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US Pentagon Plans For a Spy Blimp

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the unblinking-eye dept.

The Military 374

nloop writes "The Pentagon is intending to develop a new spy ship — a dirigible. At 65,000 feet it would provide a 10 year, solar power based, unblinkingly intricate and continuous view of the surface via radar surveillance. Because of its altitude it would be safe from surface-to-air missiles and most aircraft. A 1/3-scale prototype, now being designed, is 'known as ISIS, for Integrated Sensor Is the Structure, because the radar system will be built into the structure of the ship. ... 'If successful, the dirigible... could pave the way for a fleet of spy airships, military officials said.'"

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374 comments

In other news... (5, Funny)

malkir (1031750) | more than 5 years ago | (#27194881)

China works on 'giant slingshots' armed with darts to combat the US spying mission.

No need for missiles (5, Insightful)

markov_chain (202465) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195111)

Just use a laser

Re:No need for missiles (4, Funny)

Fx.Dr (915071) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195139)

You're no fun.

How about a higher altitude dirigible with a magnifying glass? Lasery enough?

Re:No need for missiles (4, Funny)

markov_chain (202465) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195185)

I'm out of any more bright ideas.

Re:No need for missiles (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27195229)

Holland, Michigan. (AP) - A couple who ran a baby-sitting service out of their home videotaped themselves performing sex acts with children, some as young as 2 months old, police said Friday.
Rob Malda, 32, and Neil Pater, 34, both of Holland, Michigan, were being held on $100,000 bond in County Jail. Both faced preliminary charges of child molestation and child exploitation. Jail staff did not know whether either one had an attorney.

Police who searched the couple's home found a videotape depicting sex acts involving Malda and Pater and at least four different children between the ages of 2 months and 6 years old, said Holland County Sheriff's Deputy Bob Kemp. "In 15 years of doing this job, it's the worst thing I've ever seen or imagined," he told WRTV. "Just horrible, just horrible It's a new low."

Police searched the couple's home after the parents of a 3-year-old girl reported that she told them Malda and Pater had touched her inappropriately and photographed her at their home on Feb. 28.
Deputies seized several computers, cameras, a video camera, pornographic materials, drugs and drug paraphernalia. Several sex toys that appeared in the video were seized during a second search, police said.
Malda and Pater were arrested March 5.

Re:No need for missiles (4, Funny)

Fx.Dr (915071) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195231)

No no no! Stick to your guns, man! Take your original idea, fuse it with OP, multiply it with a well-known meme, and whaddya have?

AIRBORNE, frickin' anti-aircraft sharks with laser beams!

I'm actually much more partial to that idea. The magnifying glass idea is just ridiculous.

Re:In other news... (4, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195143)

"China works on 'giant slingshots' armed with darts to combat the US spying mission."

That First Generation War stuff isn't the only game in town...

Observation doesn't necessarily require being directly over enemy territory. Such airships would be excellent for covering borders and providing 25/7 situational awareness over areas of Iraq and Afghanistan. They can also observe large marine areas, which is why blimps never totally went out of US service. They aren't sexy, and the general public keeps confusing them with the Hindenburg, but they are useful pieces of gear. UAV don't have near the loiter time of a blimp/airship, but they can plug gaps when the blimp is out of service. Working together they could make for excellent surveillance/interdiction systems.

Re:In other news... (0, Redundant)

peragrin (659227) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195487)

crap when did iraq move to another planet?

Or did the military get annoyed at 24 hours and made it a standard 25 when i wasn't looking?

what really gets me is that they are building uav's which can loiter at 65,000 on solar power. why use a much slower dirigible?

Steampunk! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27194895)

This is awesome.

What's next? Will the Army start issuing "vintage" armored cars? Will there be a resurgence of interest towards lavishly carpeted submarines? Find out in the next installment of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen [imdb.com]!

