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Grumman Building Football Field-Sized Robotic Surveillance Blimp

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the evil-genius-for-a-better-tomorrow dept.

Privacy 150

colinneagle writes with news of the latest in 1930s surveillance technology turned into a robot. From the article: "It's not fashionable to call this flying spy (hybrid military airship) a 'blimp,' but a Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV). You are no doubt familiar with the Goodyear blimp that hovers over football games, but the LEMV is almost the size of a seven-story flying football field; it's meant to fly at speeds between 30 and 80 knots without ceasing for 21 straight days while providing an 'unblinking' eye of surveillance. Northrop Grumman has a $517 million contract to build three of these 21st-century robotic airships for the U.S. Army. The first of three had a successful 90-minute test flight last week from the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. This first test flight included two pilots, but the Army intends for the LEMV to be like the Predator, an unmanned flying surveillance machine. Both Northrop Grumman and the Army must like the term 'unblinking,' as it was used several times to describe the 'Revolutionary ISR Weapon System' aka the LEMV."

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Thats OK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40996033)

Slashdotters building model rocket sized missiles.

Re:Thats OK (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996903)

The UNBLINKING anus in the sky.

Re:Thats OK (3, Funny)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 2 years ago | (#40998387)

The UNBLINKING anus in the sky.

I'd be more concerned if it was blinking.

Back to the future! (4, Funny)

SlowGenius (231663) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996045)

Technology that will prepare us to fight the World War I of the 21st century!

Re:Back to the future! (1)

TWX (665546) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996127)

Yeah, I can't see this thing surviving well in a warzone if the opponent knows that it's there. Even if it's got multiple compartmentalized bladders and some secondary lift mechanisms like a quadrotor setup, it's still going to be awfully vulnerable to something as simple as a long line of razor wire tied to a rocket fired in its direction...

Re:Back to the future! (1)

grnbrg (140964) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996241)

It'll need to be some rocket to get to the mission altitude of 20,000 feet. And it's got enough range that it will most likely be launched from a friendly base.

Re:Back to the future! (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996415)

Huh, that's pretty low. I thought they'd have it up to 60,000 feet or higher. Maybe that will happen to a future prototype. They do need to figure out other issues such as reliably launching something that massive in moderately poor weather.

Re:Back to the future! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40997433)

That's out of the range of your average MANPAD, but would be easy pickings for any other AASAM system. I would have to imagine that thing is going to be equipped with a whole host of anti SAM systems.

Re:Back to the future! (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#40997147)

Painted the right color you would never see it. With stealth tech radar would have a hard time seeing it.

Re:Back to the future! (3, Interesting)

Loughla (2531696) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996217)

Yeah, that was my first question when reading about this thing. How are we going to protect something THAT big? I see two targets for this type of surveillance:

1. Use it only on military units who lack the ability to look up; or

2. Civilians.

As most humans have the same ability to tilt their heads backward, or, at the very least to move our eyes in a general upward direction, I believe that we can rule out the first option. So, why would our government need to watch civilians?

On a personal note, this idea seems absolutely ridiculous based on the current age that we live in. I would have loved to see the guy who brought that up in the initial meeting.

General: What's next for surveillance? Pee-on: Well, Sir, how about a blimp? *Cringes for the incoming backhand to the face* General: BRILLIANT!!! THEY'LL NEVER SEE IT COMING!!!

Re:Back to the future! (5, Informative)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996541)

Or military units that lack long-range missiles. The things are designed to fly at ~20,000 feet (6km), which for reference is the exact maximum range of the longest-range Stinger missile, so you could shoot it if it was exactly overhead (it won't be, though, thats the point). And that is well above the range of non-missile ordinance as well. In other words, it's designed to be used in situations were the military is fighting relatively poorly equipped enemies (i.e. enemies that don't have long-range SAMs) for a prolonged time in rough terrain. Or in other words, the last couple wars the US has been involved in.

On a side note, I find it amusing that some people complain about how advanced tech like the F-22 is unnecessary since no enemy is even close to a big enough threat to require something that advanced, and then other people complain when tech like this is made which would be useless against advanced enemies. Different enemies require different tools.

