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250-Foot Hybrid Airship To Spy Over Afghanistan

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the eye-in-the-sky dept.

The Military 343

Toe, The writes "Gizmodo details the Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) (based on the P-791), a spyship from US Army's Space and Missile Defense Command capable of hovering at 20,000 feet. Planned for deployment in Afghanistan, the ship can float for three weeks and carry well over a ton of payload, apparently surveillance equipment. The video on Gizmodo of the P-791 shows that these ships are a hybrid not only of both buoyancy and propulsive lift, but also of both awe and hilarity."

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Protection? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29526533)

I read TFA and the wikipedia entry for the P-791 but I can't seem to find any actual details on the crafts construction. Specifically, what material the outer skin is made of. Seems like this kind of airship would be extremely vulnerable flying over hostile territory.

Yeah right (-1, Troll)

Adolf Hitroll (562418) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526571)

Caus' you still think you can "win" that fucking invasion you call a war?
I'm sure the majority of USian had better see their taxpayer money invested in their wellfare.
You "geeks" are really unaware of realities: Just fuck off with your facebook friends.

Re:Yeah right (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29526851)

Now you may well be right that the war is unwinnable, should never have been started and should be ended as soon as possible. Certainly that is a valid and reasonable point of view.

My problem with you is that you seem to be advocating cutting support for the troops before they get pulled out. This is simply dishonest and a betrayal of the armed forces. Pull out, or fully support them. Doing neither is not (or at least should not) be an option.

Re:Yeah right (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29526863)

He takes his nick from a well known military genious who has repeatedly chosen a third option in such situations: fight until death, but don't count on backup

Re:Yeah right (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29527131)

He takes his nick from a well known military genious who has repeatedly chosen a third option in such situations: fight until death, but don't count on backup

My cat ?

Re:Yeah right (0, Troll)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527053)

I'm not sure he's advocating cutting off the soldiers from support. He just seems to be saying that the war is really stupid, and any and all investment in such a war is folly to the extreme. The rest of his post is just trolling.

But, that said, I am not sure if it would be betrayal. From my point of view, everyone who signed up to invade Afghanistan and Iraq betrayed me, betrayed the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, and betrayed the citizens of his respective nation. When it comes to randomly invading countries, I am a pacifist to the extreme.

Re:Yeah right (4, Funny)

Chrisje (471362) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527167)

I like your thinking to the point where the mere thought of having mod points sends little rivers of anticipation running down my inseam.

Re:Yeah right (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29527193)

I completely and utterly disagree with this, and it depresses me that so many people think as you do.

Your armed forces have not betrayed you. They are doing their duty, as they have sworn to, and obeying the orders given by their political masters. Who were elected by democratic vote. Blaming the soldiers is simply a cop-out. You cannot muster the political support to pull out as you want, so you advocate cutting off resources since it is a battle you may be able to win.

This is a betrayal, and it will cost the lives and limbs of those who are willing to die to protect you. It isn't the military's fault that the politicians sent them into Afghanistan and still have them there 8 years later. They are dying and being maimed for these decisions, while you are simply troubled by your conscience.

You disagree with Afghanistan, fine, possibly I agree with you. What you need to do then is get your forces out of Afghanistan, and if you don't have the support to do so then try to bring people around to your views until you do. But keep your hands off the purse strings.

Re:Yeah right (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29527385)

You're right, the soldiers did, with full free will, agree to obey fickle and unpredictable political masters who have a long history of ordering the invasion of countries all across the globe, including (for the US) such powerhouses as Grenada. Going back as far as the Mexican-American war, where the US conquered half of Mexico, the soldiers should be able to see that their political masters are absolutely insane. The Spanish American war ended in the US conquest of the Philippines, where it brutally suppressed rebellion. We won't even get into all of the numerous little wars and interventions that US got involved with in the 20th century.

Re:Yeah right (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29527419)

"From my point of view, everyone who signed up to invade Afghanistan and Iraq betrayed me, betrayed the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, and betrayed the citizens of his respective nation" Really... Betrayal you say? Did ANYONE in Congress say upon campaigning "I will not vote to invade another country"? Did any of them say "I will not vote to invade another country....except this once..."? No, they did not. It was pretty cut and dried - they either were for it or against, not a lot of fence straddling on Afghanistan. What "duty" to the Afghanistan and Iraq citizens did the USA have prior to invading that they supposedly betrayed? None, that's the correct answer. "When it comes to randomly invading countries" What random invasions are you referring to? Cause whether I agreed with the logic or not, there were some pretty clear statements as to why the USA invaded, and some clear reasons why we're still there, and some clear reasons why we cannot just up and leave. Please quit talking out of your ass.

