View Full Version : Military Blimps Report for Duty

08-07-2006, 02:16 PM
7 August Washington Post - Military Blimps Report for Duty (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/06/AR2006080600499.html) by Renae Merle.

In the era of $300 million fighter jets, satellite-guided rockets and complicated battlefield computer networks, Multimax Inc. is trying to revive an old-fashioned technology to thrust the information technology firm onto the front line. The Largo company has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on this new project, the design looks like an elliptical UFO, but the result will be familiar: It's a blimp...

Multimax is one of several defense companies pouncing on the military's renewed interest in using high-flying, unmanned, helium-filled balloons -- sometimes tied to the ground with a long rope -- as possible weapons. Lockheed Martin Corp. is developing a blimp that it says will reach an altitude of 65,000 feet, while Raytheon Co. is developing one designed to reach 10,000 feet and be tethered to the ground. Blackwater USA, better known as one of the largest security contractors in Iraq, expects to finish its prototype, which aims to reach an altitude of 5,000 feet to 15,000 feet, in December.

The military's interest is driven by a search for cheap alternatives to satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones. Some low-flying versions are already in Iraq, Afghanistan and along the U.S.-Mexico border. The blimps are known as airships or aerostats, a type that is tethered to the ground, and can stay up longer than the unmanned aerial vehicles popularized by the Iraq war and are cheaper than military satellites that can take years to launch, supporters of the technology say.

"They can stay aloft very efficiently for long periods of times," said Col. Jeff Souder, product manager for an Army program. An airship is "somewhere around five to seven times less expensive than a manned aircraft per hour, and it would be greatly less expensive than satellites."...