Missiles reach SPACE you know. (4, Insightful)

EdZ (755139) | more than 5 years ago | (#27194903)

Because of its altitude it would be safe from surface-to-air missiles

The U2 went for this, and it didn't work for long. Though I'm guessing that for what is essentially a balloon with a sensor package, it's radar signature will be pretty low to start with, and extra stealth technology notwithstanding.

Re:Missiles reach SPACE you know. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27194953)

Ahem, missiles or rockets?

The heck with SAM/long range missles... (1)

volxdragon (1297215) | more than 5 years ago | (#27194989)

Considering modern Mig's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikoyan_MiG-35) can reach approximately 62,000 feet already, having a missle go the extra distance from there would be relatively trivial. Not like this thing is going to be very speedy and even if it has no heat signature as you would expect, it still is going to be a massive not-so-moving target to hit at relatively close range...

Re:The heck with SAM/long range missles... (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195035)

Don't worry, after the couple of unfortunate incidents, the surplus will be sold off at a substantial discount to local law enforcement agencies who wish to better Secure the Homeland(tm).

Re:The heck with SAM/long range missles... (5, Insightful)

Eevee (535658) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195063)

From the fine article:

and safe from most fighter planes.

Hmmm. most...It's almost as if they thought that there might be some advanced planes...almost as if they had done some research on possible opponents...almost as if experts in the field are as smart as a Slashdot reader.

Re:The heck with SAM/long range missles... (2, Interesting)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195175)

Considering modern Mig's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikoyan_MiG-35) can reach approximately 62,000 feet already, having a missle go the extra distance from there would be relatively trivial.

But at what cost?
The missles aren't cheap, and neither is the costs of sending the plane up there (fuel, maintenance...and don't the higher-end planes that will be capable of reaching that altitude cost more in every way?). If the blimp costs $20,000 and missiles are $50,000; $ENEMY could have a problem.

Re:The heck with SAM/long range missles... (1, Insightful)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195303)


You know it's funny reading all these comments about the Chinese shooting it down. Because the first assumption that I made when I saw the summary was that the US government was intending to use it to keep the US people under observation.

After all, which is the biggest threat to the US government? A foreign power or the US people?

Re:The heck with SAM/long range missles... (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195411)

Because the first assumption that I made when I saw the summary was that the US government was intending to use it to keep the US people under observation.

Too impractical, I would think.

Re:The heck with SAM/long range missles... (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195395)

If the blimp costs $20,000 and missiles are $50,000; $ENEMY could have a problem.

It depends on what the value of the intel is to the enemy. *WE* will not be spending 50K to shoot down *OUR* 20K blimp.

Re:The heck with SAM/long range missles... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27195401)

IIRC the former soviet union had missiles capable of reaching 85,000 feet since the SR-71's time hence the Blackbird's retirement.

Re:The heck with SAM/long range missles... (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195459)

It's been quite a while since there has been a war between belligerents who were both technological advanced enough to either field such a sensor platform or attack it. Right now the powers that could do it aren't directly engaged and nobody that could provide the technology doesn't deploy that technology to their proxies. I would think that the Israelis would have an all day woody if they got it from us or developed it on their own.

Re:The heck with SAM/long range missles... (5, Insightful)

Ash Vince (602485) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195463)

You are completely missing the about about this things use. In all modern warfare contexts the US has total air superiority. If a war arises where that is not the case, the US makes sure it gains air superiority very quickly.

Once you have air superiority and have bombed shit out of everything that could launch a missile large enough to reach it this thing is perfect for spotting hostile forces on the ground. Most of the people we now fight against are so out gunned in the skys they resort to terrorist and guerilla actions. This thing can be kept flying for very long periods, very cheaply. It also has the advantage of being able to hover. This means when it sees a target, it can remain stationary above it and maintain a visual for long periods.

The current solution is to use spy drones but they are vulnerable to small arms fire form the ground, need fuel, and have to fly in circles to maintain a visual on a fix position. This circling vastly reduces the effectiveness of the drones in urban environment with tall buildings.