Re:Back to the future! (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996997)

Or military units that lack long-range missiles. The things are designed to fly at ~20,000 feet (6km), which for reference is the exact maximum range of the longest-range Stinger missile, so you could shoot it if it was exactly overhead (it won't be, though, thats the point). And that is well above the range of non-missile ordinance as well. In other words, it's designed to be used in situations were the military is fighting relatively poorly equipped enemies (i.e. enemies that don't have long-range SAMs) for a prolonged time in rough terrain. Or in other words, the last couple wars the US has been involved in.

Don't be so sure:

40mm Bofors [wikipedia.org]
Produced from 1932 - Present
Effective range: 24,000ft / 41,000ft (depends on the model)
Can be owned by US Civilians [youtube.com]

Re:Back to the future! (1)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 2 years ago | (#40997237)

I was thinking that you needed a Stinger to shoot it down, but then I realized that a Stinger is a heat-seeking missile. This thing is a giant balloon, and it has little propellers but I don't know how much heat it puts out. The Stinger can track leading-wing heat, but this thing is going at 30 mph. That's not a lot of heat, and there are no wings. Sticking a towed decoy If they want to militarize it, they probably want to use a hybrid drive system with electric fans, and vent the exhaust up. All in all, this might be pretty tough to shoot down absent anti-aircraft artillery or a radar-guided SAM. It's also freaking quiet so if you have cloud cover I'm not sure you can even see or hear it.

Re:Back to the future! (1)

readin (838620) | more than 2 years ago | (#40997277)

We shouldn't be spending our money figuring out how to defeat poorly equipped enemies. The purpose of our military is to be able to defeat, or at least fight to a standstill, other militaries that may threaten our existence (in the future that likely means China). If we can handle China, we can handle anyone. Most importantly, if we can handle China, we won't have to.

If we can handle China then most of our wars will be with poorly equipped enemies. But planning for those wars instead of planning for war with China is getting the cart before the horse. Also, if we can win the small wars cheaply but can't win the big one, the small wars will be for naught. It will be an extreme example of being penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Re:Back to the future! (2)

valadaar (1667093) | more than 2 years ago | (#40997505)

I'm afraid any war worthy of the name with china will be a nuclear one, and no one will win that.

Re:Back to the future! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40997801)

I seriously doubt nuclear war will happen, especially with China. We've had them for 60+ years and the US is the only country to use not 1 but 2 against Japan. No one else has, and if there was a time for nuclear war, that would have been the Cold War.

I think as soon as anyone brings up a nuclear option, everyone just throws it out and asks for another idea, because no one wants to be the one to start WW3 or worse, the end of most of the civilized world.

But about this blimp, how many 50 cal rounds do you think it can take before floating down to the ground? Everyone is talking about missiles, I'm think anti-aircraft guns or a planes 50 cal machine guns, simple but effective. As others have said as well, the US fights a lot of wars where our enemy has inferior technology, so a bullet would probably be the best weapon they have.

Re:Back to the future! (3, Insightful)

readin (838620) | more than 2 years ago | (#40998239)

I seriously doubt nuclear war will happen, especially with China. We've had them for 60+ years and the US is the only country to use not 1 but 2 against Japan. No one else has, and if there was a time for nuclear war, that would have been the Cold War.

After the US dropped the atomic bombs on Japan, there has never been a similar case to be made that using nuclear weapons would end a war and save hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives.

Looking at another scenario, there has never been a case where a nuclear armed country was facing potential total defeat - faced with having to surrender.

If either of those situations occurs in the future, it would not be too surprising to see nuclear arms used again. Would a nuclear-armed Assad be willing to use such a weapon against his own people?

I do agree that the US and China won't go to nuclear war so long as the US maintains a large enough arsenal to eliminate China. If we only have enough weapons to destroy half of China then there might be a problem. China has a long history of using human wave techniques and being callous about taking casualties. In the near future I don't think that's a problem - but in 50 to 100 years, who knows?

