• Thanks for stopping by. Logging in to a registered account will remove all generic ads. Please reach out with any questions or concerns.

Blimps/airships/aerostats (merged)

57Chevy said:
  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.

According to a member of this forum, they could probably be used to intercept TU-95s and TU-160s up North and replace our fighters.
SupersonicMax said:
According to a member of this forum, they could probably be used to intercept TU-95s and TU-160s up North and replace our fighters.

Ooooh, that's good!

As for them being good for up north, I don't agree.  Maybe for smaller aircraft to be used as surveillance, but the large airships are out unless they are filled (with gas/air) in the same temperate region they intend to take off, fly and land in.  There would have to be some serious though put in to venting and carrying a lot of compressed air to fill the craft when they hit cooler temperatures aside from the requirements already needed due to change in weight from use of fuel.  PV=nRT and all that.

Just can't see it doing pax transport up there.
Moreover, Strike, I would be greatly interested to see a nice large airship trying to land in winter in the Arctic with 75-100 Km/h cross winds, and then unload cargo.

Now, I know air enthusiasts get really excited when the prospect of carrying a thousand ton is mentioned. I am looking at AIS for Montreal harbour and, right now, there are seven container ships being unloaded and relieved of their (average) fifty thousand tons of material. That's 350,000 tons - just today - and none of them are of the Panamax or post-Panamax type.

I am sorry, I just can't see any airship future where that trade would be taken over. Just MHO.
Oldgateboatdriver said:
I would be greatly interested to see a nice large airship trying to land in winter in the Arctic with 75-100 Km/h cross winds, and then unload cargo.

I would be interested to see any kind of aircraft land in 75-100km/h crosswinds...
It not like a balloon flying around in a windstorm ;D

US forces hope to put LEMV in the skies above Afghanistan by 2012

LEMV is designed primarily as a surveillance vehicle and when it takes to the skies above Afghanistan a suite of radar, video and signal intelligence equipment will enable to focus its unblinking gaze on the terrain below.

However one of the big attractions of the technology is that this payload is adaptable. ‘One of the key things that army wants is the ability to rapidly integrate new payloads,’ said Metzger. ‘We know that the payloads we put on today may not be the payloads that we have a year or two from now because the fight will change.’

Read the full article: Meet LEMV: the first of a new generation of advanced military airship

LEMV isn’t the only big airship program currently being funded by the US army.

Northrop Grumman’s biggest competitor Lockheed Martin was last year awarded a $400 million DARPA grant to develop a prototype  reconnaissance airship able to stay in the stratosphere for years on end.

According to DARPA the ISIS airship would use 6000m2 of lightweight radar equipment to track everything from cruise missiles to small vehicles hidden in the undergrowth 300 kilometers away.

The platform will owe its remarkable capabilities to the physics of radar. The surface area and height of a stratospheric airship enables a very large radar aperture. As the radar aperture grows larger, the tracking performance of the radar system increases exponentially. Demonstration flights are planned for 2013.

                          (Reproduced under the Fair Dealings provisions of the Copyright Act)
The US Navy operated very large blimps until the late 1950's as radar piquets. They were capable of operating in very bad weather conditions, including heavy icing  and cold weather. These blimps used condensers in the exhaust to collect water as ballast to replace the weight of burning fuel, and were built out of canvas and bailing wire (or something similar).

Modern materials and techniques (like "superpressure" balloons) can reduce the need to vent helium, and some designs use aerodynamic lift to supplement the lift from the helium which makes them less sensitive to the wind (when the ship is not in forward motion, the ship is actually slightly heavier than air).

All in all, modern airships can fill a niche role, but since the surveillance role can be done by so many other platforms, it might not be economical to go this route.
University of Manitoba 2005

Disregard Global Warming Hokey Stiks and other Bumf.

Previous study indicated that 70% of Canada was inaccessible by road.

150 tonne payload approximately equal to that of a 747-8 ...... no runway necessary, at either end.

Edit: And what is the average air temperature at the LEMV's planned operating altitude of 20,000 feet?

There is a big difference between a recce platform and a pax/cargo platform.  I am not saying that these craft can't be used fir strategic purposes but I am saying that it would be untrainable as a passenger platform.
Putting on my devil's advocate hat for a moment  >:D

An airship is a platform, so filling it with electronic equipment and using it as a surveillance platform isn't too much different from filling used 707's with electronics and creating AWACS and other surveillance aircraft. The former Soviet Union even used the IL-76 cargo aircraft to create an AWACS platform of their own (with certain advantages, such as having lots more room inside and having some ability to operate from austere airfields). C-130 Hercules transports are also used as communications relays, fuel tankers and gunships, and even stranger combinations have been proposed, such as Boeing 747's converted to carry dozens of cruise missiles or a B-1 re engined and armed with dozens of AAM's.