Re:Missiles reach SPACE you know. (0, Flamebait)

topham (32406) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195003)

It's radar signature will be HUGE actually.

Not like it will matter much. Only a couple of countries with capability to shoot it down would even consider it. That's pretty much Russia and China.

It is a good idea, however it's real purpose will be above U.S. cities to spy on the locals.

Re:Missiles reach SPACE you know. (4, Insightful)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195067)

I would think the thing in the sky about the size of the goddamn MOON would be a bigger giveaway that something's in your airspace than the radar signature.

Re:Missiles reach SPACE you know. (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195141)

It would be about the size of the moon if it was more than 180 meters (590 ft) wide, assuming they'd be right above you (if not then it'd have to be even bigger to be as big as the moon). I'd expect they'd go for something slightly smaller..

Re:Missiles reach SPACE you know. (5, Insightful)

American Terrorist (1494195) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195133)

Oh please, they're gonna spend $400 million to take videos of your neighborhood? So they can tell your wife you're cheating on her? Oh no, they're spying on me! They know that I have a dog in the backyard and a car in the front! Whatever happened to privacy rights!?

Re:Missiles reach SPACE you know. (1)

radio4fan (304271) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195489)

It is a good idea, however it's real purpose will be above U.S. cities to spy on the locals.

Aww, c'mon.

It's real purpose is to shovel more of your (descendents') money into the pockets of the defence industry!

Re:Missiles reach SPACE you know. (4, Interesting)

Cassini2 (956052) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195061)

It all depends on the target country. Afghanistan and Iraq have constant Predator overflights. I expect the blimp will offer a stationary surveillance over relatively unarmed or poorly armed countries. It might also be use for UN crisis zones, like Sudan and Somalia, or where the local government has largely broken down.

Alternatively, the blimp could be used to patrol U.S. air space. There is always the coast guard, border patrol, war on drugs, war on terrorism, war on crime, and even coastal rescue. A stationary surveillance platform might be really useful for those applications.

The main target of this platform might be here at home in America.

Re:Missiles reach SPACE you know. (1)

(H)elix1 (231155) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195093)

The U2 went for this, and it didn't work for long.

It would be high enough to avoid the 'portable' launchers. Sure, the Russians can knock down something that high, but...

I'd guess Iran would have the Sayyad-1 [wikipedia.org] or something along that line of thought. It has a flight altitude of ~66,000 feet and the blimp is going to fly at ~65,000 feet. Just in the envelope, but *that* is a serious rocket - not something that can be just launched from the back of a truck. You would probably use this over airspace you more or less controlled.

Compare that the Preditor [af.mil], which hits a ceiling around 25,000 feet. A much easier target.

Same deal, IMHO - just another drone. This one with a bit better altitude. You could bring it down, but this is just another cheap, unmanned, long duration surveillance platform. Bet the SAM setup to bring it down, which would get one shot off (if they could get it set up...) would not be worth the cost/benefit ratio.

Re:Missiles reach SPACE you know. (1)

thrillseeker (518224) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195261)

The summary was poorly worded ... at 60+ thousand feet it'd be safe from most handheld surface-to-air missiles. The article itself is incorrect in stating that the altitude would keep it safe from most fighter aircraft, since anything with the performance of an F-4 (first built in 1955) or better can zoom to that altitude, take a passing gun shot, or launch a missile - it's not like the blimp can maneuver very quickly.

Re:Missiles reach SPACE you know. (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195403)

If it's to use (active) radar for its primary purpose (sensor/surveilance), it will have a blatantly huge radar signature.

Re:Missiles reach SPACE you know. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27195483)

Because of its altitude it would be safe from surface-to-air missiles

The U2 went for this, and it didn't work for long. Though I'm guessing that for what is essentially a balloon with a sensor package, it's radar signature will be pretty low to start with, and extra stealth technology notwithstanding.

Of course the U2s are still flying, and have received major upgrades (avionics, new engine) in the past decade.

