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Home Front
Anti-missile system to use blimp 25 times larger than Goodyear’s
Special to World
Wednesday, October 22, 2003

The United States has been developing what could become a new concept in destroying enemy ballistic missiles in their boost phase.

The concept calls for stationing a huge blimp out of enemy aircraft or missile range that would detect preparations for and launch of any enemy ballistic missile. The blimp would then relay the information to fighter jets that would shoot down the enemy launcher or missile.

The project has been sponsored by the Defense Department’s Missile Defense Agency. The agency has awarded Lockheed Martin a $40 million design and risk reduction contract to advance a project to develop and demonstrate a prototype of a high-altitude airship that could remain in the air for one month.

Lockheed Martin executives said the airship would be 500 feet long, 160 feet in diameter and have a volume of 5.2 million cubic feet. This would be about 25 times larger than the blimps seen at athletic events.

"We share the Missile Defense Agency’s vision for the high altitude airship and the many roles it can serve over our domestic borders and distant theaters of operation," said Al Barber, vice president at Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems & Sensors.

"Its long time on station and ability to carry different payloads will provide multi-mission capabilities not possible with other assets. When launched, the HAA will commence a new era in flight."

The project calls for the demonstration of the airship in 2006. The first phase of the project involves drafting a concept of an airship that can remain afloat for one month at an altitude of 65,000 feet. The facility would have a payload of two tons and provide 10 kilowatts of power.

Israel and the United States have been experimenting with BPI concepts since 1996. Israel had envisioned a network of unmanned air vehicles that could remain in the sky for several days at a time to monitor enemy ballistic missile activities.

But the Lockheed Martin project calls for one facility that would remain stationary. The airship would also have autonomous flight control capabilities.

In another development, two U.S. contractors have conveyed a proposal to the Pentagon to upgrade the E-8C aircraft into a system that would rapidly detect a missile launch as well as estimate its point of impact.

Northrop Grumman and Textron Systems drafted the proposal. Under the proposal, Textron would mount its Theater Airborne Warning System on the J-STARS [Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System] aircraft.

Sorry guys, but every time I read this, I keep looking for Doctor Evil. Besides, the folks at have beaten them to it:

"Stealth planes? Modern armored attack helicopters? Jets? Missiles? BAH! There was a time when supervillainy wasn’t about flashy hardware, but about sheer evil genius and its application against a timid populace; in other words, style mattered over technology. Those were the days of the evil zeppelin, and Steambender Industries LLC presents the latest in lighter-than-air malevolence: the Z313 Zeppelin of Death.
Armed with a patented Hypergauss Death Beam Cannon and air-to-air flak launchers, the Z313 features virtually flat payload/range curves for military airlift applications, i.e. very large cargo capacity is allied to low fuel consumption and very long endurance. The length of four 747s, the Z313 can carry 1,000 tonnes of cargo, and features sumptuous onboard accommodations designed with the supervillain in mind.* It can travel four times as fast as the world’s biggest cruise ship at a top speed of 110 knots; and can cross the Atlantic and back without refueling, with a 6,000 plus mile range. The zeppelin’s mylar-coated skin comes in a variety of fashion colors, and can be adorned with the logo of your cabal or evil NGO.

Price: US$50,000,000.
*other modern airships use cheap noncombustible helium, supposedly for safety purposes. The Z313 is filled with good old-fashioned hydrogen; this highly combustible gas can be detonated spectacularly by an obvious and accessible red self-destruct button on the bridge."

Posted by:Mike Kozlowski

#13  Slightly OT---Stephen---The Stanley steamer was a fascinating automobile. It still only got 12mpg, but it represents constant improvements in the steam engine, boiler, preheat, etc. Here is a nice link. Someplace on my computer I have a diagram of the process, if I can find it.
Posted by: Alaska Paul   2003-10-22 7:28:00 PM  

#12  I would hope that the design includes compartmentalization. We don't need the Titanic of the air.
Posted by: Super Hose   2003-10-22 6:42:11 PM  

#11  Based at Moffett maybe?

