Posted by: mulrickillion | October 5, 2011

Defence Security Report – Briefing: Staying Power

Jane’s Defence News, 10/3/2011 —

Some 90 years since their first heyday of the early 1920s, airships are once again enjoying a renaissance as governments and militaries look to ramp up capabilities while driving down costs.

The need to offset increasing fuel prices, coupled with a requirement to reduce operating and sustainment costs, means that airships (or lighter-than-air (LTA) vehicles, as they are more commonly known in military circles) are being touted as a means of substantially increasing capability at a fraction of the cost of operating many of today’s fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft.

According to Alan Metzger, vice president and integrated product team leader for the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) and airship programmes at Northrop Grumman, LTA technology offers a number of key benefits in terms of endurance, payload, range, survivability, flexibility and operating and support costs.

"We think that LTA [vehicles] have a bright future in terms of fulfilling a wide variety of roles and missions," he said. "[In particular], from an ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] and a heavy-lift perspective we think there’s a great future for LTA."

With LTA technology largely developed and proven, industry has been looking at which applications best suit the platform. The airship’s greatest attributes of long endurance, high operating altitudes and the ability to carry heavy and outsized cargo have pointed the way to ISR and airlift as being the roles for which such vehicles might be best suited.

For the ISR role, the LTA vehicle’s endurance sets it apart from conventional fixed- and rotary-wing platforms. . . .

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