Re:Yeah right (2)

Adolf Hitroll (562418) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527081)

If you just abandon them, then there's no need pissing off the taxpayer forcing them to finance their return, therapies, and so on... so the public will be happy having heroes in their families without having to pass them the pissing pot or feed them some puree with a spoon.

Of course, some rednecks will whine about what you call a betrayal, but I'll give them a long-knives night and they'll have so much fun lynching Bernanke, Cheney and all the assholes that put them in that mess that they'll eventually be thankful and choke on my huge turgid -but clean- penis.

I might not be as exotic as the idiot in charge of the us presidency but at least I have practical solutions to end the crisis.

Re:Protection? (5, Interesting)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526661)

Seems like this kind of airship would be extremely vulnerable flying over hostile territory.

Exactly. I'm not exactly sure what weaponry would be able to hit a target at 20,000 feet but it's a big, slow-moving target.

On the other hand, I love the whole idea of gasbags as a means of transport, and would really like to see them come back for civilian use. I can see their time coming again as fuel bills rise or the carbon emissions of winged craft become too scary.

Airships got a bad rap as a result of some messy crashes, but by of perspective, even with the Hindenburg crash [wikipedia.org] 63% of the passengers survived. Whereas if you're in a plane when it crashes, you can usually guarantee that you're toast.

Re:Protection? (4, Informative)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526771)

1) Are they really more efficient?

They're certainly better than helicopters for hovering and slow patrolling, but for transporting lots of people or stuff to a definite destination I doubt it. Given the typical shapes used, I can imagine them spending lots of fuel just fighting the wind or air resistance. Not going to be easy to beat ships or trains, or even normal planes.

Airships are fuel efficient if you don't mind going wherever the wind blows you.

2) What gas to use though?

I don't think there will be enough helium to go around:

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.08/helium.html [wired.com]
http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-12-02-Helium_N.htm [usatoday.com]

So the options are hot air (which doesn't produce as much lift) or hydrogen (which has significant PR problems for airship usage).

I suppose this would be a smaller problem. Could use hydrogen both for fuel and for lifting.

Re:Protection? (5, Insightful)

jonadab (583620) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526979)

The real problem is speed, or rather the lack thereof. Air travel became as popular as it is because it's so much *faster*. People might book an airship flight once a decade for the novelty, kind of like a cruise ship trip, but they're not going to hop on the blimp whenever they need to get to the other side of the country. The trip would take too long. Jets are faster, so they win.

Re:Protection? (4, Informative)

necro81 (917438) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527365)

Thankfully, as the article states, the military isn't planning on making this aircraft to open a speedy and luxurious cruise line over Afghanistan. The airships will be used for aerial surveillance, where staying in one place for long periods of time is the main goal. They are designed to remain aloft for a few weeks at a time, something that ordinary aircraft can't do.

Re:Protection? (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526781)

I can see their time coming again as fuel bills rise
 
Something has to run the propellers on the thing - they don't spin for free. Airships are slow and inefficient compared to ocean liners or trains. They're like luxury cruise ships except in the air but not a substitute for basic (read: fast and cheap) distance transportation.

Re:Protection? (3, Insightful)

Tuoqui (1091447) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526875)

I suspect these are more for 'eye in the sky' operations over military installations where they have a high amount of security already. And if something is 20,000 feet up there is not a lot that will hit them that the insurgency would have access to. I do not believe grenade launchers or RPG's have that sort of range but then again I'm not an expert on military weaponry.

Re:Protection? (5, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527003)

There are no hand held weapons that reach out that far. Those people talking about RPG's and sniper rifles are clueless. I'd be a little worried about stingers; Raytheon claims it can reach out that far, but not that high. I'd be more worried about medium sized howitzers - but most howitzers aren't configured for dual purpose like naval guns are. You'd have to park it on a hillside to get the elevation necessary, then it would probably fall of the hill when fired. More, we are talking about skills that "army" gunners don't have - they do not routinely track and target air/naval targets. The best bet seems to be an AA battery, but I've not seen any indication that anyone in the region has AA. Remember, when the Russians were there, the Afghans relied on our donations of stingers. I can't recall one report of AA emplacements such as Saddam Hussein had in Iraq.