Re:Back to the future! (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40997923)

We shouldn't be spending our money figuring out how to defeat poorly equipped enemies. The purpose of our military is to be able to defeat, or at least fight to a standstill, other militaries that may threaten our existence (in the future that likely means China). If we can handle China, we can handle anyone. Most importantly, if we can handle China, we won't have to.

Both the Soviet Union and the US thought the same thing. Both have had enormous difficulty in maintaining a hold over rag-tag mountain-guerrilla fighters and terrorists who consider horses a fast means of transport. That is a rather significant problem for a military to have: the inability to defeat ill-equipped foes, and frankly as a military's technology grows more advanced, it gets to be a bigger problem. An EMP weapon, for example, may be fantastic against enemies that rely on computers. But if you grow dependent on using EMP to win a battle, you might find yourself suffering a staggering defeat to someone who simply doesn't use a computer. It's a good thing (military wise) to avoid that sort of dependency.

Re:Back to the future! (1)

readin (838620) | more than 2 years ago | (#40998107)

Both the US and Soviet Union were unwilling to do what it took to maintain a hold over rag-tag mountain guerrilla fighters and terrorists. The Soviet Union may have been willing to do the dirty work, but it was unwilling to take the casualties (had the Soviet Union been willing to take the casualties in Afghanistan that the Soviet Union took in WWII, there wouldn't be an Afghanistan today).

However, if it were truly an existential battle and recognized as such, the Soviet Union could have taken and held Afghanistan, and the US could do so today. It is a question of will, not capabilities.

Re:Back to the future! (1)

Beeftopia (1846720) | more than 2 years ago | (#40997337)

The right tool for the right job. The job being asymmetrical warfare.

Just like few (here) had heard of IEDs before the Iraqi insurgents made them popular. It's the right tool for the job, developed for that job. IEDs would not be good for an advancing tank column. Or against aerial bombardment.

While this blimp wouldn't last long against the Russians or those dirty Canadians, it should help against small unit insurgencies.

Re:Back to the future! (1)

SlowGenius (231663) | more than 2 years ago | (#40997907)

Speaking of asymmetrical warfare, SAMs are pretty expensive. Helium, hydrogen, and hot air aren't. if I were an insurgent designing a counter-weapon system, I'd think about fighting fire with fire--both figuratively and literally, in this case. That is, I'd build a bunch of tiny contact-fused thermite bombs (maybe with a small amount of a petroleum jelly/napalm-like element for stickiness), wait for a day without a lot of crosswind, then get underneath my flying-football-field sized target and simultaneously launch a wave of small balloons from multiple locations with said bombs rigged to go off when they encounter something on the way up.

Re:Back to the future! (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#40997581)

To add to what Baloroth says;

This type of blimp also has Naval uses... Such as coastline surveillance, or keeping an eye on a naval base. Or shadowing a ship/boat or formation at sea. Or flying top cover for one of our formations (like a loitering supply or amphibious group).

To echo what he says; just because it's low tech doesn't mean it doesn't have uses in high tech warfare.

Re:Back to the future! (1)

stevegee58 (1179505) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996245)

WW I? How about the American Civil War?

Re:Back to the future! (2)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996551)

American Civil War didn't have blimps. They had balloons, but not blimps.

Re:Back to the future! (1)

Coisiche (2000870) | more than 2 years ago | (#40997519)

I don't think that post referred to the last civil war but the *next* civil war.

My bet is on edges versus middle.

Re:Back to the future! (2)

SlowGenius (231663) | more than 2 years ago | (#40997987)

The civil war you describe is already being fought. There's a major battle held every 2 years, typically on a Tuesday in early November.

Re:Back to the future! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40996321)

Tethered hot air balloons were used during the U.S. civil war.

Re:Back to the future! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40997289)

No they weren't, moron. They were hydrogen filled.

Re:Back to the future! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40997435)

Winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, America's second ranking ace in World War One, Frank Luke epitomized the reckless, undisciplined, loner image of a fighter pilot. He went after the toughest targets, heavily defended German observation balloons.

