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Blimps/airships/aerostats (merged)


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I came accross an interesting article on the Winds of Chane Blog about several research projects currently under way which are exploring new applications for blimps.  The most interesting of the linked articles were the JLENS system, basicaly a distributed network of blimp based radar, infrared, and visual sensors, as well as the WALRUS HULA, an airlift blimp which will, theoreticaly, be able to lift up to 2 MILLION pounds.  Make a pretty good replacement for the C-130 :D

Some images:



Article can be found here

Very interesting article; particularly about the radar-station blimps.  Heavy-lift blimps are intriguing, but I wonder if any studies have been done on how to tactically deploy such a resource.  ???
Isnt it harder to shoot down a C130 Herc or Tactical Helicopter as appose to a Blimp (they are fairly slow)
although it is a fresh idea
Let me float up an idea (pun intended):

Use of unmanned blimps as semi-expendable RRB stations, SATCOM uplinks, jammers, etc.  Use of blimps to take on tasks that manned sigs dets are typically used for could both increase capability as well as reduce potential for casualties.  Manpower requirements could also be reduced through this application: not only would you not need the RRB crew, but you wouldn't need the D&S guys to protect them.

Any thoughs?
What's your theoretical admin 'tail' for "X" number of blimps?

How many blimps per deploying unit?, located where in relation to the operational area(s)?

What the manning bill for operators/launchers, maintainers, protection of launch and recovery parties?

It may not be a significant manpower saving?
But it could be a risk reduction strategy, especially for some tasks where the payoff is high and the blimp is expendable anyway.
We were using Blimps during Ex ROVING SANDS 96 in Ft Bliss / WSMR.  It carried a rader that was linked into the Patriot Bn for early warning. No motor, just a cable tether.
Not an expert on blimp related lift, so someone tell me if I'm wrong:

A RRB station need only contain 2 x Receiver-Transmitters, plus enough power to go for a worthwhile period of time.  Add a computer to allow for remote control and you're set.  I can't see the overall weight being anywhere near prohibative.  One could probably arrange for a smallish and inexpensive type blimp to take this sort of task.  I think that there are considerable cost savings to be considered here.

As well, any blimp used to augment ground based RF comms systems would have the advantage of being directly overhead.  This would significantly lessen the problems which are typically caused by terrain, as it would be a straight LOS shot from any ground based C/S to the blimp in question, with no hills or mountains in the way.
Just a few thoughts, I do think the genral idea has merit;

If it generally 'directly overhead' freee or tethered, it becomes a targetting aid.  Low threat environment not a concern, but the mid and high threat options need to be explored too.

Even though the payload is reduced to just the radios and power requirements, it still need a vehicle a crew (2?) to transport/deploy/recover it.  Likely possibly to add to an existing detachment, but that also affects their flexibility to support it, like picking it up two miles away when they are tied into a HQ penthouse and cable grid.

Nothing unsolvable, but worthy of consideration.
Ref: targeting aid: fair enough.  Again, I'm not an expert on this sort of thing-- is it possible for a smallish blimp to fly high enough to not be readily detectable from the ground?

Ref: crew requirements, a basic RRB station requires the capability described above, but on reflection, I don't see why a blimp RRB couldn't carry more.  This technology could conceivably replace multiple detachments with one blimp, and possibly with an increase in capability due to overhead positioning.  I think that it is reasonable to believe that an overall reduction in manpower could be achieved.


Here's an assortment of Aerostats ranging from a tiddler (REAP = Rapidly Elevated Aerostat Platform) which can keep a 16 kg payload at 300 ft for 10 days

The REAP aerostat, built by ISL's Bosch Aerospace Division, is specifically designed for quick deployment. The whole system, including the deflated blimp, is transported in a container on top of a vehicle (HMMWV in the Army application). After attaching the payload to the tether line, an automatic sequence can be started, which inflates the aerostat and releases the tether until a preselected altitude has been reached. The whole procedure takes only around five minutes. The Army's standard REAP payload consists of electro-optical (day time) and night vision cameras, which have an effective surveillance radius of about 33 km (18 nm) at the blimp's operating altitude of 90 m (300 ft).