Finally - anything that has a reasonable chance of hitting the damned thing is going to have radar and/or laser targeting. Since they are trying to target a surveillance craft, chances are good that as soon as they light up the electronics, it has targeted THEM!!

"Is that a train I hear? OH SHIT!! INCOMING!!"

Re:Protection? (5, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527185)

While I don't know about Afghanistan specifically, it seems to me like trying to use it anywhere near a country that's not already been soundly thrashed and left defenseless, is asking for trouble.

Yes, you're not going to hit it with an AK-47, but for example a SA-2 [wikipedia.org] is going to hit you from 20 to 30 miles away (depending on the exact model), and up to 66,000 ft high. IIRC, if you're a large slow and non-maneuvering target, it can actually go quite a few more miles purely inertial at the end. (Pretty much like a dart with guiding fins.) Unless you're going to pack some equally oversized missile as counter-measures, no, you're not going to get much use out of targeting it before it targeted you. Though technically you will get such an early lock, because the targeting radar will lock on you at 40 miles or so, well before the actual missile actually launches, and the early warning radar from almost 200 miles.

It's an old and cheap missile, and it's probably the most exported missile. It's all over Eastern Europe, ex-USSR, China and IIRC in a few arab countries too.

Mind you, against a fast and low flying modern airplane, it's probably useless, and against helicopters even more so, since it has a 4 miles or so minimum range. But against a blimp? That thing was designed against the early cold war idea of big bombers flying high and not being able to maneuver much. A blimp is pretty much making its day again.

And if we're talking artillery, why bother with a howitzer on a slope, when half the world got one or more of this [wikipedia.org] or this [wikipedia.org] or even more likely this [wikipedia.org] from the Soviets. I know at least Iraq had a lot of the latter.

Yeah, fat lot of good it did them against modern airplanes, but you show up in a blimp within 3-4 miles of one of those and you'll get a lot of holes fast.

So basically, as I was saying, yeah, if you just have to patrol the skies of Afghanistan or some other county you've already thrashed and conquered, and you know you'll never face anything heavier than a RPG or AK-47, it's great. But then the old WW1 Zeppelins would be just as great. And it pretty much doesn't matter if it has its own anti-radar missiles or not, because nobody will shoot a missile that high. The missiles that go that high (like the SA-2) aren't exactly concealed-carry sized, if you get my drift.

But that's about it. If this thing shows itself anywhere else, it doesn't matter how many anti-radiation missiles you pack on it. It's a big slow target, and just asking for it.

Re:Protection? (4, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527327)

I agree 100% that this airship would be worthless against a decently funded opponent with access to WW2 weapons and munitions.

Regarding the targeting of ground based weapons - remember, this airship is to play the role of an AWACS. I don't expect that it is as effective as AWACS, but it doesn't sit up there unattended. It is meant to find targets for ground and/or air forces. Paint it with radar, it relays the info to a combat control center, and someone is given a strike mission. That could mean the enemy has several minutes to fire at the airship - or, it could mean they only have several seconds. A well trained gun crew only needs those seconds to kill a target, a poorly trained gun crew might never hit the target.

So many variables.

Personally, I wouldn't invest money in this airship, but it could very well prove worthwhile.

Re:Protection? (1)

infalliable (1239578) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527345)

The Afghan "insurgents" don't have any of those weapons systems. They use mostly items that can be carried. They rely on speed and carting around a howitzer doesn't make you fast or stealthy. They may have some stingers from their war with the Soviets, but you don't hear about them downing helos with them. So it's not likely that they're many of them at all.

This video will explain everything: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29527025)

*sad trumpet* Wah wah waaaaahhhhhhh!

LM = fail.

Re:This video will explain everything: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29527133)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SkvM_Q5oQM [youtube.com]

Damn, I fail to include the link...

Re:This video will explain everything: (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527343)

    That was a much better sound track for the flying marshmallow. :)

Re:Protection? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29527085)

Chinese lead paint.

Airships are meant to be elegant. (3, Insightful)

wjh31 (1372867) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526553)

Much romance surrounds travel by blimps/airships as they float gracefully through the air. But on watching that video, i have to say it it seems to be one of the least elegant take-offs (and landing) around.

Re:Airships are meant to be elegant. (1)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526825)

Yes. I was expecting vertical take off and landing not that roll down a runway; although, it was a rather short roll.

