then the surge hits them and hey presto they are in the smelly stuff having disposed of reserves previously.................the lack of strategic reserve and containers is the key to the problem not the lack of helium per se.

The U.S. military is sending so many spy blimps to Afghanistan that “industry cannot keep up with the increased demand” for helium and the containers that hold the gas.

That’s according to documents from the Defense Logistics Agency, the Pentagon office responsible for keeping vital supplies flowing to the warzone.

With their ability to stay in the air for days at a time — and hold more spy gear than any drone — aerostats and airships are quickly becoming surveillance tools of choice in the Afghan War. The military carried out three aerostat surges between last fall and this summer; several dozen are deployed in Afghanistan now. But really, that’s just a scene-setter. Early next year, the U.S. military is planning to send not one, but two “freakishly large” airships to the skies above Afghanistan.

If the giant blimps can get the helium and helium containers they need to fly, that is.

When one of those airships, the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle, needed its gas, it ran into a problem. LEMV-builder Northrop Grumman “could not obtain the helium and/or the large number of bulk containers needed for its initial fill and as such, required emergency support,” according to a Defense Logistics Agency contracting document.

To meet LEMV’s “huge gaseous helium requirements” in time, DLA Energy couldn’t competitively bid out the 800,000 standard cubic feet of helium needed to fill up the “longer than a football field, taller than a seven-story building” airship.

DLA ran into similar bottlenecks trying to fill up the smaller, tethered aerostats used in Afghanistan to watch and listen for enemy action.

In justifications for “other than full and open competition,” DLA said that it wasn’t able to competitively bid out container lease contracts in the rush to keep the aerostats aloft. “Manufacturing new bulk helium ISO containers is a very lengthy process.”

“Industry cannot keep up with the increased demand for containers needed by the Army’s second and third Aerostat deployment surges,” the agency admitted in July.

In fact, sources familiar with the process tell Danger Room, when DLA originally issued a call for helium supplies to meet the airship and aerostat programs’ needs, nobody responded. The order was just too big. That forced the government to break up its helium order into smaller chunks.

Things aren’t dire — for now. Helium gas suppliers and producers were quick to tell Danger Room that government orders make up just a tiny fraction of the total demand for their helium, and that any increased demand from the military wasn’t hampering their ability to provide helium. A Northrop Grumman spokesperson claimed that helium shortages have not affected its LEMV program. DLA did not immediately respond to Danger Room’s questions.

But the cost of securing and processing helium has grown “substantially,” especially in the last five to 10 years, said Eric Bass, strategic product manager for helium at Linde North America. In at least the past four years, Linde has seen U.S. government demand for helium from its customers grow roughly about one to two percent each year. The largest helium sources in the world are rapidly reaching capacity.

Getting mega-blimps to landlocked Afghanistan is no cakewalk. Once filled, these spy blimps can’t be deflated at the risk of messing up their flight control surfaces. This means that helium either needs to be flown to a base where the blimps have to be filled up, or they have to be inflated in the U.S. and then shipped over to Afghanistan in a giant container.

And the military continues to march toward a future of spy blimps. A recent presolicitation calling for “unrestricted procurement for delivery” of high-purity helium said that contracts would be performed through 2017.

DLA Energy just increased its helium orders from one firm, Dubai-based Global Gases, by 50 percent — from two million cubic feet to three million. Phil Kornbluth, an executive vice president with Global Gases supplier Matheson Gas, says it’s a substantial increase.

“That’s heck of a lot of party balloons,” he tells Danger Room.

Photo: National Guard

07-10-11, 05:18 PM
Look: Giant Spy Blimp Dwarfs an 18-Wheeler

By Noah Shachtman October 7, 2011 | 6:30 am

That teeny-weeny, toy-looking thing to the left? An 18-wheeler truck. The giant egg to the right? The biggest spy drone anyone has ever made.

The optionally manned airship — known by the cumbersome code name of “Blue Devil Block 2” — was first inflated with air in early September. Last week, at a hangar in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, the blimp was filled with helium, and began to float.

By the middle of next year, the Air Force hopes, the airship will be hovering in the skies over Afghanistan, where it will use a supercomputer and a pile of surveillance gear to look down on the battlefield — 36 square miles at a time.

“It could change the nature of overhead surveillance,” said retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, the former Air Force intelligence chief now in charge of Mav 6, the company building the blimp.

If the thing works as planned, it’ll park itself in the air for five days at a time, at a height of 20,000 feet or more. Wide-area cameras and advanced eavesdropping gear will be able to watch (and listen) to militant suspects for miles around. Information on their location will be beamed down to U.S. forces with a laser. Like everything else in this project, that laser will be gigantic.

For now, the challenge is keeping Blue Devil close to the ground. Six massive winches are keeping the 370-foot-long, 1.4 million-cubic-foot blimp from flying away.

Meanwhile, Mav 6 has begun a push on Capitol Hill to make sure Congressional support for the $211 million project doesn’t drift away, either. Blue Devil is one of two mega airship programs the military is funding. And in an increasingly-tight budget, Hill staffers are wondering whether that’s one too many.

08-10-11, 04:10 AM
More info on this from Defense Update................

Giant Airship is Afloat: Blue Devil 2

The Blue Devil 2 airship is a 370 foot long, 1.500 million cubic feet large airship soon to deploy to support ground operations in Afghanistan. Photo via: Wired Danger Room

The 370-foot-long (123 m’), 1.4 million-cubic-foot (37,000 m3) blimp called ‘Blue devil 2′ is taking shape at a hangar in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. As the giant airship is being filled with helium, thus lighter than air, it becomes afloat inside the hangar. Once mission equipment is installed, the airship will begin its voyage to Afghanistan, where it will provide an unmanned platform for persistent surveillance and communications support assisting the ground forces. MAV-6 is the prime contractor for the $211 million ‘Blue devil 2′ program. (Wired Danger Room)

Blue Devil 2 is designed to support continuous missions of up to 216 hours (nine days) operating at an altitude of 20,000 ft, from where the airship, equipped with multiple ISR payloads, will covering an area of 36 square miles at a time, compared with about 16 square miles currently covered by ‘wide area airborne surveillance’ (WAAS) assets. Nine days is the maximum endurance achieved in optimal operating conditions. The actual mission endurance will be determined by environmental conditions in Afghanistan, including payload weight, winds, temperature, barometric pressure etc., The blimp is equipped with two ducted propellers and a rear maneuvering engine, all powered by a main diesel generator driving 120 KVA for propulsion and on board systems. The side motors are producing thrust for forward propulsion at a maximum airspeed of 90 knots, or offset wind effect; the rear motor is used to steering airship to maintain the required heading.

The blimp will be equipped with gondola shaped mission modules to be tailored for specific mission. The gondola has multiple attachments for 10- 40 sensors, including electro optical sensots (including wide area airborne surveillance multi-sensor, multi-spectral payloads), high definition motion video cameras, Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), Ground Moving Target Indication (GMTI) radar, communications systems, datalinks and high power supercomputer platform providing image processing, storage, retrieval and dissemination. On board processing will enable the Blue Devil 2 to retain the highest resolution and most detailed imagery without increasing total bandwidth consumption. In addition to storing data on board, the systems will be able to dump the entire imagery to the intelligence control hub, via wideband datalink. Other users will be able to obtain live imagery or past images for forensic analysis) on demand straight from the blimp, within 15 seconds, served via existing Rover or tactical networking. Different gondolas can be integrated into the Blue devil 2 platform in less than four hours.

The giant blimp will be able to remain on a mission for five days, with a gondola weighing 2,500 lb. (1.134 ton). Increasing the payload weight to 7,500 lb. (3.4 ton) will reduce mission endurance to three days.

An on-board supercomputer will gather, process and store the images collected and disseminate them to users on demand.

In paralel to the Air Forces’ Blue Devil 2 program, the U.S. Army is also planing to deploy an airship to Afghanistan, employing the British Hybrid Air vehicle design for the Northrop Grumman Long-Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) system. With a budget of $517 million LEMV is expected to cost twice as the MAV-6, but also offer a more versatile platform offering mission endurance of 21 days, complete runway independence and significantly larger area of authority covering up to 2,000 miles radius ofaction.

12-10-11, 05:32 AM
Aerostat system detects cruise missiles and supports engagement

TEWKBURY, Mass., Oct. 11, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Raytheon Company's (NYSE: RTN) aerostat system -- Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Elevated Netted Sensors (JLENS) -- recently completed a successful 14-day endurance test at a range in Utah demonstrating its readiness.

"Providing persistent surveillance for cruise missile defense is a very important capability of JLENS," said David Gulla, vice president for Global Integrated Sensors at Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems (IDS). "This recent 14-day endurance test demonstrates JLENS' capability now to be airborne on station for an extended period performing its surveillance mission at lower costs than other systems and in a reliable manner. This test, along with others, is proving JLENS' value as a critical component of the larger integrated air and missile defense mission."

"While up for 14 days, JLENS tracked thousands of targets over a very wide area," said Mark Rose, Raytheon's program director for JLENS. "This test not only demonstrates the system's readiness, but also the significant capabilities it brings to the warfighter."

Fully Capable

Raytheon is conducting JLENS flight tests at the Utah Training and Test Range near Salt Lake City. The system is primarily designed to detect, track and support engagements of cruise missiles and other air breathing aircraft. JLENS is fully capable of detecting air, missile and surface threats on land and at sea. Providing reliable persistent surveillance -- staying aloft and operational for up to 30 days at a time -- is another important feature of the system.

The system, known as an "orbit," consists of two tethered 74-meter aerostats that can be elevated to 10,000 feet. One aerostat contains a surveillance radar that provides 360-degree coverage out for long distances over land and sea. The other aerostat lifts a fire control radar. Also, each of the aerostat platforms has the capability to integrate other communications and sensor systems.

02-11-11, 02:36 PM
Recent Development Efforts for Military Airships: Summary

(Source: Congressional Budget Office; issued Nov. 2, 2011)

During the past decade's operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. military has come to rely heavily on the continuous or nearly continuous presence overhead of both manned and unmanned aircraft to support ground troops. Unmanned aircraft that remain aloft in particular locations (or "orbits") have been primarily used to provide timely information about activities on the ground and to attack ground targets on short notice. Most prominent among these aircraft are the Department of Defense's (DoD's) fleets of unmanned Predators, Reapers, and Global Hawks; however, satellites and manned conventional aircraft, including fighters and long-range bombers, have also contributed.

The demand for those so-called "persistent" or "loitering" missions has led the Air Force to substantially enlarge its fleet of unmanned aircraft, and the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps to field or plan to field similar aircraft to provide intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and light-attack capabilities of their own. Unmanned aircraft are particularly attractive for such missions because they can be designed to provide durations beyond the physical endurance of human air crews and because they do not put humans at risk during operations in potentially hostile airspace.

In light of the demand for aircraft capable of remaining aloft for long periods of time, considerable interest in airships as alternatives to conventional aircraft exists. Although unmanned airships are unproven, they have the potential to remain in the air for long periods—providing mission durations that are many times longer than would be practical for conventional aircraft. Consequently, the military services are exploring a variety of designs for unmanned airships capable of carrying ISR sensors.

The technology needed to field airships for ISR could also be applied to airships meant for airlift—that is, for the transportation of people, equipment, or other cargo. Whether airships designed to carry cargo would be manned or unmanned would depend on the specific missions they performed. Although the military services' investment in developing airships for airlift has been limited, several private companies are exploring potential designs or are in the process of building prototypes.

In this document, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) examines the potential capabilities of airships for ISR and airlift missions. In brief, CBO finds that:

-- If the speed, payload, and endurance proposed for unmanned airships can be achieved, the resulting craft could serve effectively in the ISR and airlift roles;

-- Airships' performance characteristics would provide some advantages and suffer from some disadvantages relative to those of the conventional aircraft currently used for ISR and airlift missions; and

-- Airships would present new operational challenges such as greater sensitivity to weather conditions and the need to provide unique types of maintenance and support.

Because the development of the technology needed for modern military airships is at an early stage, in most cases cost estimates would be highly speculative; therefore, CBO does not examine the costs of airships here. Although CBO does compare the capabilities of airships to those of other aircraft, assessing cost-effectiveness would require analyzing costs as various technologies mature.

Click here for the full report (28 pages in PDF format) on the CBO website



21-11-11, 03:21 PM

A Defense Technology Blog

Blue Devil 2 Inflated

Posted by Graham Warwick at 11/21/2011 6:25 AM CST

Mav6 has released the first image of the hull of the US Air Force's Blue Devil 2 surveillance airship, which it calls the M1400. The composite image of the 370ft-long airship was taken in August after its initial inflation with air. Mav6 says the TCOM-built hull was inflated with helium in September and is now floating, anchored, in its hangar in North Carolina.

Photo: LeAnn Reed, Mav6

The US Army's persistent-surveillance airship, the Northrop Grumman Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle (LEMV), has also undergone inflation in a hangar at NAS Lakehurst, New Jersey, but we haven't seen any pictures yet.

The optionally piloted Blue Devil 2 is designed to stay aloft for almost a week carrying a 2,500lb payload of multiple wide-area, full-motion video and signals-intelligence sensors and a range of datalinks. Both airships are to be deploted to Afghanistan in 2012.

16-12-11, 01:23 AM

A Defense Technology Blog

Army Wants Hand-Launched Blimps

Posted by Paul McLeary at 12/15/2011 2:20 PM CST

Big Army wants to go small. In keeping with its push to equip infantry squads with the communications and intelligence-gathering gear necessary to act (somewhat) autonomously, the U.S. Army’s Rapid Equipping Force (REF) has issued a Request for Information looking for industry input for the development of a small aerostat that can be controlled by a hand held controller, and be launched and recovered in 20 minutes or less.

Since the request comes from the Rapid Equipping Force, not only does the Army want industry to ping them back right away, but they’re also looking for mature, non-developmental technologies. The RFI calls for a commercial off the shelf, or government off the shelf “modular compact helium filled aerostat and payload deployment system” that will give “small tactical units…an Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance capability.”

The request also states that the Army is only interested in models that can fly (or float…) in any type of weather, during the day or night, and be able to stay airborne for a period of at least four days. And then there are the specifics. The system must weigh no more than 130 lbs., clock in at no more than 40 ft. long, 20 ft. tall, and 16 ft. in diameter, and weigh less than 2,500 lbs., including the deployment system. In keeping with the push for giving squad-sized units new intelligence gathering ability, the request says that the system should require “no more than 2-3 personnel at any time to perform any and all functions,” and the entire system, including the helium bottles, etc. must be transportable on one vehicle or trailer.

We know that the Army has deployed dozens of huge blimps to Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade—and all of the big contractors have been fighting over the hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to build, launch and maintain them. What about these relatively small blimps? They might not be as eye-popping as their older cousins, but they’ll certainly be cheaper and more numerous….and isn’t that what the new Army equipping strategy is all about?

21-01-12, 06:07 AM
World Surveillance Group Demonstrates Argus One UAV for U.S. Department of Defense at the Nevada Test Site

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL -- (MARKET WIRE) -- 01/17/12 -- World Surveillance Group Inc. (OTCBB: WSGI), a developer of lighter-than-air unmanned aerial vehicles ("UAVs") and related technologies, announced today that the Company has completed initial demonstrations of its Argus One UAV to the U.S. Department of Defense ("DoD") at the U.S. Department of Energy Nevada Test Site ("N2S2"). The Argus One flight exercises were sponsored and coordinated by the DoD and executed by WSGI's technical partner, Eastcor Engineering ("ECE"). The recently held flight exercise is the first in a series of flight and testing activities planned for 2012. In preparation for subsequent DoD coordinated flights, the Argus One UAV has been re-stationed at the N2S2 facilities where the airship remains inflated inside a hangar facility for further testing, evaluation and demonstrations as weather conditions and scheduling permit.

The Argus One is a mid-altitude, lighter-than-air UAV designed to hover above the earth's surface for extended periods of time. The uniquely constructed low observable airship is designed to handle surface winds in a more efficient manner than traditional "blimp-like" airships, while delivering a cost-effective solution based on minimal ground and human infrastructure.

WSGI is currently awaiting proper clearances and approvals to release images and video footage from the flight exercise at N2S2. For more information on the Argus One UAV including images from previous flight exercises please visit www.wsgi.com/argus

25-02-12, 11:54 AM
Leading Edge

AW&ST On Technology

Surveillance Airship Takes Shape

Posted by Graham Warwick at 2/24/2012 2:48 PM CST

On its blog, The Edgefighter, tiny Mav6 has been teasing us with pictures of its M1400 surveillance airship taking shape for the US Air Force's Blue Devil 2 (BD2) program.

Like the US Army's Northrop Grumman Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) hybrid airship, the BD2 was supposed to to have flown by the end of last year. But all is quiet on the LEMV front and the M1400 is still in final assembly and ground testing at airship maker TCOM in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. (LEMV is being assembled at NAS Lakehurst in New Jersey).

Both airships are scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan this year to provide persistent multi-sensor surveillance.

The M1400 is a 370ft-long non-rigid airship designed to fly unmanned at 20,000ft for up to nine days. Mission endurance is 72hr with a 7,500lb payload and five days with a 2,500lb payload.

The airship envelope has been inflated with helium since late September, as the picture above shows. A better idea of its scale is given by the image below showing the aft maneuvering thruster attached to the end of the hull.

The airship will have power and payload cars slung below the envelope. The photo below shows the power car. This mounts three 310hp Thielert diesel main engines (here covered in plastic), each of which will drive an 11ft prop via a lightweight belt transmission.

The payload car (below, in the background) has the cockpit at the front. The M1400 is optionally manned and will be flown with a crew on board for flight testing and ferrying overseas.

What the flightdeck looks like is shown below, in a picture of Mav6 CEO Dave Deptula in the BD2 cockpit in NASA Ames' Vertical Motion Simulator used for pre-qualification training. In unmanned operation, the airship will be flown via UHF satcom from two pilot consoles in a command and control shelter on the ground.

The removable payload car is designed to enable the rapid (less than 4hr) integration of different systems, with the BD2 planned to carry a combination of high-definition and wide-area EO/IR sensors, SAR and GMTI radars, and radio and laser communications links.

03-03-12, 03:18 AM
Air Force Set to Shoot Down Its Own Giant Spy Blimp

By Noah Shachtman Email Author March 2, 2012 | 6:30 am

The massive Blue Devil airship in its North Carolina hangar.

After spending more than $140 million, the Air Force is poised to pull the plug on its ambitious project to send a king-sized, all-seeing spy blimp to Afghanistan. Which is a bit of a strange move: Not only is the scheduled first flight of the 370-foot-long “Blue Devil Block 2” airship less than six weeks away, but just yesterday, a top Air Force official bragged to Congress about the blimp’s predecessor, the “Blue Devil Block 1″ program. In other words, the Air Force is set to ground its mega-blimp spy ship before it even gets off the ground — literally.

Not long ago, Blue Devil and its kind were being pushed as the future of aerial surveillance. Instead of a drone’s single sensor, Blue Devil would employ an array of cameras and eavesdropping gear to keep tabs on entire villages for days at a time. And with so much space aboard the airship, racks and racks of processors could process the data generated by those sensors in the sky, easing the burden on intelligence analysts currently overloaded by drones’ video feeds.

Now, that lighter-than-air future could be in jeopardy, thanks to a series of schedule delays, technical complications and, above all, inflated costs. But it’s not just Blue Devil that’s in trouble. The Navy just deflated its MZ-3A blimp. The Army’s Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle airship, which was supposed to be in Afghanistan by now, has run into significant development roadblocks as well. Blimps’ status as the Next Big Thing in high-flying spycraft is in jeopardy.

Yet there have been some encouraging signs for the overall Blue Devil effort. Block 1 of the program — a similar suite of coordinated sensors, mounted on modified executive planes — had became a proven method for shortening insurgent bomb-makers’ lives in Afghanistan. “Warfighter feedback on the situational awareness provided by Blue Devil Block 1 has been overwhelmingly positive,” Steven Walker, the Air Force’s deputy assistant secretary for science and technology, told a Congressional panel (.docx) on Wednesday. “Since December 2010, Blue Devil ISR has been instrumental in identifying a number of high value individuals and improvised explosive device emplacements.”

But the next phase of Blue Devil was ambitious, and with that ambition came complications. Schedules slipped, as the airship’s tail fins came in overweight and subcontractor Rockwell Collins realized that the avionics of an airship were more complex than they had originally thought. The Argus network of spy cameras, which could oversee 64 square kilometers at once, couldn’t be integrated in with the rest of the sensor; the blimp-builders had to settle for an Angel Fire camera pack, which could only look at a mere four square kilometers at a time. Then a giant laser, meant to beam all that surveillance data to the ground, had to be put aside. It couldn’t be custom-built fast enough.

Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration insisted on certifying the blimp — a process no drone airplane had undergone — since the blimp was optionally-manned, and since it was going to have to fly over the United States, at least in tests. Trying to handle it all was Mav 6, a smallish start-up with major connections — its CEO is the former chief of Air Force intelligence — but no experience in handling a project with so many moving parts. “They were in over their heads,” says a senior Pentagon official. A scheduled October 15, 2011 first flight was pushed back and back again, and is now slated for April 15.

But the real body-blow for the program came when the Air Force’s special intelligence program office, known as “Big Safari,” issued its estimate of how much it was going to cost to fly the blimp in Afghanistan. Mav 6 CEO and retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, who until in 2010 served as the head of Air Force intel, insisted all along that Blue Devil would be dirt-cheap to operate and maintain. Because of all its on-board processing and its lengthy stints in the air, it would cost a fraction of what it would cost to keep an equivalent number of spy drones in the sky, maybe $45 million. But Big Safari had questions about how durable this experimental aircraft would really be, and how vulnerable it might be to insurgent attack during refueling or repair. Their estimated operating costs: $188 million.

Big Safari, which only recently became comfortable with outfitting drones instead of manned planes, was always skeptical of the Blue Devil blimp. The whole project was basically rammed down the Air Force’s collective throat in 2010 by a task force that reported directly to the Secretary of Defense. And as soon as Big Safari got the project, it “promptly proposed wholesale changes to the program — an entirely different platform, continued use of legacy [c]ameras, and different SIGINT [signals intelligence] sensors,” a Senate Armed Services Committee report noted last year. The cost estimate only reinforced that skepticism.

The Air Force insists it hasn’t yet made a formal decision about the fate of the massive blimp. But the service’s budget for next year contains no money to develop or operate the blimp — a telling sign. What’s more, Air Force spokesperson Jennifer Cassidy acknowledged in an email that “as a result of budget and technical challenges, the Air Force authorized a 90-day temporary work stop on the sensor payload integration” — the blimp’s network of cameras and listening devices — until the service “determine(s) the most prudent course of action.” Till then, the Air Force’s plump, floating future remains tethered to the ground.

[I]All photos courtesy of Mav 6

08-03-12, 11:38 AM
Solar Electric Hybrid Airship

Posted on March 8, 2012 by The Editor

40% Scale Demonstrator

Global Near Space Services (GNSS) of Colorado Springs, Colo., and Bye Aerospace of Denver, Colo., jointly announced continued progress in the development of a unique solar-electric-powered airship named StarLight.

Engineers project this cost-effective, unmanned high altitude airship will remain on-station in the stratosphere for a minimum of four months at a time. It will have an unprecedented capability to provide affordable persistent wide-area sensing and communications for both commercial and government purposes. Phase 1 and Phase 2 of development of the stratospheric airship was conducted under the supervision of the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), Aircraft Division.

Ron Oholendt, President of GNSS, said the joint GNSS-Bye Aerospace engineering team approach is unique. “The programme leverages proven, commercially developed and environmentally friendly technologies that are going to produce high altitude flight durations measured in months instead of hours,” Oholendt said. “A thorough analysis shows that flying hour costs will be less than one-tenth the cost of current high altitude aircraft and UAS.”

GNSS and Bye Aerospace plan subscale flight demonstrations to illustrate the efficiency of solar electric power technology, vehicle performance and control at high altitude. The all solar-powered “StarLight” high altitude, long endurance UA system will carry advanced technology wide area sensors and communication systems to altitudes surpassed only by ultra-high altitude free-floating balloons and rockets that launch satellites into space. Preliminary design of the uniquely shaped airship upper stage is complete. The sub-scale lower stage has completed a critical design review and the subsystems have been assembled and tested.

The lower stage solar electric hybrid vehicle engineered by Bye Aerospace provides vehicle control and propulsion for non-tethered station keeping. “This new LTA (lighter than air) UAS category is made possible by advancements in lightweight efficient flexible thin film solar energy collection, electric propulsion technology and lightweight composite structures,” said George Bye, CEO of Bye Aerospace. “In combination with very high altitude LTA and advanced aerodynamics, extreme persistence is possible. GNSS and Bye Aerospace pride themselves on being innovators and look forward to the challenge of delivering this entirely new cost-effective, long endurance UAS.”

StarLight is designed to help commercial, state and federal customers obtain satellite-like telecommunications and high altitude surveillance capabilities for a fraction of the cost of space-based systems. StarLight features a unique combination of an LTA envelope and an autonomous fly-down solar electric aerospace vehicle that safely protects and returns the payload. Briefings are being held with potential company industry partners and U.S. Defense and commercial customers. During Phase 3 of the development program, the solar electric UAS lower stage prototype vehicle assembly will be completed and the lower stage vehicle will be prepared for flight.

Potential military applications include border patrol, visual and thermal reconnaissance and forward air control. In addition, potential civil applications include traffic control, pipeline and power line inspection, aerial law enforcement, forest fire detection and aerial photography.

Global Near Space Services (GNSS) is a privately held corporation headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo., whose flagship products focus on Lighter-Than-Air (LTA) unmanned aerospace systems. GNSS operates in conjunction with its parent company, Near Space Systems, Inc., in development of these LTA platforms with missions to provide wide-area communications, broadband, and sensing devices to meet the high demands of military and commercial customers for network connectivity and ready access to vital information.

Bye Aerospace provides a broad range of aerospace engineering support services through its subsidiary, Bye Engineering Partners. The company is collaborating with GNSS to support the design and development of alternative energy concept airships. Bye Aerospace is located at Centennial Airport near Denver, Colo.

Source: Press Release

19-03-12, 11:47 PM

A Defense Technology Blog

Ultra-Long-Endurance Progress

Posted by Graham Warwick at 3/19/2012 3:42 PM CDT

It's proving a long wait, given they are supposed to be "rapid" programs, but Boeing has begun taxi tests of its private-venture Phantom Eye hydrogen-fueled high-altitude, long-endurance UAV, while Mav6 has attached the payload/control car to its M1400 surveillance airship. Both are aimed at providing endurance measured in days, not hours.

Pictures: Mav6

Planned for deployment to Afghanistan and designed to stay aloft at 20,000ft for up to nine days, the M1400 is being built for the US Air Force's Blue Devil 2 program. It's hard to tell the sheer scale of the 370ft-long helium airship from the picture above, so below is a view from the top, showing the recently installed maneuvering valves.

The M1400 is powered by three Thielert turbo-diesels. Phantom Eye, meanwhile, has a pair of Ford truck engines modified to run on hydrogen and triple-turbocharged to operate at high altitude. The 150ft-span demonstrator is designed to stay aloft at 65,000ft for four days, as a precusor to a 10-day-endurance UAV. I'm sure it will fly well, but the Phantom Eye looks a little ungainly on the ground at Edwards AFB, on its take-off trolley AFB, taxiing (video here).

Photo: Boeing Phantom Works

20-03-12, 02:11 PM
RT pursues civil aerostat capability

20 March 2012 - 11:18 by Beth Stevenson in Tel Aviv, Israel

Aeronautics subsidiary RT is preparing to take its Skystar 180 and 300 aerostats to Nimes, France on 24 March to evaluate its transition from a military to civil platform.

Rami Shmueli, CEO of the company, told Shephard that platforms were being tested for France’s Emergency Support System (ESS) R&D programme this week, and then again in June.

The 180, the smaller of the two systems, is operational with Thai and Israeli police forces, as well as the US Army. Meanwhile the 300 is operational with Canadian forces in Afghanistan, as well as US forces, Mexican federal police, the IDF and the Russian Presidential Guard.

Shmueli explained that the balloons have a shelf life of some six months due to their 500% elasticity non-memory material, and cost a fraction of competitors' systems, with operating costs of some $10,000 over the six month period, amounting to some $2,000 per month.

Meanwhile the company is looking at developing an ATOL capability for its oldest UAV, the AeroStar, at the request of the Polish Army which uses it in Afghanistan. Nadav Zeevi, marketing director for the company said that development was coming to a conclusion with the system expected to be ready 'within ten months'.

Elsewhere, the Danish proposal for Aeronautics' Orbiter II UAV is also under production, and it requested the wings of the Orbiter I, a smaller variant, be added to the platform so that the system can be transported in a backpack.

The newest design, the Orbiter III, is proving popular and Zeevi said there is interest from the US special forces who are interested because 'it can do a lot and it's relatively new’.

'I believe it is natural that customers interested in the [Orbiter] II may also be interested in the [Orbiter] III,’ he said.

Aeronautics is also developing the Dominator, an unmanned variant of the manned Austrian Diamond A42 surveillance aircraft. Originally designed as a surveillance aircraft, Zeevi said that the electronics are already there in the A42 facilitating an easy transition. However, he admitted that it was proving harder to sell it.

It took just one year to manufacture and there are single systems flying in Turkey, Israel, and Canada. Finally, Zeevi confirmed that production of the Picador VTOL UAV, another manned to unmanned conversion, has been suspended.

30-03-12, 01:10 PM
Blue Devil Gets Motorised

Posted on March 30, 2012 by The Editor

Mav6 continues to progress on assembly of the M1400 Blue Devil 2 at airship maker TCOM‘s hangar in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

The latest pictures show mounting of the engines. The VTOL engines are Honeywell TPE331-12 vectorable turboprops driving MT MTV-27 props. To provide a sense of scale, the VTOL prop is approximately 12-feet in diameter.

This new picture show testing of the latest refinements to the main engine belt transmission:

Source: The EdgeFighter

03-04-12, 12:40 PM
Powerful Senators Demand Giant Spy Blimp

By Noah Shachtman Email Author April 3, 2012 | 6:30 am

The massive Blue Devil airship, next to an 18-wheeler truck. Photo: Mav6

It’s a story so convoluted, only Washington could serve it up. Eighteen months ago, the Pentagon’s chief ordered the Air Force to start building a king-sized blimp that could spy on whole Afghan villages at once. That blimp is almost ready for flight testing. But the Air Force doesn’t want to deploy the thing, for reasons both sensible and not. So now a pair of influential senators are demanding that the Air Force send the blimp to the skies above the warzone.

“We believe it would be a significant failure to stop work and not deploy this much needed platform to Afghanistan,” Senators Thad Cochran and Daniel Ionuye complain in a Feb. 14 letter to Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter (.pdf), obtained by Danger Room.

Just two small problems. These senators, though powerful, are pretty famous on Capitol Hill for backing some rather wacky and useless projects. Oh, and there’s a second giant spy blimp that is also scheduled for a flight test soon, and also promised to the generals in Afghanistan.

The airship that’s attracted the senators’ attention is known as Blue Devil Block 2. At 370 feet long and 1.4 million cubic feet fat, it is one of the largest blimps built in this country since World War II. All that size allows it to stay in the air for days at a time at 20,000 feet. And it enables the airship to carry an enormous array of cameras and eavesdropping gear — enough to keep tabs on at least four square kilometers at a time. No other singular eye in the sky could track insurgents for so far around.

No wonder then-Defense Secretary Bob Gates noted in a Nov. 17, 2010 memo (.pdf), obtained by Danger Room, that “the Blue Devil Air Ship initiative [is] urgently needed to eliminate combat capability deficiencies that have resulted in combat fatalities.”

A $211 million crash program was begun almost immediately, with the goal of sending the Blue Devil to Afghanistan before the end of 2011. The contract to lead the development was given to Mav6, a tiny but influential shop drawn from veterans of the Blackwater mercenary firm. David Deptula, the general in charge of Air Force intelligence was so excited about the project, he became the company’s CEO right after his retirement from the military.

“It brings to bear a completely different concept for ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance]: multiple sensors on one platform integrated with on-board processing and storage,” Deptula told Danger Room in January of 2011. “We’ve got the world’s largest ISR payload — and ‘real estate’ to host it, and nearly a supercomputer on board to process what they find.”

But Deptula’s colleagues at the Air Force were never too hot on the program, preferring supersonic jets to slow-moving blimps. They asked for all sorts of changes: older cameras, different eavesdropping antennas. Most importantly, the Air Force insisted that the Federal Aviation Administration certify the blimp — since the thing had the option for a man in the cockpit, and since it was going to have to fly over the United States, at least in tests.

That slowed the crash program. So did all kinds of other setbacks you’d expect from an ambitious, first-of-its-kind tool of war. The avionics arrived late. The tail fins came in extra heavy. Schedules started slipping. Costs grew. Fed up, the Air Force put a 90-day hold on the integration of its payload of spy gear.

Things only got worse when the Air Force added up what it thought it would cost to operate the giant blimp in Afghanistan for a year: $188 million, too rich for a Pentagon that’s supposed to be watching its pennies. The Air Force didn’t include a dime for such operations in its budgets for next year. Despite a flight test scheduled for May or June, the Air Force is expected to cancel the Blue Devil airship program shortly.

That ticked off senators Thad Cochran and Daniel Inouye. And that’s not something the Air Force wants to do. Cochran and Inouye, two long-time backers of all things military, run the Senate Appropriations Committee. They are, for all intents and purposes, the Senate’s moneymen.

“Given the Secretary’s determination that this initiative was urgently needed in Afghanistan to address combat deficiencies, we believe it would be a significant failure to stop work and not deploy this much needed platform to Afghanistan.” they note in their Feb. 14 letter.

“The U.S. Central Command continues to maintain a requirement for this capability,” they add — the generals still want the thing, in other words. So maybe it would just be better to reject the Air Force’s change, and take the program back to its roots. “A number of decisions were made to deviate from the program’s execution plan and baseline capability which has resulted in program cost growth and schedule delays,” the senators write. “We strongly urge you to examine the program and if necessary, descope the program back to the original baseline requirements so that combat troops in Afghanistan benefit from this capability as soon as possible.”

Crossing Cochran and Inouye is inadvisable, given their considerable power of the purse. That’s why it’s particularly unfortunate that some of their substantive ideas for defense are, well, batty. Cochran is famous in defense circles for backing one of the most visible technology flops of the war on terror — a bogus lightning gun that never succeeded in its goal of frying homemade bombs. Inouye’s record is, if anything, more spotty. He was one of the prime backers of the bloated Seawolf attack submarine and the notorious $1.3 billion military highway to nowhere in his home state of Hawaii.

And then there’s the question of what to do with the other giant blimp that’s supposed to be sent to Afghanistan. It’s called the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle, or LEMV. It’s being built for the Army by the defense stalwart Northrop Grumman, unlike the upstarts behind the Blue Devil. And the LEMV has the vocal support of the Army, unlike the Air Force’s oh-so-reluctant approach to its massive airship.