In seventeen days in September, 1918, in just nine days of combat flying, ten missions, and only thirty hours of flight time, he shot down fourteen enemy balloons and four aircraft (seven planes according to some sources). A remarkable record

The song says it all (3, Funny)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996051)

Everybody needs to get a blimp [weebls-stuff.com] .

Re:The song says it all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40996185)

YAMAICMFP!

Blade Runner flashbacks (3, Insightful)

Zaphod-AVA (471116) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996103)

I'm having Blade Runner flashbacks.

Flashbacks to the future are strange.

ah was assaulted by a bar hade! (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996539)

they're immantizing the Gernsback continuum!

Watch you for falling refrigerators!

Re:Blade Runner flashbacks (1)

somarilnos (2532726) | more than 2 years ago | (#40998193)

Technically, it's a flashback to the past's future. Which is, at this point, still is in the present's future. But not by much.

Goodyear? No the worst... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40996123)

Goodyear? No the worst...

I for one... (1)

Grundibular (2693025) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996141)

Insert obligatory "welcome our x overlords" here.

Robot Eye for the Robot Bombs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40996147)

Obviously, something has to help guide all those robot bombs [slashdot.org] .

also flown at Lakehurst: The Hindenburg (4, Funny)

aberson (461047) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996159)

also flown at Lakehurst: The Hindenburg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindenburg_disaster [wikipedia.org]

Re:also flown at Lakehurst: The Hindenburg (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40997095)

The location was chosen deliberately

Isn't obvious to everyone? (2, Interesting)

canadiannomad (1745008) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996183)

Isn't obvious to everyone that this is for domestic or "friendly' spying?
I guess it is to replace the "urban flies" that are in use today but really expensive to run for extended periods...
I just don't get why it needs to be so big. You would think they would go small and many to enhance their chilling effect.
Maybe this is just to scare unwitting populaces that the vorgons have arrived and they will destroy their pitiful sub-continent if they don't comply with their RIAA demands.

A technological solution to a political problem. (2)

Required Snark (1702878) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996187)

Yep. That will work just fine.

Helium?! (1)

grnbrg (140964) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996191)

Why is it bouyed with helium, which is incredibly expensive?

It's unmanned, so why not use hydrogen? Who cares if they lose the odd one to lightening?

Re:Helium?! (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996333)

I know it's terrible. Yeah hydrogen is kinda dangerous, but it's manageable.

Re:Helium?! (4, Insightful)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996353)

Why is it bouyed with helium, which is incredibly expensive?

It's unmanned, so why not use hydrogen? Who cares if they lose the odd one to lightening?

Because there is no point in doing surveillance over non-populated areas. It may be unmanned, but there are people under it.

Re:Helium?! (1)

valadaar (1667093) | more than 2 years ago | (#40997549)

Hydrogen, once free of the bags, would rise very quickly. The only thing those under it would need to fear would be the debris. Fire would only be an issue if it was very low when it happened.

Re:Helium?! (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996433)

Why is it bouyed with helium, which is incredibly expensive?

Well, in part because helium is not incredibly expensive.

Re:Helium?! (4, Interesting)

dontclapthrowmoney (1534613) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996577)

Maybe they should fill it with hydrogen, fly it at very low altitude, and coat it with ball bearings to dissuade people from shooting at it.

How many square meters is that? (1)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996197)

Is that soccer fields or rugby (aka american football) fields?

Re:How many square meters is that? (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 2 years ago | (#40997073)

yes

Re:How many square meters is that? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40997175)

Let's see...American company building a blimp for America's army reported by an American news service and displayed on an American website. I'm going to say "football pitch", that makes the most sense!

Being a dumb American is hard, can you help me define "obtuse" or "willful ignorance" for me?

Ta ta!

Obvious use too obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40996203)

Looking at the drawing, I already know where they intend to use these things.