To the TARS JLENS (Tethered Aerostat Radar System, Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor ) which can keep a 2300 kg payload at 15,000 ft for 30 days.

The Marines  MARTS (Marine Airborne Re-Transmission System) can keep 225 kg at 3000 ft for 15 days.  That gives a 125 km line of site radius for VHF/UHF transmission.   It will stay aloft in winds up to 85 km/h and survive lightning strikes and small arms fire.   (That makes sense when you think about it - these things are not going to go bang like a party balloon when punctured.  They are just going to start leaking and when they have lost enough gas they will slowly start coming back to earth.  If you reel them in fast enough, while the balloon is still acting like a parachute you would likely be able to ground it with little damage to the payload). 

A MARTS blimp "can run for two weeks before it would need refueling, and can remain afloat in winds up to 50 mph," according to DD. With a combination kevlar/mylar skin, the aerostat can even "handle small arms fire... function[ing] with a 4-inch diameter hole."


Unit cost is apparently 14 MUSD/4 or 3.5 MUSD each.

and the Marines are scrounging up $14 million to buy four more.


So one of these things tethered in the middle of your camp would give you both an RRB platform with 125 km radius (assuming a 3000 ft altitude and no 3001 ft bumps on the skyline) as well as a 24/7 Eye in the sky sentry, also with a very long range.

Edit: Here's another reference with more on surveillance range - at 1000 ft you get a 30 km horizon - from other sources at 15,000 ft you get a horizon of about 280 km - then all you need is a powerful enough lens or radar to see that far.



I'd suspect if they used radar absorbing composite materials, the blimp/ballon/aerostat would have
a minimized radar signature.  Likely camo techniques to minimize visual and IR ident.  On a modern
battlefield against a tech savy enemy, its possible to quickly identify RF broadcasts though. 

However, the height of the blimp reduces the need to build and maintain communications towers and
the idea serves well in tactical and fixed scenarios.  Might be an air hazard without certain methods of
identification.  From a tech point of view, the equipment inside is physically harder to service if
suspended.  Down time might be longer and back-up systems need tol be provided as well.

I doubt it would mean the reduction of personnel.  These devices are additional tools and not necessarily
the best option for all fixed or deployed communications and radar types.

There is talk in Manitoba of looking into airships (blimps) for transportation of goods to remote communities.  Because of the transport costs to fly in goods and the shortening of the winter road season the idea is gaining momentum. 
30 million for first airship.
Not in the article I saw.
Barry Prentice, from the Asper School of Business at the U of M was pushing the idea.  I assume because of that that it would be economically viable. 
UberCree said:
There is talk in Manitoba of looking into airships (blimps) for transportation of goods to remote communities.  Because of the transport costs to fly in goods and the shortening of the winter road season the idea is gaining momentum. 
30 million for first airship.

We could use some of those too:
The Dirigible-A Phoenix rising from the Ashes
Lighter Than Air vehicles (LTAs)

The new vehicle set to revolutionise the skies

Imagine a flying machine that can cruise in the air for three weeks without landing - and does not need a runway when it finally comes back to earth.
It may sound like science fiction, but the Hybrid Air Vehicle - which looks like a traditional airship - can land anywhere and on any surface.

Check out the video at link.

Hybrid Air Vehicles to revolutionise air travel
This may look and sound like the latest James Bond mobile, but Hybrid Air Vehicles could transform the way we navigate the skies
Hybrid Air Vehicles offer a revolutionary approach to air travel by using Lighter-Than-Air (LTA) technology.

The company has one of the world’s most experienced teams specialising in designing, building and certifying LTA systems, according to the company’s website, and they have just launched a new video showing the revolutionary SkyCat 200 taking flight.

SkyCats an land and take off from any ‘reasonably flat surface: water, snow, sand and tundra,’ according to the company’s website, which suggests that Hybrid Ari
Vehicles could address the new challenges in the logistics and surveillance markets.

‘The growing world demand for raw materials and the increasing threat of global terrorism is driving the need for novel solutions to the requirements for heavy lift transportation and surveillance / communications with the minimum environmental impact. Hybrid Air Vehicles' products directly address all of these requirements in a cost effective manner,’ states the company’s website.