The word in defense circles is that the LEMV has had just as many technical setbacks as the Blue Devil. And while the LEMV has its own flight test scheduled for this month, it’s still an open question whether the Army giant airships will ever reach Afghanistan, either. And wouldn’t that be a classic Washington end to the story: two football-sized war blimps, neither of them actually making it to war.

10-04-12, 04:29 PM
DoD still awaiting benefits of LTA investment

10 April 2012 - 13:55 by Andrew White in London

The US DoD is not benefiting enough from multi-million dollar investment in lighter-than-air (LTA) technology, the CEO of Bye Aerospace has warned.

According to George Bye, who is marketing the Star Light HALE UAS as a cost-effective alternative to Global Hawk, the DoD ‘has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in lighter-than-air but received nothing for the investment’.

He was referring to initiatives including the $500 million being pumped into the Northrop Grumman and US Army-led Long-Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) programme, which was scheduled to complete its maiden flight last year.

‘[LTA] is the right technology but the key is the right design. That’s the key we have brought to the table,’ Bye claimed to Shephard.

‘There have been numerous failures to date where they have tried to take early twentieth century technology using blimps at low altitude. We have taken a radical approach and looked at all the failures and why they happened,’ Bye added.

According to Bye, Star Light’s projected operating costs of $2,400 per hour compare favourable with that of Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4 Global Hawk platform, which costs some $32,000 an hour.

The Star Light is described as a ‘two-stage solar electric hybrid LTA remotely piloted aircraft’, which Bye Aerospace said provides a ‘combination of technology’ for persistent coverage using a ‘host of applications including ISR and communications’.

Comprising an upper lifting device and underslung gondola or stratospheric return vehicle (SRV) designed to carry the payload, the Star Light stratospheric airship runs on solar electric power and is designed to stay on station directly over a specified position or transit the globe several times, the company added.

Bye said the airframe could cover an area of some 400km2 at an altitude of 85,000ft, thereby deconflicting itself from other aircraft and avoiding high winds. The SRV is then designed to split from its aerostat and return autonomously to an airfield.

Marketing it as a ‘poor man’s geo-stationary satellite’, Bye Aerospace said Star Light had already passed PDR and CDR with 40% of the gondola prototype constructed. Bye reflected on aspirations to conduct drop tests of the SRV in 18 months and flight tests for the complete system within three years.

Referring to operational requirements for similar systems, Bye said: ‘The number [of aerostats] lost in Afghanistan is surprisingly high. There are downdraft and wind-related issues and we have engineered out that risk with our aerostat.’

Finally, Bye claimed that OSD was giving Star Light a ‘fresh look’ as a result of current budgetary constraints: ‘There is huge and increasing demand for continental and persistent ISR. But budgets are shrinking and the DoD is looking at more cost effective solutions different to Global Hawk. Currently, it is way too expensive but the need hasn’t changed.’

04-05-12, 12:07 AM
Here’s the Plan to Fly Missile-Packed Blimps Over Your Home

By David Axe Email Author May 3, 2012 | 6:30 am

The Blue Devil 2 airship under construction. Photo: Mav6

Upstart Virginia aerospace firm Mav6 is offering to install guided missiles on the massive robotic spy blimp it’s building for the Air Force. The idea would only be slightly terrifying, if the massive airship were headed to Afghanistan, as originally planned. But Mav6 and its CEO, a respected retired Air Force general, are also promoting the giant airship for homeland security missions over U.S. soil. In that way, today’s war blimp could become tomorrow’s all-seeing, lethal Big Brother.

Capable of hovering at 20,000 feet for a week at a time while carrying radars, cameras, radio links and computer processors — the “most powerful” of their type in existence — the Blue Devil 2 airship can also be fitted with “weapons modules,” according to marketing material provided by Mav6. The brochure (.ppt) depicts a rotary launcher fitted with 100-pound Hellfire missiles, capable of hitting pinpoint targets up to five miles away. The launcher would presumably dangle from the tractor-trailer-size gondola that also houses the sensors, radios and computers.

As originally configured, Blue Devil 2 would need help from armed drones or manned jet fighters to attack any targets it finds. With missiles installed, the 100-mile-per-hour airship would theoretically be able to spot and kill bad guys all on its own. What Mav6 calls “semi-automated sensor-to-sensor cueing for enhanced threat detection” should minimize human intervention. Controllers on the ground would provide the basic flight plan, occasionally point the sensors and give permission to fire.

Originally, the company believed those missions would be carried out overseas. But Mav6, whose key executives include former Blackwater employees, is anticipating growing demand from other government organizations. “There are endless examples of non-military, commercial applications for airships,” a company spokesman says. The marketing brochure also lists “law enforcement,” “crowd control,” “pipeline monitoring,” and “border patrol” as possible missions.

A slide from the Blue Devil airship brochure. Courtesy of Mav6.

Adding missiles to a previously unarmed support and surveillance craft is not unheard of. Right before 9/11 the CIA and Pentagon installed Hellfires on its Predator spy drones in hopes of taking out Al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan. Today Predators and their larger Reaper cousins routinely carry missiles and bombs. The Air Force and Marines have added small precision missiles to some of their C-130 transport planes. During World War II Navy airships carried depth charges for sinking German submarines.

Granted, it’s unlikely you’ll wake up someday to discover missile-armed Blue Devils hovering over your house — at least not anytime soon. At present, the Air Force is the only customer for the Blue Devil 2. And even they are having second thoughts, despite the fact that former Air Force intelligence chief David Deptula is Mav6′s chief executive. Just a year after dropping $86 million for the design and construction of the 370-foot-long Blue Devil 2 prototype, the Air Force lost confidence in Mav6′s ability to handle the project. The flying branch said it would “de-scope” the program, omitting the sensors entirely and canceling a planned test deployment to Afghanistan.

But Mav6 is confident the giant airship will hover back into the military’s good graces. “Airships will prove to be an invaluable and effective tool for all branches of military,” a company spokesperson tells Danger Room. Mav6 has its share of boosters. In February U.S. Senators Thad Cochran and Daniel Ionuye wrote to the Pentagon urging the continued development of Blue Devil 2.

But even if the Air Force gives up entirely on the airship, its days may not be over. The migration of military drones into homeland security has happened before. Border Patrol flies the same Reaper drones as the Air Force, though the Border Patrol ‘bots are currently unarmed. Even so, the use of military-style drones for U.S. law enforcement has raised fear among civil libertarians. Imagine the reaction to a potentially armed Blue Devil 2 looming over an American community.

The pathways are clear for giant missile blimps to float off the drawing board into the war-zone and subsequently into U.S. airspace. That doesn’t mean it will happen soon, or at all. But it certainly could. And probably shouldn’t.

09-05-12, 02:05 PM
Blue Devil Assembly Progresses

Posted on May 9, 2012 by The Editor

Mav6 filed another progress report on assembly of the M1400 Blue Devil 2 at airship maker TCOM‘s hangar in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

The above photo shows the M1400 airship control car wrapped in vinyl, whilst engineers continue to make significant progress installing avionics integration, electrical wiring, etc….

Source: Press Release

22-05-12, 12:05 AM
‘Battle-Kites’ Eyed for Afghan Spy Duty

By Katie DrummondEmail AuthorMay 21, 2012 | 2:40 pm

Uploaded by aerostat2000 on Jan 18, 2010

This shows the rapid deployment of a Skyhook Helikite lifting a radio-relay payload. This Helikite went to 1000ft providing excellent comms for the trial. Over the week trial it flew perfectly in all weathers including: High winds, nil-wind, rain, sleet, fog and sub-zero temperatures. The competing UAV crashed repeatedly until it exited the trial and the mast froze in the down position. Launch at Imber, Salisbury Plain, UK. Dec 2009

The Pentagon’s fondness for bigger, blinged-out blimps hasn’t exactly gone as planned. The Navy recently “deflated” plans for their MZ-3A airship. The Air Force’s ambitious mega-blimp endeavor has been all but cancelled. And the Army’s HALE-D airship crashed into a Pennsylvania forest before even making it overseas.

Maybe the military will have a little more luck with something simpler. The latest addition to their blimp arsenal? A “battle-kite” of war.

Yes, they’re one part blimp and one part kite. Called Helikites, the aerostats are now being tested by Army officials, according to a report published today by Stars & Stripes. The Helikite’s design is pretty much what you’d expect from a blimp-kite hybrid: A round, helium-filled blimp is strapped onto the back of a kite, and then unleashed into the air by a human operator.

The Helikites, which are already used by the British Army, are also rather wee: The vehicles currently range in size from 6 to 24 feet in length. For comparison’s sake, consider that the Air Force’s much-contested Blue Devil 2 blimp, which might one day soar the skies above America instead of Afghanistan, measures a whopping 370 feet.

Compared to some of the wilder blimps that the Pentagon’s recently considered for duty (blimp helicopters, anybody?), there’s no question that the Helikite is actually pretty tame. It can’t track cruise missiles from 370 miles away. Nor can it run on internal solar panels. But what it lacks in audacity, the simple little Helikite just might make up for in actual practicality.

The military’s eying the battle-kites for two main purposes: surveillance and communications in far-flung regions. And their unique design should make the Helikites well-suited to both gigs.

Blimps rely on helium to get them off the ground and keep them airborne. By adding a kite to the mix, the Helikite boasts an enhanced flying ability — one that’d increase its ability to haul cargo, which is likely to include plenty of surveillance gear. A 24-foot Helikite, according to its parent company, Allsopp Helikites, can lug 30,000 pounds of equipment. That’s five times the weight that aerostats of a similar size can lift. All that, and the Helikites can fly as high as 6,000 feet — keeping them safely out of range from gunfire or grenade attacks.

The military is also testing the battle-kite’s ability to help with communications in far-flung regions. A hovering battle-kite, equipped with communications gear, could offer mobile networks that’d vastly improve the sketchy wireless linkages currently available in remote realms of combat. According to the company, a Helikite elevated to 600 feet should be able to yield 113 square miles of Wi-Fi coverage.

And the Helikites, which cost an estimated $50,000 apiece, also have a key advantage over the other aerostats in the military’s array: Because they’re so small, and benefit from the wind-catching powers of a kite, they require way, way less helium.

That’s good news for the Pentagon, which is already facing potential helium shortages from keeping so many aerostats aloft. In a report issued just last year, the Defense Logistics Agency lamented that “industry cannot keep up with the increased [helium] demand” required by all those blimps. Guys: Have you considered attaching them to kites?

23-05-12, 02:00 PM
Army Readies Its Mammoth Spy Blimp for First Flight

By David Axe May 22, 2012 | 6:15 pm

The U.S. Army's massive Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle. Illustration: Northrop Grumman

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.

24-05-12, 11:38 PM
USAF Lets The Air Out Of Blue Devil II Airship

By Amy Butler abutler@aviationweek.com

Source: AWIN First

May 24 , 2012

After months of bedeviling technical challenges and scaling back the scope of work on the Blue Devil II airship project, the U.S. Air Force has finally shot the program down.

The service has notified prime contractor MAV6 — a fledgling company managed by two retired general officers — that it must cease work on the program owing to poor performance. Originally envisioned for quick deployment to Afghanistan in February, 18 months after contract award, the program had yet to reach first flight.

The team also encountered problems overseeing development of the massive tail fins for the airship and software for unmanned operation. The Air Force’s frustration with this performance has not been a secret, and the service slowly eroded MAV6’s work scope as a result.

Blue Devil II was originally envisioned as an airship capable of carrying 2,500 lb. of intelligence-collecting payload, including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System (Argus), a version of which is optimized for use in Afghanistan on the A160T Hummingbird unmanned aircraft.

The Air Force also planned to put two separate Axsys video balls on the airship, capable of providing high-definition video feeds. The “Pennant Race” signals-intelligence collector, an upgraded version of a system that now flies on the Reaper, also was eyed for Blue Devil II, according to Air Force sources.

Blue Devil II was one of several airship efforts that recently garnered interest — and money — from senior Pentagon officials hoping to improve intelligence-collection efforts in the permissive airspace over Afghanistan. The infatuation was largely owing to the vision of parking an airship over an area to collect intelligence for a day or more with what officials thought would be little manpower and operational expense.

But in reality, the airship vision — at least for Blue Devil II — has fizzled like a slow leak in a balloon. The system’s cost has grown substantially. The price was originally pegged at $86 million, but service officials last year estimated it could cost double that amount to execute the original contract.

In March, the Air Force rescoped MAV6’s work on the project, taking the intelligence payload integration off the contract. An Air Force source also noted that the service backed off of plans to integrate software to make the system unmanned in its original deployment, owing to development issues. The goal simply became to prove the airship would fly, this source says, because it became evident that a fully integrated system would not materialize.

“Since that time, the prime contractor has continued to struggle with technical problems to include flight control software, tailfin design and electrical system wiring,” according to an Air Force message sent to Capitol Hill. “Neither airship completion nor first flight is possible within the remaining contract period of performance, which ends 30 June 2012.” The service requested no funding for Blue Devil II in the fiscal 2013 budget proposal.

Remaining funds will now be used to disassemble, pack and ship existing hardware. The Air Force estimates that less than 100 employees will be impacted by the decision.

Blue Devil II was the second phase of a two-phase effort. The original system, Blue Devil I, has been flying in Afghanistan and includes a wide-area camera and signals-intelligence collection capability optimized to track individuals on the ground, mounted on a King Air 90. SAIC is the prime contractor.

07-06-12, 11:51 PM
Check Out This Giant Spy Blimp Before the Air Force Kills It

By David AxeEmail AuthorJune 7, 2012 | 12:00 pm

Blue Devil 2 in its North Carolina hangar. The orange canisters contain helium. Photo: David Axe

ELIZABETH CITY, North Carolina — Down the road from the Coast Guard air station, past the copse of oak trees, surrounded by fields of leafy collard greens, in a 1,000-foot-long steel hangar built during World War II here in coastal North Carolina, the unlikely dream of an upstart military contractor is about to be literally deflated. In the hangar’s musty gloom, underneath rafters where countless birds perch and spatter the concrete floor 200 feet below with their waste, a 370-foot-long, ultra-high-tech surveillance airship floats just a foot off the ground, tethered to Earth by three metal cables each weighing three tons.

But not for long. The $211 million Blue Devil 2 airship, built for the Air Force by the tiny, Virginia-based company Mav6, is slated for dismantling and storage at the end of this week, bringing to an ignominious end a two-year saga of technological ambition, bureaucratic waffling and vicious politicking. The Air Force no longer wants Blue Devil 2 or anything like it, a reversal from its official position just two years ago on a program that a former Pentagon chief said was “urgently needed.” Now tensions between the Air Force and Mav6 are bad enough that a company employee had to sneak me into the hangar past a pair of Air Force officers just to see the blimp.

There’s a slim chance the story’s not over. The Pentagon — particularly, the Army and Navy — is still keen to build next-gen “hybrid” airships, which combine lighter-than-air buoyancy with thrust from propellers. Mav6 is talking to the Navy about picking up Blue Devil 2 from the Air Force. The company should have the thumbs-up or -down from the sailing branch by Friday, though we’re told it could be weeks before the Navy’s decision is made public. If the Navy passes, an alternative model for overhead military surveillance will deflate without ever taking off.

Mav6 shares hangar space with blimp-maker TCOM. Photo: David Axe

Mav6, whose key executives include a respected retired Air Force general and a former Northrop Grumman program manager, once envisioned building a fleet of Blue Devil 2 airships to fill an important gap in U.S. surveillance capabilities. Satellites provide a distant, intermittent, wide view from above the world’s battlefields. Spy planes and pilotless drones gather more fine-grain data during missions lasting hours at a time. But there’s nothing in between — no robotic system that can fly, say, a week or two at high altitudes, unblinkingly gazing at vast swaths of territory with a variety of sensors.

Airships, last used by the Navy for sea patrols in the 1960s, seemed to fit the bill. Not only can they fly for long periods, they’re also cheap, costing roughly a third as much to operate as fixed-wing aircraft. Mav6, founded in 2007, wasn’t the only company to see blimps’ potential. Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman pitched a massive airship to the Army for surveillance and transport missions. When the Army picked Northrop for the $500 million airship demonstration in mid-2010, Lockheed turned around and sold its own blimp design to a private cargo company. Northrop got to work on the Army’s Long-Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle, or LEMV.

Around the same time, the Office of the Secretary of Defense decided the Air Force needed a spy blimp of its own. “The Blue Devil airship initiative urgently needed to eliminate combat capability deficiencies that have resulted in combat fatalities,” then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote. His opinion was seconded by the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, or JIEDDO, which explores new technology for finding and disabling improvised bombs in Afghanistan. JIEDDO hoped a long-endurance airship would help spot more Taliban bombers.

The Air Force wasn’t exactly passionate about the proposed airship, but it dutifully complied with the Pentagon’s wishes. As the concept developed, JIEDDO lent the future spy blimp its name, an homage to the agency’s Blue Devil 1 spy planes.

[I]Blue Devil 2 has six engines, including two that can rotate downward for liftoff. Photo: David Axe

The Army’s more-powerful LEMV is optimized for cargo capacity at the expense of range, so it has a squished shape with a flattish, lift-generating body. JIEDDO and the Air Force wanted an airship tailored not for heavy lifting, but for ultra-long flight time on minimal fuel. That meant a lightweight, streamlined “cigar” shape (to use Mav6′s term) with a perfectly round cross-section. Mav6 paired up with TCOM, the leading manufacturer of the small, tethered blimps that fly over many U.S. bases in Afghanistan to spot potential attackers. Together, the two companies scored an initial $86-million contract from the Air Force to develop the spy blimp. Work began in October 2010. The goal was to send a prototype to Afghanistan in 2011.

It was an ambitious schedule. Building, inflating and test-flying a 1.4-million-cubic-feet airship — the biggest since World War II and roughly the size of a small tanker ship or a nuclear-powered submarine — was hard enough. Mav6 had also proposed to fit the airship with a wide range of sensors, data links and computer processors; on-board controls for a human pilot; and the ability to be remotely flown via radio. “It could change the nature of overhead surveillance,” retired Air Force intelligence chief Lt. Gen. David Deptula, Mav6′s CEO, told Danger Room last year.

The Blue Devil 2 effort quickly ran into problems. In November 2010, as the airship began to take shape in the Elizabeth City hangar, the Air Force shook up the program structure. JIEDDO bowed out. The flying branch transferred the Blue Devil 2′s management responsibilities to a secretive Air Force office called Big Safari, which traditionally oversees specialized reconnaissance planes — planes, not airships.

If the Air Force was lukewarm on Blue Devil 2, Big Safari just “didn’t like” the airship, the Mav6 employee told Danger Room on condition of anonymity: “They tried to terminate it from day one.” On a stormy afternoon this week, I accompanied the employee on a furtive guided tour of Blue Devil 2. We slipped into the poorly lit hangar through a entryway cluttered with decades of industrial debris, emerging in a seven-acre enclosed space so impossibly vast that I felt vertigo gazing up at the curved rafters 200 feet overhead.

The massive, World War II-era hangar housing the Blue Devil 2. Photo: David Axe

Even inside such a gargantuan structure, the Blue Devil 2 still looked impressively huge. The airship’s enormous, tightly-sealed envelope contains enough helium — $350,000′s worth — to buoy the vehicle at 20,000 feet or higher for up to two entire weeks at a time. Two under-slung gondolas contain electrical systems, sensors, computers and controls for an human pilot, although manning the blimp is optional. Six propeller engines help the airship take off and speed it along at up to 100 miles per hour. To descend, the Blue Devil 2 gradually releases helium and, like a punctured party balloon, slowly settles to the ground.

As the Blue Devil 2′s oversight passed to the Big Safari office, Air Force planners added capabilities, and design risk, to the blimp’s original concept. The airship would have to carry multiple cameras plus two electronic eavesdropping systems and redundant communications. Moreover, the airship would have to do a lot of the imagery processing using its own computers, rather than piping down raw data for processing on the ground. The airborne processing requirement would reduce the strain on the Air Force’s communications infrastructure. But it made Blue Devil 2 much, much more complex. The development contract ballooned to $211 million at a time when defense planners were talking about austerity.

When the LEMV, which also has not flown, ran into its own technical problems, Northrop and the Army closed ranks around it. Mav6 enjoyed no such protection. Subcontractors were late delivering the Blue Devil 2′s tail fins, some vital wiring and the airship’s complex software. On top of that, the Air Force ordered Mav6 to go through the long process of getting Federal Aviation Administration certification so the company could put a human pilot on board for tests.

Predictably, the Blue Devil 2′s development schedule slipped a year. The so-called “big Air Force” — the flying branch’s fighter and bomber commanders — proceeded to complain, loudly and publicly. Mav6 actually shot back on its blog, describing the Air Force as a “hostile government customer.”

Last fall, the Air Force cancelled the Blue Devil 2′s much-hyped test deployment to Afghanistan. In March, it ordered Mav6 to stop working on the sensors. And in late May, it issued a formal stop-work order for the entire Blue Devil 2 program. A renewed PR effort by Mav6, which included pitching the Blue Devil 2 as a missile-armed attacker, failed to change the Air Force’s mind. Vocal support from powerful U.S. Senators Thad Cochran and Daniel Inouye was also unpersuasive.

“We were in the final stages of development when they terminated us,” the Mav6 employee told me as we stared up at the airship’s nose. I sensed movement. Though held to the ground by thousands of pounds of steel cable, the airship gently swayed inside its airy roost. The employee estimated the Blue Devil 2 was 95 percent complete when the kill order came down. All that was left was to add the tail fins and some wiring. Flight testing could have begun this month, the company claimed. The sensors could have been added as they became available. Terminating the Blue Devil 2 so close to its first flight “doesn’t make sense,” the employee said.

The Blue Devil 2. Photo: David Axe

What went wrong? Officially, the Air Force balked at the estimated $188-million cost of operating the Blue Devil 2 in Afghanistan for a single year. Mav6′s Deptula disputes the figure, and argues that killing the all-but-complete airship prototype will waste the $211 million already invested. The Blue Devil 2 cancellation is “penny-wise but pound-foolish,” Deptula has said.
A savior might be waiting in the wings. When the Air Force began seriously souring on the Blue Devil 2, Mav6 opened talks with other military branches. The Navy, an historical proponent of airship ops, expressed interest. The sailing branch has enjoyed some success testing its much smaller MZ-3A blimp.

The Mav6 employee said he should know by Friday whether the Navy will take over Blue Devil 2. If it declines, the Blue Devil 2 will go into storage. Workers will vent $350,000 worth of helium. The huge envelope, the six engines, the two gondolas — all will be dismantled and packed into shipping containers. Mav6′s future is unclear. It doesn’t really have any other major products.

At what could be the Blue Devil 2′s final hour, a senior Air Force general, intentionally or not, essentially spit on the airship’s grave. “I have [an] interest in hybrid airships,” Gen. Raymond Johns, Jr., the flying branch’s top airlift officer, told Air Force Magazine, praising airships as representing “about one-third the cost of fixed-wing [planes].”

“There may be a huge niche — logistically, operationally — with this hybrid airship construct,” Johns added — perhaps failing to appreciate that his fellow officers just killed a huge airship that was already paid for and almost ready.

16-06-12, 02:15 AM
Blue Devil Airship Maker Sends SOS After Air Force Says Pack It Up

By Richard Whittle

Published: June 15, 2012

WASHINGTON: This is a deflating month – literally -- for Mav6, a small Mississippi defense company that's been working five years to complete a massive military airship, the unmanned M1400 Blue Devil II intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) craft.

On orders from the Air Force, "We've started to disassemble the airship," reports David Deptula, CEO of Mav6, who retired from the Air Force in October 2010 as a three-star general and deputy chief of staff for ISR. Mav6 and its supporters in Congress are hoping the Navy will save Blue Devil II from what they view as a short-sighted decision by the Air Force, which two years ago took over the project from the Army.

At 370 feet in length – longer than a football field -- and 1.4 million cubic feet in volume, the M1400 isn't just the largest airship built in half a century but also the largest unmanned aerial system ever. Inflated with helium last September and tethered inside a hangar 1,000 feet long in Elizabeth City, N.C., Blue Devil II last year won a "Best of What's New" award from Popular Science magazine, which called it a "floating military supercomputer."

Designed to carry as many as 10 modular sensor payloads weighing up to a combined 6,500 lbs. and to hover with them at 20,000 feet for five days -- far longer than airplane unmanned aerial systems like the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper -- Blue Devil II was begun in 2010 by the Army Engineering and Research Development Command as an "urgent operational need" for the war in Afghanistan. Among the sensors the airship is designed to carry are a wide-area airborne surveillance system with daylight and infrared cameras that can be cued by a signals intelligence intercept sensor. The airship also is to carry computers on board to process the imagery from its cameras and multiple datalinks to stream it to analysts in a timely fashion. Tracking down insurgents planting improvised explosive devices was going to be Blue Devil II's primary mission in Afghanistan.

A Mav6 fact sheet contends that the Air Force, which "has openly stated they have no requirement for an airship," began trying to kill the program from the time it took it over from the Army in the fall of 2011, delaying payments to the contractor and adding requirements. The Air Force has certainly subjected Blue Devil II to a slow death, first ordering Mav6 last January to stop doing the work required to fit the sensors and computers onto the airship, then, on May 23, telling the company to "deflate and crate" the aircraft.

"The decision to halt payload integration was based on several factors to include schedule delays, technical challenges, and higher than expected deployment costs," an Air Force statement on the project says. "Since that time, technical problems have remained to include flight control software, tailfin design and electrical system wiring." The Air Force has estimated that the potential cost of sending the airship to Afghanistan has doubled.

The Mav6 fact sheet concedes that when the Air Force told the company to "deflate and crate" in May, the project was 12 percent over budget and eight months behind schedule. The fact sheet, however, argues that for another $3 million the airship could still make a first flight no later than Aug. 31, while draining the $350,000 worth of helium inside the dirigible and storing the equipment will cost $2.6 million. After spending $143 million on the airship and sensor payloads for it already, the government would be wiser to "allow a demonstration of the capabilities and viability of today's airship technology," argues Mav6.

Mav6 hopes the Navy might come to Blue Devil II's rescue because of that service's history of using airships. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division's Airship Systems Engineering Team did a favorable study of Blue Devil II in May that's been working its way up the Navy Department chain of command, and the fiscal 2012 defense budget still contains $55 million for the project that hasn't been spent.

"The Defense Department would be wise to capitalize on the investment they've made in this potentially game-changing capability," said Deptula, who is also a member of the AOL Defense Board of Contributors. "It provides the kind of persistence, modularity and cost effectiveness that's needed in the fiscally constrained future the Department of Defense is facing."

Blue Devil II doesn't have to sit over Afghanistan to provide valuable ISR, Mav6 argues. Stationed over a friendly nation such as Oman or the United Arab Emirates, for example, its daylight and infrared wide area airborne surveillance cameras and signals intelligence sensors could monitor the strategic Straits of Hormuz, the entrance to the Persian Gulf, and "see" as much as 200 miles into Iran.

Even though it's as large as it is, the airship would be nearly impossible for an enemy to shoot down, for the pressure differential on either side of its hull is minimal, meaning shells as large as 20mm would just pass through, Deptula said. It also has six engines, so taking out one won't bring it down. "You'd need about a 20-foot gash in this thing to make a difference, and even then it would settle gracefully," he said.

The Air Force, though, doesn't seem to have any problem shooting Blue Devil II down. The service's statement doesn't offer even a hint of support for the idea of letting the Navy take over, nor for using Blue Devil II for purposes other than the original plan to track IED planters in Afghanistan. "As the contract period of performance ends 30 June 2012," the Air Force said flatly, "the remaining time and funds will be used to disassemble, pack, and ship the residual equipment and hardware."

18-07-12, 04:17 PM
Delivery of Small Tactical Multi-Payload Aerostat System (STMPAS)

Posted on July 18, 2012 by The Editor

Carolina Unmanned Vehicles, Inc. (CUV) has announced the delivery of a new version of their Lightweight Aerostat System (LAS) for the Small Tactical Multi-Payload Aerostat System (STMPAS). STMPAS combines the LAS hardware from CUV and payloads developed by Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) for the Army Rapid Equipping Force (REF). CUV provided the aerostats and all ground operating equipment and GTRI developed the payloads. It will provide Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) capability for small tactical units in Afghanistan and other locations.

The REF mission is to rapidly increase mission capability while reducing risk to Soldiers and others by equipping operational commanders with off-the-shelf (government or commercial) solutions or near-term developmental items that can be researched, developed and acquired quickly.

The STMPAS consists of several optional ISR payloads attached under a small specially designed tethered blimp, called a Helikite, and a trailer Carrier that stores the Helikite and the required winch, sensors and helium tanks. The STMPAS blimp can fly at 1000 feet for low cost, long term coverage for 24 hours a day for a week or more without maintenance or downtime. It operates for weeks at a time at a fraction of the cost of comparable aircraft or Unmanned Aircraft. STMPAS has been tested by GTRI and the Army at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. One of the two STMPAS prototypes will be deployed to Afghanistan and one will be tested and evaluated in CONUS. The REF is procuring six more STMPAS for deployment to Afghanistan for further operational evaluation.

Traditional aerostats cannot operate in high winds unless fairly large, typically with 200 Lb of lift or more. This large size makes them unsuitable for deployment to small isolated bases. LAS uses the patented Helikite lifting aerostat from Allsopp Helikites of Great Britain. Helikites have lifting surfaces that generate aerodynamic lift to support the blimp in winds which would drive traditional designs into the ground. With the Helikite, LAS can be smaller and more mobile than traditional aerostat systems yet still operate in high winds. The STMPAS will be able to fly in 50 knot wind. With superior mobility, mission utility and adverse weather capability, LAS still requires only two people for all operations.

LAS is suitable for surveillance, communications relay and research for DOD and Homeland Security missions. Carolina Unmanned Vehicles has previously provided versions of LAS for the USAF, Sandia National Laboratory, and Lockheed Martin. CUV is a small Woman-Owned company focused on small aerostats and Unmanned Aircraft

Source: Press Release

09-08-12, 01:26 PM
Video: Army’s Giant Spy Blimp Soars Over Jersey Shore in First Flight

By David Axe, WIRED.com, August 8, 2012 | 9:16 am

Published on Aug 8, 2012 by jmeriney

Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle, or LEMV
A football-field-size airship with surveillance gear designed to do the work of a dozen drones. We saw this ship fly over Patriots Park, a few miles

On Tuesday, not far from the beaches of New Jersey, was a sight hundreds of millions of dollars and years of development in the making: the Army’s football-field-size robot spy blimp took to the air for the first time at a military base in Lakehurst. The 90-minute flight of the Long-Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV), manufactured by aerospace giant Northrop Grumman and allegedly captured in the video above, is only the beginning of a months-long test program; the lighter-than-air ship won’t head to a warzone until next year at the earliest. But it’s still important news. For years, the Pentagon has tried and failed to get next-generation airships off the ground. No longer.

“The first flight primary objective was to perform a safe launch and recovery with a secondary objective to verify the flight control system operation,” Army spokesman John Cummings said in a statement. “Additional first flight objectives included airworthiness testing and demonstration, and system level performance verification.”

“All objectives were met during the first flight,” Cummings added.

Provided further testing goes smoothly, the LEMV could deploy to Afghanistan for combat trials in early 2013, floating thousands of feet over the battlefield for, Northrop hopes, entire weeks on end, scanning for insurgents. K.C. Brown, Jr., Northrop’s director of Army programs, told Danger Room the LEMV could also pull double duty, hauling military cargo out of landlocked Afghanistan as part of the Pentagon’s war drawdown. It might make for quite the lighter-than-air mule: Northrop claims the LEMV has enough buoyancy to haul seven tons of cargo 2,400 miles at 30 miles per hour.

Long-Endurance Multi-Intelligence airship concept. Illustration: Northrop Grumman

The spy blimp’s inaugural sortie had been pushed back several times; turns out, combining a giant airship with satellite-based remote controls and the latest high-tech sensors is more difficult than Northrop thought it would be. When the Army cut the LEMV’s $500-million development check back in 2010, the ground combat branch expected the propeller-driven, helium-filled airship would begin airborne trials in early 2011 and deploy just a few months later.

Northrop and the Army repeatedly pushed back the initial launch, without ever explaining exactly why. The first flight had been slated for early June, but unspecified problems forced another two-month delay.

The silence over the schedule slippage, and the Army’s eagerness to forgive development snafus, rankled at least one of Northrop’s competitors. Other aerospace companies were less crafty — and less lucky — in their attempts to pump some life into the long-defunct military airship market.

Back in 2006, Lockheed Martin came close to scoring a potentially multi-billion-dollar contract to develop the Walrus cargo airship. But at the last minute the military balked and zeroed out funding. A defiant Lockheed continued refining its airship designs using its own funds and, in March 2011, finally sold its first modern lighter-than-air vehicle to a Canadian cargo company — but likely for a fraction what the military model would have cost.

Meanwhile, tiny, Virginia-based startup Mav6 spent $200 million building the Blue Devil 2, a 370-foot-long spy blimp for the Air Force. When Mav6 ran into problems with the Blue Devil 2′s electronics and massive tail assembly this year, the flying branch first scaled back then, back in June, abruptly cancelled the entire program, ordering Mav6 to deflate the mostly-complete aircraft.

In late June Danger Room visited Mav6′s cavernous, World War II-vintage airship hangar in North Carolina. There a Mav6 executive lamented the waste of $350,000 worth of helium, which was set to begin leaking from the Blue Devil 2 and cannot be recaptured. The executive said his company was treated unfairly compared to a certain, unnamed large aerospace firm — cough cough — that seemed to get greater leeway from its Pentagon overseers. The executive called the Air Force a “hostile government customer.”

The politics surrounding LEMV may be a bit shady, but the airship’s technology is impressive all the same. More than 300 feet from tip to tail, the airship’s goal is to hover for three entire weeks at a time in surveillance mode — in addition to its prowess at hauling cargo. And the LEMV burns a tenth as much fuel as a traditional, heavier-than-air airplane for the same task. It can carry video cameras, radars, electronic eavesdroppers and radio datalinks for transmitting information to analysts on the ground.

Moreover, the LEMV is designed to be “optionally manned,” meaning it can carry a flight crew or be steered by ground-based operators, like a drone. For Tuesday’s flight, the airship had a crew aboard, but in combat an armada of 18 LEMVs could be controlled by as few as a dozen forward-deployed people, Northrop claims.

Lockheed and Mav6 have every right to be displeased. But for Northrop and the Army — and for taxpayers who could end up paying a little less for high-tech air power — LEMV’s first sortie is a triumph. “Additional manned flights will resume following a planned and very detailed inspection of the vehicle,” Cummings said. Here’s to hoping LEMV stays aloft — and on schedule.

10-08-12, 12:02 AM

A Defense Technology Blog

LEMV First Flight Video and Photos [Updated]

Posted bySean Meade12:33 PM on Aug 09, 2012

Graham Warwick sends in these photos of LEMV's first flight. Read his previous story: Army's LEMV Surveillance Airship Flies

Published on Aug 9, 2012 by northropgrummanmedia

The U.S. Army's Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) flew for the first time from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., on Aug. 7. The air vehicle was airborne for more than 90 minutes during its initial flight. LEMV is built by Northrop Grumman with major subcontractor Hybrid Air Vehicle.