Three Principles to Establish a New LawyerThree Pr (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40996229)

The myth of becoming a lawyer is that you become "specialized" in law school. People generally ask when they find out you have gone to law school or a practicing attorney, "What did you specialize in." Graduating law school and choosing to become a licensed attorney in a state is the first of many learning experiences. As a new lawyer, you can become overwhelmed by the idea of lawyering to the point you never realize or you forget that there is a foundation that has to be laid that encompasses more than the education of the career. The idea of establishing principles for you and your firm is something that will be unique to you but necessary for longevity. There are things that you don't want to learn second hand that are in essence too late. Principle One: Find A Mentor. Whether you are bold enough to hang your own shingle or favored enough to land a position in a viable law firm, you do not need to experience law for the first 5 years or less without a mentor. Most states do not have a mandatory mentor programs for new lawyers. There should be attorneys that are willing to be mentors and available for young attorneys in the community where you practice. However, the reality is often times, new attorneys become competition for most attorneys without ever filling out an entry form. The state of Utah and Oregon (May 2011) offer mandatory mentor program for its incoming members. With the amount of responsibility placed on you without you fully grasping the authority granted in your name and title, fresh out of law school, they should be applauded. Do not take your success of graduating law school nor passing the bar for granted. It would not hurt to seek out one. In choosing a mentor, you must choose what is important not only to the field of law but principles for life that will make you successful if you never practice another day. You still have a great degree and it will open doors for you. The major considerations should be: (1) The integrity of the attorney derived from internal practices and passion for the community and clients served (2) Respect of the attorney among his colleagues in and out of court; and (3) Time, knowledge and skill of the attorney. You want all three aspects to be present in the attorney that you choose. Your standards can never be too high. The higher they are is an indication of the level of success you will attain. Principle Two: Go Beyond Average Learning You are taught in law school, how to think, research and interpret the law. Everything else in between you apply these concepts to so you can better understand the range of opinions that come from application of these legal concepts. While they prepare you for the court room, they do not prepare you for the depth and scope of information that exist on one subject of law alone. General practice is the normal for most new attorneys and if you did not take anything but moot court because you had to, you have to learn what to say to a judge after law school, "May I approach your honor?" "If it pleases the court..." From there you never stop learning. So how then can we be successful if after 3 years of brain overhaul, sweat and tears, there is still more? Focus on your purpose. What is your passion and why are you practicing? Write it down. Plan your success by planning what you will learn. If contracts are your area, exhaust information on contracts. Yes, there are how many different types? But it is okay. You can specialize by going beyond average learning that is not required of you. There are many resources through you local, state and national bar affiliations. You can even google free continuing education and get some pretty good webinars or other courses offered through different sources. Wouldn't it be wonderful to get an investment in your future ability and get free information for your first year at least to discover a niche that works? In the meantime, go beyond what you did in law school because lawyering is a different reality. It is actually an opportunity to go beyond your ability in a sense. You have tools that give you information you did not have but when you gather them, you will be above average. Principle Three: Never Compromise Many people do get away with cutting curves and corners because of who they are or who they know. Even though there are according to the ABA more lawyers than hiring firms right now, you can see yourself as unique. Do not compromise your life no matter how much influence you see a person has acquired or proposes to have in any arena. When you are new, the options of how you start are so numerous. In other words, there is a saying that there are many paths to destruction but straight and narrow is the way to success. Enough said. http://arminaswittenburg.hubpages.com/hub/Three-Principles-to-Establish-a-New-Lawyer [hubpages.com]

And who will they be watching? (2, Informative)

Picass0 (147474) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996237)

FTFA >> "The LEMV is expected to be deployed and hovering over Afghanistan skies by January 2012."

And if you believe that I have some junk bonds I'd like to sell you.

80 knots = ~ 92mph. That's a slow crawl compared to other aircraft. And it can fly at 20,000 feet. Sitting duck for a SAM.

A big, slow air vehicle like that isn't practical for flying over an overseas theater. So I wonder who this thing is designed to watch?

Oh, that's right. Us.

Re:And who will they be watching? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40996289)

The WSJ says that hardware, like blimps, are coming back from Afghanistan. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443404004577581751184540464.html?mod=e2tw
Yet we are supposed to believe this hundred million dollar blimp is going to Afghanistan?

Sauron's unblinking eye (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40996293)

Sauron's unblinking eye will be watching all of us.