Re:Airships are meant to be elegant. (1)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526937)

Well, it's not as if they had a large pool of people with multi-year experience ever since the bottom dropped out of the Zepplin market in the 30s and it went the way of buggy whips ;^)

Re:Airships are meant to be elegant. (1)

NoOnesMessiah (442788) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527075)

Elegant. Right. -- Two words: Blueberry Muffin. Seriously, that's what I see when I watch this thing. Bluuuueberry Muffin, my favourite. My favourite!

Re:Airships are meant to be elegant. (1)

lorenlal (164133) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527189)

For some reason, when I look at that thing, all I see are the air monsters that'll randomly pop up.

I'm also wondering if they can find enough dudes named Cid to take care of them if the military makes a bunch of them.

Re:Airships are meant to be elegant. (5, Interesting)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527101)

The spire of the Empire State Building in NYC originally contained an airship docking port on the 102nd floor.

Although this idea sounds awesome [wordpress.com] in theory, it was incredibly dangerous in practice, and no airships ever managed to safely dock with the building due to severe winds and updrafts.

The idea was eventually scrapped, and the spire was converted for use as a transmission aerial, which is still in operation today. The building still retains several peculiarities relating to the unused airship terminal.

Coincidentally, a few years later the building would later survive a direct hit from a B-25 relatively unscathed. The idea of a rooftop air terminal was later resurrected with the construction of a helipad on top of the nearby Pan-Am building, which also proved to be extremely dangerous, and was permanently closed after an accident in the 1970s.

Re:Airships are meant to be elegant. (3, Informative)

taniwha (70410) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527115)

well normal (neutral buoyancy) airships don't like to be too close to the ground - wind can blow them into it and damage them - that's why they dock at masts - and why you don't see them take off (they're already off) - this thing is a hybrid - heavier than air but not by much - it needs to be able to do this so it can land and be refueled in the field without building the towers and honking big hangers that blimps need

Re:Airships are meant to be elegant. (3, Insightful)

Eudial (590661) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527147)

That video was pretty ridiculous. The music doesn't make any sense. It's like out of a montage in an action movie (Under Siege? It has that Steven Segal quality...), and the contrast to that thing wobbling around makes it all the more laughable.

Re:Airships are meant to be elegant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29527347)

"Much romance surrounds travel by blimps/airships as they float gracefully through the air."

Yeah, nothing says "Let's fuck!" like a ride on a blimp...

Re:Airships are meant to be elegant. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527481)

No more less graceful then an ordinary airplane on a windy day. It just looks more wobbly because of its bulk. That and I am sure because it is a brand new aircraft it is not flown by pilots who have decades of experience flying such an aircraft or something simular.

hahahaha (5, Funny)

Tomfrh (719891) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526575)

With this new Imperial Probe Droid those rebels don't stand a chance!!!!

Re:hahahaha (1)

vegiVamp (518171) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527071)

I sure as hell wouldn't like to be probed by that droid.

Afghanistan in....what? (5, Funny)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526599)

Nice headline! "250-Foot Hybrid Airship To Spy Over Afghanistan In" - in what? In November? In 2010? In next ten years? In mission to provide big target in sky? In huge ball of flames? In super-secret mission that no-one knows about?

Re:Afghanistan in....what? (5, Funny)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526641)

If the Gizmodo article's title ("250-Foot Long Hybrid Airship Will Spy Over Afghanistan Battlefields in 2011") is any indication, it should be "...in 2011".

Reply from story submitter (2, Informative)

Toe, The (545098) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527455)

Yes, it should be "2011." In the /. submission form [slashdot.org] , there used to be a form-imposed length-limit on titles.

Now the limit appears to have been removed, but it is still enforced after submission.

So while I was preparing the story, the "2011" was in the Title field, but it got nixed on submission. My bad for not noticing the single missing word when I previewed the story.

Of course there is no Edit command on submissions. But I figured if the article got approved, someone would fix the title before sending it to the front page.

Re:Afghanistan in....what? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29526655)

Submitter needs to learn to english!

Re:Afghanistan in....what? (5, Informative)

KClaisse (1038258) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526673)

It seems that there is a limit on slashdot article title length. Many submission in the firehose section also have missing endings in their titles.