14-08-12, 11:55 AM
US Army JLENS programme moves forward

13 August 2012 - 13:40 by the Shephard News Team

Raytheon has announced that the US Army’s first class of soldiers have completed mission operator training on the company’s Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defence Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS). The persistent over-the-horizon sensor system has moved closer to bringing warfighters the ability to detect, track and engage threats such as swarming boats and incoming cruise missiles, around the clock, from hundreds of miles away.

The training saw soldiers learn to use JLENS to detect and target incoming cruise missiles, and track ships, cars, trucks and boats. They also practiced setting up the system and communicating information gleaned from JLENS sensors to US Army, navy and air force counterparts. The soldiers are now ready to being structured training on the actual JLENS hardware.

According to Raytheon, JLENS uses a powerful integrated radar system to detect, track and target a variety of threats. This capability better enables commanders to defend against threats, including hostile cruise missiles, low-flying manned and unmanned aircraft, large calibre rockets, and moving surface vehicles such as boats, SCUD-launchers, automobiles and tanks. It has been designed to provide an additional and vital layer to national security capabilities.

15-08-12, 02:13 PM
U.S. Army Aerostat Program Proceeds; Deployment Uncertain

Aug. 14, 2012 - 10:54AM


Despite uncertainty over when, where and if the U.S. Army’s longest-running aerostat developmental program will be deployed, the service has graduated its first two classes of soldiers trained to operate the platform.

The Army has trained about 100 soldiers from A Battery, 3rd Air Defense Artillery stationed at Dugway Proving Grounds, south of Salt Lake City, to operate the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS), which has been designed for the long-range tracking of threats in the air, at sea and on the ground.

The Army has been developing the program since 1998, and Raytheon has been working on JLENS since 2005. Given recent successful tests of its tracking and fire control systems, the company’s JLENS program director, Mark Rose, said that Raytheon is eager to “get the system deployed to a location and get some operational tests in the field. We think this system is ready to go, we’ve proven it in tests and the soldiers are trained up. So we’d like to have that operational assessment so there’s no question as to how it’s working.”

However, it appears the Army has changed its mind on plans to field one of the systems to a combatant commander, at least until 2014.

In a June reprogramming request sent to Capitol Hill, the Army wrote that despite budgeted plans to deploy an orbit to a combatant command, it has decided to delay any deployment “until after the JLENS program completes the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase in FY 2014.”

An orbit consists of a fire control radar system and a wide-area surveillance radar system connected by a ground control station. Each radar system requires a separate 74-meter tethered aerostat to provide 360-degree, wide-area surveillance and precision target tracking.

The $40 million slated for the deployment will be used for other, unnamed requirements.

In April, Raytheon successfully demonstrated the system’s ability to work with the Patriot missile defense system when JLENS tracked and shot down a test target simulating a hostile cruise missile during an exercise at the Utah Training and Test Range.

The test was significant, as the program was coming out of a Nunn-McCurdy funding breach brought about when the Pentagon reduced the number of JLENS orbits from 16 to two.

The Pentagon’s Joint Requirements Oversight Council, which plans on keeping a busy schedule through the rest of the year, will discuss the program later this month.

Rose said the company is scheduled to test JLENS with the U.S. Navy’s “Desert Ship” at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., this fall.

“We’re going to fly a drone, a cruise missile surrogate, cue the Aegis system and they’ll try and intercept it with a standard missile,” he said. He added that the Army will continue running evaluations and training soldiers to operate the system this fall and into next year.

“Now that the soldiers are taking over, it’s another indication that the system is ready to deploy,” he said. Now the company has to convince the Army and congressional appropriators of that.

06-09-12, 03:10 PM
Successful First Flight

Aeroscraft Zeppelin Combines Aircraft and Airship Technologies

Posted on September 6, 2012 by The Editor

Uploaded by MisterRuss1 on Sep 5, 2012
No description available.

Inside the 17-story mammoth wooden blimp hangars at the former military base in Tustin that rise above southern Orange County, Worldwide Aeros Corp. is building a blimp-like airship designed for the military to carry tons of cargo to remote areas around the world.

“Nobody has ever tried to do what we’re doing here,” Chief Executive Igor Pasternak said of the 265-foot skeleton being transformed into the cargo airship. “This will revolutionize airship technology.”

The federal government is buying blimps, zeppelins and spy balloons, and many of these new-generation hybrid “lighter than air” aircraft are taking shape across California.

“So much is going on with airships in California now,” Pasternak said. “It wasn’t this way 10 years ago.”

Pasternak’s Montebello firm makes airships used for surveillance, advertising and transport.

Although these steerable aircraft are sometimes known casually as blimps, there are differences. A blimp is shaped by the gas inside of it, whereas a zeppelin has a rigid skeleton inside. The helium-filled sky balloons, or aerostats, used over Afghanistan are neither blimps nor zeppelins. But they all fall under the term “airship.”

The importance of these next-generation airships became obvious to the Pentagon as increased use of drones highlighted the need for stationary aircraft that could provide constant surveillance, not just overhead flights for a few hours. That’s where these unmanned blimps came into play, with their ability to linger over an area for days at a time. They have played an expanded role in recent years in Mideast conflicts. Currently, there are more than 100 aerostats being used in Afghanistan, up from fewer than 10 in 2004.

Resembling small blimps, these aerostats are tethered to the ground and float thousands of feet above military bases and important roadways. They are big enough that gunfire below won’t take them down. Cameras on aerostats are similar to those on drones and can see for many miles at a fraction of the per-flight-hour cost of a drone. They’re also used to monitor the U.S.-Mexico border.

“It’s an affordable solution,” said Terry L. Mitchell, intelligence futures director at Army headquarters. “You can provide overwatch of the base or troops as they make their way on the ground.”

But these less-sophisticated aerostats don’t have nearly the size or the capability of the next-generation airships that are being designed and manufactured in California and across the nation.

Pasternak’s Aeroscraft being built in Tustin is a zeppelin with a rigid skeleton made of aluminum and carbon fiber. A new type of hybrid aircraft that combines airplane and airship technologies, the Aeroscraft doesn’t need a long runway to take off or land because it has piston engines that allow it to move vertically and a new high-tech buoyancy control system.

Pasternak runs a hand through his mop of salt-and-pepper hair and points to the spiny monstrosity, boasting of its versatility.

“This will land in Africa, Afghanistan,” he says, “a Wal-Mart parking lot — wherever.”

Pasternak hopes to have a first flight by early next year and to demonstrate cargo-carrying capability shortly thereafter.

Source: LA Times

11-09-12, 12:39 PM
JLENS demonstrates waterway protection capabilities

11 September 2012 - 11:26 by the Shephard News Team

Raytheon has announced that it carried out a number of tests in June on its Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defence Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS)to demonstrate the system’s ability to detect and track swarming boats in waterways from hundreds of miles away. As a result, the US Army will ‘soon have a system that enables [it] to protect sailors and safeguard commercial and military navigation in strategic waterways’.

During the tests, JLENS simultaneously detected and tracked multiple speedboats on the Great Salt Lake. The boats, similar to swarming boats in the inventories of hostile navies in high-threat regions, simulated a real-world scenario with a series of tactical manoeuvres at low and high speeds.

JLENS is an elevated, persistent over-the-horizon sensor system. It uses an integrated radar system to detect, track and target a variety of threats. This capability better enables commanders to defend against threats, including hostile cruise missiles, low-flying manned and unmanned aircraft, and moving surface vehicles such as boats, SCUD-launchers, automobiles, trucks and tanks - and provides ascent phase detection of tactical ballistic missiles and large calibre rockets.

David Gulla, vice president of Global Integrated Sensors for Raytheon's Integrated Defense Systems business, commented on the results of the demonstrations, saying: ‘JLENS is affordable because during a 30-day period, one system provides the warfighter the same around-the-clock coverage that it would normally take four or five fixed-wing surveillance aircraft to provide. JLENS is significantly less expensive to operate than a fixed-wing surveillance aircraft because it takes less than half the manpower to operate and has a negligible maintenance and fuel cost.’

24-09-12, 10:53 PM
JLENS' ability to defeat anti-ship cruise missile demonstrated

24 September 2012 - 16:31 by the Shephard News Team

The US Army and US Navy have carried out testing on the Raytheon Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) to demonstrate that defensive systems currently in the US Navy's inventory can be integrated with JLENS to provide overland cruise missile defense from the sea.

During the test, a JLENS' fire-control radar acquired and tracked a surrogate anti-ship cruise missile target. The track information was passed to sailors via the Raytheon-made Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) sensor-netting system. The sailors then fired a Raytheon-made Standard Missile-6 at the target. Initial SM-6 guidance used targeting information provided by the JLENS via CEC to the Aegis Weapon System (AWS) until the SM-6's onboard radar was able to acquire and track the target.

Dean Barten, the US Army's JLENS product manager, said: ‘JLENS has demonstrated its ability to integrate with other components of Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air, significantly expanding the force's cruise missile defense umbrella. Commanders can detect threats shortly after they are launched with JLENS' 360-degree, long-range surveillance capability, while the JLENS integrated fire-control radar enables commanders to more effectively employ weapons like the Standard Missile 6.’

Dave Gulla, vice president of Global Integrated Sensors in Raytheon's Integrated Defense Systems business, said: ‘JLENS is a proven asset that, when deployed, will protect US and coalition lives. JLENS' long-range surveillance capability extends the battlespace and gives commanders more time to identify and respond to incoming threats, instead of the handful of seconds they have today.’

07-10-12, 10:57 AM
Blue Devil Builder Mav6 Divests Airship Operations

Posted on October 5, 2012 by The Editor

Mav6 has announced that it has divested its airship business. The Vicksburg, Mississippi-based defence technology company leveraged this capability to execute work on the Blue Devil Block 2 system — a long endurance airship integrated with advanced sensor payloads built for the US Air Force.

Mav6 Co-founder and Managing Director, Jay Harrison commented, “Mav6 never intended to be a company specializing in building airships.” Harrison continued, “It’s a win-win; we’re refining our technology focus and pursuing some exciting new opportunities, and the talented Stratus team can focus entirely on airship technology without having to compete for resources with Mav6’s other research and development activities.”

Former Mav6 Chief Operating Officer, now Chief Executive of Stratus Aerospace, Ken Wilson commented, “We are excited about the formation of Stratus Aerospace, LLC.” He continued, “We had a great run on the BD2 programme as part of the Mav6 team and we will leverage the experience we gained to continue the pursuit of both ISR and heavy lift airship business. We wish Mav6 the very best in their technology focus.”

Mav6 was established in May 2007 by Major General Buford “Buff” Blount, USA (Retired), and Mr. Adam Jay Harrison to fill a need in the global defence and security market for rapidly conceived, concept-to-implementation technology solutions to emerging global security challenges. Mav6 was recently ranked 230th on Inc. Magazine’s 2012 list of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies; the company was ranked 373rd in 2011.

Source: Press Release

16-10-12, 11:38 PM
Pelican Demonstrator Aimed At Airlift

By Bill Sweetman

Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

October 15, 2012

Bill Sweetman Washington

A revolutionary aircraft prototype is now in the final stages of assembly and integration in a World War II airship hangar in Tustin, Calif. Developed by Aeros Corp., a California start-up, and funded by the Defense Department as a potential long-range transportation technology, the Pelican combines buoyant and aerodynamic lift in a different way from other lighter-than-air and hybrid vehicles, and is designed to be more efficient, more flexible and easier to handle on the ground. Its designers think that it could be evolved quickly into a vehicle with a C-17-like payload and range, combined with vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) capability.

Aeros originally proposed the concept to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency as part of the Walrus project for a 500-ton-payload airship. After Walrus lost most of its funding in 2006, Aeros continued developing some key technologies, and its proposal for a demonstrator was taken up by the Pentagon's Rapid Reaction Technology Office in 2010.

Aeros refers to the Pelican as a “rigid-aeroshell, variable-buoyancy” (RAVB) vehicle. It has two distinctive features. One is a system that controls buoyancy by pumping helium gas between the ship's lifting gas cell and a pressurized fiber-composite cell. The other is a rigid airframe—last seen on Zeppelins in the 1930s—which is necessary because a non-rigid pressure-stabilized hull would collapse as gas was pumped into the pressure cell.

RAVB technology addresses a classic problem of airship operations: To control the airship's altitude with a fixed amount of lighter-than-air gas, some way has to be found to compensate for fuel consumed in flight, for different payloads, and for loading and unloading. Most airships have carried water ballast, but for a heavy-lift craft this presupposes that tons of water are available at the destination. Hybrid vehicles (such as the new Northrop Grumman LEM-V) use aerodynamic and buoyant lift at all times, but this means that they need a takeoff and landing run.

The RAVB can be neutrally buoyant in cruise, regardless of fuel used, and can land and take off vertically. On the ground, it can remain heavier-than-air as payload is unloaded, avoiding the need for tethers or masts and making it less vulnerable to bad weather.

Pelican is 230 ft. long and has a hull volume of 600,000 cu. ft. The primary structure comprises triangular-section carbon-fiber trusses that carry the engines—automotive diesels with thrust-vectoring propellers—the control surfaces and cockpit, and carry the lift loads from the gas cells. Curved secondary frames support an airfoil-contoured outer shell.

Ground tests of the buoyancy control system and the basic structure start at the end of this month, with “simple flight tests” due early next year, according to Aeros founder and CEO Igor Pasternak. The primary goal is to show that the vehicle can be flown and controlled with a combination of variable buoyancy, aerodynamic lift, thrust vectoring and control surfaces.

The next step, Pasternak says, is a vehicle with approximately twice the Pelican's overall dimensions and eight times the volume—about 450 ft. long and 3.8 million cu. ft.—capable of carrying a 66-ton payload over a 3,000-nm unrefueled range, and with combined diesel and turboprop propulsion. It could also incorporate the ability to superheat helium gas for takeoff—after takeoff, the helium would be allowed to cool to ambient temperatures and the vehicle would use a combination of aerodynamic and buoyant lift in the cruise, at speeds up to 80-100 kt. and up to 10,000 ft. Aeros has also experimented with techniques for extracting water from the engine exhaust to compensate for fuel use. “We could complete the design-build cycle on that vehicle in 28-30 months,” he tells Aviation Week.

The Pelican demonstrator, Pasternak says, includes some “full-scale elements” such as truss members—some of these will be larger on the full-size vehicle, but not all—gas valves and “innovative, pilot-intuitive” flight controls. (The objective is a high degree of automation, says Pasternak, “where the pilot is really the captain.”)

One unique feature of the full-size aircraft that is on the demonstrator is a retractable cockpit on the lower surface. It is fully extended for VTOL operations to provide all-round situational awareness, partially retracts to reduce drag in cruising flight, and disappears completely into the hull when the vehicle is on the ground. The last position permits the flat-bottomed hull to rest flush with the ground, making it more stable in high winds.

This feature is associated with the intended cargo-handling system. The concept, Pasternak says, is “to remove the vehicle from the cargo, not the cargo from the vehicle.” This would imply that the airship lands and the cargo—in containers or pallets—is detached from the ship, after which the craft increases its buoyancy and floats off the load.

Larger vehicles are possible in the future, says Pasternak, “but we strongly understand the need to test an operational vehicle before going to 100 or 200 tons.” So far, the 66-ton vehicle is unfunded.

01-11-12, 11:47 PM
Indian Air Force Avoids Israel, Goes Global for Aerostats

Nov. 1, 2012 - 02:23PM

By Vivek Raghuvanshi

NEW DELHI — The Indian Air Force is entering the global market to buy six additional aerostat radars for more than $400 million, a decision that avoids awarding a repeat order to Rafael of Israel.

In the next one or two months, India will float tenders to Britain’s BAE Systems, U.S. companies Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, France’s Thales, Israel Aerospace Industries and Russia’s Rosoboronexport, sources said.

The Indian Ministry of Defence agreed with the Air Force that fresh bids from the global market were better than giving repeat orders to Rafael. Air Force officials were not satisfied with the maintenance of two aerostat radars Rafael supplied, sources said.

Specifically, one of the two aerostat radars supplied by Rafael in 2007 was damaged in inclement weather along the Pakistan border in 2009 and has yet to become operational.

An Indian MoD source said Rafael demanded a high price for repair of the damaged radar, annoying the MoD.

The radars were based on a 2005 contract for three radars, which was awarded on a single-vendor basis.

Rafael executives in India were unavailable for comment on the accusations.

The state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation is developing two home-grown aerostat prototypes. The total requirement is close to 30 in the next 10 years.

Radars mounted on aerostats, or tethered balloons, provide long-range, low-altitude detection of hostile aircraft. The Air Force requires the aerostat radars, which can be raised to 15,000 feet above sea level.

The aerostat radars to be purchased will include an advanced programmable radar, electronic intelligence, communication intelligence, V/UHF radio telephone equipment and identification-friend-or-foe technology. The radars will have a coverage area of 10 to 350 kilometers and be able to pick up targets ranging from ground level to 30,000 feet.

In addition, the payload will include an air surveillance radar to detect missiles and fighter aircraft at various ranges, a surface surveillance radar and a combined surveillance radar for air and surface targets.

“Both India and Pakistan are using aerostat radars, and the need for deployment of such systems has increased further to monitor of low-flying aircraft,” defense analyst Nitin Mehta said. “Each aerostat is capable of providing a three-dimensional, low-altitude coverage equal to more than 40 ground-based radars.”

Even the Indian Navy is planning to deploy aerostat radars for surveillance along the coastal border, an Indian Navy official said.

Email: vraghuvanshi@defensenews.com.

02-11-12, 12:01 PM
Airship Programmes – Not So Buoyant, Says US Government Accountability Office

Posted on November 2, 2012 by The Editor

ISIS (Concept: Lockheed Martin

(Bad) timing is everything in aerospace. At the height of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, airships looked to be the answer to demands for persistent, “staring-eye” surveillance.

But problems developing the systems – including, surprisingly, the decades-old technology of building a lighter-than-air vehicle – means they are coming along just as the window of opportunity is closing.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) tells a heavy tale of lighter-than-air development and procurement troubles in a new report on Pentagon aerostat and airship programs. Here are some of the highlights:

ISIS – DARPA’s $506 million Integrated Sensor Is Structure programme is developing a persistent stratospheric airship with an active-array radar built into the envelope and performing air and ground surveillance and tracking. “ISIS has experienced technical challenges stemming from subsystem development and radar antennae panel manufacturing,” says the GAO. DARPA has delayed airframe development to focus on radar risk reduction. “During this period the ISIS team will develop and airship risk-reduction plan and conduct limited airship activities,” says GAO. Will it fly? Our guess – no.

LEMV (Photo: Northrop Grumman)

LEMV – The US Army’s $356 million Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle programme is 10 months behind what was planned as an 18-month program – “due to issues with fabric production, getting foreign parts through customs, adverse weather conditions causing the evacuation of work crews, and first-time integration and testing issues,” says the GAO. Also the hybrid airship is 12,000lb overweight because of issues with the tail fins and subsystems. This reduces on-station endurance from 21 days at 20,000ft to 4-5 days, says the GAO, so the Army plans to operate instead at 16,000ft, where duration should be 16 days. The vehicle made the first of 33 manned test flights in August, but Army plans to deploy the LEMV to Afghanistan are up in the air. Will it deploy? Our guess – not likely.

Blue Devil 2 (Concept: MAV6)

Blue Devil 2 – The US Air Force terminated its $244 million persistent-surveillance airship program in June, at which point the Blue Devil 2 was running at least a year behind its schedule to deploy to Afghanistan in September. technical problems included overweight tail fins that failed structural testing, rendering the airship unflyable, says the GAO. There were also problems scaling the flight control software from a smaller airship to the much larger Blue Devil 2. The airship will not deploy and will be stored instead. Will it resurface? Our guess – never.

JLENS – The US Army’s Joint Land-Attack Cruise Missile Elevated Netted Sensor system uses two large tethered aerostats carrying surveillance and targeting radars. In September 2010, “an aerostat accident resulted in the loss of one of the JLENS platforms. The accident, as well as recent system integration challenges, led to a decision not to procure production units,” says the GAO. Instead of 16, the Army acquired just two aerostats for development. Will it come back? Our guess – maybe.

HALE-D (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

And the list goes on. HALE-D – the high-altitude airship demonstrator crashed on its first flight in July 2011, its envelope and solar cells were destroyed and its payload damaged by fire during recovery operations. There is no money for continued demonstration. HiSentinel – in November 2010, the high-altitude, solar-powered airship had a propulsion failure 8 hours into a planned 24-hour flight. There is no money for continued demonstration.

Are airships back? Our guess – maybe not…

Source: Aviation Week

10-11-12, 12:18 AM
Turkey Launches Zeppelin Program Against PKK

Nov. 9, 2012 - 01:56PM


ANKARA — Turkey has launched a program to buy a zeppelin to act as a UAV against its worst enemy, the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), operating in the southeast near the country’s borders with Iran and Iraq, procurement officials have said.

Lockheed Martin, the maker of the balloon, says it could serve as the main surveillance platform of a system that would monitor a large area, officials from Lockheed Martin and the procurement office said.

“The system is very safe against ground fire. If it is hit by ground fire, it automatically shuts the hit area, so another hit does not endanger the balloon,” said one Lockheed official. “This has been used against the terrorists in Afghanistan safely for years.”

“The company is increasingly in touch with the military and the police forces,” said one procurement official.

The procurement official said that a deal was expected soon, and that the price depends on the size of the balloon to be bought.

Turkey in the late 1990s had launched the zeppelin program, but the talks were ended because of a financial crisis at the time.

06-12-12, 11:38 AM
JLENS demonstrates tracking capabilities

06 December 2012 - 10:19 by the Shephard News Team

The JLENS elevated, persistent over-the-horizon sensor system being developed by Raytheon has demonstrated its ability to simultaneously track swarming boats hundreds of cars and trucks, non-swarming boats and manned and unmanned aircraft. This latest test expands on the system’s previously tested tracking capabilities, and suggests that swarming boats operating in highly-trafficked strategic waterways will soon be easier to detect, target and engage.

JLENS uses a powerful integrated radar system to detect, track and target a variety of threats. This capability better enables commanders to defend against threats, including hostile cruise missiles, low-flying manned and unmanned aircraft, and moving surface vehicles such as boats, automobiles and trucks; and provide ascent phase detection of tactical ballistic missiles and large calibre rockets.

Raytheon said that during the most recent testing, the swarming boats, similar to swarming boats in the inventories of hostile navies in high-threat regions of the globe, simulated a real-world scenario with a series of tactical manoeuvres at low and high speeds. The aircraft and other vehicles JLENS tracked were similar to the other kinds of systems that might operate in the vicinity of busy vital waterways.

David Gulla, vice president of Global Integrated Sensors for Raytheon's Integrated Defense Systems business, said: ‘This test proved JLENS can help keep important chokepoints free from the growing threat of swarming boats by detecting them from hundreds of miles away in a congested environment, enabling commanders to take appropriate action. This success, which comes on the heels of a JLENS-enabled intercept of an anti-ship cruise missile, demonstrates that JLENS is ready to deploy for a combatant commander operational evaluation.’

Dean Barten, the US Army's JLENS program manager, added: ‘JLENS' 360-degree long-range surveillance capability expands the battlespace because JLENS can simultaneously detect and engage threats like swarming boats and anti-ship cruise missiles from up to 340 miles away.’

04-01-13, 09:49 AM

A Defense Technology Blog

Aeros Tests Pelican Variable-Buoyancy Airship

Posted byGraham Warwick3:51 PM on Jan 03, 2013

Aeros has completed its experimental rigid variable-bouyancy airship and accomplished the first of four tasks under its contract with the Pentagon's Rapid Reaction Technology Office.

Photos: Aeros

Aeros CEO Igor Pasternak says the 230ft-long Aeroscraft prototype, called Pelican, has completed a ground-handling demonstration showing the 36,000lb vehicle can move without assistance from ground personnel, controlled from the cockpit and using its air-bearing landing gear. The Pelican was heavier than air for the demonstration, he says.

The three remaining contractual demonstrations, which Pasternak hopes to accomplish next week, include a vertical takeoff and offloading payload without taking on ballast - both accomplished solely by varying the vehicle's buoyancy. The fourth demo is of the vehicle's lightweight aeroshell, which does not rely on pressurization for rigidity.

The Aeroscraft controls its buoyancy by pumping helium between lifting-gas cells and pressurized tanks inside the composite aeroshell. Compressing the helium makes the vehicle heavier than air for easier ground handling and cargo unloading. Releasing the helium displaces air inside the vehicle and makes it neutrally buoyant.

The buoyancy control system can vary the Pelican's "static heaviness" by 3,000-4,000lb, says Pasternak, enough to allow the prototype to take off vertically, yet be heavier than air for landing and unloading. All of the tests are taking place inside Aeros' airship hangar in Tustin, California, with the vehicle expected to reach a height of 10-15ft.

Pasternak is hopeful of additional funding for follow-on testing that would take the prototype outside the hangar. The Pelican is configured for outdoor tests, he says, but might need some modifications to comply with FAA rules for flight testing. Ultimately, Aeros wants to build a 450ft-long vehicle able to carry a 66-ton payload over a 3,000nm unrefueled range.

13-01-13, 02:20 AM
Northrop Grumman Eyes Indian Market for Delayed LEMV

AIN Defense Perspective January 11, 2013

by Neelam Mathews and Chris Pocock

The long-endurance multi-intelligence vehicle (LEMV) first flew last August. Northrop Grumman has proposed the hybrid airship to India for border and maritime surveillance. (Photo: Northrop Grumman)

January 11, 2013, 10:10 AM

Northrop Grumman has proposed its long-endurance multi-intelligence vehicle (LEMV) hybrid airship to meet new Indian requirements for border surveillance, AIN has learned from a senior official at the country’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The huge, unmanned LEMV was being developed for U.S. Army missions over Afghanistan, but has fallen behind schedule. It first flew last August, one year later than promised.

In a presentation to the MHA, Northrop Grumman described the LEMV as a lighter-than-air (LTA) vehicle that offers “a revolutionary capability in persistent surveillance with reconfigurable payloads to meet emerging multi-mission needs.” Discussions began a year ago, followed by presentations to the Border Security Force (BSF), which is controlled by the MHA. The official said that Northrop Grumman had emphasized cost savings resulting from a reduced force structure, since one LTA could replace 25 medium-altitude, long-endurance (Male) UAVs, the company claimed. It suggested a cost of only $20,000 to keep the unmanned LEMV in the air for three weeks, carrying a 2,750-pound sensor and communications payload. Northrop Grumman offered to integrate indigenous intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) payload options on the LTA, which has modular payload bays.

The MHA is expected to release a request for proposals in March for surveillance solutions over seven different areas. The LTA will likely be bid for maritime surveillance, as well as for over remote areas along India’s borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh. The MHA is expected to purchase approximately five such systems. India is expected to spend an estimated $30 billion on homeland security by 2016, mostly for policing, but also including surveillance systems.

No further progress with LEMV flight-testing in the U.S. has been reported since the first flight. The prototype flew with pilots on board, and without any payload. Last October, an Army general suggested to the website Inside Defense that the LEMV might never be deployed to Afghanistan. By press time, neither the U.S. Army nor Northrop Grumman had responded to AIN’s request for an update.

23-01-13, 02:43 PM
World Surveillance Group Gets $600K US Defence Department Contract for Blimp in a Box Aerostat

Posted on January 23, 2013 by The Editor

World Surveillance Group Inc., has announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, Global Telesat Corp. (“GTC”), has been awarded a $605,000 contract from the United States Department of Defense for a set of Blimp in a Box (“BiB”) aerostat systems.

The contract award includes on-location support for technical fact gathering, installation and training for the BiB systems. The BiB systems will be delivered to an army base where they are intended to provide semi-persistent, mobile intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (“ISR”) at the platoon level. Delivery, installation and on-site training of the initial BiB systems, spares and payloads are scheduled to be completed by the end of March.

The BiB aerostat system is designed to provide real-time day/night high definition footage for ISR, detection of improvised explosive devices (“IEDs”), border security and other governmental and civilian uses. The turn-key BiB system is packaged in a standard size crate that is mounted to a trailer and towed from the back of a MAT-V, HUMVEE, pickup truck or other comparable vehicle and can be rapidly deployed within minutes by a two man crew. With the push of a button, the system is activated, the prepackaged envelope, which carries a day/night electro-optical/infrared camera, automatically inflates to the applicable pressure for the mission and is secured to the vehicle by a data capable tether.

The BiB system is released from the vehicle by an automated launch and recovery system to an operational altitude appropriate for the application. Once deployed to the operational altitude, the BiB system can provide critical detection capabilities for several miles and the vehicle can proceed on its mission through any terrain with the BiB system fully functional. Following completion of a mission, the BiB system is designed to quickly and automatically be retrieved and can either be mounted inflated allowing the vehicle to move on to its next destination where the BiB system can be re-deployed, or the BiB system can be deflated and re-packed into the self contained crate.

WSGI President and CEO Glenn D. Estrella stated, “We are honoured that GTC has been selected by the United States Department of Defense to provide a system that supports our troops in the critical challenges of providing aerial reconnaissance for moving platoons. We and GTC look forward to working with the DoD and our customers to deliver advanced systems that meet their demanding and critical requirements.”

Source: Press Release

16-02-13, 03:14 AM
Technical Delays, Budget Cuts Kill LEMV Airship

By Graham Warwick graham_warwick@aviationweek.com

Source: AWIN First

February 15, 2013

Northrop Grumman’s Long-Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle (LEMV), a 300-ft.-long surveillance airship intended for deployment to Afghanistan to fly unmanned for up to three weeks, has been canceled by the U.S. Army.

The airship flew once in August last year, at Lakehurst, N.J., 10 months behind schedule in what was originally planned as an 18-month development program leading to deployment early in 2012.

“Due to technical and performance challenges, and the limitations imposed by constrained resources, the Army has determined to discontinue the LEMV development effort,” the service says in a statement.

Administered by Army Space and Missile Defense Command, “this project was initially designed to support operational needs in Afghanistan in spring 2012; it will not provide a capability in the time frame required,” the service says.

LEMV is the second persistent-surveillance airship under development by the Pentagon to meet urgent requirements in Afghanistan to be canceled because of delays caused by technical problems.

In a move to avoid additional costs, the U.S. Air Force in June 2012 terminated the Blue Devil 2 program, under way with small company Mav6, before the 370-ft. airship had even flown.

The Blue Devil 2 and LEMV programs were both launched in 2010. Northrop Grumman received a $154 million contract for a single air vehicle, with options for two more taking the potential value to $517 million.

Both airships were designed to carry a 2,500-lb. payload of multiple sensors and communications links to an operating altitude of 20,000 ft. Blue Devil 2 was designed for an endurance of four to five days and LEMV for up to 21 days.

LEMV was a hybrid airship, using a combination of buoyant, aerodynamic and propulsive lift to extend endurance and ease ground handling. The airframe was designed by U.K. company Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV).

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported in October 2012 that the first LEMV was 12,000 lb. overweight, reducing endurance to four-five days. The Army proposed lowering the operating altitude to 16,000 ft. to push endurance back up to 16 days.

Cancellation of LEMV is a blow for HAV, which has been trying to get its hybrid airship technology off the ground for decades. An agreement to develop a commercial heavy-lift cargo version of the vehicle slipped through the company’s fingers in August, when Canada’s Discovery Air let the tentative deal lapse.

20-02-13, 11:58 AM
Raytheon JLENS aerostat successfully detects missile threats

19 February 2013 - 17:51 by Beth Stevenson in London

Raytheon has announced that its Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) tethered surveillance aerostat managed to detect and track four ballistic missile surrogates during recent testing.

According to company statements in a media briefing on 19 February, the system demonstrated tactical ballistic missile defence using its X-band radar at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, adding to a series of demonstrations conducted on board the platform in recent years.

The radar tracked two ripple-fired and two individually fired surrogates, which flew paths similar to those that missile systems may take in areas of conflict.

Mark Rose, Raytheon's JLENS programme director, explained to the media: ‘There are growing ballistic missile threats in the world out there. Ballistic missiles are in the headlines on a very frequent basis and there is clearly a threat to our national security from them.

‘JLENS has been demonstrated in a series of tests over the past year. We did several intercepts including cruise missiles with a Patriot out in Utah… and intercepted an Aegis system out in White Sands.

‘We’ve also tracked other moving targets out in Utah. Most recently we’ve added this tactical ballistic missile threat detection.’

The testing was conducted on 6 December and came under an extended US Army-funded project. The service has announced that it wishes to conduct an operational evaluation on JLENS at Aberdeen Proving Ground, which Raytheon is expected to have some participation in. ‘As soon as Aberdeen is ready to receive it, it will be in the field,’ Rose explained.

One JLENS system is currently based at the Utah test range, and another at White Sands, but it is currently unclear which will be transitioned to Aberdeen. It has also not yet been determined what the fate of the other system will be.

‘[The army have] given us some excellent feedback on how to format the screens and how to make their lives easier,’ Rose continued. ‘Through the two-plus years that we’ve had the system at Utah and White Sands we’ve found some components that we’ve wanted to upgrade to improve reliability, but we think it is now a very reliable system.

‘I think this programme has really found its stride by meeting its key testing [goals]. This system is now maturing and is ready and has proven capabilities. As identified by the army, this is ready to move into an operational evaluation. It has hit speed bumps over the years, but it is now moving forward.’

JLENS demonstrated its capability against cruise missiles when it enabled Patriot and Standard Missile 6 intercepts of cruise missile surrogates during separate earlier tests, according to Raytheon. The aerostat has also completed two developmental trials and demonstrated its ability to stay aloft for long durations.

In December the company verified JLENS’ ability to simultaneously track swarming boats, cars, trucks and non-swarming boats, manned and unmanned aircraft, while in January Raytheon announced it had carried out a demonstration of its MTS-B Multi-Spectral Targeting System mounted on the JLENS that proved the system capable of observing surface moving targets in real time.

During the latter demonstration, an MTS-B EO/IR sensor mounted on an aerostat tracked numerous targets, including a terrorist role-player planting an IED.

Video from the MTS-B was passed through the JLENS tether, enabling operators to watch live feed of trucks, trains and cars from dozens of kilometres away. While the MTS-B was in operation, the JLENS simultaneously tracked surface targets with its radar, demonstrating the potential to integrate radar and EO/IR payloads.

25-06-13, 11:37 PM

A Defense Technology Blog

Twin-Hull in the Troposphere -- EADS's Arctic Airship

Posted byGraham Warwick3:12 PM on Jun 24, 2013

Twin rigid hulls, hybrid aerostatic/aerodynamic lift, variable buoyancy control, 40-day unmanned endurance -- meet the Tropospheric Airship concept from EADS Innovation Works, the European giant’s research and technology arm.

