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Mon, May 28, 2012

Army Airship Being Readied For Inaugural Flight

Lighter-Than-Air UAV The Size Of A Football Field May Fly In The Next Two Weeks

U.S. Army and Northrop Grumman officials are hopeful that they will be able to successfully fly a huge, unmanned airship over Lakehurst, NJ in the next couple of weeks.

Called the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV), the aircraft has been designed as a surveillance tool for the Army, and its first flight is about a year behind schedule. But now Wired magazine reports that K.C. Brown, the director of Army programs for NGC, has said "We're about to fly the thing."

Military airships have been beset with problems ranging from integration of the necessary equipment to undefined missions. But Northrop Grummand and the Army say that the LEMV will "redefine persistent surveillance."

The first flight profile calls for the $500 million 300-foot-long airship to take a short flight around Lakehurst before being flown to Tampa, FL, where it will be mated with a gondola equipped with cameras and radio gear. From there, it will fly across the Atlantic in "early winter" for a demonstration in an unspecified "theater."

NGC says the LEMV can fill roles beyond surveillance. The current model can carry up to 20 tons of cargo. Made larger, they claim it could carry hundreds of tons at a cost far less than a fixed-wing airplane. (Image courtesy Northrop Grumman)



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