Re:Afghanistan in....what? (4, Funny)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526679)

Nice headline! "250-Foot Hybrid Airship To Spy Over Afghanistan In" - in what? In November? In 2010? In next ten years? In mission to provide big target in sky? In huge ball of flames? In super-secret mission that no-one knows about?

In the Baghdad Comedy Club, for two nights only.

It's OK (0, Troll)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526719)

By mid-2011, when it will deploy, the war will have been won and it will just be used to make tourist videos. I seem to have inherited Tower Bridge, it's a pain to keep painted, would you like to buy it?

Re:Afghanistan in....what? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29526733)

It's grammatically correct, just a little awkward. To rephrase, "250-foot hybrid airship in which to spy over Afghanistan".

Re:Afghanistan in....what? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29526769)

I thought it was just poor grammar.

Re:Afghanistan in....what? (1)

Nux'd (1002189) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526975)

If the mission were to provide a big target in the sky, they wouldn't have it 20,000 feet in the air.

Re:Afghanistan in....what? (4, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527049)

Nice headline! "250-Foot Hybrid Airship To Spy Over Afghanistan In" - in what? In November? In 2010? In next ten years? In mission to provide big target in sky? In huge ball of flames? In super-secret mission that no-one knows about?

Hey, blimpin' ain't easy.

Re:Afghanistan in....what? (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527331)

"... In Illegal Immigrant Job Stealing Swine Flu Related Terrorist Plot" says the Daily Mail.

Re:Afghanistan in....what? (0, Troll)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527427)

It's a shame /. has a lot of Americans - they must miss the accuracy of the humour :D

Flashbacks.... (0, Troll)

JackpotMonkey (703880) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526609)

My first thought when i saw this article was Hindenburg......

Re:Flashbacks.... (1)

JackpotMonkey (703880) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526633)

Or possibly Titanic, except its not the ship thats sinking its our natational debt.

Re:Flashbacks.... (1)

fluch (126140) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526677)

First your national debts will sink and then soon after the airship will be shot down from the sky over Afghanistan...

Seriously, how do they expect this huge but slow flying airship to stay in the air for up to 3 weeks without getting shot down? Even if it is 6km above the ground there should be some way of getting it down with the right weapons.

Re:Flashbacks.... (1)

jonatha (204526) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526791)

dunno how high they were, but the Taliban couldn't reach B52s.

Re:Flashbacks.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29526871)

dunno how high they were, but the Taliban couldn't reach B52s.

The difference in air speed between this and the B52s should be more than negligible ...

Re:Flashbacks.... (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527055)

What is it going to be shot down with? Scroll up to read my reply to Tuoqui. Someone, somewhere, can indeed shoot the damned thing down. But, do some googling, and you'll quickly learn that not every Tom, Dick, and Mohammed has the capability.

Re:Flashbacks.... (1)

ryzvonusef (1151717) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526709)

Mine was Kirov...
"Kirov reporting!"
"Aw... look, is that your house?"

Re:Flashbacks.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29526797)

Which only happened because germany was lacking the Helium to fuel all of their airships, and so had to settle for Hydrogen for some of them.

Re:Flashbacks.... (2, Informative)

Kumiorava (95318) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527067)

Actually Hindenburg was designed to be filled with hydrogen and wouldn't have flown effectively using helium. Graf Zeppelin II was the one that was designed to be filled with helium and start operation after Hindenburg, but it never got off the ground because of US trade restrictions on helium. Change from hydrogen to helium wasn't easy, lots of design changes had to be done and passenger capacity reduced. Hydrogen has significantly more lift and since it's cheap airships could vent it out easily to reduce buoyancy.

Re:Flashbacks.... (3, Insightful)

peragrin (659227) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526889)

Mine wasn't, but then I understand the difference between hydrogen and helium.

Yeah great ... (1, Troll)

gerddie (173963) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526631)

Lucky there's a war going on, so we can test our new equipment. </sarcasm>

Darpa Project Vulture (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29526639)

"DARPA's goals for Vulture are not trivial: 5 years on station with a 450kg/ 1,000lb payload, 5kW of onboard power, and sufficient loiter speed to stay on station for 99% of the time against winds encountered at 60,000-90,000 feet."

http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/DARPAs-Vulture-What-Goes-Up-Neednt-Come-Down-04852/ [defenseindustrydaily.com]

Sitting duck (1)

MacroRodent (1478749) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526659)

Any kind of airship is slow and large, providing an easy target for the bad guys. Even the common shoulder-fired Stinger missile reaches up to 15 700 feet (says Wikipedia), so the ship would be vulnerable to it for a long time during its ascent and descent. Other rockets (maybe improvised) could reach it at the cruising altitude.