Concepts: EADS Innovation Works

Intended for long-endurance, all-weather surveillance missions over the Arctic, the Tropospheric Airship is designed to climb to 5,000m (16,500ft) on buoyant lift, then use additional aerodynamic lift to reach its 7,000m (23,000ft) operating altitude. This reduces the hull volume required to accommodate helium expansion, compared with an airship designed to reach 7,000m on aerostatic lift alone.

Add to this the catamaran design, which splits the required volume between two hulls, which can then be more aerodynamically streamlined. The Tropospheric Airship is 90m long, 60m wide, but only 8m high, making it low enough to be stored in a hangar. It is also faster than a conventional airship, loitering at 60km/hr (30kt) but dashing at up to 150km/hr (80kt).

EADS IW has come up with a deceptively simple means of varying buoyancy to control not only climb and descent, but also pitch and roll. This involves multi-segment buoyancy cells in the lower part of the two hulls. Extending a cell increases its volume, reduces gas pressure and therefore increases buoyant lift. Conversely retracting a cell reduces volume, compresses the gas and reduces buoyant lift.

Extending and retracting the cells in unison allows the airship to climb or descend. Extending and retracting them differentially provides pitch and roll control. Ducted fans in the nose and tail of each hull provide yaw control. The wings can generate negative lift for landing and ground handling without a mooring mast. Pusher props driven by diesel engines or electric motors provide propulsion.

EADS IW says it has completed initial definition of the Tropospheric Airship, and is “now seeking partners for follow-on work that could lead to flight test of a first (manned) demonstrator in three years.” Here is EADS's video of the concept:

EADS unmanned Arctic hybrid airship

Published on 24 Jun 2013

EADS Innovation Works video animation of its concept for an un manned airship to provide pesistent surevillance of the Arctic. The airship is a catamaran, with rigid hulls using helium to provide buoyancy and joined by wings to provide aerodynamic lift. Bouyancy is controlled passively the retracting sections of the lower hull to vary the helium volume. The 90m-long airship would fly for 40 days at 23,000ft, loitering at 60km/h but with a dash speed of 150km/h.

25-07-13, 02:18 AM
JLENS undergoes user testing

24 July 2013 - 18:08 by Beth Stevenson in London

The US Army’s Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) aerostat has completed Early User Testing (EUT) at the Utah Test and Training Range, manufacturer Raytheon has announced.

The tethered surveillance system underwent the testing between 4 May and 14 June, during which a 20-day endurance test was carried out, as well as a series of 21 missions using surrogate targets. These included cruise and ballistic missiles, swarm boats, and UAVS.

Speaking to a media briefing on 24 July, Doug Burgess, JLENS programme manager at Raytheon, said no official report from the army has been released yet, although the company ‘feels it has hit high marks’ during the six weeks of tests.

‘We think this is now ready to be operated by soldiers,’ Burgess explained. ‘The system is currently in Utah…and will have to be shipped to Aberdeen [Proving Grounds] to get it ready a year from now for the flag rising of initial operation.’

Some 100 soldiers have been trained to use the system to date, with more to do so before it reaches IOC.

This EUT was the second for JLENS, following the first one that took place ‘in the fall’ of 2012, which saw soldiers begin operating the system. The lessons learned from the first EUT were fed into the recent testing, for which there were some system aborts, although these have mostly been rectified, Burgess noted.

In February is was announced that the system demonstrated tactical ballistic missile defence using its X-band radar at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, adding to a series of demonstrations conducted on board the platform in recent years. The development programme is due to complete in September, and Burgess stated that any teething problems that remain from EUT 2 will have been corrected by then.

31-08-13, 06:14 AM
Atlant Rising: Russia Fights to Lead Airship Revival

© RIA Novosti. Ramil Sitdikov

20:08 26/08/2013

KIRZHACH, Vladimir Region, August 26 (Alexey Eremenko, RIA Novosti) – The eerie sensation of seeing something the size of a house floating in the air is something that no photograph can capture.

That was the sight witnessed from the ground on Sunday when the 55-meter-long AU-30 blimp, built by Russian company Augur RosAeroSystems, soared away from the country’s sole, recently reopened “dirigibledrome” in Russia’s central Vladimir Region for a 100-kilometer journey to Russia’s prime airshow, MAKS, which kicks off Tuesday.

But the AU-30, with its maximum payload of half a ton, is itself about to be dwarfed by Augur’s next project: the Atlant, which will be able to carry 16 tons of cargo through the air – provided the project gets off the ground.

Six decades after the German passenger airship the Hindenburg burst into flames and plunged to the ground in a matter of seconds in 1937, putting a fiery end to the golden age of the dirigible, the airship industry slowly willed itself back into existence over the 2000s. It was a process driven to a considerable extent by Soviet-educated enthusiasts on both sides of the Atlantic.

Airships are cheaper to fly than helicopters and airplanes, can carry more cargo than heavier-than-air flying vehicles and are capable of reaching remote and hard-to-reach areas such as the far north, proponents say. A Hindenburg-style explosion is no longer a risk, because modern airships fly on inert helium rather than flammable hydrogen.

Nevertheless, for the time being, mammoth cargo airships mostly remain at the drawing board stage. Critics say big airships struggle with lift control problems, which also requires costly infrastructure, including hangars.

“Maybe customers just don’t need big airships,” said Roman Gusarov, editor-in-chief of aviation news website Avia.ru.

But at Augur – one of the world’s leaders in the admittedly tiny field of lighter-than-air aircraft making – they are sure the world needs more cargo airships.

Eye in the Sky

The nominal purpose of Augur’s blimps is aerial photography and technical monitoring, though at least one was bought by a Thai company for advertising purposes, Goodyear Blimp-style, Augur vice president Mikhail Talesnikov said in an interview with RIA Novosti.

He estimated the world’s entire dirigible fleet at about 50 vehicles, with one in five produced by Augur, a private company established in 1991 that carved a niche for itself making airships and unmanned tethered balloons. The latter are increasingly used for surveillance purposes, both civilian (such as monitoring traffic) and military, he said. Two such aircraft made by the US company TCOM can be seen in the sky over Kabul, watching the approaches to the city airport for signs of the Taliban.

One of 12 blimps that Augur has sold since 2005 was meant to fly to the North Pole.

“A group of French explorers bought it. But they mishandled it, and now it’s inoperable,” Alexei Arkhipov, deputy director of the “dirigibledrome” in the town of Kirzhach, said in an interview under the belly of a parked AU-30.

At the MAKS airshow in the city of Zhukovsky this week, the AU-30 will perform daily two-hour flights, possibly showcasing its traffic monitoring capabilities, though not taking on board any passengers due to paperwork problems, Augur spokesman Alexei Mitrofanov said Monday.

Flying Freighters

But what every blimp maker in the world dreams about is cargo airships – and they have their reasons.

The cost of flying an airship is $150-$200 per hour, compared to $1,500-$4,000 for helicopters, Sergei Bendin of the Russian Aeronautical Society said in an article on Cnews.ru in 2009.

Admittedly, an airship is only handy when speed is not a priority: The AU-30’s cruise speed is only 80 kph (50 mph). But the floating airships can stay in the air much longer than heavier-than-air aircraft.

Then there is the price: The Atlant will cost 30 percent less than a Mi-26 heavy transport helicopter, Talesnikov said. The price range for a Mi-26 is $20 million to $25 million, though it can carry four more tons of cargo than Augur’s prospective airship.

The Atlant, whose maiden flight is tentatively expected in 2017 or 2018, could trigger a new era for petroleum companies, which will be able to access oil and gas fields in Siberia and the Arctic whose exploration is currently unprofitable because of the exorbitant costs of building road and pipeline infrastructure, Talesnikov said.

While cargo transport may be the most lucrative potential held by airships, it is far from the only possible use. Passenger transportation could become significantly less of a headache for remote localities in Siberia, Alaska and northern Canada with the introduction of airships, Robert Knotts of the international Airship Association, a London-based non-profit group, said in emailed comments.

The military is also interested in having a cheap means of hauling troops and equipment over long distances. Augur’s main counterpart in the United States, the California-based Aeros, has been tapping into grants from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) since 2005.

What’s the Catch?

Russian border guards considered getting an AU-30 for their detachments fighting drug trafficking along the long and porous Kazakh border in Central Asia, Talesnikov said.

Traffickers move at night, invisible and untraceable, but a jet black blimp with an infrared camera and a platoon of soldiers on board could sweep down on them like an owl on an unsuspecting mouse – if only it could actually unload the troops without vanishing into the sky due to changed buoyancy.

Loading and unloading is a fundamental issue for airships, whose flying characteristics are heavily influenced by their weight and changes in it, Augur’s Arkhipov said.

Dirigibles of the Hindenburg generation had to pump tons of water or sand into the ballast tanks when unloading passengers, which required complicated infrastructure – as did the mooring and parking.

The operability of modern blimps is also limited by wind force. The AU-30 cannot fly in winds with a speed of over 12 m/s – a force six wind on the 12-degree Beaufort scale, and just a breeze by Siberian standards.

Dirigibles may be cheaper to fly, but not to maintain, given the costs of mooring masts and the hangars they need to be sheltered in during strong winds, said Alexei Sinitsky, editor-in-chief of the Aviatransportnoye Obozrenie (Air Transport Observer) trade magazine.

“The enthusiasm of airship aficionados can be understood, but there are all kinds of boring unromantic issues involved,” Sinitsky said.

A New Generation

However, airship makers claim to have solutions for all the problems.

The main breakthrough was the development of a new ballast system, in which air-filled ballonets are placed inside the airship’s helium-filled outer envelope, said Talesnikov.

The system eliminates the need for water or sand-based ballast, and makes it possible to unload and park simply by operating the air pump handles, he said. The technology was developed independently by both Augur and the US Aeros, and is implemented in the AU-30 and the American company’s Aeroscraft machine, whose scaled-down unmanned prototype was unveiled earlier this year.

New generation airships are also partly reliant on engines and aerodynamic shape for lift, which improves maneuverability, said Knotts of the Airship Association.

Aircraft developers struggle to raise funds for research and development, Sinitsky said. But Talesnikov claimed that Augur – a resident of Russia’s hi-tech hub Skolkovo – is already getting options for the Atlant from oil companies and Siberian regional authorities. He gave no figures for the options, but said R&D costs for the aircraft will be between $55 million and $70 million.

A Phoenix From the Ashes

The first “dirigible” – powered by steam – took to the skies over France in 1852, but the golden age of the airship was the first decades of the 20th century, when Count Zeppelin developed rigid airships (a constructive step up from blimps, which have no rigid carcass) powered by combustion engines.

But even at the time, no cargo airships were made – and in terms of passenger transportation and military use, the slow and hazardous hydrogen-filled airships could not compete with the rapidly developing heavier-than-air aviation.

Airships fell out of use following World War II, surviving mostly in popular culture, from the name of the rock band Led Zeppelin to the gigantic propelled lighter-than-air machines featured in the “steampunk” genre of science fiction, such as the creations of Oscar-winning Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki.

However, in the 1990s, Germany’s resurrected Zeppelin company funded the production of the semi-rigid airship Zeppelin NT.

The project was driven more by nostalgia than desire for profit, Talesnikov said. But more companies followed, including the British Hybrid Air Vehicles, as well as the US firms Lockheed Martin and Boeing, both of which designed airships, though never built them.

A Childhood Passion

Russia’s Augur was established in 1991 and premiered its first airship, the AU-11, in 2005; the US Aeros was created in 1993. Curiously enough, both companies’ CEOs – Gennady Verba and Igor Pasternak, respectively – were schoolmates in the Ukrainian city of Lvov who developed a passion for airships back in middle school and went on to pursue their dream on different sides of the Atlantic, Talesnikov said.

“I wasn’t an enthusiast at first; Verba simply invited me to join them 13 years ago, when they were just getting into airships,” said Talesnikov, who also went to the same school as Verba and Pasternak.

“And I got hooked,” he said with an apologetic laugh, before launching into a tantalizing explanation of what flying in an airship feels like.

11-09-13, 05:44 AM
Thundebird 2 is go! California firm unveils gigantic amphibious airship which could revolutionize air travel as we know it

The Aeroscraft can take off and land without an airstrip meaning it can operate even in war zones and disaster areas

By Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED:16:19 GMT, 10 September 2013| UPDATED: 17:48 GMT, 10 September 2013

Zeppelins were once considered the future of air transport - but after the horror of the Hindenburg disaster, they disappeared from the skies for more than 75 years.

Now a pioneering aviation firm hopes to bring back the airships in a bid to revolutionise the global market in transporting freight.

The Aeroscraft is built using innovative technology which allows it to control its flight better than previous airships, so it should avoid the problems experienced by the first generation of zeppelins.

Revolutionary: The Aeroscraft airship, pictured during testing, is set to reintroduce the zeppelin to the world's skies

Nearly ready: The zeppelin is set to have its first full test flight, and will roll off the production line from mid-2015

It requires only a third as much fuel as an aeroplane carrying cargo, and it can take off and land anywhere even without a formal airstrip - including on water - making it well suited to war zones and disaster areas.

The aircraft has been designed thanks to a $3million grant from the U.S. government, and it will soon be ready for its first test flight, according to Business Insider.

The Aeroscraft is designed by Worldwide Aeros Corp., who predict that it will change the way that goods are moved around the world by providing a mode of transport which is cheaper than planes but faster than ships.

The key technological breakthrough came when the firm's founder Igor Pasternak came up with a way to compress helium, which allows the airship to control its weight.

Impressive: The new age of the zeppelin relies on technology which compresses helium to allow better control of the aircraft

Pilots: Similar to a conventional aeroplane, the Aeroscraft has a pilot and a co-pilot sitting in the cockpit

Lift-off! The appeal of the new-style blimp comes from the fact that it costs just a third as much to fly as an aeroplane

The Aeroscraft can take off and land vertically, like a helicopter, so it can visit destinations which do not have an airport.

This means that even though its 115mph average speed is much slower than a jet aeroplane at 500mph-plus, the overall travel time could be lower because it can travel directly from where goods are produced to where they are needed.

Worldwide Aeros hope that this will make it useful to the military and aid charities operating in parts of the world with poorly developed infrastructure on the ground.

Market: The firm behind the airship insists that it will be perfect for any company involved in transporting goods

Testing: The manufacturers will be hoping to avoid the safety problems which plagued early generations of zeppelins

It may seem flimsy compared to a metal jet, but the Aeroscraft has bulletproof skin, and even if its exterior is breached it does not deflate like a balloon.

The firm claims that its first airships will be available to customers in mid-2015, when they will be rented out for a year at a time.

A model of the zeppelin which carries 66 tonnes will cost more than $25million per year, while a 250-tonne version will be $55million.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2416809/Return-zeppelin-Firm-unveils-gigantic-airship-revolutionise-goods-carried-world.html#ixzz2eYGN7YIs

24-09-13, 11:05 AM
TCOM Announces Compact Tactical Aerostat for Rapid Deployment

Posted on September 24, 2013

by The Editor

TCOM has announced the launch of its newest aerostat platform, the 12M Tactical Aerostat. The system is designed specifically to meet the needs of the warfighter and first responders who require a compact, affordable persistent surveillance solution that can be transported anywhere, rapidly deployed and easily retrieved. This new 12M system is the most compact tactical aerostat in TCOM’s line of aerostat platforms incorporating design innovations from the company’s battlefield-proven 17M and 22M platforms. It is ideally suited for time-critical surveillance missions, when operators need to improve or restore domain awareness in their area of responsibility. “The 12M Tactical Aerostat is an essential tool for anyone who needs reliable surveillance or communications rapidly,” stated TCOM President Ron Bendlin. “The compact size and portability allows for quick deployment, and the extended range means that operators are able to obtain actionable information when they need it most.” Like the 17M, the 12M aerostat system is highly versatile and simple to operate. The system can be quickly deployed from a vehicle with minimal manning and is easily transported in a single 7.5′x7.5′x6.5′ container.

The system’s mooring station is built on a versatile base that uses ISO corners to standardize mounting on various platforms or directly on the ground. With a standard tether length to support operational altitude of 1,000 feet, the 12MTactical Aerostat can accommodate a variety of payloads up to 60 lbs. from communications equipment to video and infrared cameras. It is currently being integrated with the Broadband Meshable Data Link (BMDL) and a stabilized turret camera for specific demonstrations. The BMDL will relay video, audio, and GPS data through a radio system mounted on the aerostat to extend the usable range far beyond that of a tactical, terrestrial antenna.

The stabilized turret camera can be controlled by operators on the ground or from the mooring system using a joystick – with a surveillance area greatly enhanced by the operational altitude of the 12M. The system is very affordable, with an extremely low hourly operating cost as compared to other manned and unmanned aerial surveillance systems while providing unmatched persistence from a single platform. Its ease of use, portability, and small operational footprint all add to the value this new system brings to the warfighter or first responder. “This capability is a force multiplier for the expeditionary forces. I would have liked to have deployed with it when I was forward deployed,” stated Lieutenant General USMC, Retired Jan Huly.

Source: Press Release - See more at: http://www.uasvision.com/2013/09/24/tcom-announces-compact-tactical-aerostat-for-rapid-deployment/#more-27297

26-09-13, 03:44 PM
Lighter Than Air Systems Receives Order for Aerostat Systems to Support the U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force

(Source: World Surveillance Group Inc.; issued September 25, 2013)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL --- World Surveillance Group Inc., a developer of lighter-than-air aerostats and unmanned aerial systems, announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, Lighter Than Air Systems Corp. (LTAS), has received an order from prime defense contractor Universal Solutions International for five custom aerostat systems and subcomponents to support the U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force (REF). The aerostat systems and related components will be delivered directly into active overseas operations to support U.S. military troops in staged shipments beginning within 30 days.

The LTAS aerostat systems requested by the REF were custom-designed and engineered, and will be manufactured, to provide capabilities for specific mission requirements. The systems include aerostats, winches, tank racks and related support equipment. This order follows a previous REF order where LTAS delivered seven custom-engineered, critical aerostat launcher main winches and spare components to support the Small Tactical Multi-Payload Aerostat System ("STMPAS").

Glenn D. Estrella, WSGI President and CEO, stated "We are excited by the follow-on order from REF and the opportunity to provide the Army with critical aerostat systems and components to immediately support our troops in sensitive ongoing operations. We will work diligently to prepare the aerostat systems for prompt delivery and deployment. We intend to continue to execute on our strategy to provide tactical aerostat solutions for military and commercial applications both at home and globally."

World Surveillance Group Inc. designs, develops, markets and sells autonomous, lighter-than-air advanced aerostats and UAS capable of carrying payloads that provide persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), security and/or wireless communications solutions at low and mid altitudes.

Lighter Than Air Systems Corp. (LTAS), a wholly owned subsidiary of World Surveillance Group Inc. provides critical aerial and land based surveillance and communications solutions to government and commercial customers.


08-10-13, 05:25 AM
WWII-era blimp hangar's partial collapse triggers helium leak

Entrepreneur is ready to prove his zeppelin idea is more than hot air

By Adolfo Flores and Don Bartletti

October 7, 2013, 12:00 p.m.

Video here: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-blimb-hangar-collapse-helium-leak-20131007,0,6398303.story
(PR video about the airship program)

A portion of the roof of a World War II-era blimp hangar in Tustin collapsed early Monday, damaging a $35-million experimental zeppelin and triggering a helium leak.

Employees at the hangar were evacuated and a hazardous material teams was working to contain the leak, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi said.

"We had a collapse of a large section and it fell onto a blimp that caused damage," Concialdi said. He said the incident was reported at 7:45 a.m.

The extent of the damage was unknown and the cause has not been determined, Concialdi said. There were no reports of injuries.

The damaged blimp was identified as an Aeroscraft zeppelin, an airship made of aluminum and carbon fiber that its builders says represents a new type of "hybrid" aircraft that combines airplane and airship technologies.
The experimental version of a cargo-hauling airship is being built by Worldwide Aeros Corp.

Worldwide Aeros declined to immediately comment on the damage.

18-10-13, 03:15 AM
Funding Legislation Transfers Blimp Fleet to DHS

Oct. 17, 2013 1:02 PM

Written by ANDY MEDICI

The legislation that ended the government shutdown Wednesday night also transferred control of a fleet of surveillance blimps from the Air Force to the Department of Homeland security.

The bill authorized funding levels needed to “sustain border security operations, including the sustaining of the operation of Tethered Aerostat Radar Systems” — stationary blimps with radar systems mounted on them. The blimps are used to detect low-flying aircraft involved in drug trafficking along the border with Mexico and can stay about 14,000 feet in the air for up to six days.

The Air Force has received $213.5 million in funding for eight blimps from fiscal 2007 to 2012, according to an October, 2012 Government Accountability Office report.

Sixteen members of Congress sent a letter to the Defense Department and the Office of Management and Budget Jan. 31 urging the administration to keep the blimps operational.

The administration had originally planned to ground the blimps March 15 and the launch sites were scheduled to be closed Sept. 30.

“TARS is an important surveillance and command-and-control resource, particularly with respect to the detection, monitoring and interdiction of suspicious low-flying aircraft,” the lawmakers said in the letter. “We believe that termination of the program will substantially degrade counter-narcotics operations because a suitable alternative to TARS has not been identified.”

28-10-13, 02:00 AM
US Military's Airship Programs Lose Altitude

Oct. 27, 2013 - 01:19PM

By DANIEL DE LUCE, Agence France-Presse

MZ-3A, the US Navy's only airship currently in operation, is moored March 26 at Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport in Florida. (MCS 2nd Class Adam Henderson / US Navy)

WASHINGTON — The US military has invested billions in blimp-like aircraft to track militants planting roadside bombs but the spyship experiment is losing altitude because of technical failures and changing priorities.

The lighter-than-air projects were billed as an innovative revival of an old aircraft design to conduct “unblinking” surveillance on the battlefield — at a fraction of the cost of fuel-guzzling planes or helicopters.

The Pentagon invested $7 billion in airship programs between 2007 and 2012, but the funding has mostly dried up amid budget cuts and embarrassing setbacks.

Tethered balloons equipped with radar have been used routinely for surveillance by US forces over the past decade and are a common sight floating over American bases in Afghanistan.

But the big money went towards airships, which are a step up from the “aerostats” held by ropes. The airships fly on their own power similar to the zeppelins of the World War I era, while carrying more technology on board.

The most ambitious project was the Army’s massive, unmanned airship, the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV), which was launched in 2010 with plans to deploy the craft to Afghanistan within 18 months.

The LEMV, manufactured by Northrop Grumman, was supposed to be equipped with sensors that could track enemy mortar rounds, withstand small arms fire with special material and also serve as a cargo ship that could handle up to 20 tons of supplies.

Northrop Vice President Brad Metzger promised it would “redefine persistent surveillance.”

After falling behind schedule, the 300-foot-long (90 meters) airship ran into major trouble after its first flight at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey in August 2012.

It turned out to be 12,000 pounds (5,400 kilograms) overweight because of problems with its tailfins and other systems, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of the US Congress.

The weight problem meant that the craft could not stay in the air for three weeks as planned at an altitude of 20,000 feet, but only for four to five days.

After the first test, there was a post-flight review and engineers came with up “with a long list of things that needed to be repaired,” said John Cummings, an Army spokesman.

Facing daunting technical hurdles, along with a reduced appetite for surveillance in Afghanistan amid a troop drawdown, the Army decided to scrap the program after spending an estimated $294 million.

For critics, the program’s short-lived, expensive history seemed to embody everything wrong with the Pentagon’s bureaucracy. But officials said the concept was promising and the results simply were not up to expectations.

“This was a very interesting program. We are all disappointed it didn’t go the way we wanted it to,” Cummings said.

The US Air Force pursued its own helium-filled spyship, the Blue Devil 2, that was supposed to hover over battlefields for days, equipped with state-of-the-art sensors and cameras.

The Blue Devil 2 suffered similar problems as the Army’s project, missing deadlines and failing technical thresholds.

Like the LEMV, the Blue Devil’s tailfins were far too heavy, so heavy in fact that the airship could not fly, according to the GAO. There also were problems with flight control software.

After spending about $115 million, the Air Force called off the Blue Devil program in June 2012.

Other airships have flunked their flight tests.

The HALE-D, or high-altitude airship demonstrator, crashed on its first flight in July 2011, causing the destruction of its solar cells. In 2010, the solar-powered HiSentinel airship had a propulsion system failure after eight hours of a scheduled 24-hour flight.

A more modest Navy project, the MZ-3A research airship, has survived and is used to test sensors for the military and other government agencies.

The Navy calls it a “flying laboratory” that offers a “slow moving, vibration free” way to test out sensors designed for various aircraft.

As for the Army’s failed giant airship, the Defense Department tried to sell the LEMV for $44 million. Last month, it settled for a modest $301,000, officials said.

Under the terms of the sale, Cummings said that if the airship’s new owners “fly it again, we would be provided with data from their flights.”

12-11-13, 03:48 PM
Top I Vision Gets $2.8M Contract in Africa

Posted on November 12, 2013 by The Editor

Top I Vision has been awarded a contract for supplying airborne intelligence systems to a country in Africa with a value of more than 10 million NIS ($2.8 million).The Israeli company deals in the development and production tactical observation systems onboard balloons, mini-UAS and stabilized lightweight payloads for civilian and military purposes.

The company’s observation balloons transmit high-quality, real-time imagery and can cover extensive aerial areas. The system makes it possible to track after large crowds at sport events, entertainment events, protests and more. The system can be used for various purposes, ranging from military purposes for protecting borders, intelligence support, perimeter security, VIP security and television broadcasts. In addition Top I Vision also developed an intelligence system based on mini-UAS controlled from a ground station and gathering intelligence in a designated area.

Top I Vision’s systems are presently operated in various countries around the world, including in Israel, the UK, Russia, the US, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, India, Colombia and others.

Source: Israel Defense

28-11-13, 10:17 AM
ADS Inc. to Distribute Blimp in a Box Aerostat Systems

Posted on November 28, 2013 by The Editor

Lighter Than Air Systems Corp. (“LTAS”), a wholly owned subsidiary of World Surveillance Group Inc. , a developer of lighter-than-air aerostats and unmanned aerial systems, has entered into a distributor agreement with U.S. Government prime contractor ADS, Inc. (“ADS”) to distribute Blimp in a Box aerostat systems (“BiB”) and related sustainment equipment.ADS is in the business of selling operational and tactical equipment to or for use by customers such as the United States Government and its various agencies and departments and other non commercial customers. ADS customers include the U.S. military, Federal agencies, defense contractors, law enforcement & public safety, fire & emergency services, and foreign military and governments.

LTAS developed and manufactures the BiB aerostat product line. The BiBs are intended to provide semi-persistent, mobile intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (“ISR”) for various applications. Each BiB system can provide low cost, mobile ISR for days, weeks or months with the BiB only requiring a 15 minute recovery and re-launch between top-off every 24-36 hours.

WSGI President and CEO, Glenn D. Estrella, stated, “We look forward to working with one of the premier Government procurement organizations in introducing the BiB to their diversified domestic and global customer base. This agreement is an excellent opportunity for our Company by enabling current and potential customers to efficiently procure our products and services and is another logical step in executing our strategic plan.”

Source: Press Release
- See more at: http://www.uasvision.com/2013/11/28/ads-inc-to-distribute-blimp-in-a-box-aerostat-systems/#more-28493

01-03-14, 01:36 AM
Funding boost for British cargo-carrying airship

28 February 2014

Airships capable of carrying 50 tonne payloads received a funding boost today with the award of £2.5m from the Technology Strategy Board.

The funds are part of a £4m public and private sector project to develop specific engineering aspects of Hybrid Air Vehicles’ (HAV) current airship design in order for it to carry commercial loads and passengers.

HAV’s HAV304 - a 92m long airship capable of remaining airborne for five days manned at an altitude of up to 20,000 feet - flew in 2012 as part of a US Army/Northrop Grumman demonstration programme and will fly again this year as the company accelerates its plans to manufacture airships in Britain.

The current helium filled airship is powered by four 350hp, four litre V8 direct injection, turbocharged diesel engines and test flights this year will inform the design of Airlander 50, a cargo-carrying airship that will be built at the start of 2016 with first flights scheduled for 2018.

Stephen McGlennan, CEO of HAV, said the ability to take off and land vertically - and land on surfaces including water, desert, ice and fields - makes his company’s technology attractive to a number of customers requiring a point-to-point logistics solutions.

‘There’s thoughts about how you could do replenishment of aircraft carriers using these technologies, bringing whole engines for F-35s onto the carrier deck,’ he said.

Today’s grant announcement will help HAV create a detailed model of the aerodynamic characteristics of the aircraft and its engines using wind tunnels and CFD simulations; a methodology for engineering the largest composite structures used in aviation; and to develop the software that will control and monitor the hull pressure system.

Independent reports estimate a demand for between 600 and 1,000 units and HAV will use part of their funding to investigate improved manufacturing and assembly techniques, which in turn could lead to the creation of 1,800 jobs in and around the Bedfordshire area where the company has rented hangar space

Investor Bruce Dickinson, better known as the lead singer of rock group Iron Maiden, has invested £250,000 into the venture.

He said technology advances - leading to stability in flight control, structures, powertrain, weather forecasting, and ground handling - have advanced to a stage that makes airships a viable mode of air transportation.

In a statement, the government’s business Secretary Vince Cable said: ‘As part our long term industrial strategy we are jointly funding £2bn of research and development into the next generation of quieter, more energy efficient and environmentally friendly planes. That includes backing projects like Hybrid Air Vehicles’ innovative low carbon aircraft which can keep us at the cutting edge of new technology.’

Read more: http://www.theengineer.co.uk/aerospace/news/funding-boost-for-british-cargo-carrying-airship/1018121.article#ixzz2ufMyauic

19-04-14, 01:51 AM
Something different for Lighter-than-Air..............

Inflatable turbines: the windfarms of the future?

New prototypes for helium-filled turbines could provide energy to developing countries

The 'buoyant air turbine' is designed to harness energy from the strong wind currents higher up in the sky Photo: Altaeros/Rex Features

By Olivia Yallop

10:00AM BST 18 Apr 2014

Inflatable wind turbines that float thousands of feet above the ground could be the key to sustainable energy for the future, developers claim.

The helium filled 'buoyant air turbine' (BAT) is designed to harness energy from the strong wind currents higher up in the sky, transmitting it down cables attached to tethering ties. The tethers can automatically adjust the height of the turbine to catch the strongest winds.

US green energy company Altaeros Energies, which has developed the prototypes, believe the new turbines have the capability to reduce energy prices in remote locations and developing countries.

"The reason high altitude winds are so exciting and worth going after is really very simple: there’s just a lot more of it," explained Ben Glass, CEO of Altaeros Energies. “Winds 1,000 to 2,000 ft above the ground are on average five to eight times more powerful than what you get on the ground.”

Windfarms have long been a point of contention in the UK, with many believing current 'static' windfarms are uneconomic, low-yield, and blight the countryside.

“For decades, wind turbines have required cranes and huge towers to lift a few hundred feet off the ground where winds can be slow and gusty,” said Mr Glass.

“We are excited to demonstrate that modern inflatable materials can lift wind turbines into more powerful winds almost everywhere — with a platform that is cost competitive and easy to setup from a shipping container.”

19-05-14, 11:24 AM
CBP Launches Tethered Aerostat System in Puerto Rico

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Air and Marine Operations officially launched last Friday the Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) within its previous location in the southwestern coast of the island of Puerto Rico.

The Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Honorable Alejandro Garcia-Padilla, as well as representatives of various federal, state, and local partners, received a first-hand look into the operation of the TARS.

“By restoring the Tethered Aerostat Radar System program, CBP will have an additional asset to continue our collaborative operations and partnerships with other federal, state, and local law enforcement in the Caribbean,” stated Johnny Morales, director of air operations for the Caribbean Air and Marine Branch.

CBP recently assumed responsibility for the TARS from the U.S. Air Force (USAF). In August 2011, the former TARS crashed near its location in the municipality of Lajas, due to severe weather.

The aerostat-borne surveillance system — operating in the U.S. since 1978 and in Puerto Rico since the late 1980’s — provides radar detection and monitoring of low-altitude aircraft and surface vessels along the U.S.-Mexico border, the Florida Straits, and the Caribbean Sea and Mona Passage.

USAF and DHS personnel began the formal transfer of the TARS program, contracts, and operations responsibilities in March 2013. On July 1, 2013, CBP assumed official program and contract management responsibilities and have assumed all funding requirements in FY 2014.

The program consists of eight TARS aerostat sites with six along the Southwest Border (Yuma and Ft Huachuca, AZ.; Deming, NM; Marfa, Eagle Pass, and Rio Grande City, TX) and additional sites in the Florida Keys and Puerto Rico.

The TARS will augment fixed radar systems that currently support the Caribbean Air and Marine Operations Center, a component of CBP’s Office of Air and Marine Operations, which provides detection, monitoring, sorting, tracking and coordination of law enforcement response to suspect airborne and maritime activity at, beyond, and internal to America’s borders.

The Office of Air and Marine (OAM) is the world’s largest aviation and maritime law enforcement organization, and is a critical component of CBP’s layered enforcement strategy for border security. OAM is uniquely positioned to provide direct air and maritime support to multiple agencies and to ensure the success of border protection and law enforcement operations between ports of entry, within the maritime operating areas and within the nation’s interior.

Photo: TARS site, Lajas, Puerto Rico – U.S. CBP

Source: Government Security News

- See more at: http://www.uasvision.com/2014/05/19/cbp-launches-tethered-aerostat-system-in-puerto-rico/#more-31474

24-06-14, 11:42 AM
Army Readies JLENS Surveillance Aerostat

by Kris Osborn on June 23, 2014

The Army is developing 80-yard long surveillance balloons that can pinpoint targets from beyond-the-horizon by floating up to 10,000-feet in the sky and using radar technology to locate potential targets — such as approaching enemy missiles, aircraft or unmanned systems.

So far, the Army has acquired two systems of the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS. JLENS completed Early User Testing in the third quarter of 2013, and concluded system design and development in the fourth quarter of 2013, Raytheon officials said.

The JLENS system completed developmental testing in December of last year; one of the two systems will participate in an operational evaluation at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md., and the other is being placed in strategic reserve by the Army in case it is needed for deployments.

A single JLENS orbit, which can help defend population centers, ground troops or other assets consists of two helium-filled aerostats tethered to ground stations with a cable, Raytheon officials said.

One of the two aerostats is engineered with VHF radar technology that can scan the surrounding areas out to distances of 500 kilometers, said Douglass Burgess, JLENS director, Raytheon. The VHF radar scans 360-degrees and is designed to identify targets or areas of interest for the second aerostat which uses a more precise X-band radar, he added.

The X-band radar, while higher resolution, does not scan a 360-degree area but is instead segmented into specific areas or vectors, Burgess explained.

“The two radars work as a pair. They exchange data back and forth so you have a complete picture of what is around you,” he said. “The surveillance radar gives you large volume with a lot of objects. It provides pretty good quality data on where threats are and where they are going. The X-band radar only sees a sectored wedge at a time and it moves mechanically in the direction the threat is coming.”