The Old Ways Are The Best. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27194925)

Iran has announced plans to step up it's giant blowpipe development.

1960's... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27194929)

Because the ability to shoot things at that altitude down has not existed since the 1960's?

spy on who? (1)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 5 years ago | (#27194935)

And at 65,000 feet, these will spy on who? I'm not really buying the "safe from missiles" claim, but even if it were true a slow moving blimp would not be very safe over foreign soil, it could even be attacked by an attack blimp with a pointed stick on the front. They claim this is a project of the Pentagon, but it sure seems like this is being designed to spy on the country's own citizens.

Re:spy on who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27194983)

That's the new form of "dual use"; it can be used on Americans as well as for Americans!

Re:spy on who? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27194999)

Do you have any idea how expensive a military-grade pointed stick costs? We're the only military superpower at the moment, and I doubt Russia or China are going to be able to afford a functioning pointed stick any time soon.

Re:spy on who? (3, Informative)

American Terrorist (1494195) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195047)

TFA is actually pretty informative.

The 450-foot-long craft would give the U.S. military a better understanding of an adversary's movements, habits and tactics, officials said. And the ability to constantly monitor small movements in a wide area -- the Afghanistan- Pakistan border, for example -- would dramatically improve military intelligence..... The giant airship's military value would come from its radar system. Giant antenna would allow the military to see farther and with more detail than it can now.

Sounds pretty useful to me. Not against countries with advanced weapons but probably Afghanistan. Think of it as a Protoss Observer. Not invincible but godly useful for recon.

Re:spy on who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27195333)

I had a protoss my salad once. Best hundred bucks I ever spent.

Re:spy on who? (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195253)

You obviously have never played RTS games with the Fog of War on. And even then the information is much better than what battlefield commanders have to work with.

Invisible my foot (4, Interesting)

Trapezium Artist (919330) | more than 5 years ago | (#27194959)

What's this business in the article about it being "nearly impossible to see"? A 450 foot dirigible at an altitude of 65,000 feet would subtend an angle of 0.4 degrees from ground-level directly underneath, just a little smaller than the full Moon. Or will it be painted with big words on the side saying "Please ignore the spy in the sky", instructions that we all will no doubt dutifully follow, like the sheep we are?

Re:Invisible my foot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27195169)

They could, I dunno, paint it blue?

Re:Invisible my foot (1)

Xylaan (795464) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195203)

Well, compare it to say, a 747 (250 feet long, and a cruising altitude of what, 35000 feet)? It subtends an angle of 0.4 degrees as well, but they're not always clearly visible.

The Moon has the advantage of being a significant source of light in addition to its size. Now, I would expect that during certain times of the day (around dawn and dusk), the angle of the sun would be such that the blimp would actually reflect light down to an observer on the ground. In that case, the blimp would fairly obvious.

Plus, if they put radar on it, a hostile government could almost certainly find it by simply by looking for the radar signals being sent out. Active radar systems don't tend to hide very well from people with the technology to detect them.

Re:Invisible my foot (1)

American Terrorist (1494195) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195353)

Now, I would expect that during certain times of the day (around dawn and dusk), the angle of the sun would be such that the blimp would actually reflect light down to an observer on the ground. In that case, the blimp would fairly obvious.

Which is why the U-2 and SR-71ãwere both painted black. Not like it matters for the blimp though. Missiles don't have eyes, they use radar for targeting.

Re:Invisible my foot (1)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195321)

You are mistaken. 1 degree is approximately the width of a little finger at arm's length, so at less than 1/2 that it will hardly stand out, and you definitely won't be able to read anything on it. Can you read the insignia on a 747 at 35,000 feet from below ?

Re:Invisible my foot (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195519)

Right now the "bad guys" pretty much know when the spy satellites will be over head and just hide from them a couple hours twice a day and operate a lot at night; this thing will put a real crimp in their operations, they'll be under scrutiny continuously when it's deployed.

the Ultimate UAV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27194963)

the UAV that trumps all other UAVs. 10 year's with out having to land for refueling that is utter pwnage. you could even like launch smaller UAV's from this with weapons on them... Lasers? ...to like shoot stuff and then fly back up to the mother ship again lolz.

