Noah Shachtman Wired
God smiles when the Army spends a half-billion dollars on spy blimps the size of a football field.
I believe that’s the message Northrop Grumman is trying to convey in this illustration accompanying the company’s announcement of a $517 million, five-year contract to build three combat airships for the military.
The military already employs a fleet of blimps to look for enemies and relay communications. But none of them are as big, as high-flying, or as far-seeing as this Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle, or LEMV. It’s supposed to float at 20,000 feet for up to three weeks at a time, snooping on absolutely everything below with a variety of sensors.
“Basically what we see it as is an unblinking eye,” LEMV project manager Marty Sargent tells Inside Defense.
Sargent figures it would take as many as 12 of the military’s advanced Reaper surveillance drones “to do the same mission that the LEMV would do.”
The first airship is supposed to be inflated around 10 months from now. Eight months later, the Army hopes to have the first LEMV flying over Afghanistan. On that day, the clouds will part, the sun will shine, and the cherubs will sing as the unblinking eye begins looking for Taliban.
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