By placing the radars high up in the air, JLENS could help ground units see over mountains and identify approaching threats from much longer distances that might be possible on the ground.

“At 10,000-feet, we’re not limited by the horizon anymore,” Burgess said.

On three separate test occasions, JLENS has demonstrated its ability to integrate with defensive systems and help Patriot, Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile and Standard Missile 6 weapons intercept a cruise missile target, Raytheon officials said.

JLENS has also tracked threats such as swarming boats, unmanned aircraft, and detected tactical ballistic missiles in their earliest phase of flight, the boost-phase.

Read more: http://defensetech.org/2014/06/23/army-readies-jlens-surveillance-aerostat/#ixzz35Y2s4U00

29-07-14, 11:03 PM
Israeli Firm Provides Power-by-The-Hour Intel in Gaza

Jul. 29, 2014 - 01:06PM | By BARBARA OPALL-ROME

An RT SkyStar 300 system operates along the Gaza border, but is not involved in the current Protective Edge operation. (RT LTA Systems)

TEL AVIV — An Israeli aerostat provider whose power-by-the-hour surveillance services have been used to protect targets as varied as Vladimir Putin to Madonna is working under fire along the Gaza border in support of Israeli forces.

Rami Shmueli, chief executive of RT LTA Systems, said the firm has fielded civilian teams to operate about a dozen SkyStar 180 aerostats, providing tactical intelligence and surveillance data from various points along the Gaza border.

SkyStar 180 joins larger SkyStar 300 systems operated by RT in support of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operations under a multiyear leasing contract with Israel’s MoD.

Each system is designed to withstand 40-knot winds and extreme temperatures for 72 hours of continuous intelligence and targeting data over wide areas in real time.

In Israel, SkyStars are equipped with the Speed-A payload by Controp, its subcontractor of choice based in Hod Hasharon, although RT can accommodate myriad payloads.

“We prefer to work with Controp, whose capabilities have proven to be excellent over many years. But we’ll carry any payload the customer prefers,” he said.

RT’s SkyStar production line of helium-filled aerostats tethered to ground systems is co-located at company headquarters in Yavne, a town repeatedly targeted by Gaza-launched rockets.

When asked if intermittent rocket alarms have disrupted business, Shmueli replied: “Our office is empty. We’re all on the Gaza border. We’re all part of the operation… and in the end, our business is about protecting the soldiers and the communities.”

Johnny Carni, vice president for marketing at Controp, said his firm is proud of its contribution in the ongoing Operation Protective Edge, now in its 22nd day.

“Without getting into too much detail, much of the imagery coming from Gaza that you see on YouTube and in the media is coming from our products,” he said.

Shmueli, a former director of aerostat operations in an elite military intelligence unit, said SkyStar made its operational debut in Gaza in 2006, providing power-by-the-hour video for IDF Southern Command. In Israel’s Cast Lead incursion into Gaza in 2008-2009, RT teams operated two systems.

Since then, MoD has contracted the firm to provide services from its fleet of larger SkyStar 300 aerostats when needed. Under the multiyear leasing contract, RT owns, operates and services the systems and is responsible for maintaining enough mission-ready operating teams to meet requirements.

“We understand that because of budget constraints, a country or an organization cannot always procure our products,” Shmueli said.

“So in addition to procurement and technical support services, we offer leasing packages that are all inclusive.”

In a July 29 interview, Shmueli said it takes only two people 20 minutes to inflate and fly SkyStar 180 and its 20-kilogram payload. For the larger 50-kilogram carrying SkyStar 300, it takes 40 minutes to launch continuous, 72-hour operations.

RT’s power-by-the-hour mission portfolio includes support for the Russian Presidential Guard at a recent Putin-hosted G8 Summit; Israel Police monitoring of an outdoor Madonna concert in Tel Aviv; and security services at last month’s World Cup games in Brazil. ■

Email: bopallrome@defensenews.com.

04-08-14, 11:09 PM
Hybrid airship flight test campaign to begin next year

By: Beth Stevenson in London

Source: Flightglobal.com

This story is sourced from Flightglobal.com 19 hours ago

Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) is to launch a flight test campaign for its Airlander 10 hybrid airship around May 2015, following a delay in raising funds to support the effort.

The company was originally due to fly the aircraft from its base in Bedfordshire in December this year, but encountered a delay in raising the required £5 million ($8.4 million). The equity round is due to be finalised on 15 August.

Once the first flight test has been conducted, the aircraft will carry out some 200 flight hours over 1-2 months to prove its capabilities, after which customer demonstrations are planned to take place.

The company admits the pressure to raise equity has been “very eye-opening”, after having to push back closing the equity round from its originally slated date in March this year.

Beth Stevenson/Flightglobal

HAV says it is two years away from the first type certification for the Airlander 10. The aircraft currently in its hangar will remain as a demonstrator, but the second aircraft will be commercially viable.

The airship was originally developed for the US Army’s Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) programme, which was cancelled in 2013.

Northrop Grumman acted as prime contractor on the development – primarily to integrate mission equipment – but the air vehicle was developed by HAV. The company bought back the vehicle from the army in October 2013 for $301,000. One flight test was conducted under the LEMV effort before the project was axed.

HAV claims the army still shows interest in the development, and is being informed on progress made.

One consequence of converting a military-developed aircraft into a system that could be commercially developed was that the project fell under US International Traffic in Arms Regulations restrictions.

These have now been lifted, HAV says, so developments that arise from the Airlander 10 can now be fed into the Airlander 50 – a larger variant of the current model planned for development.

Previously, the two projects were made distinct so the Airlander 50 was not hindered by the restrictions applied to the 10.
HAV says Airlander 50 will be a heavy-lift hybrid airship, and is on track to be rolled out in 2018-2019.

02-09-14, 11:52 AM
ANALYSIS: Airships seek cargo role after military backout

By: Beth Stevenson in London

Source: 9 hours ago

Originally an aircraft used for passenger transit, and then subsequently for weapons delivery and surveillance by the German military during the First World War, airships are now being transitioned towards the logistics market as industry touts lighter-than-air (LTA) technology for cargo applications.

Unlike other types of aircraft that have also inevitably seen challenges over their lifetimes yet still remain relevant, airships are currently not operational in roles other than advertising and the odd nostalgic tourist ride.

The industry has again found itself in its infancy, looking to overcome an array of challenges, including: mastering and certifying the technology; defining the requirement; raising sufficient funds to bring the aircraft to market; ensuring it saves the user money; and increasing the demand for this aircraft type as a replacement for other vehicle types.

The military – which previously sponsored the gamut of developments of this type – has seemingly taken a step back and is now observing how the commercial cargo market progresses, and by its own admittance, the airship industry is developing slowly.
The move away from government-sponsored developments has also raised the issue of funding. Programmes are now being sponsored by private investors, and subsequently raising the funds required can take much longer.

“For 60 years people have been trying to figure out how to make airships into efficient and economical cargo airships,” Igor Pasternak, chief executive, chief engineer and founder of Worldwide Aeros Corp, says. “We expect it will be a big global market, with plenty of opportunity for operators reliant on infrastructure and hub-and-spoke operations.”

Pasternak adds that the global market “is desperate” for a logistics solution that can bridge sealift and airlift in terms of cost-per-tonne mile and delivery speed. Airships are expected to reduce fuel consumption, lessen environmental impacts and operational manpower requirements, doing this while eliminating infrastructure development costs and delays.

Worldwide Aeros Corp

A tainted reputation – albeit one from 70 years ago – is another argument for the delayed development, namely the 1937 Hindenburg disaster when an airship blew up.

The Zeppelin LZ-129 Hindenburg-class airship was a hydrogen-filled passenger aircraft – something which contributed to its demise. Hydrogen can lift a lot of weight – beneficial for passenger-carrying – but is highly flammable.

Helium on the other hand is also buoyant but not flammable, which is why airships are built to this design now.

In addition to the helium, some power also has to be added in order to provide the speed and lift capacity that airship applications will demand, which is why the majority of developments are hybrid airship designs, which combine LTA with heavier-than-air (HTA) capabilities.

Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works got to work on its P-791 hybrid airship demonstrator to compete for the US Army’s Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) programme, although it lost out on the tender to a Northrop Grumman-led team.

P-791 development has now been completed, and Lockheed is working on a commercially viable hybrid airship design that will come in three sizes.

Lockheed is working towards Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) type certification for its hybrid airship, and expects to achieve this – and have developed a commercial product that it can take to market – in some two to three years.

Lockheed Martin

“It is important that before this is brought [to market], the cargo is there,” Bob Boyd, programme manager for hybrid airships at Lockheed explains.

He emphasises that the cost-savings have to be there in order for cargo transporters to want to opt for this new technology, otherwise it offers nothing new to the market.

Regarding taking the design to a military market, Boyd says that he expects the interest to be there when it is ready, as it fits certain requirements: “It is very clear from the US military that they would buy this by the tonne/mile,” he adds.

The services will not buy this, he says, but will rather purchase services from a commercial company: “They certainly learned that airship technology was not as easy as they thought it was.

“I think the key factor in this industry is to develop a product that works effectively and is reliable.”

While there is quite a robust marketplace for airships – and there is a lot of room for many players to get involved – any failure in the reliability of the aircraft being developed would be a setback for the whole industry.

LEMV was led by Northrop, but Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), based out of Bedfordshire, UK, provided the air vehicle.

Following the cancellation in 2013, HAV purchased the air vehicle back from the army for $301,000, and since then has been developing the system as a cargo-carrying hybrid airship for commercial applications initially.

Funding has been a challenge for the company, which admits that it saw a five-month setback following it not raising the required £5 million ($8.3 million) equity to take it to first flight since bringing it back to the UK.

This will now take place in the May 2015 timeframe once the equity round finalises on 15 August, although it was originally due to take place in December 2014.

Airlander 10 is the name of the first system in development, which has small cargo lift and passenger capacity and will eventually be followed by the Airlander 50 – a heavy-lift platform.

The company says that the UK Ministry of Defence has agreed to three months of testing for the Airlander 10 once it is flying.

It adds that because the payload capacity of hybrid airships is so large, many sensor developers in the UK are keen to integrate their systems on the Airlander, and are therefore putting pressure on the government to invest in the capability.

During the Farnborough air show in July, UK prime minister David Cameron pledged that the government would invest £1.1 billion in a range of specific MoD programmes, including an earmarked amount of money for undisclosed/unofficial developments.

Beth Stevenson

HAV believes that the Airlander could come under this investment, although nothing has been officiated.

International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) had to be lifted once the aircraft had been returned to the UK, which recently was done. Until this time, the development of the 10 and 50 had to be separated so that ITAR restrictions did not affect the 50’s development.

The design of the aircraft makes it rather stealthy, so is suited for military applications. The curve of the airframe provides a low silhouette, while a low infrared signature as a result of low engine use protects it against heat-seeking missiles. It also has a low radar signature because it uses mainly composites instead of metal, and travels slowly and quietly, therefore is visually and audibly stealthy.

“This genuinely solves a military ISR problem,” the company says. “There is increasingly a need to watch the bad people all the time – this will be a crucial discriminator.”

AeroVehicles, based out of San Luis, Argentina, is also in the process of developing a hybrid airship design, which again has not yet flown a prototype.


The company has origins in the military airship market, having received a contract for its Minicat 80 non-rigid remote-controlled aircraft from the US government in 2003. The programme was subsequently cancelled, as was Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Walrus programme that the company was also involved in.

After structural changes, the company focused on developing its AeroCat vehicle through private investment – from one investor in particular – as well as Argentinian government support.

This is why there is not yet a demonstrator, says Bob Fowler, chief executive of the company, although it is now looking to accelerate this and utilise local industry in Argentina, which currently does not have a burgeoning aerospace industry.

Argentinian aerospace certification standards are in line with the FAA’s, so this will ease export of the system once it is commercially viable.

Fowler says that there are two companies interested in the design, to whom aircraft specification documents have been issued.

“The airship industry has had lots of obstacles to overcome,” Fowler says. “Somebody will be the first to market… We’ve been doing everything slowly but steadily.

“We are not in a race to be the first to market.”

Varialift has for a decade been planning to develop a rigid aluminium-hull design, which it claims will allow it to be built and stored outside without the need for a hangar.

The company has patented a helium compression technology that allows operators to transfer helium in and out of containers on-board the aircraft in order to vary the buoyancy between LTA and HTA configurations. Patents exist in the Europe, Hong Kong and the USA, and were all granted between 2008 and 2009.

Varialift claims that helium alone is required to lift the airship, thus reducing the power constraints on the vehicle – Cranfield University in the UK is involved in the design work.

The manned configuration of the airship will manifest in two different variants – the ARH 50 with a 50-tonne payload, and the ARH250 with a 250-tonne payload, and a crew of two and three respectively. Operating altitude for these could reach some 30,000ft.

An aircraft has not yet been built, but the company is working towards this under a new round of funding from a private investor. The first production line will be at a former French air force base, it is believed, which will initially develop the ARH50.

“Right now we’re setting up the factory, and are going through the EASA certification; we will be producing one a month in 24 months’ time in France,” Ernesto Soria, director for business development at Varialift, says.

“We have the site set up in France. We’ve done the preliminary work for certification, and this will kick off soon, and essentially in 24 months’ time it will be ready.”

Soria says 170 ARH50 and 33 ARH250 aircraft are on pre-order for customers that will lease out the services of the Varialift for cargo carrying.

“We did not speak of our technology until our patents were granted, and this takes time,” Soria says of the development timeline. “We wanted to control our technology… and that is why the development did not go faster. We wanted to be very prudent and methodical.”

An unmanned variant is also in the pipeline – the ARH5 – which would be used at high altitudes of some 65,000ft and will rely on solar power.

“After the certification of the first craft, we will be certifying a 100% solar-powered airship, which means zero fuel with the same performance as the airships with aircraft engines,” Soria notes. Varialift thinks the first of the solar-powered aircraft will be available in four years’ time.

Worldwide Aeros Corp’s Aeroscraft airship was originally supported by military funding from the US Department of Defense, DARPA and NASA with the idea to carry heavy cargo to areas where troops are forward deployed as well as disaster relief areas.

The technology demonstration programme, dubbed “Project Pelican”, was funded to three military objectives: greater route flexibility, enhancement of disaster relief response, and fuel savings.

“US military involvement has been important in rapidly incubating this technology and programme development,” Pasternak notes. “The US military will always be customer number one because of our deep respect for their mission and invaluable support during technology incubation and demonstration.”

However Pasternak notes that the commercial market holds much more financial potential, but both markets will have requirements for this technology for cargo shipping.

“We expect disaster response utilisation will be irregular and unpredictable, but an operational priority whenever required,” he adds.

The advanced prototype – the “Dragon Dream” – has completed technology demonstrator flight testing, and the company expects FAA type certification within three years.

Two variants are being developed – the 66t payload ML866 and the 250t payload ML868 – and Worldwide Aeros Corp plans to develop four ML866s and 18 ML868s initially.

A hangar collapse in October 2013 delayed the development programme by some 10 months, but Pasternak remains confident that the company will be the first to market with its airship: “We in very unique situation today where we’re simply enjoying lack of competition.”

He says the LTA market has been limited by the prevalence of non-rigid design as well as a constant requirement for airships to have external ballast that is sufficient to offset payloads offloaded at destination. The need for ground handling equipment also hinders applications for the technology.

“Need for ‘runways’ has significantly limited the usefulness of traditional LTA vehicles for cargo applications,” he adds.

Aeroscraft uses an internal buoyancy management technology to provide the vertical lift akin to rotorcraft, but can carry a heavier load and travel long distances like a fixed wing aircraft.

“Because an Aeroscraft only needs to overcome drag in forward flight, not generate lift, it will operate at less than one-third the fuel consumption of conventional vehicles on a per tonne/mile basis,” Pasternak adds.

The airship is slower than a fixed-wing aircraft, but will offer cargo transport at a quicker pace than rail, road and ship, while evading the need for ports and runways.

Rather than struggling to define the requirement, industry seems to be planning for beyond what it realistically has to do to commercialise the technology.

Understandably, developers do not want to fail in their endeavour to establish airships as the future of cargo transport, but more pressure lies upon this particular industry in consideration of past events.

The utilisation will be realised over the next few years as companies approach timelines they have set for themselves and promised prospective customers, so time will tell if the future of cargo transport is revolutionised as predicted.

13-09-14, 02:24 AM
Israeli military inflates aerostat demand

By: Arie Egozi in Tel Aviv

Source: Flightglobal.com

This story is sourced from Flightglobal.com 19 hours ago

Israel's defence forces are expanding their use of aerostats equipped with multisensor payloads.

Currently the armed forces are using different types of aerostats manufactured by Israeli company RT.

According to RT managing directorRami Shmueli,during operation Protective Edge in Gaza in July and August some 13 aerostats were deployed along the border.

The company's aerostats can be deployed at an altitude of 1,150ft for 72h before being pulled down and refilled with helium.

Shmueli says the company has developed a larger aerostat, the Skystar 300, which is capable of floating at an altitude of almost 1,500ft while carrying a heavier payload. Capable of being operated at awind velocity up to 40kt (74km/h), the truck-transported aerostat can be refilled within 20min after remaining aloft for up to 72h.


The aerostat's tether cable carries the required power supply and a secure two-way communications channel capable of transmitting video images and other data, while the system is able to transmit its output and be controlled from a remote site.

RT has recently opened a US subsidiary, RT Aerostat Systems, and is offering its systems to the state of Texas, to support efforts to better patrol its border with Mexico. The new unit could also allow the Israeli company to offer its products to other organisations, including the US Army.

19-09-14, 09:18 PM
Soldiers Certified to Protect Metro D.C. from Cruise Missiles, Drones with Raytheon's JLENS Radar Blimp

(Source: Raytheon Co.; issued September 18, 2014)

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. --- Mission ready. That was the verdict for the U.S. Army's A Battery, 3rd Air Defense Artillery, who were recently certified to operate Raytheon Company's (RTN) JLENS radar to protect the National Capital Region (NCR) from cruise missiles and drone threats.

JLENS is a system of two aerostats, or tethered blimps, that float 10,000 feet in the air. The helium filled aerostats, each nearly as long as a football field, carry powerful radars that can protect a territory roughly the size of Texas from airborne threats. JLENS provides 360-degrees of defensive radar coverage and can detect and track objects like cruise missiles, drones and airplanes from up to 340 miles away.

"When JLENS deploys to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., later this year, it will provide a powerful new capability to the National Capital Region's Integrated Air Defense System (IADS)," said Raytheon's Dave Gulla, vice president of Integrated Defense Systems' Global Integrated Sensors business area. "With this certification, the soldiers now possess the skills to maximize the capabilities of JLENS to help defend our country from the growing cruise missile and drone threat."

Raytheon employees worked with U.S. NORTHCOM and the soldiers to develop the tactics, techniques and procedures for using JLENS as part of the NCR's IADS. Raytheon also helped prepare the soldiers for the Army's independent certification process by training them on a variety of key tasks, including:
-- Using JLENS' hydraulic winch system to raise and lower the aerostat
-- Radar operations
-- Equipment maintenance
-- Initiating communication links in order to communicate critical information to higher echelons
-- Emergency procedures.

JLENS consists of an integrated radar system on two tethered, 80-yard aerostats, which fly at altitudes of 10,000 feet above sea level and remain aloft and operational for 30 days. This capability better enables commanders to defend against threats including cruise missiles, drones and aircraft. JLENS also provides ascent phase detection of tactical ballistic missiles and large-caliber rockets.

-- JLENS completed developmental testing in December 2013.
-- JLENS has demonstrated its ability to integrate with defensive systems and help Patriot, AMRAAM, NASAMS and Standard Missile 6 intercept cruise missile targets.
-- JLENS proved it can detect and track short-range ballistic missiles in their boost phase during a series of tests in 2013.

Raytheon Company, with 2013 sales of $24 billion and 63,000 employees worldwide, is a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, security and civil markets throughout the world. Raytheon is headquartered in Waltham, Mass.


13-10-14, 11:51 PM
JLENS undergoes command and control integration testing

By: Beth Stevenson in London

Source: Flightglobal.com

12 hours ago

Raytheon has completed software integration testing of the US Army’s new aerostat-based radar system with the necessary command and control (C2) systems that will be required during its first deployment above Washington, DC, towards the end of the year.

Raytheon’s joint land attack cruise missile defence elevated netted sensor (JLENS) system will be integrated within North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), and has undergone simulated laboratory based testing to enable the correct data collected by JLENS to be transferred to NORAD.

JLENS will be deployed out of Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland, by the end of 2014, and will be used to survey the East Coast of the USA.

Raytheon developed software that will enable the data that JLENS collects from its radars to be transferred to data that NORAD will understand and require.


The testing involved simulating an array of potential objects that the radar may pick up and communicating the appropriate information to NORAD, as well as making sure that co-ordinates of relevant targets were correct.

The northeastern border of the area in which JLENS will operate has dense air traffic, so the software testing was demonstrated using the most complex environment the system is likely to encounter.

“We took simulated data and put it through this JLENS software,” Doug Burgess, Raytheon’s JLENS programme manager, says. “From a technical standpoint, it was about taking JLENS data and transferring it to data that NORAD can understand.”

Burgess notes that the software task was not new to the company, following its experience in integrating JLENS data into other forces’ C2 systems.

The two-aerostat system consists of a fire control and surveillance radar sitting at 10,000ft and detecting incoming missiles and unmanned air vehicles from some 295nm (547km) away.

Two systems have been developed, one of which will deploy to survey the East Coast, while the other has entered the army’s strategic reserve.

JLENS will be operated by NORAD, as well as US Northern Command (NORTHCOM). Under the instruction of NORTHCOM, the army’s A Battery, 3rd Air Defence Artillery, will operate the system when it is deployed later this year. One JLENS orbit takes six people to inhaul/exhaul the system, and a team of three to four to operate.

Construction is under way at Aberdeen, which when completed will lead onto integration of the system into NORAD and NORTHCOM and subsequent deployment, which Burgess claimed was on track to begin by the end of 2014.

21-10-14, 11:47 PM
Selex ES and HAV to team up for MoD airship testing

By: Beth Stevenson in London

Source: Flightglobal.com

14 hours ago

Selex ES is to team up with Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) to develop a sensor package for UK Ministry of Defence testing on board the latter’s Airlander 10 hybrid airship.

Addressing the Commercial UAV show in London on 21 October, Mike Rickett, senior vice-president of air systems UK at Selex ES, said a UK industry team consisting of Selex, Qinetiq and HAV will carry out demonstrations for the MoD, which will include testing a package developed by Selex likely to include a radar and electro-optical/infrared sensor.

“This is a very large platform to be able to mount our sensors on,” Rickett says. “We’re now at the point where we’re working on this MoD programme… but the MoD is not quite sure of what it wants. It is therefore asking us to put together a package of sensors.”

Beth Stevenson/Flightglobal

One sensor type suitable for the large 10t payload bay would be a hyperspectral imager. “The ones that work really well are quite large,” Rickett adds.

The Italian division of Selex has developed a spaceborne hyperspectral sensor, which Rickett says could be adapted to be integrated on a platform the size of the Airlander.

“I’d like to expand this quite a lot,” Rickett says. “It is a bit of a challenge in one respect for us because you’re usually given a small surface to put a payload. This is new territory because we can do a lot more with this big space.”

Speaking to Flightglobal in August, HAV said three months of trials with the MoD were to take place following the first UK-based flight of the Airlander – an event due to take place around May 2015.

The Airlander was developed for the US Army’s long-endurance multi-intelligence vehicle (LEMV) programme under an effort headed up by Northrop Grumman, during which it carried out its maiden flight. The programme was subsequently cancelled and the airframe repurchased by HAV and returned to the UK.

Rickett says Selex had been involved in talks with HAV prior to the LEMV award, but was not involved in the US Army effort. Conversations were restarted once the platform returned and ownership was back with HAV.

“When it arrived back this side of the pond, we started talking seriously,” he says.

Selex is planning past the MoD’s forthcoming round of testing on the Airlander, and envisions the aircraft being used as a “mothership” to launch other unmanned air vehicles from, including the company’s own Falco platform. A catapult launcher has already been developed for the Falco that could be adapted to suit this requirement.

Selex ES

“A really exciting idea is to fly UAVs from this – a Falco-type UAV,” Rickett says. “The MoD testing gives us the chance to focus on a real effort… while also doing other things.”

29-10-14, 11:08 PM
Singapore To Deploy Massive Surveillance Balloon

Oct. 29, 2014 - 03:14PM | By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Singapore will deploy a huge tethered surveillance balloon, similar to the one pictured here in Texas, to boost its maritime and air security. (John Moore / Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Singapore will deploy a huge tethered surveillance balloon to boost its maritime and air security, the defence ministry announced.

The helium-filled “aerostat” will be equipped with radar equipment that can spot threats from as far as 200 kilometers (125 miles) away, the ministry said in a post on its website late Tuesday.

“It will be deployed sufficiently high enough so as to have a clear line of sight over Singapore’s air and sea space,” the ministry said.

“Existing systems are facing increasing constraints, mainly due to the construction of taller buildings which prevent the systems (from) establishing a clear line of sight,” it added.

The Straits Times reported that the balloon will be able to scan up to Malacca in Malaysia for stray aircraft as well as detect small boats coming from Indonesia’s Pekanbaru.

The US-made, 55-meter (180-foot) blimp will be operated by eight ground crew and can run at a height of up to 600 meters.

The defence ministry did not reveal the cost of the project.

Speaking on Tuesday, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said the balloon would save the government approximately Sg$29 million ($23.2 million) in operating costs every year by not having to rely on round-the-clock surveillance flights.

“For a small island state like Singapore, surveillance and early warning to give us sufficient reaction time to respond will always be a challenge but the aerostat will improve our surveillance capabilities significantly,” Ng said.

Singapore has the largest defense budget in Southeast Asia, thanks to public funds generated by its substantial economic growth.

Surrounded by far larger neighbors Malaysia and Indonesia, it has pursued a robust defense strategy since being ejected from the Malaysian Federation in 1965.

24-11-14, 01:31 PM
Lockheed sees buyer for hybrid cargo airship in 2015

By Andrea Shalal

PALMDALE Calif. Fri Nov 21, 2014 4:27pm EST

(Reuters) - Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) expects to reach an agreement next year with a launch customer for a giant new hybrid airship that would revolutionize the way oil and mining companies haul equipment to the Arctic and other remote areas without roads.

The initial version of the airship, filled mostly with helium, would carry 20 tons of cargo, but could easily be scaled to roughly the size of a football field with 500 tons of capacity, Robert Boyd, an engineer with Lockheed's Skunk Works R&D house, told Reuters in a rare media visit to the sprawling facility some 60 miles from Los Angeles.

Boyd, who started working on airships in 1991, said he was optimistic about finding an initial customer for the manned prototype airship, also known as P-791, next year, nearly a decade after the airship's first flight in 2006.

"We're months away, not days, not years," Boyd told Reuters. "By 2015, we'll be out there on the development track ... By 2018, we should see these in operation."

Lockheed is the Pentagon's No. 1 supplier, but it is targeting a commercial market for the slow-moving airships that have four hovercraft-like landing pads and can set down on nearly any flat surface, including sand, snow and even water.

"It's not the most sexy of airplanes, but it does its job," Boyd said.

Initial buyers would likely include small airlines or other firms that ship cargo to remote areas for oil, gas or mining companies, he said. He said the aircraft were also very safe because they are filled with helium, which does not burn.

He said climate change might boost demand with warmer conditions cutting the time that ice roads could be used.

The airships could help countries like Indonesia develop remote territories that lack ports, and could prove useful in providing relief supplies during natural disasters.

U.S. military officials had also expressed interest, he said, but would likely contract for cargo transportation services rather than buying the airships themselves.

Eventually, Lockheed could sell hundreds of the smaller airships and thousands of the larger ones, Boyd said.

He said the airships would likely cost tens of millions of dollars, making their cost comparable to what operators now pay to truck cargo via seasonal ice roads, but about five to 10 times cheaper than much cheaper than transport via helicopters.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Gunna Dickson)

19-12-14, 11:55 PM
JLENS Data To Finally See Operational Use for NORAD

Dec 18, 2014 Amy Butler | AWIN First

Jlens: U.S. Army

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Maryland – After a protracted development program, The U.S. Army is planning to finally deploy by year’s end the first of its new airships designed to aid in air and missile threat detection for the Northeastern U.S.

The deployment is highlighting what some in the nation’s defense establishment say is a vulnerability in U.S. homeland protection: the ability to detect a cruise missile targeting a U.S. city. Cruise missiles are some of the most complex targets as they often fly very low – possibly below radar detection, operate at slow speeds and feature low radar cross sections. Their proliferation worries some defense planners, who fear a cruise missile could be launched from a ship or aircraft off the U.S. coast, giving commanders little time to react.

The history of the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (Jlens) is as complicated as its name is long. The program began in the late 1990s, and Raytheon won the contract to develop the system in 1998. The program has cost $2.8 billion, a number that has raised the eyebrows of some in the national security community. The Pentagon originally envisioned fielding multiple systems, but has only built one thus far for operations.

After multiple testing periods, the Joint Chiefs of Staff finally approved a three-year evaluation, which will include a unique blend of actual operations, testing and tactics formulation. The evaluation begins next year and runs through fiscal 2017.

Each Jlens "orbit," or system, consists of two tethered aerostats – one carries a 360-deg., VHF surveillance radar and the other carries an X-band fire control radar; both sensors are manufactured by Raytheon. Each aerostat is 243-ft. long and filled with a helium-air mix similar to the pressure of air outside the structure; this design allows for the system to stay aloft for extended periods even if punctured.

The first of two aerostats, the one carrying the VHF radar, is set to deploy within days depending on final checkout and weather. The second will follow in early spring, says Army Capt. Matt Villa, the Jlens plans and coordination officer at Aberdeen. They will be moored at the Graces Quarters facility at Aberdeen and float at about 10,000 ft. The plan is to operate the aerostats continuously, only shutting them down when maintenance is necessary or weather intervenes. They are built to withstand 100 kt. winds.

From this high altitude, the aerostats will monitor airborne traffic in an area about the size of Texas, stretching from northern New York state to southern North Carolina. They will provide a unique vantage for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) and for homeland defense. Existing air and missile defense radars in the U.S. are ground-based, limiting their field of view behind obstructions, such as mountains, hills and tall buildings. Jlens, by contrast, will be able to monitor activities in canyons, says Army Maj. Gen. Glenn Bramhall, commander of the 263rd Army Air and Missile Defense Command.

This is especially critical to guard against cruise missiles, a threat that is growing, he says.

"If you look at the terrain – the avenues in – to important cities such as [Washington] D.C., we have our systems now elevated on platforms but don’t have the ability to look down into the Potomac area," Bramhall said, noting existing detection capabilities are limited. "We need something that flies much higher … And early detection, too, will give command more time to negate the system coming in."

The higher altitude could give commanders a few more precious minutes to mobilize defenses if needed. The most probable intercept method would be the use of a fighter deploying an air-to-air missile, though ground-based systems could be used if they are on alert and positioned in the right locations. Fighter intercepts, however, rely on aircraft flying combat air patrols within range of the target.

"We have the ability to defeat the cruise missile, but it is the whole detection [aspect that is needed]," Bramhall said. "If I can detect this thing much farther out, it gives command time to get the air assets in place [and] if I can give command four more minutes or five more minutes, that is a lot of time."

Bramhall stressed that the Jlens aerostats do not record data and do not carry cameras or signals/communications intelligence sensors. Privacy advocates have raised concerns that the platforms could be used to spy on U.S. citizens, but he says the systems are not technically capable of doing so.

In practice, the Jlens data will be fed to Norad, which is able to quickly correlate it with information from the FAA. This three-year trial is unique because the radar data from Jlens will actually be included in operations, not sidelined merely as test data, according to USAF Col. Chuck Douglass, chief of Norad’s command and control systems division. Earlier trials were used for risk reduction, proved the system worked and verified the data was sound, providing confidence to Norad that it could rely on it for operational use, he said.

During the operational period, testers will gradually introduce more and more difficult scenarios into the system. The most complex will be to detect and target multiple threats coming from different directions at the same time, Douglass said. He declined to identify how many threats can be targeted at once.

The Army will provide a report to Congress in May with more details about the scenarios to come in the exercise, he said.

15-01-15, 10:07 AM
Eglin Air Force Base Gets More Aerostats

Drone-Aviation-AerostatDrone Aviation Holding Corp., a developer of specialised lighter-than-air aerostats and tethered drones, has announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary, Drone Aviation Corp., has delivered a follow-on order of aerial and ground-based equipment to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. This delivery is the latest of multiple military customers who continue to actively utilise the Company’s mobile aerostat launcher systems as part of their ongoing operations.

Drone Aviation’s aerostat based BiB and WASP aerial systems are currently utilized by various Department of Defense (DoD) customers including the U.S Army Space & Missile Defense Command (SMDC), and the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO). The DoD owned WASP systems are currently involved in planning for various system integration exercises in 2015 while the BiB systems are actively deployed for troop training during rotational exercises at Folk Polk, LA. The additional aerostat based product implementation at Eglin AFB increases the capabilities of the persistent range instrumentation required by the customer for furthering weapons and platform engineering and design efforts.

“Eglin Air Force Base is just one of a number of Department of Defense customers that are actively deploying our aerostat platforms in support of their operations which will continue to drive our growth,” stated Felicia Hess, CEO of Drone Aviation Holding Corp. “As we enter 2015, we see a number of exciting military, governmental and commercial opportunities for our unique, cost effective tethered aerial platforms and are working on new products and capabilities that we fully expect will demonstrate the true value of our technology.”

Source: Press Release

15-01-15, 10:08 AM
Israeli Police Lease Tactical Aerostats

Skystar 180

Israeli firm RT LTA has announced that it has been awarded a two year lease contract to provide Skystar 180 aerostats by the hour with crew to assist Israeli police.

The Skystar 180 system is a small, portable aerostat, especially suited for tactical intel assignments and security operations, both military and civilian. Carrying a payload of up to 20 kilos, it provides persistent surveillance of various events, from an altitude of 300 meters. Equipped with a powerful day and night camera, this unmanned system requires only two operators, and can stay in the air continuously for 72 hours even in any weather condition.

RT LTA’s systems were used extensively by the Israeli military in “Operation Protective Edge” and “Operation Brothers’ Keeper”. Three additional systems were recently leased by the Jerusalem municipality to monitor and control violent outbursts in the city. The Skystar 180 is used for intelligence operations in 10 countries in 5 continents.

Source: Press Release

12-02-15, 09:32 PM
HAV receives UK funding to bring airship back to flight

By: Beth Stevenson in London

Source: Flightglobal.com

17 hours ago

Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) has received additional funding from the UK government to further develop its Airlander hybrid airship, as it moves towards an anticipated return to flight.

Under the government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF), some £297 million ($455 million) was awarded to 63 projects, including HAV’s Airlander development.

“The RGF funding will enable a truly groundbreaking, entirely new type of aircraft to return to flight,” HAV says.

The premise behind the RGF is that government investment in small and medium programmes in the UK will stimulate further investment by private financiers.

