For years, the army has spent millions if not billions of dollars building high-tech flying machines that can skim under the radar while launching missiles thousands of miles to countries overseas. What they have failed to do is worry about the budget that they are using and the money that they spend with every vehicle that comes off of the assembly line. Now, they’ve taken a greener look at some of their surveillance technology and recently unveiled a “Super Blimp”, the LEMV Airship. It isn’t what this ship can’t do when compared to stealth bombers, it’s what it can do that no other aircraft the army has can.
The LEMV Airship, or Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle is essentially the Rolls Royce of blimps and is designed to fly continuously for 21 straight days while providing “unblinking” surveillance of the ground below. The LEMV can barely fit inside Dallas Cowboys Stadium and towers more than seven stories. Built by Northrop Grumman, the blimp is designed to be a hybrid version of what most people have come know as the “Goodyear Blimp”. The average F-16 mission costs about $20,000 to fully execute, most of which can be blamed on the rising costs of jet fuel. According to Northrop, the LEMV Airship can fly for 21 days at the small cost of $11,000.
While the cost of flying the blimp is exceptional, the price tag to build one is anything but. The cost to build an F-16 for Air Force runs nearly 15 million dollars. The Army has officially signed a contract with Northrop Grumman to build three of the LEMV Airships at the cost of more than 500 million dollars.
The airship has already had a successful flight test, including two pilots. Moving forward, the army hopes to have the LEMV be an unmanned aircraft. The LEMV Airship is said to be able to not only survey large areas of land, but it may be able to haul supplies and cargo for troops in other countries.
Oddly enough, the first flight of the LEMV Airship took place over the same place as the Hindenburg disaster. However, Northrop Grumman has indicated that the location was intentional, as there are very few locations that can handle the size of the LEMV.. Currently, testing and building take place at the Northrop Grumman facilities in Lakehurst, New Jersey. There is no official date as to when the LEMV Airship is expected to be completed.