I can see it now... Osama is sitting out of his cave sipping a cup of tea and comments to the terrorist sitting next to him on what a nice day it is. Any how much he likes his new dialysis machine. and then ZAPP! outta the blue laser hits in in the forehead killing him and lighting the cigarette of another terrorist behind him

Re:the Ultimate UAV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27195307)

Yeah, when they find another boogie man they can kill this one off, but they're not going to kill him until they have someone else to scare the people into aproving whatever invasion of privacy they want to perpitrate on them.

"Safe from surface-to-air missiles" (1)

El Cabri (13930) | more than 5 years ago | (#27194973)

This only applies to existing air defense systems. There's around two dozen nations who have the capability to develop a specific weapon against such a blimp on a relatively short notice, and not all of them are US allies.

Oh the humanity (2, Funny)

meist3r (1061628) | more than 5 years ago | (#27194977)

The last project trying to revive the blimp ended by having to transform the hangar into a tropical bath. Good luck.

International Space? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27194995)

Is 65,000 feet still considered withing a country's airspace? I know most planes don't go that high, but how far does a nations's airspace extend up? Clearly, once you reach "space" everyone's satellites fly over everyone else's countries, but I would think that at only 65,000 feet that would be well within a country's territory. And therefore, on grounds to be considered to be shot down.

Anyone know at what height you are in "international space"??

Re:International Space? (1)

icegreentea (974342) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195513)

There is no widely agreed upon vertical limit for airspace. Anything from 50km to 160km has been suggested. That being said, 50km is roughly 165 000 feet, so there's absolutely no confusion about the blimp's status. However, you can hang one of these suckers right outside of their airspace and blast side scanning radar. You can also hang it over countries you have already invaded (for obvious reasons). Or you can hang it over your own borders (as someone above as stated). But anyhow, if you're curious, the SR-71 flew at like 85 000 feet and the Soviet's (and everyone else it overflew) tried to shoot it down. So there's your benchmark.

As for all the people going nuts over 'this thing can get shot down', the answer is 'duh'. You're clearly not going to try to use a goddamn blimp against China or Iran or North Korea or w/e. You're clearly going to use it in countries like Iraq or Afghanistan. We already have a crap load of UAVs hanging around at 65 000 feet there. This is just presumably a cheaper alternative. And there already exists systems that can blow stuff out of the air at 65 000 feet (the Russian SA-11 for example, and the F-15 and SU-27 both have service ceilings pretty damn close to 65 000 feet). That does not make developing this a waste of money. Not just because we won't be deploying in situations where the threat is high, but it's also just poor logic. Why do we continue to develop better armor for light and medium vehicles when there are anti-tank rounds that can penetrate a meter of solid steel?

We have corporate jetting Nancy Pelosi (0, Offtopic)

zymano (581466) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195005)

She spends about as much time as that blimp in the air.

I know it's in the original article but... (1)

Eevee (535658) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195009)

I realize it's not the editor's fault this time because the original article makes the same mistake, but dirigible and blimp mean two different things. A dirigible has a support structure holding the gas cells; a blimp depends on the pressure of its gas cells to hold its shape.

Re:I know it's in the original article but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27195201)

I realize it's not the editor's fault this time because the original article makes the same mistake, but dirigible and blimp mean two different things. A dirigible has a support structure holding the gas cells; a blimp depends on the pressure of its gas cells to hold its shape.

Really? Everything I'm seeing (wikipedia, dictionaries, and the article) are saying dirigible and airship are synonymous as catchalls and either rigid airship or Zeppelin is the supported aircraft. You have any source for this?