“The government backing immediately unlocks equity investment from private individuals and will ultimately lead to commercial agreements with customers, who will continue the funding of the business through a series of trials and demonstrations taking place during 2016,” the company says, suggesting also that this will subsequently lead to future orders.

Beth Stevenson/Flightglobal

This is the second large government grant that HAV has received, it says, following an Innovate UK grant award in 2014 that funded engine and windtunnel work currently under way.

In August the company told Flightglobal that the date of the relaunch of its flight test campaign had been pushed back due to a delay in raising the required funds to support the effort.

The company was originally due to fly the aircraft from its base in Bedfordshire in December 2014, but an encountered delay in raising the required £5 million ($8 million) pushed it back to May 2015.

Once the first UK-based flight test has been conducted, the aircraft will carry out some 200 flight hours over one to two months to prove its capabilities, after which customer demonstrations are planned to take place, HAV says.

Airlander is derived from a US Army requirement for a surveillance airship that was consequently cancelled after its first test flight in the USA.

The Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle programme was cancelled in 2013. Northrop Grumman had been the prime contractor, but HAV had been developing the aircraft, which it subsequently bought back from the army in October 2013 for $301,000.

“The commitment of the UK government to our business is vital, and this will ensure we fly our innovative Airlander aircraft and enter the commercial market,” HAV chief executive Stephen McGlennan says of the grant.

“To achieve this we need to create jobs, and the RGF grant immediately helps us to do this. We know the demand for Airlander is enormous, and we relish creating exports and further jobs as we lead the field globally.”

22-02-15, 02:56 AM
RT LTA introduces Skystar 100 aerostat

20th February 2015 - 14:30 by the Shephard News Team

RT LTA introduces Skystar 100 aerostat

RT LTA Systems has introduced its new Skystar 100 mini aerostat system, a part of its Skystar aerostats line, the company announced on 19 February.

The Skystar 100 mini aerostat system can be used for close surveillance and reconnaissance missions. It is a mini balloon system designed to give field commanders real-time, over-the-hill reconnaissance capability.

The system is compact and can be transported, assembled, launched and operated by two personnel after completing minimal training. It has an electro-optical payload operational day and night, is transportable by backpack or pickup truck and can be assembled and launched in 15 minutes.

A Skystar 100 handheld Personal Ground Control Station (PGCS) can be mounted on a tripod or worn over a protective vest. The PGCS connects the user with real-time control hardware on the Skystar 100, and includes an integral digital video recorder for recording mission data and video. It also displays map and video telemetry simultaneously.

The system can be used as a relay for ground sensors, mini unmanned aerial vehicles and other systems. It has a diameter of 12ft, operating altitude of up to 1,000ft, wind limit of 40 knots, payload weight of up 7lbs and endurance of up to 6 hours.

Rami Shmueli, CEO, RT LTA, said: 'The new system had two main applications; surveillance using day/night gyro stabilised camera and communication using communication relay systems. The Skystar 100 is ideal for military, homeland security, law enforcement operations and SAR missions, and I'm sure it will be operational in several locations during 2015.'

25-02-15, 02:54 AM
New Sky Dragon airship completes critical design review

By: Beth Stevenson in London

Source: Flightglobal.com

21 hours ago

Worldwide Aeros Corp (Aeros) has completed the critical design review of its 40E Sky Dragon multirole airship, marking the start of production for the lighter-than-air craft.

Derived from the company’s Sky Dragon family of airships, the 40E offers a low-cost surveillance and security capability in addition to the traditional broadcast and tourism roles typically carried out by airships.

The CDR concluded that the airship was safe, enabling the fabrication and assembly to begin. Supporting structures for the vertical and horizontal stabilisers are now in development on schedule ahead of an expected completion date towards the end of 2015.

The 40E will enter service after type certification is granted by the US Federal Aviation Administration, Aeros says.

“During the recent CDR, Aeros’ technical experts from engineering, production and quality control found that the aircraft design was sound, met desired safety levels and demonstrated new system integration successfully, and I’m excited to see the aircraft quickly taking shape,” says Tim Kenny, Aeros’ director of engineering.

The new 40E is derived from the 40D, which is already in service.
Worldwide Aeros Corp

The Sky Dragon is designed to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance during day and night missions using an electro-optic/infrared sensor. It also incorporates moving map software, and a moving target indicator radar allows operators to track targets from a distance of some 230km (140 miles) in all directions, covering more than 62,000 square miles (16m ha, 40m acres) at a time, the company says.

In addition to the flexible payload, the 40E includes advanced vectored propulsion and control, onboard data workstations or HD downlink for remote camera operation, enhanced landing gear design and added levels of safety and comfort, Aeros adds.

11-03-15, 06:44 AM
Lawsuit filed against Navy for destroyed experimental airship

By Perry Chiaramonte
·Published March 10, 2015·

The Aeroscraft at its storage hangar at a Navy-operated facility in Southern California. (Aeroscraft)

The makers of a state-of-the art airship have filed a $65 million lawsuit against the U.S. Navy after the helium-filled dirigible was crushed when part of the roof of the hangar where it was stored collapsed on it.

The suit, which was filed Monday in a Los Angeles federal district court by Aeroscraft Aeronautical Systems, claims that the Navy has refused to cover damages to the company’s namesake Aeroscraft, an experimental cargo airship capable of carrying 66 tons of cargo.

The prototype, which was being stored in a World War II-era hangar at a former Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin, Calif. that was under license to the Navy, was destroyed after a large section of the roof fell on it in October 2013.

The lawsuit claims that not only did the Navy deny a claim to cover the cost of damages, it never provided a reason as to why it wouldn’t pay.

“At no point did they explain why they denied the claim," James Gallagher, a Los Angeles-based attorney representing Aeroscraft, told FoxNews.com. “It very frustrating for us because our experience is that when the government denies a claim, there is usually an explanation but we haven’t gotten a single one on this case.”

“At no point did they explain why they denied the claim."
- James Gallagher, attorney representing Aeroscraft

Gallagher added that damage to the Aeroscraft prototype has ruined future funding for the company and that it is left with no choice but to seek replacement costs from the federal government.

“This was a huge part of their business before it happened,” he said. “They were in the middle of funding talks with Wall Street when this happened and lost opportunities as a result."

Gallagher and his team of attorneys also claim the incident could have been avoided, pointing out in their filing that they uncovered documents from as far back as 1997 showing that the Navy was informed then that sections of the hangar’s roof were in need of “critical repair.”

Officials for the Department of Justice, which is handling the lawsuit on the Navy’s behalf, did not immediately return requests for comment.

Aeroscraft Aeronautical Systems touted the cargo airship’s potential to carry more cargo more efficiently when it was first brought to Tustin in early 2013, saying that it would provide the U.S. military with an advantage on the battlefield and greater capacity to save more lives during natural disasters.

Both the Department of Defense and NASA invested a combined total of $35 million in the prototype due to its potential to one day carry more cargo than any other aircraft to disaster zones and military bases.

The lighter-than-air vehicle is not a blimp or a zeppelin because it has a rigid structure made out of ultra-light carbon fiber and aluminum underneath its high-tech Mylar skin. Inside, balloons hold the helium that gives the vehicle lift.

The airship functions like a submarine, releasing air to rise and taking in air to descend, Aeroscraft mechanical engineer Tim Kenny said in reports at the time. It can take off vertically, like a helicopter, then change its buoyancy to become heavier than air for landing and unloading.

“It allows the vehicle to set down on the ground. And then when we want to become lighter than air, we release that air and then the vehicle floats and we can allow it to take off,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.

08-04-15, 06:42 AM
Airlander receives environmentally-friendly transport funding

By: Beth Stevenson in London

Source: Flightglobal.com

7 hours ago

Furthering its campaign to raise the required funds to bring its Airlander 10 airship to flight, Hybrid Air Vehicles has received a €2.5 million ($2.7 million) EU grant that is awarded to environmentally-friendly transport projects.

HAV received the funding through the EU’s Smart, Green and Integrated Transport Societal Challenge that aims to bolster European transport, specifically that which is resource-efficient, climate friendly and safe, the company says.

The funding will facilitate the development of a regulatory framework for EASA certification of hybrid airships so that it will be certified to a civil standard and away from the military specification that it was built to.

Beth Stevenson/Flightglobal

The surveillance and cargo Airlander is derived from a US Army requirement for a surveillance airship that was subsequently cancelled after its first test flight in the USA.

The Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle programme was cancelled in 2013. Northrop Grumman had been the prime contractor, but HAV had been developing the aircraft, which it subsequently bought back from the army in October 2013 for $301,000.

It is now working to take it towards a first UK flight, while developing it to both a military and civil specification for different requirements, hence the work to take it to an EASA-certifiable standard.

“The Airlander Civil Exploitation Project will undertake this work, resulting in a fully specified civil variant, an engaged regulator, approved regulations and significant risk reduction for commercial customers, thereby allowing orders to be made,” HAV says.

Other funding has included a share of some £297 million ($440 million) that the UK government’s Regional Growth Fund awarded to 63 projects in February.

This was the second large government grant received by HAV and followed an Innovate UK grant award in 2014 that funded engine and windtunnel work.

HAV has also launched a crowd-sourcing effort through Crowdcube to raise £2 million, £330,000 of which has been raised to date. The effort is due to close in mid-May.

08-04-15, 09:24 PM
Anybody else things this look like a massive ... bum?

15-05-15, 01:34 PM
Aviation Week & Space Technology

Hybrid Hopes: An Inside Look At The Airlander 10 Airship

Aviation Week tours hybrid airship as preparations for return to flight step into high gear

May 15, 2015 Guy Norris | Aviation Week & Space Technology

A century after work began on the first of Cardington’s giant hangars, or "sheds," as part of efforts to help Britain counter German airship dominance during World War I, a new-generation lighter-than-air vehicle is being prepared for flight testing inside the cavernous structure.

Occupying the entire eastern half of the 812-ft.-long No. 1 shed, U.K. airship developer Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) has officially launched the "return-to-flight" program for its Airlander 10 vehicle and expects to begin flight tests early in 2016. The Bedfordshire-based company is rebuilding the 302-ft.-long HAV304/Airlander 10 after acquiring it from the U.S. Army following cancelation of the Northrop Grumman-led Long-Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) program and sees a bright future for the technology in both government and commercial service.

The vehicle, which flew once as the LEMV in 2012, was transferred to the U.K. the following year and is being modified into the Airlander 10 prototype. Designed to demonstrate the multirole capabilities of the existing vehicle for everything from persistent surveillance to disaster relief, the hybrid vehicle will also pave the way for a planned larger variant called the Airlander 50.

Airship Envelope and Structure

A yellow air duct keeps the Airlander 10 inflated for now, though helium will be pumped in later this year. The aft end, visible in this view, will house propulsors and tail units on the end of the outer lobes. Credit: Mark Wagner, Aviation-Images.com

The Airlander is a hybrid airship because it uses both aerostatic and aerodynamic lift. Around 60% of its lift is created by the buoyancy of lighter-than-air helium gas. The balance is generated by forward movement of the aerodynamically shaped vehicle as it is propelled by thrust from its four propulsors. The airship weighs just over 1 ton on the ground, helping with controllability, says HAV. The helium is retained within an envelope made up of 5 tons of multilayered Vectran weave, Tedlar, Mylar and polyurethane. Pound for pound, Vectran is claimed to be 10 times stronger than aluminum and consists of a high-performance multifilament yarn spun from liquid crystal polymer. Tedlar, which is also used on the Goodyear blimp fleet, protects the entire envelope from weathering and is made from a polyvinyl fluoride film. The Mylar layer forms a gas barrier and is sandwiched centrally between layers by polyurethane film.

The vehicle is a pressure-stabilized structure and "gets all its strength from being inflated to just above atmospheric pressure with a 4-in. water gauge pressure differential (about 0.15 psi),” says HAV Technical Director Mike Durham. Despite the relatively small amount of pressure, the strength is derived from the airship’s huge diameter. “It acts as a pressure vessel and creates a skin tension in the hull because of the internal pressure.” Skin tension is a function of pressure multiplied by radius. “We have little pressure but lots of radius. I can walk along the top of the hull and I sink in just 0.5 in., so it’s a very stiff structure,” Durham adds.

Without an internal structural framework, how can the pressure vessel support tons of equipment and payloads of up to 7,000 lb.? “The payload module has pickup points on every single frame,” explains Durham. “We have a cable that runs up and punches into the interior of the hull, which is a figure-8 shape with a septum diaphragm in the middle. The payload sits in a cleft underneath. The cables come up on either side of the diaphragm to which large patches are bonded. All the loads are fed into that 300-ft.-long central diaphragm from where they are distributed out along the top surface,” he adds.

The hull is segregated into six main compartments with additional sub-divisions. “We have the ability to close segments of the hull in case of emergencies,” says Durham. “So if, for example, you took missile damage in one corner of the vehicle, we can protect the helium/lift carrying capability of the remaining three-quarters of the vehicle.” The compartment walls incorporate 30-in.-dia. holes which, in the event of a major leak in one area, can be plugged with an inflatable sausage-shaped balloon. “That’s the prime reason for the diaphragms,” he adds.

The compartments fore and aft and either side also house ballonets, or airbags, that are used for pressure control of the vehicle. The ballonets are inflated with air on the ground, reducing the volume available for the lifting gas, making it denser. Because air is also denser than the lifting gas, inflating the ballonet reduces the overall lift while deflating it increases lift. In this way, the ballonet helps to adjust the lift as required. There is also a septum diaphragm in the ballonet compartment to prevent mixing of the helium in the upper section and air in the lower part.

“As you go up in altitude, the air wants to expand and you can’t cope with trying to contain it with the strength of the hull, so the helium pushes down on the ballonets and pushes air out through valves,” says Durham. “When you come back down the helium wants to contract, so the ship would go soggy unless you push air back into the ballonets. So each ballonet has a big valve and fan in it so can vent air in and out and run the ship at a constant delta p. It’s the one system on the vehicle that’s got no parallel to any other aircraft or helicopter,” he adds.

Propulsion and Thrust Vectoring

Thrust-vectoring vanes are mounted on the propulsor duct. Credit: Mark Wagner, Aviation-Images.com

One of the Airlander’s four 350-hp. diesel engines is undergoing performance calibration tests with and without the enclosing duct. Credit: Mark Wagner, Aviation-Images.com

The Airlander 10 is powered by four Continental (Thielert-developed) 350-hp diesels driving three-bladed, ducted props. The entire assembly of the two side-mounted engines can be tilted +/-20 deg. to vector the thrust for flight control, landing and takeoff, while the two tail-mounted propulsors are fixed. A set of variable vanes are mounted behind the propulsors for additional control authority. “One of the challenges is if you have no wind over the tail fins, they’re not doing anything, so having vanes behind the propulsors gives the ability to run the throttles up on, say, the rear propulsors, put the vanes hard over and get pure lateral thrust. This slews the back of the ship left/right or up or down. The vanes concept was one of these brilliant ideas one weekend,” says Durham. The vane assembly consists of four triangular panels that on the aft engines can steer the thrust left or right and up or down. The front engines only use the up and down vanes, “because there’s not much point in blowing into the side of the hull,” he adds.

The front propulsors each weigh around 2,200 lb. and are mounted on 8-ft. stub wings. The unit is supported by bracing cables that carry the load back to eight patches positioned around the base of the stub wing in a wide ellipse. “The whole pylon is ‘trapped’ against the side of the hull, and you cantilever the duct against the end of the pylon. So the pylon puts its load into the hull through the patches or through a bigger set of patches further out. There is no carry-through structure, and skin tension is enough to hold it,” says Durham, adding that the concept will also be adopted for the larger Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127 turboprops earmarked to power the Airlander 50.

Payload and Fuel Modules

Located aft of the main mission and forward fuel modules (visible in background), the main fuel module houses up to 9 tons. Credit: Mark Wagner, Aviation-Images.com

Mounted in racks aft of the cockpit and forward of the mission payload area, the electrical system handles almost one-third of a megawatt. Credit: Mark Wagner, Aviation-Images.com

Snug beneath the airship is a 149-ft.-long composite structure incorporating the flight deck, services area, payload bay and a forward fuel tank. Some 12 ft. wide for most of its length, the module narrows slightly to 10 ft. at the front where the flight deck is located. Aft of this section, connected via a 40-ft.-long centerline payload beam, is the 40-ft.-long main fuel module housing up to 9 tons of fuel. The forward tank, containing up to 4 tons and located in the aftermost part of the mission module assembly, is 60 ft. distant and produces a very long fuel movement arm. By pumping fuel between the fore and aft tanks, HAV plans to control the incidence angle for optimum long-range cruise efficiency, says Durham. Fuel travels along pipes connected to the payload beam, an aluminum honeycomb structure that can carry up to 3 tons “in the open air.”

The mission module is 69 ft. long and, empty of fuel and payload, weighs around 2.5 tons. Aft of the flight deck are racks on the port side for power distribution and, on the starboard side, mission equipment and avionics. “Each of the engines has about a 50-kw generator on it and nearly 80 kw at its peak,” says Durham. “So the electrical system has to be able to handle nearly one-third of a megawatt of electric power. It has to control it and distribute it to the mission systems, or to the fans that pump up the ballonets,” he adds. Aft of the system racks is an open area formerly occupied by the LEMV mission system. HAV is replacing the overhead supporting structure here to provide space for a 10 X 8 X 24-ft. cabin with composite frames, sidewalls and floor.

Cockpit and Flight Control System

Key features of the cockpit include the right-hand fly-by-light flight control stick and, nearer the camera, throttle and thrust vectoring controls. Credit: Mark Wagner, Aviation-Images.com

The flight deck area is immense, with a length of 15 ft. and four floor-to-ceiling windows providing excellent visibility. Provisioned with seats for a single pilot and an observer, the cockpit was added to make the airship optionally piloted. “It was originally designed as an unmanned air vehicle, but very early in the pre-bid stages we pushed the U.S. government to adopt an optionally manned strategy because it would be easier to fly through civil controlled airspace, and we were very keen to put a pilot in the front for the transatlantic transit and down to the theater of interest,” says Durham. As a result, the current cockpit is rudimentary. “As we go forward, this will turn into a twin-pilot layout and will become more of a ‘glass’ cockpit,” he adds.

The cockpit is equipped with Garmin avionics and dominated by a GNS 430 GPS/nav/comms system, with engine status displays below it and standby instruments to the right. The suite includes a camera system that displays selectable views of the exterior and all four engines on a screen in the top center. “The pilot cannot see them any other way. You can’t even hear them from here, to a large extent,” says Durham. The camera is mounted 15 ft. ahead of each engine. An overhead panel contains controls for engines and the electrical system, while the center houses the pressure control, fuel and flight-control system.

The airship is controlled by a side stick on the right side, making it seem more familiar to rotary- than fixed-wing pilots. The stick automatically slaves to the propulsor vanes at the aft of the vehicle, “so at low speed, the pilot doesn’t have to think about the control surfaces,” says Durham. Below 30 kt., the vanes therefore work the same way as the tail fins.

On any airship, particularly a hybrid, engine control is vital to overall vehicle control. The engines are controlled by four main throttles located in a quadrant to the left. The left levers control the front engines and those on the right control the aft engines. Throttles can control forward and reverse power through actuation of the fully variable pitch control propellers on each of the engines. To the left of the throttles is a flap lever that controls the vane positions on the front engines for takeoff and landing. The lever controls three positions forward and aft, with the first detent commanding a 20-deg. up or down movement of the propulsor. The second detent adds the vane, and the third puts in 100% vane deflection.

“We spent a lot of time with pilots on the ergonomics. Originally, we had grandiose plans for a single power lever and looked at the F-35 Hotas [hand–on-throttle-and-stick], but, given the practical application of this, giving the pilot control of the four throttles is actually quite straightforward,” says Durham. There are also no rudder pedals. “One of the things is how do you do a coordinated turn? The reality is when you put it into a turn, the upper rudders cause it to roll slightly out of the turn, but as it commences the turn, the pendulum stability of the vehicle makes it roll back into a coordinated turn. So, basically, the lift center causes it to go round the corner.”

Flying surfaces and propulsors are connected to flight-control computers via a fly-by-light digital flight control network. Fiber-optic cables are preferred over the traditional electrical wiring of a fly-by-wire system because these work better over the larger scale of the vehicle and are highly resistant to electromagnetic interference and lightning strikes. Potentiometers at the pilot's controls emit signals that are digitized and then encoded into light pulses. These are transmitted to drive units mounted next to the actuators at each control surface. “There are about 20 boxes around the vehicle that all have to talk to each other and compare notes,” says Durham. California-based Triumph Actuation Systems provides all the primary flight control actuators. “There is electrical actuation on all corners, but they are fiber-optically controlled,” he adds.

HAV is poised to start the certification effort with the European Aviation Safety Agency but says this task, as well as that of designing the flight control system, will be made easier by the natural stability of the airship. “The center of lift is all to do with the helium centroid, which is halfway up the hull. The center of weight is quite a long way below that because you have this weight in the bottom of the hull, so the vehicle naturally wants to be a pendulum and stay the right way up,” he says. “The failure modes are somewhat more benign than most aircraft. There are very few catastrophic failure modes on these sorts of aircraft, which tends to make certification a little bit easier.”

17-06-15, 06:19 AM
Lockheed Hands Off Hybrid Airship To Commercial Reseller

By Colin Clark on June 16, 2015 at 6:32 AM


PARIS AIR SHOW: After investing 20 years, substantial amounts of cash and using the time of some of its vaunted and scarce Skunk Works engineers, Lockheed Martin today announced it is handing off its Hybrid Airship to a commercial reseller.

Lockheed Hybrid Airship

While Orlando Carvalho, head of Lockheed’s mighty aeronautics business, made clear to me that the company would handle any military sales should any military show interest, the announcement seemed to mark a new phase in the company’s approach to what has been a perennially promising approach to moving large cargo over long distances.

Lockheed is not the first company to have overestimated the military market for big airships. Blue Devil 2 fell to earth even after Breaking Defense Board of Contributors member David Deptula, former head of SIR for the Air Force, led the company. (He was, of course, disciplined for his work at Mav6, having being barred for doing business with the federal government until 2016 ) Perhaps the most successful effort so far has been Raytheon’s JLENS (Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor system) which has successfully detected and helped destroy cruise missiles and swarming small boats.

Today’s announcement here was that an Atlanta-based company, Hybrid Enterprises, will now accept orders for commercial production variants of the hybrid airship. “We have completed all required FAA certification planning steps for a new class of aircraft and are ready to begin construction of the first commercial model and the completion of the FAA Type certification process,” Carvalho said in a statement. The hybrid company is headed by Rob Binns, formerly with Pegasus Aviation.

Binns told us he saw the airship was ideally suited to operating in remote and inhospitable areas, those not served by roads or airports. The ship can land on just about any flat surface. It functions a bit like a hovercraft on landing: When the pilot reverses the fans on the underside of the ship, it creates a vacuum, anchoring the ship to the ground. That allows it to operate without the masts and tethers and other encumbrances that afflict more conventional airships.

There is one military application that Binns thought likely: HADR (Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief) operations. However, that would probably mean the Marines or Army would lease the airship for the duration of the mission.

It will be interesting to see how the FAA handles certification for a new type of aircraft and whether it believes the ship is as ready for commerce as Binns does.

25-09-15, 06:03 AM
How a $2.7 billion air-defense system became a 'zombie' program

JLENS was billed as the answer to an ever-expanding list of threats, from cruise missiles to explosive-laden trucks. But the blimp-borne radar system has yet to perform as promised.

By David Willman

Sept. 24, 2015 | Reporting from Washington

Unknown to most Americans, the Pentagon has spent $2.7 billion developing a system of giant radar-equipped blimps to provide an early warning if the country were ever attacked with cruise missiles, drones or other low-flying weapons.

After nearly two decades of disappointment and delay, the system — known as JLENS — had a chance to prove its worth on April 15.

That day, a Florida postal worker flew a single-seat, rotary-wing aircraft into the heart of the nation’s capital to dramatize his demand for campaign finance reform.

JLENS is intended to spot just such a tree-skimming intruder, and two of the blimps were supposed to be standing sentry above the capital region. Yet 61-year-old Douglas Hughes flew undetected through 30 miles of highly restricted airspace before landing on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

At a congressional hearing soon afterward, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) demanded to know how “a dude in a gyrocopter 100 feet in the air” was able to pull off such an audacious stunt.
The rotary-wing aircraft that Douglas Hughes landed near the U.S. Capitol on April 15. (Paul J. Richards / AFP/Getty Images) Read the story ì
“Whose job is it to detect him?” Chaffetz asked.

It was JLENS’ job, but the system was “not operational” that day, as the head of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, Adm. William E. Gortney, told Chaffetz. The admiral offered no estimate for when it would be.

Seventeen years after its birth, JLENS is a stark example of what defense specialists call a “zombie” program: costly, ineffectual and seemingly impossible to kill.

In videos and news releases, Raytheon Co., the Pentagon’s lead contractor for JLENS, has asserted that the system is “proven,” “capable,” “performing well right now” and “ready to deploy today.”

A Los Angeles Times investigation found otherwise:

• In tests, JLENS has struggled to track flying objects and to distinguish friendly aircraft from threatening ones.
• A 2012 report by the Pentagon’s Operational Test and Evaluation office faulted the system in four “critical performance areas” and rated its reliability as “poor.” A year later, in its most recent assessment, the agency again cited serious deficiencies and said JLENS had “low system reliability.”
• The system is designed to provide continuous air-defense surveillance for 30 days at a time, but had not managed to do so as of last month.
• Software glitches have hobbled its ability to communicate with the nation’s air-defense networks — a critical failing, given that JLENS’ main purpose is to alert U.S. forces to incoming threats.
• The massive, milk-white blimps can be grounded by bad weather and, if deployed in combat zones, would be especially vulnerable to enemy attack.
• Even if all those problems could be overcome, it would be prohibitively expensive to deploy enough of the airships to protect the United States along its borders and coasts.

These findings emerged from a review of reports by the Pentagon testing office and the U.S. Government Accountability Office and from interviews with defense scientists and active and retired military officers.

Despite the system’s documented shortcomings, Raytheon and other backers of JLENS have marshaled support in Congress and at the highest levels of the military to keep taxpayer money flowing to the program.

They have done so in part by depicting JLENS as the answer to an ever-evolving list of threats: cruise missiles, drones and other small aircraft, “swarming” boats, even explosives-laden trucks.

Army leaders tried to kill JLENS in 2010, The Times learned. What happened next illustrates the difficulty of extinguishing even a deeply troubled defense program.

Raytheon mobilized its congressional lobbyists. Within the Pentagon, Marine Corps Gen. James E. “Hoss” Cartwright, then vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, came to JLENS’ defense, arguing that it held promise for enhancing the nation’s air defenses.

At Cartwright’s urging, money was found in 2011 for a trial run of the technology — officially, an “operational exercise” — in the skies above Washington, D.C.

Cartwright retired the same year — and joined Raytheon’s board of directors five months later. As of the end of 2014, Raytheon had paid him more than $828,000 in cash and stock for serving as a director, Securities and Exchange Commission records show.

The Times sought comment from Raytheon and an opportunity to interview company officials about JLENS. In response, spokeswoman Keri S. Connors said by email that Raytheon “declines to participate in the story.”

Cartwright, who remains a Raytheon director, did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Philip E. Coyle III, who oversaw assessments of dozens of major weapons systems as the Pentagon’s director of operational testing from 1994 to 2001, said Congress should closely examine whether JLENS deserves any more taxpayer dollars.

The cost of a blimp-borne radar network extensive enough to defend the nation against cruise missiles “would be enormous,” Coyle said in an interview.

“When you look at the full system — all the pieces that are required — that’s when it gets really daunting,” he said.

A 2012 report by the Pentagon’s operational testing office faulted the airborne radar system in four “critical performance areas” and rated its reliability as “poor.” A year later, in its most recent assessment, the agency again cited serious deficiencies. (Raytheon)

JLENS is short for Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System — Pentagon-speak for airborne radar that is linked, or “netted,” to the nation’s air-defense network.

The radar is kept aloft by pilotless, helium-filled airships, each 242 feet long. At the blimps’ maximum altitude of 10,000 feet, the radar can see 340 miles in any direction, far beyond the limits that Earth’s curvature imposes on land- or sea-based radar.

The blimps are designed to operate in pairs. One searches widely for threats. The other is supposed to focus narrowly on airborne objects and transmit “fire control” data on their location, speed and trajectory.

If JLENS were working as intended, U.S. fighter jets or ground-based rockets would use the fire-control data to intercept and destroy an intruder.

The 7,000-pound airships are anchored to the ground by high-strength, 1-1/8-inch-thick Kevlar tethers, which also hold wiring for electricity. A ground crew of about 130 is needed to operate a pair of blimps around the clock.

Military planners have long been intrigued by the idea of hovering surveillance platforms that would allow radar to see beyond the horizon and stand guard for long periods.

The Army awarded the first JLENS contract in 1998 to a joint venture led by Raytheon, for an estimated $292 million.

Raytheon, headquartered in Waltham, Mass., assembled the radar. The blimps and ground equipment were built by TCOM L.P., based in Columbia, Md. Numerous subcontractors provided other components and services.

07-10-15, 06:18 AM
New-Technology Airship Heads for U.K. Trials

Surveillance missions are key to lighter-than-air revival

Oct 7, 2015 Bill Sweetman | Aviation Week & Space Technology - Defense Technology Edition

Hybrid Air Vehicles’ (HAV) Airlander 10 made its first and so far only test flight, a 90-min. sortie out of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, in August 2012 as part of the U.S. Army’s Long-Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle program. Work started two years earlier with Northrop Grumman as prime contractor, but the Army canceled the project in February 2013 due to delays, budget cuts and shifting missions.

The cancellation was not a complete misfortune, CEO Steve McGlennan says. Had the program continued, “We would have ended up with a U.S. military-controlled project,” he says. The British and U.S. governments instead brokered a deal in which the airship technology was released from export controls and returned unencumbered to HAV.

A privately funded U.K. company, HAV plans to complete reassembly of the prototype by year-end, prior to a 200-hr. series of test flights under European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) rules. The goal is to expand the envelope to 10,000-ft. altitude, 70-kt. speed and three-day endurance, in preparation for demonstrations to potential customers.

The Airlander 10, 302 ft. long, with a volume of 1.34 million cu. ft., is midsize by airship standards but longer than any heavier-than-air aircraft. Credit: Bill Sweetman/AW&ST

HAV is the latest in a series of companies—all based around the World War I-era airship hangars here—to promote the multi-lobe-hull airship concept. The late airship designer Roger Munk devised it to address problems of ground handling and loading. The hybrid operates slightly heavier than air (Airlander 10 is designed for takeoff weight of around 1 ton) and takes off with a short ground run. The wide envelope—with a flattened underside and curved top—generates lift and takes off at 35 kt. with a heavy load. The hybrid concept inspired the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s short-lived Walrus program, a massive craft with 500-ton payload.

The Airlander 10 has a fly-by-light flight-control system and is powered by four Technify/Continental 350-hp V-8 turbo-diesel engines driving ducted propellers, two fixed at the rear of the hull and two on vectoring mounts on the forward sides. Variable-volume air-filled ballonets inside the hull adjust buoyancy. The envelope and landing skids are made from a multilayered fabric comprising carbon fiber for strength, Mylar for gas-tightness and Tedlar for weather protection. Suspended from the envelope, and from the vertical curtain that defines the two lobes, are (front to rear): the control cabin, payload module, external payload mount and fuel tank.

The Airlander 10 is the first full-sized airship along Munk’s lines and was designed and built in just over two years. This, says McGlennan, is the main reason for its excessive weight. “We know what we have to do to fix that,” he says. The initial production Airlander 10 will be manned and designed for five-day endurance, whereas the Army wanted an unmanned configuration and 21-day endurance.

The next step after flight tests is likely to be a concept capability demonstration for the U.K. Joint Forces Command (JFC) focused on maritime surveillance, with Selex-ES as principal partner. This is a major capability gap for the U.K., following cancellation of the BAE Systems Nimrod MRA4 maritime patrol aircraft and retirement of the Nimrod MR2 force. JFC is reported to be taking a wide view of the maritime mission, from antisubmarine warfare to search and rescue.

Selex-ES is funding construction of a payload module by Forward Composites. Planned payloads include SeaSpray active, electronically scanned array radar; multiple electro-optical turrets; electronic surveillance measures; directed infrared countermeasures and the VigilX all-around enhanced-vision system. The module will also include the SkyIstar mission-management system—based on Selex’s UAV ground-control station—bunks, a galley and restrooms.

McGlennan envisions demonstrations raising customer interest. HAV is in discussions with coast guards worldwide, as well as energy and shipping companies working in the Arctic. The market is “60% commercial and 40% military,” but defense and government security customers are likely to be first in line, he says.

HAV is looking at unusual uses for the airship, such as midair launch and recovery of UAVs and launching and retrieving rigid-hull inflatable boats for maritime interdiction.

The company plans to raise money with an initial public offering toward the end of 2016, achieve EASA certification of a production Airlander 10 before the end of 2018 and produce up to six aircraft per year. The target cost is $40 million and operating cost is projected as $2,000 per flight hour.

HAV’s philosophy is to mature the Airlander 10 before offering a larger cargo ship with a 50-ton payload. McGlennan mentions a “more electric” version, with batteries and electric motors replacing the forward engines. Electric motors are easier to use on vectoring mounts, improving control at low or zero speed, and the vehicle would have a silent mode for interdiction.

19-10-15, 11:26 PM
China tests near-space airship

Richard D Fisher Jr, Washington, DC - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

19 October 2015

During a July 2015 exhibition in the Chinese capital the Beijing Aerospace Technology Company and Beijing University of Astronautics and Aeronautics displayed their concept for a large near-space airship. Source: Via Huanqui Web Page

China has reportedly tested a high-altitude airship (HAA) to an altitude of 20 km, demonstrating that it is making progress towards longstanding ambitions to exploit 'near space' - the region between 20 km and 100 km above the Earth - for multiple military and civil missions.

On 13 October it was reported in China's state media that the Yuanmeng (Dream), a 75x22 m airship with a volume of 18,000 m 3 , was tested to an altitude of 20 km at a test area near Xilinhot, Inner Mongolia. A Chinese television report showed the Dream being inflated for launch.

With solar cells powering three propeller engines, Dream's test was to last 48 hours. Reports noted it carried "broadband communications, data relay, high-definition observation, space situational awareness, and airborne imaging systems".

Dream is reportedly a product of the Beijing Aerospace Technology Company and the Beijing University of Astronautics and Aeronautics (BUAA). At a civil-military technology exhibition in Beijing in early July, both companies displayed their ambition to produce large HAAs for persistent near-space operations similar to US concepts from the early 2000s.

Another centre for China's airship development is Base 068 of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), which has developed a series of smaller unmanned airships for civil-military missions, even conducting co-ordinated multiple unmanned airship exercises.