Last I heard, there was a plan afoot to dismantle Hangar One. And as I remember, the last time I passed by there I saw a couple of cranes all set up, probably for just that very purpose. (maybe I'll take a little trip out that way after work today just to see what's up)
Posted by: Bomb-a-rama   2003-10-22 5:06:07 PM  

#10   Old Patriot,
I agree with your statement about heavier-than-air-crowd.Just because technology is old doesn't make it useless.One of US Army's problems is how to get armor to battlefield.If there were some heavy-lift dirigibles capable of carrying pallet w/4-6 M1s at a cruising speed of about 100mph(4-5
times faster than surface ships)you could put a batt. of armor anywhere in world in 24 hrs.When not needed deflate and store.
I am suprised the greens haven't started campaign to bring back steam engine transport(aka Stanley Steamers).Acceleration sucks,but what kind of acceleration do diesel buses and garbage trucks have,or need.The idea of steam power sounds insane,but...
Posted by: Stephen   2003-10-22 4:59:44 PM  

#9  The DEA has been using unmanned blimps to monitor drug-runners from Roosevelt Roads for a number of years.
Posted by: Super Hose   2003-10-22 4:39:28 PM  

#8  "Captain Scarlet, please report to Cloudbase immediately."
Posted by: Curt Simon   2003-10-22 3:37:53 PM  

#7  I sure hope this fares better than some of the other airship programs I've seen started, then dropped. We were going to build a fleet of 20 370-foot airships, each equipped with radar, IR imaging systems, and more, to patrol the US/Mexico border, but nothing ever happened. We were going to use the same airships off the coast of the US to stop drug smuggling, but nothing ever happened. We were going to use huge airships for ocean surveillance, but nothing ever happened.

Lot of good ideas, but the Heavier-than-Air boys rule the day, and put a lid on anything actually being done.
Posted by: Old Patriot   2003-10-22 3:16:46 PM  

#6  What about the USAF 747 that is being developed (last I heard) by Boeing and Lockheed that is to use a laser to knock down missles?
Posted by: Michael   2003-10-22 2:30:31 PM  

#5  Shipman -
Well, to put it in perspective: the Akron class dirgibles that the USN flew in the 30s were not quite 800 feet long, and they operated out of Moffett Field quite nicely - at 500 feet, the BMD Blimp will have more than enough room to operate. The same would go for Lakehurst.
Sadly though, the granddaddy of them all - the Goodyear Airdock in Akron, OH - is at this time not capable of handling airships, even though the BMD blimp could end up being built in Akron by Lockmart:

It's possible that the BMD Blimp could be built down at the Goodyear facility at Wingfoot Lake, where their blimp fleet is presently based - the WF hangar can take two fully inflated blimps at 200 feet each, with room to spare. The Airdock (there's actually two there, the big one everybody knows and a much smaller one that dates to 1910)had its southern end closed off towards the end of WWII when Goodyear was getting ready to build F2G Corsairs there. The northern end still opens - and they do so from time to time to make sure it works, it's a local event when it does - and the Airdock itself is used for storage of some pretty incredible stuff. When I was invited in there in 1990, one of the things sitting in there was the fullsized shuttlecraft mockup from the original Star Trek series.

Posted by: Mike Kozlowski   2003-10-22 2:28:22 PM  

#4  Didn't we discuss something similar to this here a month (or so) ago? It was in the Afghan loitering JDAM dispenser genre -- "paint it to look like clouds" -- Fred, let us know if you need help with the royalties...

I keep looking for Doctor Evil.

"Up in the sky, look at that huge..."
"Johnson! Isn't that a giant..."
"Woody!... usw... (only A.P. bit I can watch more than once...)
Posted by: snellenr   2003-10-22 2:19:48 PM  

#3  I guess it'll be a helluvalot bigger 'n the wind tunnel! And that puppy holds a 1/4 scale of the Shuttle. Peanuts. 8-)
Posted by: .com   2003-10-22 2:00:19 PM  

#2  Who cares about the blimp.... I want to see the hangar.

Based at Moffett maybe?
Posted by: Shipman   2003-10-22 1:34:03 PM  

#1  Sorry guys, but every time I read this, I keep looking for Doctor Evil.

The blimp will have a big "ORBITZ" logo on it.
Posted by: Bomb-a-rama   2003-10-22 1:28:42 PM