Re:And who will they be watching? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996349)

One kamikaze FPV-equipped RC plane could take this thing out.

Re:And who will they be watching? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40996495)

Right, because on something as expensive as this, there won't be any countermeasures

Re:And who will they be watching? (0)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996919)

It'll need to be armed up like a WW2 bomber to defend itself from all angles from manually guided/ballistic weapons that won't fall for flares or chaff.

Re:And who will they be watching? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40996351)

  (___((__Marijuana___()~

Re:And who will they be watching? (2)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996579)

And it can fly at 20,000 feet. Sitting duck for a SAM.

While that does seem low altitude for such a large blimp, there are several things to note. First, it doesn't have that much of a radar signature and no thermal signature. Second, what's a SAM going to do to it? Pop a few cells? Just pick it up when it lands, fix the bag, replace whatever got broke, and refly it.

Frankly, I'd be more concerned about what would happen if they lost control of the vehicle. If it went into China or Iran (and perhaps Russia too) before it landed, then that would be yet another free technology gift from the US. Not such a big deal, if it's using off the shelf components, but a big deal, if it happens to be carrying hundreds of millions of dollars of specialized espionage gear.

Re:And who will they be watching? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40996781)

You fly the thing in low threat airspace and look really far away. From what I know, the people we're looking at in Afghanistan don't have much for SAM capability, just small manpads and the like. Predators and Global Hawks are also sitting ducks for SAMs, but they have been very successful in medium threat environments in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This thing would be very valuable in dealing with insurgents that don't pose a threat to aircraft.

Re:And who will they be watching? (1)

jpmorgan (517966) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996861)

The Taliban doesn't have high altitude SAMs.

Re:And who will they be watching? (1)

fnj (64210) | more than 2 years ago | (#40997501)

They don't have any SAMs of any kind. The only interference with aircraft in flight in Afghanistan is light automatic weapons and the odd lucky hit by an RPG if you are slow and under a couple of thousand feet.

Look, the Taliban don't even have a single brain between them, that works properly. All they are good at is blowing themselves the fuck up; sadly, taking out actual useful human beings with them in the blast radius.

Re:And who will they be watching? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40997669)

Western military commanders have been aware of concerted efforts by the Taliban to obtain shoulder-launched, surface-to-air missiles called MANPADS (man-portable air-defense system).

The recent attack was probably with a SAM-7 shoulder-launched missile, an early model of Soviet or Chinese origin, the sources said. Though relatively primitive, they are still a potent weapon, particularly against low-flying helicopters, such as the workhorse Chinook transporters used by NATO forces in the southern Helmand province.

The C-130 attacked in Nimroz was flying at 11,000 feet at the time of the attack, which is within the 1.5- to 3.4-mile range of a shoulder-launched missile system such as the SAM-7.

Though the West supplied hundreds of sophisticated Stinger heat-seeking missiles to the Afghan mujahedeen in the 1980s, they are not thought to be still usable because of the deterioration of their sophisticated electronics and battery systems.

As a contingency in 2002, the U.S. government offered an amnesty on Stingers and successfully bought back many of the missiles still in the arsenals of Afghan warlords for $40,000 a missile.

To date, the Taliban has shot down several Western helicopters, but only through the use of unguided rocket-propelled grenades, which have a range of 500 yards.

In April, members of the Special Boat Service operating in Nimroz province intercepted several truckloads of weapons coming across the Iranian border, including a working SAM-7 missile.

It was one of a number of recent weapons caches that Western officials say have been seized on the border with Iran, fueling claims by Britain and the United States that Iran, or elements within the Iranian government, have begun supplying arms to the Taliban.

Hundreds of SAM-7 missiles disappeared into the black market in Iraq in the aftermath of the fall of dictator Saddam Hussein, where they have since been used to shoot down dozens of helicopters and airplanes, reportedly including a British C-130 in 2005.

Re:And who will they be watching? (2)

operagost (62405) | more than 2 years ago | (#40997021)

I do have to admit that January 2012 is a rather short timeline for anyone not named Doc Brown.