Re:I know it's in the original article but... (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195251)

Why is this not the editor's fault? Part of an editor's job is to filter out crap. If an editor approved a story claiming that John Lennon had returned from the dead and was now named Barack Obama Jones, would you say it was the original writer's fault only?

Airship! (1)

nloop (665733) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195013)

"While the military says the craft is closer to a blimp than a zeppelin -- which has a rigid external structure -- officials usually call the project an airship."

Why call it an airship? They don't say. My bet is they really liked Final Fantasy.

Re:Airship! (1)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195453)

"Airship" is the aircraft category that includes both blimps and dirigibles. By definition, it's an aircraft supported by a lighter-than-air gas and having a propulsion system. "Zeppelin" and "dirigible" are interchangeable: they both imply the presence of a rigid structure.

rj

Laser (2, Insightful)

Akardam (186995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195033)

Hmm. Large gas-filled object, presumably with a not overly-thick skin to keep the weight down. Ground based laser of sufficient power to pop a hole in the giant balloon.

Yeah, this is gonna work real well.

Re:Laser (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27195081)

Yes those laser armed taliban have been a real problem.

Re:Laser (1)

SethJohnson (112166) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195501)



We've assumed technical / military superiority over these middle-eastern foes. You're right, that the Taliban's technical resources are severely limited. The likelihood is that their buddies in Iran will use a bit of their oil money to buy powerful laser toys just to maintain destabilization in the region.

Seth

Re:Laser (5, Insightful)

Xylaan (795464) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195137)

It's amazing what 65,000 feet of atmosphere will do to your nice laser. Plus the joy of keeping it focused on one place to allow the heat to build up sufficiently.

Re:Laser (4, Insightful)

Akardam (186995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195431)

It's amazing how trivial those problems are compared to protecting a blimp at 65,000'.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airborne_Laser [wikipedia.org]:

"If the ABL achieves its design goals, it could destroy liquid-fueled ICBMs up to 600 km away. Tougher solid-fueled ICBM destruction range would likely be limited to 300 km"

65,000' is just a hair under 20 kilometers. That's beans compared to what the ABL is supposed to be able to do against a smaller, much faster moving target, from a mobile platform. You might need a stronger laser than the ABL carries, but as I said before, most blimps aren't particularily tough.

Re:Laser (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195199)

Yeah, ground based lasers capable of focusing enough energy on an object 12 miles away to damage it are real common. I've got two under tarps in my garage.

Re:Laser (4, Insightful)

srmalloy (263556) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195341)

Hmm. Large gas-filled object, presumably with a not overly-thick skin to keep the weight down. Ground based laser of sufficient power to pop a hole in the giant balloon.

Yeah, this is gonna work real well.

You are aware that an airship's lift cells are pressurized to barely over atmospheric pressure, don't you? That the lift comes from the volume of gas being less dense than the atmosphere, not from pressure? Take a plastic shopping bag, shake it open, then squeeze the open end closed with your hand. Now poke the inflated bag with a needle. See how violently the bag ruptures? Oh, wait -- it doesn't do that at all; you just get a leak.

Go back and read how hard it was for Allied fighter pilots in WWI to take down German dirigibles and observation balloons; because they were filled with hydrogen, they would have to shoot holes in the balloon, then fly back and fire tracers or incendiary bullets through the plume of escaping hydrogen gas coming out the holes they'd shot. But airships lifted by helium don't have that weakness, so the problem would be limited to patching holes.

Re:Laser (1)

Akardam (186995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195471)

Perfectly aware, and I was using a figure of speech. However, explain to me how they're supposed to conduct repairs at 65,000'?

Re:Laser (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195529)

If the leak is slow enough, you don't have to. Have it limp back to friendly airspace while another heads out, and fix it on the ground. Or, if it can't make it that far, maneuverer someplace the enemy can't reach conveniently and self-destruct.

Re:Laser (1)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195533)

Furthermore, the gas in a dirigible/zeppelin is enclosed in a large number of individual cells called "ballonets". Puncturing one causes a minor decrease in buoyancy.