There is no reason that a large LTA platform cannot be used in various versions for cargo, surveillance, anti submarine warfare or other purposes. The designers really have to ensure there is lots of usable space and a robust structure to mount various "things" and away we go. If the primary market is cargo carrying as Kirkhill suggests, then there is a fairly large potential market, which means military orders can benefit from economies of scale and platforms prepared for whatever role is selected.
I won't comment on other uses, but for technical reasons I will leave out (as they would require detailed technical explanations of current ASW methods that would breach the security rules of this site and the government), I am quite confident that LTA platforms cannot be used gainfully in anti submarine warfare.

Sorry, couldn't help myself.  ;D
WRT ASW, I was going by the example of the USN's use of blimps for ASW until the mid 1950's, and the use of aircraft like the PC-3 Orion today (I was kind of thinking of a blimp filled with the PC-3's surveillance suite and a large bay full of torpedoes or depth charges). However, we can strike ASW from the list and still have several possible uses for this platform.
From an article from last December in the Regina Leader-Post. Re-printed under the usual caveats of the Copyright Act.

Manitoba looking to the heavens

By Adam Wazny, Winnipeg Free Press December 13, 2010

The system of winter roads that wend their way into the remote communities of northern Manitoba may soon get a little help from above.

Each year there is some uncertainty over the 2,200-kilometre road network, which is open for a six- to eight-week season. Those short, precious weeks are the only time of year trucks can ship in larger quantities of food, medical supplies and building materials to communities that are often largely cut off from the south.

There's been much public discussion in the province about the need for permanent roads -- an expensive proposition by all accounts -- however, there's now another option that appears to be getting some consideration.

The alternative in question? Hybrid airships, souped-up zeppelins that could act as transports to remote northern communities.

Airship firms have had two meetings in Winnipeg, with more visits being scheduled. And residents of the province are definitely interested in hearing about any alternative to the $2-billion price tag of an all-season road system to northern Manitoban communities.

Barry Prentice, a University of Manitoba professor who has long been a champion of the airship, says for the price of building a few bridges on these proposed fixed roads, governments could help finance transport airships that could be used year round.

The province has committed $75 million over the next 15 years to build a permanent network of roads east of Lake Winnipeg, with an estimated total price tag of more than $2 billion. A road to Island Lake, a region of 10,000 people about 500 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, is estimated at $1.4 billion.

Those figures make the airship an intriguing northern alternative.

Measuring the length of a football field and standing up to seven storeys tall, the modern airship could transport large quantities of goods that would allow communities to thrive, Prentice says.

He says regular delivery of construction materials would allow projects to be built quickly, rather than over two summers, and that an increased volume of supplies would eventually drive costs down.

"Trucks are a lot cheaper, but if you don't have the road then what do you have?" asks Prentice, who specializes in supply chain management at the University of Manitoba. "What do we have to lose by trying this?"

Companies that ship goods north during the winter road season have a lot to lose, however.

Plus the potential capital costs for airships can rise into the tens of millions, and without a definitive commercial model to draw from, private-sector investment remains quiet.

As one manufacturer suggested, there's a misconception about airship safety out there -- one the industry will need to fight through.

John Spacek, assistant deputy minister with Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation, is keeping a close eye on hybrid airship developments.

The province has met with the manufacturer's representatives and has even helped fund a demonstration, but the government has no plans to grant more than a courtesy look at this time.

"We're at that pre-commercialization era for hybrid airships, between the military and the public sector," says Spacek, noting the government is a transport facilitator, not a shipping company.

"We have an open mind, we just haven't seen a business case from anybody involved yet."
© Copyright (c) The Regina Leader-Post

Article Link
While I concur with the majority of your post - please forgive me for this correction.

Thucydides said:
... isn't too much different from filling used 707's with electronics and creating AWACS and other surveillance aircraft.

E3 AWACs aircraft are not used 707's filled with electronics - they are a purpose built aircraft for its job.  However - our former CF 707s were sold to the USAF and they were filled with electronics and re-labeled JSTARS.
Although I don't think the platform is the same one as being discussed above, it is a similar idea. Perhaps a blip or LTA has advantages when carrying the amount of equipment being discussed (although I supose a really motivated airforce could use a new or converted 747 airframe if they wanted to, trading endurance for speed), but this should be in service on the ear future:


All-Seeing Blimp Could Be Afghanistan’s Biggest Brain
By Noah Shachtman  January 18, 2011  |  4:00 am  |  Categories: Air Force

Come this fall, there will be a new and extremely powerful supercomputer in Afghanistan. But it won’t be in Dave Petraeus’ headquarters in Kabul or at some three-letter agency’s operations center in Kandahar. It’ll be floating 20,000 feet above the warzone, aboard a giant spy blimp that watches and listens to everything for miles around.