Re:And who will they be watching? (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 2 years ago | (#40997045)

BTW, I was wondering how many SAM installations the Taliban currently control... or any terrorists, for that matter.

Re:And who will they be watching? (1)

gtall (79522) | more than 2 years ago | (#40998237)

The Taliban have SAMs now? Maybe your wet dream of a government conspiracy for everything is misplaced?

minus 4, TRoll) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40996265)

abou7 a pro6ect

Oh, the UFO reported for the past ten years. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40996377)

First reported flying in Popular Science in the late '90s, I think, and the source of an incredible number of UFO reports across the country and in Iraq. Look it up.

Now they're going to get paid twice to "design" it and "build" it. Must be nice.

You think you've privat lives... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40996427)

Think nothing of the kind
There is no true escape
I'm watching all the time

1 Blimp, That'll Be $172M, Please (2, Informative)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996435)

>> Northrop Grumman has a $517 million contract to build three (blimps) for the U.S. Army.

It allegedly costs only $2M to build a Goodyear blimp. Wish I knew how to land government contracts like these.

Re:1 Blimp, That'll Be $172M, Please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40996605)

Only requires a 2M political contribution to your "friends" err ex-Cxx now Senator/Secretary/Congress person.

Re:1 Blimp, That'll Be $172M, Please (2, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#40997529)

Contractor 1: "I can build it for $500,000
Congressman: "We will take it under advisement.

Contractor 2: "I can build it for $4.5 million.
Congressman: I have a bid from Contractor 1 who says he can build it for only half a million. Why should we pay you four and a half million?
Contractor 2: "Two million for me; Two million for you - and half a million to hire Contractor 1 to build the thing."

Congressman: "I would like to announce the winner of the bid: Contractor 2".

Re:1 Blimp, That'll Be $172M, Please (2)

ageoffri (723674) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996657)

Comparing the Goodyear blimp to this is like comparing a Geo Metro to a 18 wheeler. First off it is listed with a seven ton cargo/supply capacity. Doing a quick search on the Goodyear blimp didn't find a rating but the next generation blimp is listed at just over 2 tons. I'd be surprised if the Army blimp doesn't have low observation technologies built-in to it. All in all I'm not surprised at the price and comparing to the Goodyear blimp is an unfair one.

Now at the same time I'm sure there is an over sized profit margin but nothing like saying the Goodyear only costs 2 million implies.

Re:1 Blimp, That'll Be $172M, Please (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#40997023)

Yeah, it depends on whether that's $172M/blimp or $500M in development and $6M/blimp. The current 787/A350 aircraft development costs were in the $10B+ range, with per-unit prices in the $150M-$190M range. With development costs running 70x a production unit, that would come out very close to the $497M/$7M for the cost of the airship.

Re:1 Blimp, That'll Be $172M, Please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40996867)

But it is those welfare queens who are costing America billions, right? Not defense boondoggles.

Re:1 Blimp, That'll Be $172M, Please (2)

jacknifetoaswan (2618987) | more than 2 years ago | (#40997641)

"Defense boondoggles" produce warfighting goods and employ hundreds of thousands of highly skilled American workers. Welfare queens produce more children so that they can continue to be welfare queens.

Re:1 Blimp, That'll Be $172M, Please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40997847)

They don't produce warfighting "goods". Spending half a billion dollars (which will eventually be $6-7 billion, don't kid yourself) to 'develop' something that never sees the light of say doesn't produce anything except yachts, mansions and $10 million bat mitzvahs for fat, bloated warbuckers and their worthless spawn.

As for employment, if what you're saying is that the government does a good job of creating jobs by using our tax dollars to pay people to do work, then I say let's eliminate the costly middleman -- the defense contractor -- and simply put people to work rebuilding roads, bridges and schools.

And there are no "welfare queens" except the corporate billionaires getting fat on our collective teat. You are living in a right-wing fantasyland.

Re:1 Blimp, That'll Be $172M, Please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40998195)

So your saying welfare queens produce War-fighting goods-- err i mean solders.