Chinese reports stress civilian missions for HAAs, such as a domestic security, weather monitoring, and disaster relief assistance. However, a Chinese report from 14 October notes that "from a national security perspective near-space steerable airships can rely on their height advantage for early warning, wartime communications support, or aiding attack platforms".

In an early 2015 academic engineering paper four authors from the China Satellite Maritime Tracking and Control Department of the General Armaments Department proposed using near-space HAAs networked with ships to extend direct maritime tracking and control into the mid-Pacific Ocean.

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28-10-15, 10:45 PM
US Army aerostat descends after three-hour flight

28 October, 2015

BY: Stephen Trimble
Washington DC

A US Army tethered aerostat has descended near to the ground after breaking loose from its moorings and floating free for several hours over northern Maryland and southern Pennsylvania.

The Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) escape from its position over Aberdeen Proving Ground around noon on 27 October, says US North America Aerospace Defence Command.

By nearly 3:30pm, the unmanned JLENS had descended from 16,000ft to a position “near the ground” around Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, NORAD says, while advising anyone who sees the aerostat to “remain clear” and alert law enforcement.

Shortly before 4:30pm, NORAD reported that the aerostat had landed on the ground near Moreland Township, Pennsylvania, a location roughly 130nm (241km) from its starting point more than 4h earlier.

The 74m-long, Raytheon-integrated JLENS had been stationed above Aberdeen on a three-year operational assessment. The tethered aerostat includes a sophisticated surveillance radar that sweeps the skies for small, low-flying targets, such as cruise missiles and small aircraft.

31-10-15, 02:58 AM
After Blimp Broke Free and Crashed, JLENS Program Hangs by a Thread

By Jen Judson 7:14 p.m. EDT October 30, 2015

(Photo: U.S. Northern Command)

WASHINGTON — The US Army's tethered aerostat program with surveillance and cruise missile-detection capability that was just beginning a three-year operational exercise near Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, is hanging by a thread after one blimp's high-profile detachment and crash last week.

One of the two aerostats that make up the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) broke free Oct. 28 from its mooring station near Baltimore and took a three-hour jaunt through the skies of Pennsylvania, finally landing in a wooded area in the northeast portion of the state.

The aerostat's tail broke off its body about a quarter mile from the blimp body's final resting place in a wooded glen, according to Capt. Matt Villa, the JLENS plans and coordination officer for the 263rd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, who was on the ground at the scene.

The blimp's trip over Pennsylvania was not without incident as it dragged 6,700 feet of tether – made of liquid crystal polymer-based fiber called Vectran – and caused several large power outages by knocking out power lines. At one point, the blimp reached a height of 15,000 feet, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) spokesman Navy Capt. Scott Miller said.

While JLENS lumbered over the Keystone state, Twitter lit up with wisecracks over the escaped blimp and even NSA leaker Edward Snowden got in on the action.

But putting the jokes aside about a giant escaped blimp being trailed by armed F-16 fighter jets, the incident – said not to be weather-related – is an embarrassing one. Many are questioning whether such an expensive program that was nearly canceled before can survive such humiliation.

Many questions remain unanswered as the Army launches its investigation into what happened, from whether the downed aerostat can be repaired to whether this spells doom for the three-year operational exercise meant to determine the program's future.

The Raytheon-made JLENS system consists of both a fire-control aerostat and a surveillance aerostat. It is capable of tracking swarming boats and vehicles, and detecting and tracking cruise missile threats.

JLENS can "see" all the way from Norfolk, Virginia, into Boston. The exercise is meant to decide the program's fate — whether to keep the system permanently moored in Maryland and whether the Army decides to buy more than just two systems it now has.

The first JLENS aerostat, carrying a suite of surveillance sensors, was launched in December. The fire-control blimp launched just a few months ago over suburban Baltimore ahead of the start of the exercise. The fire-control aerostat is the one that escaped last week.

The future was once bright for JLENS, which cost over $2 billion to develop. Every combatant command wanted it urgently and the original idea was to deploy up to 12 systems in just the continental US to defend against cruise missiles and other threats.

JLENS is the only existing system in the Army inventory that can detect such missiles over a vast expanse of territory with unmatched persistence – capable of staying aloft for 30 days at a time, far longer than manned aircraft.

But the Army slashed its plan to buy 16 systems – which would amount to 32 aerostats – to just two systems several years ago. The move was projected to save the Army $2 billion. Raytheon and the Army, however, continued to successfully test and prove out the system at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, and at the Utah Test and Training Range, even successfully tracking and defeating cruise missile threats when tied into US air and missile defense systems.

While JLENS was originally intended to be based within the U.S. Central Command, some saw opportunity for the Army to maintain its relevancy in the Asia Pacific region by deploying it there too. But some have said that deploying JLENS abroad was too much of an uphill battle with potential host countries over perceptions of large spy blimps looming in the sky.

The Army decided to keep JLENS in the US due to funding availability, choosing to run it through a lengthy operational exercise on the East Coast before deciding what to do next.

Following a series of extensive tests, the other system was put in storage.

The extent of the damage to the fire-control aerostat that crashed in Pennsylvania hasn't been estimated, according to Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis.

A centralized accident investigation team from the US Army Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker, Alabama, has started its investigation.

The team will likely look into the extent that the auto-deflation technology on the blimp functioned. The aerostat deflated slowly, but it's unclear whether it deflated for other reasons, NORAD's Miller said Wednesday.

And it was still a struggle to deflate it on the ground. NORAD spokesman Michael Kucharek said that after a consultation with recovery team experts, Pennsylvania troopers were authorized to shoot at the grounded blimp with shot guns to speed up the deflation process. He noted that despite reports to the contrary, no law enforcement agents, Army or National Guard ever shot at the blimp while it was still in the air.

Reports that the blimp dragged 6,700 feet of tether may indicate that its connection to the ground may have severed since the JLENS system can fly at 10,000 feet. The investigation will determine whether the tether broke or the aerostat completely unraveled from its winch.

It is still unclear if the Raytheon-made fire-control radar was damaged and whether it can be repaired or must be scrapped.

If the aerostat cannot be repaired, the Army will have to decide whether it takes its second fire-control aerostat out of storage for the operational exercise, if it can conduct an exercise using just the surveillance aerostat, or whether it will need to postpone or cancel the exercise.

The entire system, including the surveillance aerostat also tethered at Aberdeen, is now grounded as the investigation occurs.

One senior House staffer told Defense News that it follows that an incident like this – a major program failure in public – would lead to a reduction in funding for the exercise because it obviously won't be flying the damaged blimp for while, if ever. JLENS is currently funded at $40.6 million in fiscal 2016.

"The fact that it became untethered is of major concern," Democratic Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin said. "It could have been much more damaging than it was. We need to know those answers," the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's ranking member, added. "I expect we will get an explanation of what happened, the vulnerabilities that led to this type of incident, and what we can do that – the cost issues, et cetera."

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, whose home state of Arizona is also where Raytheon's missiles systems sector is headquartered, said he thought the escaped JLENS aerostat was "great fodder for late night television," and added, "I think it was simply an error on the part of the crew, and somebody ought to be held responsible that it wasn't tied down properly."

Without JLENS conducting its operational exercise on the eastern seaboard, it leaves the homeland without robust or persistent protection against the cruise missile threat at a time when Russia is growing more and more antagonistic, according to Chet Nagle, a counterterrorism and covert operations expert, who was a naval aviator and worked for the CIA.

Nagle said that while JLENS has been scaled back over the years, Raytheon and the Army have still been able to prove out the system with great success in a wide range of tests. If the system is able to perform as well operationally as it did in testing, its capability and operational cost would be a game-changer for US forces, he said.

The added bonus is that during the exercise, JLENS would be providing cruise missile defense, strengthening a vulnerability in homeland defense, Nagle added.

Meanwhile, Villa said Friday the radar was taken out of the aerostat and a Pennsylvania National Guard CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopter sling-loaded the blimp out of the clearing and took it to a location where investigators could examine it.

Joe Gould contributed to this report.

02-11-15, 10:39 PM
HAV airship receives helium lift ahead of delayed return to flight

02 November, 2015

BY: Beth Stevenson

Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) has inflated its Airlander airship with helium ahead of its highly anticipated, but long delayed, return to flight.

Now the airship has been given a lighter-than-air lift, it will undergo ground tests at its Cardington, Bedfordshire base in early 2016, followed by a debut flight in the UK in the first quarter of 2016, the company says.

The remainder of 2015 is set to see the engines, fins and mission modules integrated into the airship, HAV said.

The former US Army aircraft was returned to HAV in 2013 after the company bought it back for £301,000 ($465,000) to continue its development into a hybrid cargo airship. The army programme was contracted to prime Northrop Grumman, but was cancelled in 2013 after one test flight in 2012.

It was expected that HAV would return the Airlander to flight in December 2014, but this was subsequently pushed back to May 2015 following funding issues, and has now slipped to 2016.

Beth Stevenson/Flightglobal

Despite the delays, the programme continues to attract interest, with £76 million raised from customers, grants and equity funding.

This includes a €2.5 million ($2.7 million) EU environmentally friendly transport grant award in April of this year, and money from the UK government in February through its Regional Growth Fund that invests in small to medium-sized enterprises.

“Further funding is being raised now ahead of a planned initial public offering on the Alternative Investment Market,” HAV said. “The Airlander is building an order book of commercial and military orders for trials and demonstrations and for aircraft sales.”

“Seeing the Airlander come to life and floating was simply breathtaking,” HAV’s technical director, Mike Durham, said. “This is a key moment for the UK’s aerospace industry in getting this unique aircraft ready for flight.”

08-11-15, 09:35 AM
Pentagon Suspends Troubled Missile Defense System At Center of 'Runaway Blimp' (excerpt)

(Source: Los Angeles Times; published Nov 04, 2016)

The Pentagon has suspended indefinitely a trial run of the troubled missile defense system called JLENS, whose giant, radar-carrying blimps were intended to help safeguard the skies over Washington.

The three-year “operational exercise” has been a financial lifeline for JLENS, arranged by supporters of the program after Army leaders tried to kill it.

Any decision whether to resume the exercise will wait until after the Army has completed an investigation into how one of the pilotless blimps broke away from its mooring station in Maryland last week and flew uncontrolled over parts of two mid-Atlantic states, military officials said Tuesday.

“It’s going to be a complete and thorough investigation, and it takes time,” Army spokesman Dov Schwartz said.

The mishap Wednesday provoked fresh questions about the worth of JLENS, which has cost taxpayers more than $2.7 billion. The runaway blimp soared over Maryland and Pennsylvania, dragging a 6,700-foot-long mooring cable behind it. The cable clipped power lines, leaving thousands of people without electricity and disrupting civil aviation, before the blimp came to rest outside rural Moreland Township, Pa.

Army Maj. Beth R. Smith, speaking for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said: “Future actions regarding the JLENS exercise will be made following the conclusion of the investigation.” (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the LA Times website.



17-11-15, 10:37 PM
FAA approves Lockheed airship certification plan

17 November, 2015

BY: Beth Stevenson

The US Federal Aviation Administration has approved a certification plan developed by Lockheed Martin to facilitate the introduction of hybrid airships into routine cargo-carrying operations.

Due to their lack of use, this class of aircraft does not fit with any regulations currently outlined by the FAA, so Lockheed has been working with the administration and Transport Canada to help shape what the standards surrounding their use should look like.

This criteria was adopted in April 2013, since when Lockheed has developed a project-specific certification plan to define how certification would be implemented. This has now been approved, the company announced on 17 November.

“The approval of the certification plan represents an important risk-reduction milestone for our customers,” programme manager Robert Boyd says. “Completing this step took dedication from both the Lockheed Martin system experts and the FAA, who worked meticulously through thousands of detailed items to achieve consistent and accurate verification statements covering the entire aircraft.”

Lockheed Martin

In June, Lockheed introduced the LMH1 hybrid airship, a commercialised variant of its half-sized P-791 demonstrator that it first flew in 2006. It also announced that it had entered into an agreement with Hybrid Enterprises to market the system and act as the sales representative for the airship – specifically a 20t variant that it hopes to be able to deliver in 2018, should a customer be interested.

Meanwhile, the US Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office has awarded Lockheed $4.6 million for the continued development of its collapsible-wing Vector Hawk unmanned air vehicle into a maritime role. This will see it carry out a full operational test at sea.

Announced in early November, this funding supports the 18-month second phase of Vector Hawk’s development, which will see the UAV advanced to be deployed from an integrated or free-standing canister on a maritime vessel.

Lockheed Martin

A phase one contract was awarded in 2014, which saw the air vehicle and canister developed and resulted in an offshore capability demonstration.

The reconfigurable, 2.1kg (4lb) Vector Hawk is able to operate as a fixed-wing, rotary-wing and tiltrotor UAV, and can auto-land when there is a loss of communications or low power.

20-11-15, 10:17 AM
JLENS mishap not uncommon in aerostat world

Geoff Fein, Washington, DC - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

19 November 2015

A three-year JLENS demonstration at Aberdeen Proving Ground is on hold until an investigation into the loss of one of two aerostats is completed. Source: Raytheon

Key Points

• Aerostats are typically equipped with deflation systems to ground runway airships
• The US Army said its JLENS investigation could last until February 2016

The three-year demonstration of Raytheon's Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and US Northern Command (NORTHCOM) has been put on hold until an investigation determines the cause for one of two 74 m aerostats to become untethered and sail away.

On 28 October the airship crashed into the Pennsylvania countryside. The condition of the aerostat, built by TCOM, or of Raytheon's X-band fire control radar that was mounted on the underside of the platform, are unknown and the army has kept a tight lid on any information about the current state of system.

JLENS is comprised of two aerostats, one for fire control and another equipped with low-band VHF radar for surveillance. When the fire control platform floated away from its base at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland in October, the order was given to immediately lower the surveillance system. That aerostat has not been deployed since.

The army-funded demonstration, which began in December 2014, was to integrate JLENS into the national capital region's (NCR's) defence system. JLENS is designed to defend against airborne threats such as cruise missiles and unmanned aircraft. Raytheon states a JLENS orbit, which includes the two radar-equipped aerostats, has a range of more than 310 mi (500 km) when deployed at 10,000 ft.

TCOM's Center of Excellence Manufacturing Facility in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, serves as testing facility for new ISR solutions for the US DoD. (TCOM)

However, for now the system and the demonstration are grounded.

Critics of the JLENS programme have called for ending the demonstration and cutting all further funding. The escape of the aerostat has added to the argument (and the myriad of online jokes and press attention likely will not help keep JLENS afloat). However, this is not the first time a military airship has run away or suffered a mishap.

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01-12-15, 05:21 AM
Despite runaway blimp, lawmakers stand behind troubled missile defense system

Brendan Smialowski / AFP-Getty Images
A radar-equipped blimp floats above the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, where officials are conducting a three-year "operational exercise" of JLENS, a $2.7-billion defense system designed to detect airborne threats.

By David Willman

November 30, 2015, 7:00 p.m.

The Pentagon's glitch-prone, $2.7-billion system of radar-equipped blimps — designed to safeguard the nation's capital against cruise missiles and other airborne threats — has long been a source of frustration to military leaders. A month ago, it became a punch line.

One of the pilotless JLENS blimps broke loose from its mooring in Maryland on Oct. 28 and flew for 150 miles, disrupting civil aviation and damaging power lines with its mooring cable before coming to rest in rural Pennsylvania.

"But they couldn't get rid of it," Huckabee said, "because we had too much money invested in it."

Huckabee's gibe reflected a stubborn truth: the difficulty of killing even deeply flawed defense systems once they have acquired constituencies in Congress and the military.

Congress faces a Dec. 11 deadline to cut $5 billion from President Obama's proposed military budget, and some programs are at risk. But lawmakers from both parties are standing behind JLENS, despite its well-documented deficiencies.

The Los Angeles Times sought comment on the fate of JLENS from all 35 members of the defense appropriations subcommittees in the House and Senate.

None voiced opposition to continued funding. Several key lawmakers said through aides that they would not decide the system's fate until the Army has completed its investigation into the cause of the unmooring. Since the inquiry is expected to last months, a decision to await its conclusion is a decision to keep taxpayer money flowing to the program.

JLENS — short for Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System — was intended to protect U.S. troops in combat and American cities and towns by providing early detection of low-flying threats.

The system, developed by Raytheon Co., has been dogged by delays and technical problems since the Army awarded the first contract in 1998. In tests, the blimp-borne radar has struggled to track flying objects and to distinguish friendly aircraft from threatening ones.

A 2012 report by the Pentagon's Operational Test and Evaluation Office faulted the system in four "critical performance areas" and rated its reliability as "poor." In its most recent assessment, in 2013, the agency again cited serious deficiencies and said JLENS had "low system reliability."

For some, JLENS' continued survival defies understanding. In a Nov. 19 essay posted on the website of the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight, former Marine officer Dan Grazier wrote, "It is unclear what, if anything, can actually kill this program."

Obama's proposed defense budget includes money to preserve JLENS' last lifeline: a three-year trial run, or "operational exercise," in the skies above Washington. The exercise began in December and is expected to cost an estimated $50 million a year.

Two top Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, declined through spokesmen to comment on JLENS funding. Cochran is chairman of both the Senate Appropriations Committee and its defense subcommittee.

A senior Democrat on the same two panels, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland, has been one of JLENS' most influential supporters. The operational exercise is based in her state, at the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground. Maryland is also home to TCOM LP, which makes the blimps and related ground equipment as a subcontractor for Raytheon.

The day after the runaway blimp cut its path through Maryland and rural Pennsylvania, Mikulski sent Defense Secretary Ashton Carter a letter saying she was "deeply concerned" about the episode. She asked military leaders to "determine whether operational testing for JLENS should continue."

Yet for now Mikulski favors continued funding, according to those familiar with her thinking.

Another Maryland Democrat, Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, serves on the House defense appropriations subcommittee, and his district includes Aberdeen Proving Ground.

When the Army decided to base the operational exercise at Aberdeen, Ruppersberger put out a news release saying the trial run "will generate about 140 jobs" for the area and "have a domino effect on our local economy."

"The JLENS workers will be buying homes, shopping in our grocery stores and eating in our restaurants," the statement said.

Asked where Ruppersberger stands now on JLENS, aide Jamie Lennon said by email: "We think we need to allow the Pentagon to complete its investigation into the unmooring before any decisions are made regarding the program's future."

As for the economic benefits of JLENS, Lennon called the effect on Ruppersberger's district "minimal," adding: "While we do whatever we can to help create and support jobs in the district, citizen safety comes first."

Two Californians are among the defense appropriators — Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, and Rep. Ken Calvert, a Republican from Corona, in Riverside County.

Feinstein did not respond to requests for comment on JLENS. Through a spokesman, Calvert declined to comment.

Another Californian, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough), has said JLENS "should be the first thing to go" in cutting defense spending. But she does not serve on an appropriations panel.

JLENS has supported hundreds of blue- and white-collar jobs in Southern California, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, Texas and other states — helping to ensure a wide base of congressional support.

Raytheon, the program's prime contractor, is a reliable source of campaign money. The company is one of the world's largest defense contractors and reported net sales of nearly $23 billion last year.

From 1999 through September of this year, its political action committee and employees donated a total of $1.6 million to the campaigns of Congress members now serving on the defense appropriations subcommittees in the House and Senate, federal records show.

Among those 35 members, the top recipient of Raytheon money, with $107,000 in total donations, was Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat. In addition to his subcommittee seat, he is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Reed's spokesman, Chip Unruh, said that the senator is not swayed by donations and that he "votes on the facts and what he believes is best for his constituents."

Regarding Reed's position on JLENS funding, Unruh said, "We're waiting for the investigation to be completed before making a decision."

The top recipient of Raytheon-affiliated campaign funds among House appropriators was Ruppersberger. He has collected $91,250 since he was first elected to Congress in 2002, according to federal campaign finance data posted by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Ruppersberger's spokeswoman said that "political contributions have no bearing now or ever on the congressman's policy decisions."

A Raytheon spokeswoman said the company would have no comment until the Army had completed its investigation. Yet Raytheon wasted no time in trying to shore up support for the program when the blimp broke free last month.

A Capitol Hill aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, described receiving a call from a Raytheon lobbyist on Oct. 28, while the blimp was still on the loose, asserting that the mishap was not Raytheon's fault.

The 242-foot-long JLENS blimps are designed to operate in pairs, at altitudes up to 10,000 feet. One blimp's radar would search widely for threats. The other's would focus narrowly on airborne objects and transmit "fire control" data on their location, speed and trajectory. U.S. fighter jets or ground-based rockets would use the data to intercept or destroy an intruder deemed threatening.

After years of frustration with JLENS, top Army brass tried to kill the program in late 2010. By then, the Pentagon had spent more than $2 billion and did not have an operational system to show for it.

As The Times revealed in an investigation published in September, advocates for JLENS, notably Marine Corps Gen. James E. "Hoss" Cartwright, then vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, saved the program in 2011 by arranging for the operational exercise — promoted as a way to help protect the nation's capital.

Cartwright retired the same year — and joined Raytheon's board of directors five months later. From 2012 through 2014, Raytheon paid him more than $828,000 in cash and stock for serving as a director, Securities and Exchange Commission records show.

Last spring, JLENS suffered a major embarrassment when a postal worker flew a small rotary-wing aircraft through Washington's highly restricted airspace as a political protest, landing on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

The single-seat craft was just the kind of tree-skimming intruder JLENS was designed to detect. Yet the system was not working; software problems with the "fire control" radar had grounded one of the blimps.

It was against that backdrop that a JLENS blimp broke loose Oct. 28, dragging its 6,700-foot Kevlar mooring cable behind it. The cable knocked out electricity to 35,000 Pennsylvania residents. F-16 fighter-jets were scrambled to track the blimp.

It came to rest in high trees in Moreland Township, Pa. The next day, at the military's request, six state troopers with shotguns unleashed "a barrage" at the tattered blimp to drain its remaining helium, said State Police Capt. David Young.

"No one had ever seen anything like this," said Frederick Hunsinger, public safety director for Columbia County, Pa., recalling the hundreds of phone calls his department fielded after the renegade blimp appeared in the sky. "It just kind of descended on us."


07-12-15, 05:09 AM
JLENS Supporters: Never Mind the Blimp, Save the Radar

December 5, 2015 By Marcus Weisgerber

The super-sophisticated sensor remains America’s best near-term defense against Russian cruise missiles, retired brass argue.

A group of retired admirals and generals who spent much of their careers specializing in missile defense threw their support behind the troubled JLENS air-defense system whose aerostat broke free of its Maryland mooring and floated more than 100 miles north to Pennsylvania in October.

They say the JLENS radar is a key defense against Russian cruise missiles like the 26 fired in October from Russian warships in the Caspian Sea at Syrian targets more than a thousand miles distant.

“The cruise missile challenge from more near-peer competitors is very real,” Kenneth Todorov, a retired Air Force brigadier general who was most recently deputy director of the Missile Defense Agency, the arm of the Pentagon that oversees all missile defense projects. “It comes with little warning, should it come. We as a nation are right now not particularly well-equipped to identify, to gage intent and to complete the kill chain on that.”

The Syria strikes marked the first combat use of the Kalibr cruise missiles, said Archer Macy, a retired rear admiral and former director of the Joint Integrated Air and Missile Defense Organization.

“We have long known that the Russians have had cruise missiles,” Macy said. “This was their first opportunity to use them and they we’re making a point.”

The U.S. military first used Tomahawk cruise missiles during Desert Storm in 1991. “People knew the U.S. had had it, but there was shock and awe at what was accomplished by the Tomahawk,” Macy said.

JLENS, which stands for Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, is designed to spot low-flying cruise missiles and smaller weapons, such as drones. The system includes two aerostats floating at 10,000 feet and bearing powerful radars affixed to their underbellies. Supporters say they can detect incoming threats flying too low for ground-based radars to pick them up.

The blimp that broke free was less than a year into a three-year test project. Military officials have been considering using JLENS as part of a network to protect cities across the U.S. from cruise missiles. The Army suspended the project after the October incident, but it still has it supporters both on Capitol Hill and close to the military.

“I love the capability that it brings, [but] I don’t really love the platform that it’s brought on,” Todorov said of the JLENS Friday at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event.

“The platform is not great, but let’s not focus on the platform. Let’s focus on the capabilities that are brought by the platform,” he said. “Let’s restart that test and let the warfighter tell us how effective [it is].”

Todorov said other options include putting the radar on an orbiting satellite or long-endurance drone.

The U.S. Army is still investigating how the massive aerostat, which is nearly the size of a football field, broke free of its mooring.

17-12-15, 05:06 AM
JLENS Takes Hit in Omnibus '16 Spending Bill

By Jen Judson 5:20 p.m. EST December 16, 2015

(Photo: John Hamilton/US Army)[/I]

WASHINGTON — After breaking free from its mooring station and taking a destructive trip through the skies of Pennsylvania in October, Congress is cutting funding for the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) by $30 million in its fiscal 2016 defense spending bill released Wednesday.

The cut leaves just $10.5 million in the account that funds JLENS. According to the bill, the cut was made due to a “test schedule delay.”

The Raytheon-made JLENS system consists of both a fire-control system aerostat and a surveillance aerostat, and was undergoing a three-year operational exercise at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

The system is capable of tracking swarming boats and vehicles, and detecting and tracking cruise missile threats. It can "see" all the way from Norfolk, Virginia, into Boston. The exercise was meant to decide JLENS' fate — whether to keep the system permanently moored in Maryland and whether the Army decides to buy more than just the two systems it now has.

Now JLENS’ fate is squarely in question after one of its two aerostats broke away and traveled across Pennsylvania causing several large power outages by hitting power lines with its long tether. It’s theorized the JLENS aerostat’s auto-deflation device did not work correctly, which would have brought the blimp down quickly in the event it became detached from its mooring.

An investigation is still looking into what caused the aerostat to escape and why it did not deflate and land quickly once it had broken free.

The second aerostat that is part of the system at Aberdeen is grounded pending the results of the investigation. A second JLENS system is in storage.

Email: jjudson@defensenews.com

Twitter: @JenJudson

06-01-16, 10:42 PM
IDF replacing aerostats with new Skystar 330

Yaakov Lappin, Tel Aviv - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

05 January 2016

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has phased out the Skystar 300 aerostat surveillance system it has been using for nine years, but is now operating the new Skystar 330.

The IDF has phased out its Skystar 300 aerostats. (RT)

RT LTA Systems, the manufacturer of the Skystar family, said at the end of December 2015 that the IDF's first Skystar 330 is being used by the Combat Intelligence Collection Corps.

It added that the Skystar 330 has been ordered by a European country, which will receive it in the near future.

RT CEO Rami Shmueli said: "With the new technology that is introduced into this system, we were able to deliver a high-end system for military and homeland security applications."

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08-02-16, 05:18 AM
Launch of military blimp delayed

If the launch goes ahead, Singapore will be the first South-east Asian country to have an aerostat.PHOTO: MINDEF

PublishedFeb 7, 2016, 5:00 am SGT

It is still undergoing tests to make sure it meets RSAF's safety and operational requirements

Jermyn Chow

Defence Correspondent

Safety concerns have, for now, grounded plans by the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) to fly a radar-equipped balloon that can spot hostile threats coming from as far as Malacca.

The 55m-long helium-filled military blimp, known as an aerostat, was supposed to be airborne early last year to watch over Singapore.

But its launch was delayed because the giant balloon's United States-based manufacturer TCOM has failed to meet the RSAF's safety and operational requirements, The Sunday Times has learnt.

The yet-to-be-delivered aerostat will likely be tethered to the ground inside a military camp in the western part of Singapore.

A Defence Ministry spokesman cited "delays in delivery" yesterday, saying: "It is still undergoing rigorous testing by the manufacturer to ensure it meets the RSAF's stringent operational requirements and high safety standards."

The blimp will be secured with high-strength winch lines and a tether "built to withstand strong winds and lightning strikes". Its radiation emissions will be "as safe as those of mobile phones" and its radars will be certified to the same standards required for mobile phones and microwave ovens.

"The RSAF will apply safety procedures that are in line with the regulations developed by the US Federal Aviation Authority," said the spokesman. The air force is working with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore to plan its safe operation in Singapore airspace.

If the launch goes ahead, Singapore will be the first South-east Asian country with such a balloon.

US military leaders use aerostats to protect Washington DC against airborne threats and spot insurgents in Afghanistan. But last October, one blimp broke free from its mooring in Maryland and flew 240km, disrupting civil aviation and damaging power lines.

Designed to operate round the clock, Singapore's blimp will hover at around 600m - more than twice the height of UOB Plaza One, Singapore's tallest building.

It can spot hostile threats from as far as 200km away, double the distance covered by ground radars. It can scan up to Malacca for straying light aircraft, for instance, and detect small boats coming in from Indonesia's Pekanbaru. Information will be shared with other security agencies, such as the coast guard.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, who in October 2014 announced plans for its launch, called it the "protector in the sky" and said it would be cheaper than flying surveillance planes.

Associate Professor Ng Teng Yong of Nanyang Technological University's School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering said it is crucial for the RSAF to "get its own aerostat right... as a runaway blimp could possibly drift into Indonesian or Malaysian territory".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 07, 2016, with the headline 'Launch of military blimp delayed'.

08-02-16, 05:34 AM
The Week in Technology, Feb. 8-12, 2016

Airlander Airship Now Closer to Flying—Again

Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) has mounted the mission and fuel modules to the Airlander 10 hybrid airship as it progresses toward a return to flight planned for this spring from its Cardington, England, base.

The fuel module is attached under the triple-lobe hull at the rear while the payload beam for underslung loads is in the center and mission module—which includes the cockpit and payload bay— mounted under the forward end of the airship. The next steps will be installation of the fins and engines.

Fuel, payload and cockpit sections are attached to the inflated airship. Credit: Hybrid Air Vehicle

The Airlander has no internal structure and becomes rigid through being filled with helium to just above atmospheric pressure. Each of the mainly composite modules is attached to the hull material at multiple points to distribute the loads evenly.

Using material designed by Warwick Mills, the envelope was assembled by ILC Dover and comprises woven fabric on the inside for strength and a Tedlar layer on the outside for protection, sandwiching a Mylar film to retain the helium, HAV says.

The Airlander is heavier than air, producing 60% of its lift aerostatically (from buoyancy) and 40% aerodynamically as well as being able to rotate its engines to provide an additional 25% of thrust upward or downward. This enables the vehicle to hover and makes it easier to handle on the ground.

15-02-16, 01:25 PM
Missing batteries among issues that caused Army's runaway blimp

An unmanned Army surveillance blimp that broke loose from its tether at a base in Maryland in October 2015 hovers near Millville, Pa.
(Jimmy May / Bloomsburg Press Enterprise)

David Willman

February 14, 2016, 3:00 AM |Reporting from WASHINGTON

The blimp that broke loose from an Army facility in Maryland last fall, wreaking havoc with its milelong tether, flew uncontrolled for hours because someone neglected to put batteries in its automatic-deflation device, Pentagon investigators have found.

The pilotless, radar-carrying blimp was part of the troubled JLENS missile-defense system, which has failed to perform as promised while costing taxpayers more than $2.7 billion since 1998.

The runaway blimp episode was caused by a cascade of events spanning 13 hours, according to people familiar with the investigation, an overview provided to congressional staff members and a summary released by a military spokeswoman.

The six-sentence summary of the investigation said that "design, human, and procedural issues all contributed" to the mishap. Pentagon officials declined to release a copy of the investigative report.

The blimp was one of two moored at the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground. On Oct. 28, it was floating at an altitude of about 5,200 feet when its tether tore apart.

Fighter jets were scrambled to track the blimp as it wafted over Maryland and Pennsylvania, and commercial air traffic had to be diverted. The blimp's tether damaged power lines, knocking out electricity to 35,000 rural Pennsylvania residents. The tattered blimp finally came to rest in high trees in rural Moreland Township, Pa.

The incident made JLENS a target of widespread ridicule and provoked fresh questions about the program.

JLENS — short for Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System — is designed to provide early warning of enemy cruise missiles, drones or other low-flying threats.

The blimps, also called aerostats, can float as high as 10,000 feet. At that altitude, their powerful radar can see 340 miles in any direction, farther than land- or sea-based radar, according to the system's prime contractor, Raytheon Co.

The 7,000-pound aerostats are anchored to the ground by 11/8-inch-thick Kevlar tethers, which also hold wiring for electricity.

The two blimps at Aberdeen were participating in an "operational exercise" intended to test the system's ability to defend the Washington, D.C., area. The exercise was suspended after the accident.

The sequence of events that caused the blimp to break away began when a pitot tube, a narrow 18-inch-long device intended to measure air pressure within the blimp, malfunctioned. Ground personnel failed to detect or address the problem, investigators found.

Ordinarily, fans within the blimp would activate in response to a change in atmospheric conditions, such as increased winds. But because the pitot tube failed, the fans did not operate — and air pressure within the blimp started to drop.

The blimp turned so that it was perpendicular to the prevailing wind, instead of the desired parallel position. Gusts that reached 69 mph bent its vertical tail fins out of their normal shape.

This made the blimp unstable in the air, putting greater pressure on the mooring tether than it was designed to withstand, according to the investigative documents.

Still, the blimp was equipped with an automated device that should have caused it to deflate promptly and return to ground within two miles. The device failed to activate, because batteries had not been installed as a backup power source, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Michael Kucharek, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the U.S. Northern Command, confirmed the lapse: "The lack of batteries prevented the automatic rapid deflation device from deploying."

Military officials declined to say who was responsible for failing to load the batteries. The blimps were managed by Army and contractor personnel.

The breakaway was the most conspicuous of many setbacks for JLENS, detailed in a Times report published last September. In tests, the system has struggled to track flying objects and to distinguish friendly aircraft from threatening ones.

A 2012 report by the Pentagon's Operational Test and Evaluation office faulted the system in four "critical performance areas" and rated its reliability as "poor." A year later, in its most recent assessment, the agency again cited serious deficiencies and said JLENS had "low system reliability."

A spokesman for Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said Carter "concurred" with a recommendation from military officials to resume the JLENS operational exercise.

"A thorough and complete test will allow us to determine if this technology will contribute to the overall homeland defense architecture here in the National Capital Region," said the spokesman, Air Force Lt. Col. Tom Crosson.

Now it will be up to Congress to decide whether to provide the additional funds needed to return JLENS to the skies. In the last week, military officials have privately told congressional staff that they would like an additional $27 million to restart the operational exercise as of Oct. 1.

A spokesman for Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee and a supporter of JLENS, said the senator "is reviewing the findings of the investigation as Congress examines next steps in funding for the program."

Army Major Beth R. Smith said that officials in charge of the operational exercise plan to "fix any issue identified'' by the investigation and will follow recommendations to add personnel to JLENS and improve training and equipment.


22-03-16, 12:45 AM
HAV rolls out Airlander hybrid airship ahead of first flight

Gareth Jennings, London - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

20 March 2016

The Airlander hybrid airship seen at its rollout on 21 March. The first flight is expected shortly. Source: HAV

Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) rolled out its Airlander hybrid airship on 21 March following the completion of assembly at the dedicated hangar in Cardington, Bedfordshire.