Re:Sitting duck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29526703)

But does its engines reach temperatures anywhere near those of jets? It seems to me that whilst it's certainly vulnerable to AA guns at lower altitudes, it's such a different target at high altitudes that the "bad guys" over there might not have any suitable SAMs around, if conventional ones don't work.

Re:Sitting duck (5, Insightful)

mike2R (721965) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526799)

Well given the summary says it is meant to stay airborne for the best part of a month, I doubt ascent and descent are major worries.

I have no personal knowledge, but my impression is that our troops are getting slaughtered by roadside bombs; mainly because they don't have the manpower or surveillance assets to control even heavily travelled routes. Anything that can help that must surely be a benefit.

Re:Sitting duck (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29527017)

Anything that can help that must surely be a benefit.

So how long does it take to plant a roadside bomb? 15 minutes? Suppose you see some truck stop by the side of the road, some guys get out and they're doing something that might, or might not, be digging a hole. It just so happens that you've got a predator drone in the air so you blow them up five minutes later.

But then it turns out that they were some poor Afghan farmers who had stopped by the side of the road to collect some edible plants. So the word on the street in the villages is that the USA is rich enough and powerful enough to float these big fancy air balloons but not only does the USA not help people in the villages with day to day living but it actively blows them up.

Maybe the balloons will help and maybe they won't but if the USA is going to succeed in Afghanistan it's going to have to get a lot closer to the locals than 20,000 feet.

Re:Sitting duck (2, Interesting)

mike2R (721965) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527095)

So how long does it take to plant a roadside bomb? 15 minutes? Suppose you see some truck stop by the side of the road, some guys get out and they're doing something that might, or might not, be digging a hole. It just so happens that you've got a predator drone in the air so you blow them up five minutes later.

You would kill a lot of innocents with that policy, and ultimately lose any political support we may still have. But maybe if you know that area is suspicious, and you have a convoy going through that area you can warn them to be even more careful of that spot. More, if you had blanket coverage of large areas of Afghanistan, maybe commanders wanting to navigate a route could go back through the last days/weeks/months of surveillance and look for anything suspicious.

I dunno, I'm no soldier, but I have been trying to keep informed on Afghanistan. I've seen talk about a massive increase in surveillance as a tool against roadside bombs. The only arguments I've seen against it have been along the lines of; can't do it, it would cost to much.

Maybe it isn't practical for other reasons (I've certainly no knowledge that this blimp is actually intended for this role), but we are taking a terrible amount of casualties from bombs; both deaths and horrific injuries. I hope something can be done about it and as a (British) taxpayer I am certainly willing to pay for it.

Re:Sitting duck (1)

mrrudge (1120279) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527391)

The quickest way to stop our terrible casualties is to go visit your mp and tell them that unless they put their full weight behind the idea of removing our troops from Afghanistan then you'll not vote for them next election.

As a British tax payer I'd much rather that the money was spent on something constructive.

ew (1)

stophatingalready (1497595) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526671)

that's one ugly airship. it looks like some fatass sitting on a toilet, squeezing out a turd (cabin).

Re:ew (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29526737)

I immediately thought of buttocks.

250-Foot ... ?! (1)

nitroyogi (1471601) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526735)

Shouldn't it be "250-Feet" ?!

Re:250-Foot ... ?! (2, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526811)

No. I can't find anything discussing it, but I have a vague notion that the singular form is used when a distance is use as an adjective: "An 8 inch gap", "A 7 mile hike", "A 50 mile trip", and so on. O.k., so thinking about that enough to type it into a clear sentence led me to this, and the rule is that adjectives are not plural in English:

http://www.grammar-quizzes.com/adjective.html [grammar-quizzes.com]

Re:250-Foot ... ?! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29526813)

No, there are no feet involved. "Foot" is an, albeit archaic and ambiguous, unit of length. When used in the form "number-unit noun", the unit is always in singular form, for example: a 200-kilogram man, a 1000-lumen bulb, etc.

Re:250-Foot ... ?! (4, Informative)

jonadab (583620) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526943)

No. When used in the attributive position, the unit labels on such quantities are given in the singular form, whether it's a 250-foot airship, a seven-mile trip, a twenty-dollar entree, or a three-day conference.