And as you say, small holes don't leak very fast at a low pressure differential. The Goodyear blimps have a Plexiglas panel atop the gondola that lets the pilot peer into the bag, so he can see the tiny points of light that indicate leaks; if there are only a few, they can be dealt with by adding a little helium before takeoff. When there get to be too many, mechanics apply some patches.

rj

Looking forward to (2, Funny)

Carbon016 (1129067) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195101)

Floating cannon battles with the Ron Paul blimp.

The engineers don't have to seem as silly now that they get to put the purestrain gold shells to good use. Hard to starboard!

Replacing satellites with airships (1)

LihTox (754597) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195161)

I'd like to see some analysis about the feasibility of replacing satellites with airships in certain cases. Isn't it a lot cheaper and more fuel-efficient to put a blimp in the air as compared to a satellite? What if we could use them in place of communications satellites-- instead of satellite radio we'd have blimp radio! You'd have to do some extra work to keep the blimp in a geosynchronous position, but a comparison of the energy expenditures would be very interesting.

Time for the Popular Mechanic Yearly Blimp Cover (1)

strangeattraction (1058568) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195165)

I wish someone would collect all the PopMech covers and publish them somewhere. Having a list of all the blimp issues would be great. You just know the Navy has refused to get rid of the hangers at Moffett simply because they knew one day Blimps/Zepplins would be back. PopMech may be correct one day in predicting the return. Even a stopped clock it correct twice a day:)

Why Helium? (2, Interesting)

Wingsy (761354) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195323)

Since this thing is unmanned, why not use hydrogen and get substantially more lifting power or get the same lift with a smaller craft?

Re:Why Helium? (2, Insightful)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195367)

Why not use hydrogen and get substantially more lifting power?

How much more? Enough to bring it out of reach of more planes? If not, why bother?

Re:Why Helium? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27195381)

OH THE UNHUMANITY!

Only a few years development needed... (2, Informative)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195337)

Forget missiles. If there is a threat from an aircraft (yes, dear, a blimp or dirigible is an aircraft) that flies at 65000 feet, someone will probably rapidly develop a conventional fighter to reach that high. Aircraft evolve to meet the threat. Alternatively, NASA has achieved about 90000ft with a propellor driven unmanned aircraft, so it shouldn't be beyond the wit of the engineers of any developed country to produce a small payload high altitude prop driven solar powered "cruise missile" to take these things out. The payload probably needs to be no more than a few ounces of explosive and a quantity of small shrapnel.

However, by then the developers will have had the money and moved on to other projects, which is the usual way military R&D works (cynicism borne of experience).

Already exists... (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195469)

I think 65,000 feet is not nearly enough. The Mig 29 has a service ceiling of 59,000 feet, and that means it can go a lot higher. In fact, you can buy a ride on a Mig 29 up to almost 70,000 feet from here:

http://rusadventures.com/tour27.shtml [rusadventures.com]

That's plane is plenty capable of popping this balloon, and that's a design at least 30 years old.

No new technology is needed to shoot down dumbo blimp.

dammit pentagon you're stealing my daydreams!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27195339)

I was just daydreaming about this very blimp over the past few days. Specifically, both the "solar-powered" bit and the fact that the structure will BE the dish, since you just have to make your inflated form parabolic, with the top part (due to coating on the inside) radio-reflective and the bottom part radio-transparent (except the small receiver aimed at the top part). Only difference is instead of radar going down I dreamt of a wifi downlink. Cuz' fuck you telcos and your wireless spectrum buying strong-arming - we're gonna deploy a whole free as in freedom mesh network of self-powering dirigibles and interface them with LINE OF SIGHT radar, screw you FCC. ...wait I'm just rambling incoherently aren't I?

Hysterical Precedent (3, Informative)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195399)

"At 65,000 feet ..... it would be safe from surface-to-air missiles and most aircraft."