That is, if an ambitious, $211 million crash program called “Blue Devil” works out as planned. As of now, the airship’s “freakishly large” hull — seven times the size of the Goodyear Blimp’s — has yet to be put together.

The Air Force hasn’t settled yet on exactly which cameras and radars and listening devices will fly on board. And it’s still an open question whether the military can handle all the information that the airship will be collecting from above.

U.S. planes already shoot surveillance video from on high, and listen in on Afghanistan’s cellphones and walkie-talkies. But those tasks are ordinarily handled by different aircraft. Coordinating their activities — telling the cameramen where to shoot, or the eavesdroppers where to listen — takes time. And that extra time sometimes allows adversaries to get away.

The idea behind the Blue Devil is to have up to a dozen different sensors, all flying on the same airship and talking to each other constantly. The supercomputer will crunch the data, and automatically slew the sensors in the right direction: pointing a camera at, say, the guy yapping about an upcoming ambush.

The goal is to get that coordinated information down to ground troops in less than 15 seconds.

“It could change the nature of overhead surveillance,” says retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, until recently the head of the Air Force’s intelligence efforts. “There’s huge potential there.”

The first phase of the Blue Devil project is already underway. Late last year, four modified executive planes were shipped to Afghanistan, and equipped with an array of surveillance gear.

Phase two — the airship — will be considerably bigger, and more complex. The lighter-than-aircraft, built TCOM LP, will longer than a football field at 350 feet and seven times the size of the Goodyear Blimp at 1.4 million cubic feet.

“It’s freakishly large,” says a source close to the program. “One of the largest airships produced since World War II.”

The Air Force hopes that the extra size should give it enough fuel and helium to stay aloft for as much as a week at a time at nearly four miles up. (Most blimps float at 3,000 feet or less.) Staying up so high for long is all-but-unprecedented. But it’s only a third of the proposed flight time for a competing Army airship project.

The Army’s “Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle” relies on a more complicated, hybrid hull. Blue Devil’s complexity is in the hardware and software it’ll carry aboard.

Sensors will be swapped in and out using an on-board rail system that connects pallets of electronics. Defense startup Mav6 is doing the integration work.

In addition to an array of on-board listening devices, day/night video cameras, communications relays and receivers for ground sensors, the Blue Devil airship will also carry a wide-area airborne surveillance system, or WAAS. These sensors — like the Gorgon Stare package currently being installed on Reaper spy drones — use hives of a dozen different cameras to film areas up to two-and-a-half miles around.

The footage can easily overwhelm the people who have to watch it (not to mention the military’s often-fragile battlefield networks). Already, 19 analysts watch a single Predator feed.

Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a conference in November that he’d need 2,000 analysts to process the footage collected by a single drone fitted with WAAS sensors. And that’s before the upgrade to the next-generation WAAS, which uses 96 cameras and generates every hour 274 terabytes of information; it’d take 1,870 of the hard drives I’m using right now to store that much data.

That’s where the supercomputer comes in. With the equivalent of 2,000 single-core servers, it can process up to 300 terabytes per hour. So instead of just sending all the footage to the infantrymen, like most of today’s sensors, the airship’s processors will crunch the information, adding meta tags like location and time. Ground troops will query a server on the airship, which will only broadcast the stuff they’re interested in.

“People ask: ‘With all these sensors, how’re you gonna transmit all that data down to the ground?’ Well, we don’t necessarily need to send it all down,” Deptula says. “A potential solution is to process part of the data on-board, and only send what is of interest. That reduces the bandwidth requirements.”

Provided the Air Force can get the blimp in the air, and the gadgets on the blimp. The first flight is scheduled for October 15.
I want the nuclear powered jets they were designing in the 50's to make a comeback. They actually had one built with the reactor installed. The NB-36H.

New tech developed by Darpa makes them possible within our lifetimes (if you stick around long enough). They have fusion fuel that has a radiationless breakdown pathway. Developed with plans for aircraft carriers with safer reactors. But why not use them in aircraft? There is your airship that can stay up for months. If shot down the rads are minimal. You could also build drones with energy weapons.
I checked out the SkyCat web site and the vehicle seems interesting. I don't see it having military strategic lift uses but what about civilian domestic uses?

For those that comment they would like to try and land one in 70 KM/H wind, try and land anything in 70 KM/h wind.

Interesting to note the US are picking up LEMV.