No solar panels on top (1)

fezzzz (1774514) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996469)

I would have thought they'd at least add solar panels and electric engines to extend the time their unblinking eye stays on target indefinitely.

Home of the free... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40996507)

Home of the free, land of the slave.

You know this will be used on the civilian population in the US don't you...

Syndicate, here we come? (1)

gentryx (759438) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996569)

Anyone else feeling reminded of Bullfrog's classic PC game Syndicate? Can't wait to see corporations (e.g. Academi/Blackwater) buying these to supervise their missions.Oh, and please let them send out cyborgs with miniguns and mind control devices.

Somebody missed I Spy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40996635)

Owen Wilson - "Size matters. But in the spy world, it's reverse."

Blade Runner (1)

emaname (1014225) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996721)

...reborn.

Now life imitates art.

Only application is domestic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40996783)

This has no role in the battlefield due to its size, speed and defense capabilities. This blimp is intended for use within US borders.

I'm sure every major city will have one soon enough.

Now that is interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40996797)

Not so much in terms of it being a big blimp, but in other things... people have been reporting really big UFO's for years now. Many have said things like "Multi-Story" and "Big as a football field"... And now we are being told about a flying surveillance thing that fits those descriptions really well.

So the question has to be asked : Could this thing have been making the rounds for a decade now already? And if so, why is it doing so over US airspace?

Re:Now that is interesting... (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 2 years ago | (#40997087)

STOP SHOOTING AT US YOU IDIOT [nuforc.org]

ob: Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted!

I imagine (2)

delta98 (619010) | more than 2 years ago | (#40996805)

the chase scene might be a bit boring.

It's a jobs program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40996811)

It's a jobs program. See, about 60 days after it is deployed in theater, there will be 5 people that want to launch a weapon at it to see if they can take it down, and 1 of them will work.

Incredibly stupid idea (1)

mclaincausey (777353) | more than 2 years ago | (#40997219)

Let's see... SAMs shouldn't have a hard time shooting a target of this size down. I imagine it would be difficult to move this thing out of the way of a storm as well. They should be looking at arrays of weather-balloon type devices or something. Perhaps just use satellites? This seems bald stupidity.

Re:Incredibly stupid idea (1)

tibman (623933) | more than 2 years ago | (#40997495)

Balloons probably aren't stable enough and satellites "blink". But i agree with you.. we already have drones that fulfill this role pretty well. Though i suppose this is just another drone.

Football Field (2)

nukenerd (172703) | more than 2 years ago | (#40997263)

Yes, that good old international dimensional unit.

Re:Football Field (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40997557)

It will be when our blimps take over your stupid country!

celestine data-pig (1)

Penurious Penguin (2687307) | more than 2 years ago | (#40997755)

It must be acknowledged the potential this odious beast holds for amusement. If this blubberous tyrannical skywhale were to get an infection, it could be quite a show. Maybe Anonymous will hack into the elephantine data-pig and make it hover over the pentagon while playing Kitaro for all 21 of its days. I hope Grumman has taken this into consideration and prepared the bastard with ample laser-disco-balls and extraordinary speakers. But instead of puking forth an abundance of guns like in Zardoz [wikipedia.org] , it can spit out military-grade amphetamines, contraceptives and buckyballs.

MOAR plz! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40998007)

I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

why so big and expensive? (1)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 2 years ago | (#40997945)

Wouldn't a weather balloon do?

Re:why so big and expensive? (2)

SlowGenius (231663) | more than 2 years ago | (#40998329)

It's hard to get awarded a multi-million dollar contract to build a weather balloon.

Commercialized Black Triangle (2)

j-stroy (640921) | more than 2 years ago | (#40998087)

While driving at night in the desert near Yuma AZ over a decade ago, I saw indicator lights on the tips of a huge triangle. The only reasonable explanation I could come up with was either a very large inflatable aircraft, or a very very slow flying formation of smaller aircraft. I doubt this is actually a new development.. more of an announcement of a project that has already been in play for some time.

Obligatory Starcraft Reference (1)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 2 years ago | (#40998379)

Somebody took the whole "Spawn More Overlords" thing a bit too seriously.
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