Francis Gary Powers was shot down in his U-2 by an S-75 Dvina missile on May 1, 1960. The operating altitude for his mission was 70,000 feet. How is 65,000 safe 50 years after 70,000 isn't?

It's obviously not. On 13 September 1985 an F-15 launched an ASM-135 ASAT anti-satellite weapon from 38,000 feet and took down the Solwind satellite orbiting at an altitude of 345 miles (1,821,600 feet). The ASM-135 was built from off-the-shelf (ie. already developed, tested and in production) hardware. One can assume the shelf 25 years later to be much better stocked, and any launch platforms to be much more capable, such as the recent development of Mach 1+ missile launch capability.

With or without the "surface-to-air" in the summary replaced with "hand held" as in the original, TFA is ludicrous.

Re:Hysterical Precedent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27195497)

It doesn't matter. As TFA says, it will be used in places like rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. I'm guessing on the US as well. They aren't going to run it over China or India.

The altitude claim is bogus (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195427)

IT's funny how the summary says "safe from SAMs", when we already learned in the Eisenhower administration that Russian SAMS can fly just as high as our aircraft can.

Safe at 60,000 feet?

I doubt it. Some modern fighter aircraft can just about reach that altitude on their own. Wikipedia gives the service ceiling of a Mig 29 at 59,000 feet, and obviously an aircraft can burst up a bit higher than that.

These blimps would just be cannon fodder.

What's in a name... (1)

scubamage (727538) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195439)

Isis was the Egyptian goddess representing the perfect mother/wife figure. She is represents the throne, and the power it holds. She is sometimes represented as a kite hovering over the corpse of her dead husband.

So there you go, the logical conclusion is that they want to show us the power of their throne. And that the Pentagon officials think we're all their dead husbands.

Titanic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27195457)

Didn't anybody watch Titanic? Thats how this is going to turn out! OH the HUMANITY!

Not so much a new story as much as an update... (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195467)

http://www.freemarketnews.com/WorldNews.asp?nid=15095 [freemarketnews.com]

""According to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), 11 high-altitude airships would provide overlapping radar coverage of all maritime and southern border approaches to the continental U.S., and may be a significant asset in homeland defense efforts. The Stratospheric Platform System (SPS) dirigible operates just barely within the outer limits of the earth's atmosphere and is emerging as part of the military's 21st century transformational mindset."

A prototype of the blimp is already being developed at a cost of $40 million. The spy ship, called the High Altitude Airship, will be seventeen times larger than the Goodyear Blimp and hover 12 miles above the ground. Although it is very large it will be invisible to both the naked eye and ground radar because of its distance from the earth. Fuel economic and self sufficient, it will be powered by solar energy and will be able to fly for years at a time.

The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command has already conducted a study to determine some of the uses of the spy ship. It has the capability of monitoring an area 600 miles in diameter at a time with surveillance equipment, such as high-resolution cameras. The government has ordered 11 of them - enough to monitor every parcel of land in the U.S."

My comments:

Now, as for anyone thinking of using a plane to eyeball and shoot one of theses (11 or so) down, imagine what kind of plane and pressure suit that would be needed to survive flying along at 63,360,000 feet. I don't imagine that many countries possess ADM (Anti-Dirigible Missiles) or any capable of ASAT work, let along reaching 12 miles into the sky with precision, accuracy and the attendant lethality required to get an 80% kill probability.

So, they go from SPS to ISIS....

Radar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27195485)

Aren't blimps well known for, uh, y'know, being HUGE?

A better idea would be to create a bunch of smaller blimps and connect them together. (could also increase detail if it is done right)

Split one into 9, or 16 if you are feeling ambitious.
This also offers some redundancy if one is shot down by laser / rocket.

Can dirigible be hacked? (1)

Max_W (812974) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195491)

I wonder if it is possible to hack into such a dirigible system and feed a faked stream to its home base? Or predator and the likes. This would be revolutionary, - turning military robots against their owners.

I see the world where a hacker may become its supreme ruler. Some serious mathematics should be involved in it though.

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