Now, if you put it in the predicate, then you use the plural form: the airship is 250 feet long, the trip is seven miles, the entree costs twenty dollars, or the conference lasts three days.

If you have more questions like this about English grammar and usage, I'm available on Lang-8 (same username as here). HTH.HAND.

invade with 100,000 of them (5, Funny)

UncleWilly (1128141) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526753)

After painting evil elephant faces on them, and adding mini-gun trunks.

Oh, to be an (telecommuting) operator. Sitting at a bar in Georgetown, gunning down bad guys with your own killer-flying-elephant, half a world away.

Re:invade with 100,000 of them (3, Funny)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526829)

Yeah! And charge $10 for the "game". It'll have others do the dirty work and it will help pay for the war itself - brilliant!

Re:invade with 100,000 of them (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527443)

    I'm thinking more of bright yellow with a big smiley face on it.

    Then again, the flying Stay Puft Marshmallow Man look really works for them. Well, it worked for Gozer. :)

Airship crew members announced (5, Funny)

surferx0 (1206364) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526893)

The crew of the airship has been made available to the public, the Army has recruited a rag-tag group of unlikely heroes brought together under impossible circumstances from completely different backgrounds and cultures including:

-Guy with tough exterior yet internally continues on a never ending journey of soul searching
-Hot chick who uses her hotness to tame the tough exterior of soul searching boy
-Underage girl with mysterious supernatural abilities
-Relatively hot chick who doesn't know she's hot and hangs out with guys that have obvious emotional problems
-Overly cool guy who is infatuated with himself to hook up with any of these girls on the ship
-Random tough guy who is there to do man tasks like open jars and move furniture for all these emo boys and girls
-Some non-human creature that nobody really knows why is even there in the first place
-Pilot, named Cid, reportedly just completed rehab for alcoholism and a gambling addiction.

Re:Airship crew members announced (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29527423)

I'll be in my bunk.

[Until I got to the 7th on your list, it sure sounded familiar]

What is the point? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29526899)

But why? What is the point? Don't they have enough shinny satellites?
Would it be cheaper than a satellite - probably
Ok they don't have to wait for a sat to get withing LOS of the target. But to get the data off the thing they would need to use yes a satellite or a hell of a lot of cat 5 cable and I think 20,000 feet is well beyond the spec for cat 5.
OH are we back to the pigeons again?

It's the blimp, Frank ! (3, Funny)

ciderVisor (1318765) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526909)

Master, master
This is recorded through a fly's ear
And you have to have a fly's eye to see it

It's the thing that's gonna make Captain Beefheart
And his magic band fat

Frank, it's the big hit ! It's the blimp !

It's the blimp, Frank ! It's the blimp !

A really good idea, except for that one thing... (4, Interesting)

catmandi (995992) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526927)

This kind of airship will, once at operating altitude, be essentially be impossible to shoot down unless the enemy has a true SAM based defense (e.g. SA-11). SAM would have no problems locking on, as they tend to be driven by an active radar on the ground - I doubt you could hide something that big from radar in any useful way (although, I wonder if making it extra radar reflective might not actually work better since it would give the missile to large an area to aim for?). Stingers have a useful ceiling of around 15,000 feet, and they're driven by infra-red, which means you probably wouldn't get a lock on.* The only other thing that would work would be a proper flak gun at around 88mm. While there's a lot of those lying around Afghanistan, getting them in working order, manning them, and providing reliable ammo would all be very problematic. Remember that flak is only really useful if someone is manning it 24/7 - the ceiling might be enough, but the range is terrible. * Of course, the problem with all this is that given the MOUNTAINS in Afghanistan, I wonder if there isn't a shoulder fired active radar missile available. The ceiling wouldn't have to be 20,000 feet, but rather 20,000 feet - the height of the mountain the defender is standing on. Also, it looks gay.

pneumatic = no radar detection (1)

Herve5 (879674) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527129)

"I doubt you could hide something that big from radar in any useful way"
IMHO, a plastic balloon hasjust zero radar signature. Of course the undelying structure needed to attach propellers and cabin may be detectable, but for sure would I be resp. for developing this thing I definitely would propose as an option to our dear military clients something purely plastic/fiberglass or so...