The milestone comes two years after the HAV 304 vehicle, on which the Airlander is based, first rolled out to the public at the same facility in February 2014.

Ground trials will now take place ahead of a planned maiden flight that is expected in the coming weeks. The company has not committed to a date, saying only that "we will fly when the all ground testing is complete and Airlander is ready to fly", though it did say that "the remainder of 2016 will see an extensive flight test programme consisting of 200 hours of test flights over a number of months, then a series of trials and demonstrations with prospective customers."

An infographic illustrating how a number of hybrid airships working in concert could provide a wide area surveillance capability over a large swathe of the Indian Ocean. (Hybrid Air Vehicles)

Though geared chiefly towards the commercial market, the Airlander is slated to have a military application also (the HAV 304 was the platform used by the US Army for its aborted Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle [LEMV] programme).

In December 2015 HAV told IHS Jane's that the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) was assessing the results of a 2014 concept-to-capability demonstration (CCD) of the Airlander. This CCD was conducted by HAV and QinetiQ with support from Selex ES built upon initial MoD studies designed to develop an understanding on the vehicle and its potential capabilities, particularly in the information, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) and heavy-lift roles.

A mocked-up image showing how a hybrid air vehicle could provide a wide area surveillance capability in the fight against piracy. (NATO/Hybrid Air Vehicles/IHS)

HAV previously told IHS Jane's that the MoD had expressed particular interest in the Airlander hybrid airship as a wide airborne area surveillance (WAAS) platform for counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa. In February 2012 the then executive director of HAV, Willie Pennefather, told IHS Jane's that about six unmanned hybrid air vehicles, each operating at about 20,000 ft above a host frigate, could provide up to 21 days of continuous wide-area surveillance coverage over roughly two million km 2 of the Indian Ocean.

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31-03-16, 02:20 AM
Lockheed venture lifts off with LOI for 12 hybrid airships

31 March, 2016

BY: James Drew
Washington DC

Lockheed Martin's decade of development work on hybrid airships large enough to carry the payload of a C-130J has finally led to a signed commitment from a UK-based customer.

Straightline Aviation was registered in 2015 as an airship service provider and plans to acquire 12 of the helium-buoyed aircraft through Lockheed’s LMH-1 reseller Hybrid Enterprises for “approximately $480 million”.

“We are delighted to be first in line with this magnificent aircraft that is going to dramatically change the way cargo is moved around the world,” says Straightline chief executive and co-founder Mike Kendrick in a statement. “The clear-cut economic and environmental advantages of these Hybrids are attracting vast amounts of attention from a wide range of potential end users.”

Derived from the tri-hull Lockheed P-791, which first flew in January 2006 under the US Army’s defunct long-endurance multi-intelligence (LEMV) programme, the airship will enter commercial service in 2018.

Lockheed P-791 first flight on January 31, 2006
Lockheed Martin

Lockheed retains the original P-791 at its Skunk Works facility in Palmdale. It is a scaled-down, 40% version of the commercial variant.

The first production-representative model is already under construction and will undergo FAA certification in 2017 for delivery in 2018, Hybrid Enterprises chief commercial officer Brian Bauer told Flightglobal earlier this month.

The full-scale version is designed to lift 21t (47,000lbs) including up to 19 passengers over 1,400nm at speeds of 60kt. It’s powered by four 350hp trust-vectoring propulsion units built by Continental. Unlike a blimp or tethered aerostat, it uses aerodynamic lift and buoyancy to rise and a three-duct air cushion landing system allows it to launch, land and hold on most surfaces.

“That takeoff and landing can be any surface: water, ice, snow, a glacier, sand, mud, swamp,” says Bauer, who says the primary market is for transport to remote oil, gas and mining stations. “In the final bit of that landing area, it needs to have obstacles that are under 1m.”

Hybrid Airship
Lockheed Martin

Hybrid Enterprises chief executive Rob Binns says LMH-1 represents a revolution in remote cargo delivery. “Having an experienced team such as SLA recognise the Hybrid Airship’s potential by signing the LOI solidifies the demand for this new mode of transportation,” he says in 30 March statement.

The hybrid airship was born of a boom in US military interest in lighter-than-air vehicles, with 15 programmes launched and more than $7 billion spent from 2007 to 2012. But interest in airships for reconnaissance and transport missions, as well as funding, dropped off in 2013. Lockheed’s concept originally lost to Northrop Grumman’s HAV-3, now known as the Airlander 10, which was transferred to the UK following the programme’s cancellation in 2013. Hybrid Air Vehicles is now building a larger version named Airlander 50 because of its 50t carrying capacity.

07-04-16, 12:29 PM
NASA floats stratospheric airship prize

07 April, 2016

BY: Stephen Trimble
Washington DC

NASA is again considering whether to launch a public competition to develop large stratospheric airships, a capability that has eluded the US military despite several costly attempts.

The agency is currently gauging interest in such a challenge and seeking feedback on a list of rules for the potentially three-year competition.

The proposed list calls for interested teams to first develop a “tier 1” airship that can lift a 20kg (44lb) payload to 65,000ft, hold within a 20km radius while under control for at least 20h and successfully return the payload to the ground. The rules note that the airship itself is not required to return, allowing designers to use expendable vehicles with recoverable payloads.

Successful designs are eligible to claim up to $1 million in prize money during the first phase. But the ultimate goal is to scale up the technology for the tier 2 competition. Instead of a 20kg payload, NASA wants a designer to loft a 200kg payload into the stratosphere for 200h, or more than eight days.

If a team succeeds at the tier 1 requirement, NASA’s challenge would have achieved a technological breakthrough. Weather balloons are now able to ascend to stratospheric altitude, but they lack powered controls to remain on station. In the last decade, the US military funded development of two stratospheric airship projects *– Lockheed Martin’s high altitude airship and the integrated sensor is structure (ISIS) airship – but neither proved successful.

NASA first floated the idea of a stratospheric airship challenge in 2014. The agency had commissioned a study by the Keck Institute, which showed strong interest from the academic community in using stratospheric airships for scientific experiments and astronomical observation.

The agency also sees commercial interest in the technology. Google, for example, is developing Project Loon, which is aimed at providing regional telecommunications. Google’s concept launches thousands of networked weather balloons into the air. Although they are unpowered, the balloons are able to remain on station by using wind currents at different altitudes to keep them from drifting. According to NASA officials, Google has expressed interest in acquiring any designs that meet the agency’s tier 2 requirements.

NASA has been flirting with such a proposal for several years, as part of the agency’s public challenge to develop airships that can remain at 65,000ft for long periods, serving as scientific laboratories or providing commercial services at far less expense than satellites and longer duration than heavier-than-air vehicles.

12-04-16, 09:36 PM
Regulatory clearance – and rebrand – ahead of Airlander 10's flight return

12 April, 2016

BY: Beth Stevenson

Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) has received the necessary European and national approvals to return its Airlander 10 airship – now named Martha Gwyn – to flight.

Both the European Aviation Safety Agency and UK Civil Aviation Authority have issued the required permissions, meaning the hybrid airship is ready to take to the skies again, once ground testing is complete.

"This clearly demonstrates the regulators' confidence in Airlander, and the development team's ability to safely flight test the aircraft,” says Carl Thomas, Airlander’s airworthiness and certification officer.

On 12 April the Airlander 10 was officially renamed “Martha Gwyn” by Prince Edward, after the wife of HAV’s chairman, Philip Gwyn.

An equity crowdfunding campaign has taken place in recent weeks to help bankroll the programme, so far raising over £1 million ($1.43 million), well above the original target of £500,000, which was reached within the first 10h of the campaign opening, the company says.

The Crowdcube campaign ends on 15 April, with the investment capped at a maximum of £1.25 million, HAV says. It follows a similar crowdfunding effort that took place in 2015 and raised £2.1 million.

The complete Airlander 10 that was revealed in March
Peter MacDiarmid/REX/Shutterstock

Airlander’s development dates back to HAV’s participation in the US Army’s Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle effort, when it was selected by the prime contractor Northrop Grumman for its bid.

It was subsequently bought back by HAV when the programme was cancelled in 2013, and HAV has been working on returning it to flight from its Bedfordshire hangar since.

The company envisions it being a passenger and cargo-carrying vehicle, while unmanned surveillance variants are also planned, and interest has been received from the commercial and military sectors. A larger variant, the Airlander 50, is also in the pipeline.

18-04-16, 06:46 AM
The Week In Technology, April 18-22, 2016

Apr 18, 2016 Graham Warwick | Aviation Week & Space Technology

Airlander Obtains Approval To Fly

Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) has been cleared by European and U.K. aviation regulators to begin flight tests of the Airlander 10 hybrid airship. The aircraft has been registered as G-PHRG in anticipation of its return to flight.

“Flight is now authorized once we have completed the agreed ground testing and associated documentation,” HAV says. The aircraft has been refitted with control surfaces and propulsion as well as cockpit and cabin sections, and the company is performing electrical systems tests on the wholly electrically actuated air vehicle.

The all-electric Airlander 10 is undergoing electrical system testing ahead of first flight. Credit: Hybrid Air Vehicles

The 302-ft.-long prototype has been reassembled at Cardington, England, following its purchase from the U.S. Army after cancellation of the Northrop Grumman Long-Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) program in 2013. The HAV-built airship flew once in August 2012 under the LEMV program.

The company is yet to announce a first flight date, which depends on ground testing that includes running the four 350 hp Continental (formerly Thielert) turbodiesel engines individually, in pairs and then all together.

The Airlander will have to be towed outside of the giant metal-framed Cardington airship hangar where it has been reassembled to facilitate electromagnetic compatibility and interference testing.

HAV has also completed a new fundraising campaign, with almost 1,500 small investors pledging more than £1.2 million ($1.8 million) via U.K. crowdfunding platform Crowdcube, doubling and then some the £500,000 sought and adding to the more than £17.5 million of equity and debt secured since the company was formed in 2007.

28-04-16, 06:35 AM
Stratobus Project Takes Off!

(Source: Thales; issued April 26, 2016)

CANNES, France --- Thales Alenia Space announced today the official kickoff of its Stratobus research & development project. Stratobus is an autonomous stratospheric airship that was just approved by the French government’s “investment in the future” program, with funding of 17 million euros.

These funds cover a 24-month development phase for key enabling technologies, culminating in the construction of a demonstrator. Since the project has also won support from four different French regions, additional funding of about 3 million euros is expected.

Thales Alenia Space and its French partners in this program signed the initial contracts with state investment bank Bpifrance today. The company CNIM (Construction Navale Industrielle de la Méditerranée) will build the structure and associated equipment, the ring and the nacelle, while Solutions F will provide the electric propulsion system, Airstar Aerospace the fully-dressed envelope, and Tronico-Alcen the energy conditioning system.

In addition to these French partners, Cmr-Prototec of Norway will supply the energy storage system and MMIST of Canada the parachutes. Thales Alenia Space is the lead company, and also in charge of systems integration, avionics, solar arrays and certification.

Stratobus will be positioned at an altitude of about 20 kilometers (12 miles) over its theater of operations, in the lower layer of the stratosphere, which offers sufficient density to provide lift for the balloon. Winds at this altitude are moderate and stable throughout the entire zone between the tropics, at not more than 90 km/h (55 mph), allowing the airship to remain stationary by using its electric propulsion system.

Stratobus will carry payloads to perform missions such as the surveillance of borders or high-value sites, on land or at sea (videosurveillance of offshore platforms, etc.), security (the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking, etc.), environmental monitoring (forest fires, soil erosion, pollution, etc.) and telecommunications (Internet, 5G).

“The new market for high-altitude pseudo satellites, or HAPS, is estimated at one billion dollars from now to 2020, but is awaiting a product. With Stratobus offering a field of view of 500 kilometers, we’re convinced that it will win a large share of this market,” said Jean-Loic Galle, President and Chief Executive Officer of Thales Alenia Space.

Thales Alenia Space project manager Jean-Philippe Chessel added: “Stratobus is midway between a drone and a satellite, making a low-cost product offering permanent regional coverage and ideally complementing satellite solutions. Using only solar energy and green technologies, Stratobus has a very small carbon footprint – much smaller than that of a small private plane.”

Thales Alenia Space and partners plan to launch a demonstrator in 2018, followed by the first qualification and certification flights in 2020. A number of potential customers have already been identified. Market forecasts indicate a return on investment in less than three years following its commercialization.

Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Finmeccanica (33%), is a key European player in space telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, exploration and orbital infrastructures. Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio form the two parent companies' “Space Alliance”, which offers a complete range of services and solutions. The company posted consolidated revenues of 2.1 billion euros in 2015, and has 7,500 employees in eight countries.


29-04-16, 11:19 AM
Death knell for Raytheon's 'runaway' aerostat

28 April, 2016

BY: James Drew
Washington DC

It was a scene that captivated America. On 28 October, one of two US Army aerostats broke free of its mooring at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland and proceeded on a wild journey north through Pennsylvania, dragging a 6,700ft (2km) tether over powerlines as it went.

Two Lockheed Martin F-16s from New Jersey scrambled to monitor the uncontrolled balloon and even shoot it down if necessary. The Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defence System (JLENS), built by Raytheon, eventually came down on its own after 3h of excitement.

The tethered radar project, which began in 2005, promised to be a low-cost way of detecting and tracking cruise missiles as part of an integrated air defence network and it had just begun a three-year operational trial to assess its suitability for guarding Washington DC.

There were already questions about the effectiveness of the aerostat since it failed to detect a Florida mailman who landed a gyrocopter on the front lawn of the Capitol Building last April without being detected, but the "runaway blimp" incident appears to have been the final straw for US lawmakers.

JLENs stays aloft for 30 days at a time and was intended to support North American Aerospace Defense Command's (NORAD) air defense mission
US Air Force

The Pentagon wanted to refloat JLENS after tracing the cause of the October incident to a faulty air pressure sensor that allowed the aerostat’s tail fins to partially deflate in high winds. But Congress cut funding for JLENS in the current fiscal 2016 defence budget and in March, the Senate Appropriations Committee turned down the DOD's request to realign funding to fix the aerostat and resume trials.

This week, Congress moved a step closer to killing the programme entirely, with the House Armed Services panel adopting legislation that would limit spending on JLENS to $2.2 million as opposed to the $45 million listed in the Army's fiscal year 2017 budget submission.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve tried to let the air out of this balloon,” says Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who proposed the amendment to the fiscal 2017 defence policy bill. “Let’s hope this ‘zombie programme’ stays dead this time.”

If passed by the full Congress and signed into law, the will be the final nail in the coffin for the long-running JLENS effort. The Army originally wanted to field 16 JLENS units, but stopped at two for testing at the Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Raytheon says the aerostat, which provides 360° of radar coverage from 10,000ft, costs a fraction of what it does to provide 24h coverage with radar-carrying fixed-wing aircraft such as the Boeing E-3 AWACS or Northrop Grumman E-8 JSTARS and E-2 Hawkeye. It has a detection range of approximately 547km.

JLENS feeds targeting data to the Patriot and Standard Missile 6 air defense systems and surface-launched AIM-120 AMRAAMs. One JLENS was meant to carry a VHF-band surveillance radar while the other floated an X-band fire-control radar

30-07-16, 02:04 AM
Israel's RT develops high-altitude surveillance blimp

Yaakov Lappin, Tel Aviv - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

29 July 2016

The SkyGuard 1 surveillance blimp that RT subsidiary Aero-T is developing. Source: RT LTA Systems

Israeli aerostat manufacturer RT LTA Systems announced on 26 July that it was launching a new family of platforms under the name 'SkyGuard' that are designed to carry far heavier payloads for longer periods than its existing SkyStar family.

RT said its new Aero-T subsidiary will develop and produce the SkyGuard family and has already completed development of the SkyGuard 1.

The SkyGuard 1 takes the form of an egg-shaped 'blimp' rather than the spherical shape of the SkyStar. It can carry payloads weighing up to 90 kg and reach altitudes of up to 1,000 m for long-endurance missions, according to RT.

"Taken together, these abilities will allow the aerostat to operate continuously for at least seven days without maintenance," RT said.

In comparison, the largest SkyStar has a 50 kg maximum payload weight and 72-hour endurance.

As with the SkyStar, the SkyGuard 1 is unpowered and tethered to a ground control station.

RT sources expressed confidence that talks with potential clients would begin soon.

"Aero-T's new product uses the most high-end technology in its field and its qualities compete with the leading companies in the large aerostat market," said Rami Shmueli, CEO of RT and Aero-T.

SkyStar aerostats are in service with a range of clients, including the Israel Defense Forces, and are mainly used for aerial surveillance around specific facilities.

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08-08-16, 12:38 AM
World's largest aircraft leaves hangar for first time ahead of maiden flight

The Telegraph

Luke Heighton

2 hrs ago

As compliments go, being compared with a giant, gas-filled 300ft long, 143ft-wide ‘flying bum’ cannot rank highly on most women’s wish lists.

But as the airship Martha Gwyn inched its way out of an enormous green hangar for the first time, the soubriquet seemed anything but blimpish .

Named after the wife of businessman Philip Gwyn, yesterday’s (Saturday) public unveiling represented a milestone in a £350million project that had once appeared doomed to remain grounded .

Four years after the US Army deemed it too expensive, the hybrid airship – a carbon-composite cross between a zeppelin, a helicopter and an aeroplane - was gently piloted into the open in a delicate five-minute operation.

It was towed 30 minutes to its resting point at a primary mast site, one of two specially prepared on the same airfield at Cardington, Bedfordshire, where in 1919 British engineers embarked on their own failed attempts to challenge Germany’s fated Zeppelin programme.

It came after tests on bulbous dirigible’s engines, generators and systems were completed last week, ahead of some 200 hours of test flights, with engineers keen to avoid disaster.

Thirty-six people lost their lives on May 6, 1937, when the hydrogen filled Hindenburg airship, which was three times longer than the Martha Gwyn, burst into flames at Manchester Township, New Jersey.

Once airborne, the huge aircraft, which is filled with 1.3 million cubic feet of helium, can stay airborne for around five days during manned flights, cruising at speeds of up to 90 miles per hour 20,000ft above the earth.

Some 50ft (15m) longer than the largest Airbus A380 passenger jets, the behemoth was developed by British firm Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), after it launched a campaign to return the Airlander 10 to the skies in May 2015.

It derives 60pc of its lift aerostatically (by being lighter-than-air), and 40pc aerodynamically (by being wing-shaped), and was helped into being by a £250,000 donation from Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson .

HAV claims vehicle, which is capable of carrying loads of up to 10 tonnes, could be used for a variety of functions such as surveillance, communications, delivering aid and even passenger travel.

Further ground assessments will now be carried out before the craft, formerly known as the Airlander 10, takes to the skies for the first time at a date yet to be announced

18-08-16, 03:41 AM
British Hybrid Airship Makes Delayed 'First' Flight

by Chris Pocock - August 17, 2016, 6:22 PM

Airlander 10 hybrid airship awaits its first flight from Cardington airfield in the UK, originally planned Sunday. (Photo: Chris Pocock)

After months of delay, the Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) Airlander 10 took to the air from Cardington airfield in the UK on August 17. The huge hybrid airship was airborne for about 20 minutes. The event was the start of a three-phase, 200-hour flight test program that HAV has agreed with the European Aviation Safety Agency and the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The Airlander 10 flew once previously in 2012 as the U.S. Army’s Long-Endurance Multi-Purpose Vehicle (LEMV). But HAV chief executive officer Stephen McGlennan told AIN that the company had made many changes to the LEMV configuration before flying the Airlander 10. The most recent of these were leading-edge root extensions (LERX) added to the upper fins. The company previously added LERX to the lower fins. Other significant work has been done on the pressure management system involving the air ballonets and their valves that adjust for the expansion of helium as the vehicle gains altitude, to keep the structure rigid. The payload module below the vehicle’s centerline has been substantially modified, to provide flexibility for the demonstrations that HAV hopes to accomplish after the flight tests.

In a recent statement, HAV called on the UK government to fund one of these tests, which McGlennan said would be to explore the potential defense roles for the Airlander. While not discounting the commercial “remote lift” market, the company is currently placing more emphasis on surveillance applications. But the UK Ministry of Defence has yet to express any interest. McGlennan said that the U.S. Department of Defense “wants to see us fly,” but the Pentagon has not stated any requirement since the failed LEMV and Blue Devil airship programs in 2012.

Just prior to the first flight, HAV sought additional investment from existing shareholders of £2.2 million ($2.9 million), and from certain institutional investors, “to fund some aspects of the flight test program.” McGlennan said the company had already raised £17 million of equity since being founded in 2007, plus £6.7 million in grants, and (coincidentally) another £6.7 million which is debt owed to a few key shareholders, notably including HAV chairman Philip Gwyn.

HAV will not attempt to certify the prototype Airlander 10, which will therefore not be able to carry fare-paying passengers or commercial cargo. McGlennan told AIN that the non-recurring costs to develop a certified production version of the Airlander 10 would be £10 million to £20 million, depending on customer specifications and whether any further changes are required as a result of the flight test program.

18-08-16, 08:11 AM
Pics via the UK Daily Mail:

18-08-16, 08:13 AM

ARH v.4.0
18-08-16, 08:35 AM
Tis a beast to be true!

18-08-16, 11:43 AM
SHAPO keeping watch at Rio Olympics

18th August 2016 - 9:30 by the Shephard News Team

SHAPO keeping watch at Rio Olympics

Controp’s SHAPO airborne EO/IR surveillance payload is supporting security operations at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the company announced on 17 August.

The payload is installed onboard the ADB-150 Aerostat that Airship do Brasil has deployed for the Brazilian Air Force above the Olympics area.

The aerostat and payload are providing 24/7 surveillance, monitoring and public security of the Olympics area. It was previously also deployed as part of a surveillance operation with Air Force University security systems at Afonsos Air Force Base in Rio de Janeiro for surveillance surrounding the training centre for athletes competing in the Olympics events.

SHAPO is a gyro-stabilised 3-gimbal camera payload designed for surveillance and observation on airborne platforms including aerostats, helicopters, fixed wing aircraft and UAS, for a variety of long-range surveillance and observation applications including law enforcement, search and rescue, homeland security and defence.

The compact camera payload includes a high sensitivity colour day camera and a thermal imaging camera with a continuous optical zoom lens. SHAPO can also include an optional laser range finder and/or laser pointer as well as an optional mission management moving map system.

19-08-16, 07:37 AM
Leonardo Seeks Takers For 'Airlander' Surveillance Airship

By: Andrew Chuter, August 18, 2016

LONDON -- Leonardo has completed a first round of studies into converting the British-developed Airlander airship into a surveillance platform and is now in discussion with a number of potential international customers to take the project forward, according to company officials.

“We have looked at the types of sensors we could fit, where they would be situated on the platform, and what the integration issue could be,” said a Leonardo Airborne and Space Systems spokesman in the UK, talking just hours after the Airlander 10 had completed its first flight.

Leonardo Airborne and Space Systems, formerly known as Selex ES, has been privately funding the initial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) scoping work in partnership with Airlander developer Hybrid Air Vehicles.

Radars, electro-optical and electronic-warfare systems are among the capability packages scoped so far.

Airlander has a payload capacity of up to 10,000 kg (22,050 lbs) and an endurance of five days if manned, longer if unmanned. The airship uses lighter-than-air and aircraft technology to generate lift.

Lockheed Martin is developing a rival airship to the Airlander and earlier this year signed a letter of intent with Straightline Aviation to deliver 12*airships starting 2018 for cargo-carrying duties.

The British company sees cargo lifting to remote sites, passenger travel, communications and defense roles as being among the applications for the Airlander 10. There is also a much bigger Airlander 50, which is still on the drawing board. *

Hybrid Air Vehicles and Leonardo had been hoping to secure a deal with the British Ministry of Defence to test a sensor package, but that prospect has fallen by the wayside, at least for the moment.** *

“We are obviously keen to offer the capability to the UK for trials and demonstration and we are in regular contact with the MoD, but there is nothing concrete at the moment," the Leonardo spokesman said. "The scoping has proven that in terms of payload capability and flexibility, it would be well suited to MoD requirements; for example providing search and rescue in the Mediterranean."

The lack of British interest has seen the companies refocus their efforts on the international market.

“We are exploring opportunities for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance ISR trials with a number of potential export customers," said the Leonardo spokesman. "We have got increased interest from other governments and defense* organisations globally."

An earlier version of the airship secured a place in the Northrop Grumman-led long endurance multi-intelligence vehicle (LEMV)*program for the US Army, but the project was cancelled -- although not until test flights had taken place in the US.

The vehicle was later sold back to Hybrid Air Vehicles and modified and updated to become the Airlander 10, which took off from Cardington airfield, England, on Wednesday for a 19-minute test flight. The demonstration saw the world’s largest air vehicle climb to a height of 500 feet and reach a speed of 35 knots.

In a separate surveillance-platform move Aug. 17, the British MoD announced it had ordered a third Airbus Defence and Space-developed Zephyr-S unmanned air vehicle to add to two machines ordered in February.

The solar-powered UAVs can fly for up to 45 days at a time and can operate at altitudes of up to 70,000 feet.

The UAVs, called "pseudo satellites" by Airbus because they fly on the edge of space, will take part in operational concept demonstrator trials starting 2017 to explore their potential for use by special forces and others in communications and other roles.

The MoD said they had ordered the third Zephyr to allow two airframes to be tested simultaneously and demonstrate operational handover to show that the capability could be sustained indefinitely.

26-08-16, 09:06 AM
Hybrid Airship Damaged in Hard Landing on Second Flight

by Bill Carey and Chris Pocock*-*August 24, 2016, 12:01 PM

The Airlander 10 hybrid airship was damaged on August 24 while conducting its second flight from Cardington Airfield in Bedfordshire, UK. Developer Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) said the 302-foot-long, helium-filled vessel flew for 100 minutes and made a “heavy” landing upon returning to the airfield; there were no*injuries.

However, video and photos taken by observers outside the airfield and published online, showed that the two test pilots lost control of the machine at about 100 feet, from which it slowly descended nose-down at an attitude of about 30 degrees. They were lucky to escape without injury, as their cabin at the front of the vehicle's lower substructure was substantially*damaged.
HAV denied witness claims that a line hanging from the airship struck a telegraph pole before it landed, BBC News reported. Britain’s Air Accident Investigations Branch will investigate the incident, the news service*said.

In a short statement, HAV said: “The Airlander experienced a heavy landing and the front of the flight deck has sustained some damage which is currently being assessed. Both pilots and the ground crew are safe and well and the aircraft is secured and stable at its normal mooring*location.”

Originally developed under the U.S. Army’s Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) program, which the service cancelled in 2013, the modified Airlander 10 returned to flight for the first time on August 17, staying airborne for about 20 minutes. That was the beginning of a 200-hour flight-test program to certify the aircraft with the European Aviation Safety Agency and UK Civil Aviation*Authority.

The Airlander 10 is fitted with four turbocharged diesel engines, configured with ducts, to provide vectored thrust for takeoff, landing and ground handling operations.*It was not apparent from the video and photographs whether one or more of these had failed, causing the precipitous descent. During the first and only flight of the LEMV, the rear of the vehicle struck the ground on takeoff, and an engine later failed inflight, although neither event was acknowledged by officials at the time. HAV has made a number of changes to the LEMV configuration since then, including an increase in the size of the four rear fins that include moving control*surfaces.

12-10-16, 07:58 AM
JLENS Will Be Produced, But Not In Numbers Once Expected

(Source: Forecast International; issued October 10, 2016)

Despite all its setbacks – sequestration, budget cuts, the recent AWOL trip, and a halt to testing – the JLENS program will, technically at least, be funded through completion. However, JLENS will not be produced in the numbers one expected. Initial Operational Capability and low-rate production are expected around 2017. Most likely only the two test models will be produced and put into operational service. Still, IOC will probably be achieved around 2017 as scheduled.

However, with no production contract in sight and only two engineering development models built, this multibillion-dollar development program is realistically dead. Even if the EDMs are pressed into service, paying over a billion dollars per blimp is not the mark of a successful effort.

Developed by Raytheon, the U.S. Army’s Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor (JLENS) is a system of two aerostats, or tethered blimps, that float 10,000 feet in the air. The helium-filled aerostats, each nearly as long as a football field, carry powerful radars that can protect a territory roughly the size of Texas from airborne threats. The JLENS provides 360° defensive radar coverage, and can detect and track objects such as cruise missiles, drones, and airplanes from up to 340 miles away.

In October 2015, a JLENS aero-surveillance system blimp went on the offense when it broke from its moorings and created a destructive path of downed powerlines before finally crash-landing miles away. Thanks to the blimp’s joyride, the U.S. Department of Defense suspended the program’s three-year operational trial exercise.

Additionally, the DoD reduced the number of JLENS “orbits” to be produced from 16 to two, triggering a Nunn-McCurdy cost breach. An orbit consists of a fire control radar system and a wide-area surveillance system connected to a ground control station.

In early 2016, the U.S. Army reported that the blimp broke free due to a malfunction of the pressure sensor that caused a loss of air pressure in the tail fins, leading to a loss of aerodynamics. This led to a chain of events that ended with the blimp finally being captured in a pasture like a runaway cow.

For centuries, both the military and civilian sectors have been trying to harness the potential of the airship, usually without much success. Over time, blimps have also proved captivating to the general population. Growing up as a kid, I spent many weekends watching the Goodyear blimps bounce around in the wind in Queens, New York, where they operated out of the since-decommissioned Flushing Airport. It seems, however, that nearly everyone fails to keep in mind that airships, no matter how advanced technologically, will, in the end, always be at the mercy of the weather.


29-11-16, 01:27 PM
Singapore enhances aerial, maritime surveillance capabilities with 55 m aerostat

Ridzwan Rahmat, Singapore - IHS Jane's Navy International

29 November 2016

The 55 m aerostat will be deployed at the Choa Chu Kang Camp in the western part of Singapore, once it is operationalised. Source: IHS/Ridzwan Rahmat

Key Points

The Singapore Armed Forces has taken delivery of a 55 m tethered aerostat
System will enhance the republic's persistent aerial and maritime surveillance capabilities

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has begun local tests of a 55 m tethered aerostat system that was acquired to enhance the republic's continuous airborne radar coverage and maritime surveillance capabilities.

The aerostat, which was unveiled to the media on 29 November 2016, will be operated by the Republic of Singapore Air Force. (IHS/Ridzwan Rahmat)

The system, which can detect aerial and seaborne threats at distances of up to 200 km, will be operated by the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) at the Choa Chu Kang Camp, which is located in the western part of the island.

The aerostat is operated by a ground crew of eight personnel, and has a maximum operating height of 2,000 ft (600 m). The setup comprises a helium-filled airframe, a tether cable made of Kevlar, a mooring station, a high-strength winch system, and a suite of unspecified sensors.

The system, which was originally planned for deployment in 2015, was unveiled in a media event on 29 November in conjunction with a visit by Singapore's defence minister Ng Eng Hen to the aerostat's intended deployment site.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of his visit, Ng described the aerostat as a system that has been acquired to overcome the country's lack of suitable high points from which it can deploy suitable radars that can complement the SAF's existing network of ground and aerial sensors.

"All of us recognise that Singapore is a very small island, and that alone makes us very vulnerable to threats either from the air or sea," said Ng, who then cited the 2010 Mumbai terror attacks as an example of what can happen should seaborne adversaries not be detected in time.

"The very fact that we have [the aerostat system] adds another layer of defence, and confidence in terms of what we are able to detect with regards to aerial and maritime threats," he added.

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25-01-17, 02:57 AM
Saudi Arabia plans PTDS surveillance aerostat acquisition

Jeremy Binnie, London - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

24 January 2017

Saudi Arabia is planning to acquire 10 Lockheed Martin 74K Persistent Threat Detection Systems (PTDS) aerostats with various payloads, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) revealed on 23 January when it announced that the proposed sale had been approved by the Department of State.

The proposed deal is estimated to be worth USD525 million and includes 26 L3 Wescam MX-20 high-altitude/long-range electro-optical/infrared camera systems, 14 unidentified ground surveillance radars, 10 unidentified communications intelligence (COMINT) sensors, as well as all the necessary support equipment and services.

The DSCA said the prime contractor for the proposed deal has not been identified as yet.

The PTDS is a tethered aerostat that has been in service with the US military since 2003, and has been extensively used in Afghanistan and Iraq to provide persistent surveillance across a wide radius around the bases where they are moored. Its tether includes embedded power supply and fibre-optic cables to link it to its ground control station.

Saudi Arabia has requested the sale of 10 PTDS aerostats like the one seen here being deployed at the multinational base in Tarin Kot, Afghanistan on 7 December 2010. (US Army)

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09-02-17, 08:29 AM
Aero India 2017: RT to Showcase SKYSTAR 180 Aerostat

The RT LTA Systems SKYSTAR 180 has already achieved over one million operational hours worldwide. (Photo: RT LTA Systems)

RT LTA Systems will be demonstrating the capabilities of its SKYSTAR 180 aerostat during Aero India 2017 in Bangalore next week, having recently concluded two live demonstrations of the system for the Indian Border Security Force.

A small, mobile aerostat designed for tactical mid-range surveillance and public safety missions as well as law enforcement, security and military applications, SKYSTAR 180 is a cost-effective solution for border protection.

Offering availability of over 85%, the system has already been deployed by many nations and the fleet has passed the 1 million operational hours milestone. Examples of its use recently have included the Winter Olympic Games in Canada, the FIFA World Cup in Brazil and the COP 21 climate summit in Paris.

Operating continuously in winds up to 40kts, the helium-filled aerostat can lift a 20kg payload and operate continuously at 1,000ft for up to 72 hours, at which point it returnes to the ground for a 20-minute helium recharge. Based on a towable trailer, SKYSTAR 180 features a stabilized day/night EO payload and requires only two crew to fully sustain the system.

“RT's SKYSTAR aerostats are ideal for border protection and control, as they provide persistent surveillance for long periods at minimal cost. No other defence system, manned or unmanned, is as cost effective as aerostats. Using an aerostat resembles building a portable tower of 1,500ft in only 20 minutes. The first operational hour of the aerostat bears some expenses, but from that moment on the system is able to stay stable for days, and provide persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance at a minimal cost,” said company CEO Rami Shmueli.

11-02-17, 12:56 AM
Airlander 10 repaired ahead of planned return to flight

Gareth Jennings, London - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

10 February 2017

Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) has completed repairs to its Airlander 10 hybrid airship following a crash that caused serious damage to the flight deck during its second test flight in August 2016, the company announced on 10 February.

The Airlander 10 has been brought back to a flight-worthy state inside the aircraft's dedicated facility in Cardington, Bedfordshire. (Hybrid Air Vehicles)

The repairs were carried out at the vehicle's dedicated hangar in Cardington, Bedfordshire, allowing for a resumption of the flight trials that were cut short following the uncontrolled, but relatively slow, descent into the ground that damaged the flight deck structure, instrument panels, and overhead console.

With the repaired equipment installed, 'power-on' has been achieved and on-aircraft testing has now begun. "A rigorous testing and training programme has now commenced to prepare for Airlander taking to the skies again," the company said in a statement.

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