The SkyCat can fly for three weeks without landing and does not require a runway to land of take off.

The SkyCat could be advantageous in many fields, suggest the creators, who believe that it could revolutionise the way people travel the skies.

‘Compared to available alternatives, these products offer a cost effective solution for heavy lifting requirements in territories such as the far north of Canada or the outback of Australia. Oil and mineral exploration and extraction become more viable based upon our environmentally sensitive solutions. Our products can provide very effective timely humanitarian relief, to areas struck by natural disasters,’ states the company’s website.

The SkyCat can burn up to 25 percent less fuel that existing aircraft and can land and take off vertically.

The SkyCat series' advantages allow the creation of a transport system that can interface with existing transport modes. Operational capabilities result in almost zero impact on the environment by avoiding the need to construct runways or roads.

                              (Reproduced under the Fair Dealings provisions of the Copyright Act)
Revolutionize ??? Really !!!

I have pictures at home of my grandmother travelling in one of those in the 1920's.

They were outclassed by airplanes due to a (little known :) ) aerodynamic concept: Air resistance. Them things just don't move fast.

I can't see anyone wishing to lose the speed advantage just for a 25% increase in fuel efficiency.

If fuel gets to be so expansive that speed matters less, the real way to travel will become ships again - Much more fuel efficient per passenger than airships and a lot more comfortable. Just MHO. 
Oldgateboatdriver......I also enjoy the jet propulsed style travelling, however there is great possibilities for Airships in the Great White North :snowman:
*highlights mine
            ______________________________________________________________________________Airships to the Artic

The materials exist to build cargo airships that are much larger than the giants of the past.  Envelope materials that can build a 250 ton lift hybrid have already been developed, and designers are projecting 500 to 1000 ton lift airships as likely.

Airships are compatible with Arctic conditions and terrain.  Colder air provides more lift and the lack of surface thermal activity is an advantage for smoother flight.  Airships need to be field tested in winter conditions to prove that they can deal with snow accumulation and extreme temperatures, but winds can only be managed.  Under some conditions many aircraft will not fly, but airships have long endurance which may allow them to wait out storms. Airship captains will have to work with the wind, rather than fight it.  A non-linear flight path that tacks against the wind may take a bit longer, but airships can cruise easily at 130 kmph so they will still arrive faster than a truck over any ice road.

The primary impediment to the development of cargo airships is the lack of business confidence.  This may be changing with the renewed military interest in the use of airships.  The US Government has organized a consortium to develop a Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV).  The LEMV is on a fast track for delivery of a prototype in 18 months.  The requirements are for an unmanned airship or hybrid airship that can remain aloft for 21 days at 20,000 feet providing continuous communications and surveillance to ground operations.  If brought down to lower elevations where cargo airships operate, the LEMV could carry about 13 to 15 tons.

The LEMV is being designed to deal with the threat of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) that are used by insurgents to kill US, Canadian and other NATO forces in Afghanistan.  Only by continuous surveillance can the activities of the insurgents be discerned from the movement of the civilian population with which they blend.  Canadian Forces would welcome a solution to the IEDs, but there is also a need for similar airship surveillance in the Arctic.  Climate change is melting the ice cap and opening the Northwest Passage for increased marine traffic.  Canada needs a logistics and surveillance vehicle like the LEMV to protect our national sovereignty in the Arctic and react to emergency situations.

The airship industry has a history of false starts.  Several times military initiatives have gotten the development of civilian airships close to the tipping point, but it has never reached the critical mass of civilian demand to become a common place means of transport.  Perhaps it will be a case of “third time lucky”.  The size of airship manufacture and operations in Canada make it an appealing industry to encourage for its own sake, but the payoff to northern development could be nothing less than revolutionary.

For too long people in northern Canada have had to make the best of whatever transport they could with limited infrastructure and a sparse population.  Sufficient demand exists in northern Canada to produce cargo airships and no technological barriers remain.  The commercial tipping point is in sight, it just needs a final push to make it happen.  The fifth Airships to the Arctic conference may be ahead of the tipping point, but clearly it is rapidly approaching. 

                          (Reproduced under the Fair Dealings provisions of the Copyright Act)