Re:pneumatic = no radar detection (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527485)

    I've gone around on a similar subject with some folks. Ya, the plastic skin (assuming it is) would be mostly invisible, but there are always pesky bits like the motors, fuel tanks, etc, etc. But, they're considering it for war against a country with no military other than our own. Radar visibility isn't a big deal. They don't even have to worry about other aircraft. It's biggest threat is ... well ... someone building their own solid/liquid fueled rockets (like an Estes model rocket on steroids). If you look around a bit, 40k feet isn't impossible for a model rocket, it just makes aiming rather difficult unless your target is a giant slow flying marshmallow. :)

Re:A really good idea, except for that one thing.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29527151)

You have several options in regards to the shoulder-fired active radar missiles:
TOW (of course, it's a ground strike missile, but I'm sure it can easilly hit a blimp).
ERYX (you can carry the launcher, allthough the surveilance officers looking at the video-feed would laugh their asses off when you run with that thing. Trust me, if you've been in the armed forces, you know what charade the ERYX is...)
And if I am not mistaken, you do have the portable (i.e. carryable by 3 men) ground-based AGM-65 Hellfire launcher. The effective range on that will also place the blimp well withing strike distance.

Seriously, this blimp may have it's sentimental and humor value, but realistically it's an epic failure.

Being attacked by the Marshmellow Man! (4, Funny)

PHPfanboy (841183) | more than 5 years ago | (#29526983)

As for the LEMV: a 40-foot long, 15-foot wide area behind the only sometimes-manned cockpit will carry intelligence systems, like radar and wide-area motion sensors, that will beam information back to commanders on the ground.

sometimes-manned.

"Guys, I had to parachute down to get some more water supplies and left the thing running at 20,000 feet. How do I get back up?"

Anonymous Coward. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29526997)

Kirov Reporting :)

Yes but.. (1)

Danzigism (881294) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527019)

Does it run Linux?

Take a photo, call it a UFO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29527031)

Someone is going to take a photo of this flying thing and call it a UFO!

Manned or unmanned? (1)

WarpedMind (151632) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527057)

If manned, a ton of payload doesn't leave much for environmentals for a 2 man crew deployed even for a week at a time. The artist has windows which indicates manned flights.

Unmanned and I would be VERY concerned about losing control and it drifting into Pakistan or Russia. Airspace violation, technology theft, the list goes on and on.

Of course even manned flights might suffer the same fate. At least with an unmanned system, you can shoot it down if it floats too close to enemy hands. If it is manned, you will need to consider scuttle options.

Laugh, Funny Boy (1, Insightful)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527079)

Somebody named Toe, The pulls a PKB and says: "both awe and hilarity".

Go on and laugh. The Army captain from 117 Space BN will be sitting in Huntsville laughing when you don't notice the laser with which he's painting you. And the Air Force lieutenant sitting in base ops in Pueblo driving the Predator will be laughing when she drops the Hellfire to home in on the reflected laser. And you three can laugh and laugh and laugh until suddenly there's two of them laughing and laughing and a cloud of well done meat flakes settling to the ground that never realized what happened when it when it was visited by silent death from above. Paint it brown and call it The Flying Turd to add to the entertainment if you like, it'll still be an awesome piece of weapons delivery systems.

Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29527141)

250-foot airship? Isn't it 250-wing airship?

#2 (3, Funny)

stox (131684) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527207)

Thunderbirds are go!

Grammar (1)

MadLad (1331393) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527233)

250-Foot Hybrid Airship In Which To Spy Over Afghanistan

if you please

Can be taken down (1)

genik76 (1193359) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527301)

Lots of posts describe how difficult it would be to take down this monstrosity. However, if students manage to get something that high with 150 $ [slashdot.org] , so can surely some ingenious combatants as well. The bigger problem would be to get the payload, but surely not impossible, even with homebrewn methods.

Re:Can be taken down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29527461)

The students managed this 3 pound package for 150 USD in a system where items are more easily available and they didn't even have to hit a target.

This is going to be a much more difficult task. I'm not saying they can't do it but if your idea involves a hand grenade tied to a balloon you haven't even begun to think of the logistics yet.

Relevant Monty Pythonism (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29527315)

And now an airship with three buttocks.

what's that dangling from the airship? (4, Funny)

spyrochaete (707033) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527337)

From down here it looks like a participle!

Next Stop: Helicarrier (2, Funny)

mikeabbott420 (744514) | more than 5 years ago | (#29527491)

Call Nick Fury at SHIELD, find out how big he wants his.
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