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Blimps To Help Protect Washington DC From Air Attack

Unknown Lamer posted about a year and a half ago | from the only-a-matter-of-time-before-canada-strikes dept.

The Military 270

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Reuters reports that a pair of bulbous, helium-filled 'aerostats', each 243 feet long, will be moored to the ground and fly as high as 10,000 feet, as part of a high-tech shield designed to protect the Washington D.C. area from an air attack like the one that took place on September 11, 2001. One of the aerostats carries a powerful long-range surveillance radar with a 360-degree look-around capability that can reach out to 340 miles. The other carries a radar used for targeting. Operating for up to 30 days at a time, JLENS is meant to give the military more time to detect and react to threats (PDF), including cruise missiles and manned and unmanned aircraft, compared with ground-based radar and is also designed to defend against tactical ballistic missiles, large caliber rockets and moving vehicles that could be used for attacks, including boats, cars and trucks. 'We're trying to determine how the surveillance radar information from the JLENS platforms can be integrated with existing systems in the National Capital Region,' says Michael Kucharek, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command. Washington is currently guarded by an air-defense system that includes Federal Aviation Administration radars and Department of Homeland Security helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft on alert at Reagan National Airport to intercept slow, low-flying aircraft."

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Brilliant! (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42807605)

Yes, a giant ball of gas catching fire when fired upon and crashing into DC will sure help protect it.

Re:Brilliant! (4, Insightful)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807645)

Yes, a giant ball of gas catching fire when fired upon and crashing into DC will sure help protect it.

You do realize that they tend to use Helium now-a-days, right? And helium is fire retardant.

I'd list a bunch of "Archer" quotes from one of my favorite episodes, but I'm too lazy to look them up.

Re:Brilliant! (1, Redundant)

DigiShaman (671371) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807677)

Gentleman, we have politicians in Washington DC. Lots of them. A near endless supply of hot air. What more could you ask for?!

Re:Brilliant! (3, Informative)

WillAdams (45638) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807733)

But what are they going to fill it w/?

Congress is still going forward w/ plans to close the Federal Helium Reserve:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443545504577567102314948314.html [wsj.com]
http://www.aapg.org/explorer/2012/12dec/helium1212.cfm [aapg.org]

and has intentionally been pricing helium low, so as to allow it to be used in party balloons instead of MRI units, &c.

Re:Brilliant! (0, Redundant)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807885)

For how much longer will they be able to get enough helium for this use?

The free marketeers, excuse me the "privatize the profits, socialize the losses" crowd is selling out nations helium reserves at rates that are nothing more than a giant give away to their industry buddies. The Helium we will need for this and other worth while causes is now being sold to kids in birthday balloons and being allowed to leave our atmosphere.

Re:Brilliant! (1)

KiloByte (825081) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808099)

The free marketeers, excuse me the "privatize the profits, socialize the losses"

Please educate me, how socializing losses is even possible at all in a free market? What you're bashing here is a government-controlled economy.

Re:Brilliant! (4, Interesting)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808383)

Because those who call themselves that often advocate privatizing government resources.

These folks are as interested in a real free market as much as the Chinese are in actual communism.

A free market without government intervention is of course not possible, for reference I suggest Adam Smith. Monopolies and such are a real pain.

Re:Brilliant! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42808397)

4 words: Too big to fail

Re:Brilliant! (1)

Westwood0720 (2688917) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807887)

You do realize that they tend to use Helium now-a-days, right? And helium is fire retardant.

I'd list a bunch of "Archer" quotes from one of my favorite episodes, but I'm too lazy to look them up.

Welcome aboard the Excelsior!

Re:Brilliant! (1, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807911)

Yes what a wonderful use for the limited amount of Helium on this planet. Let's put it in baloons to protect ourselves from imaginary threats.

Re:Brilliant! (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808427)

I'm not talking about the fact that Helium is in short supply.

But the article explicitly states they'd be using Helium, and the AC states that "OMG Fireball City LOL"

It

Re:Brilliant! (3, Insightful)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807951)

Helium is also in short supply and absolutely non-renewable, hydrogen would be a big improvement.

But +1 for the hot air suggestion :-P

Re:Brilliant! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42807671)

You'd need at least a red rider bb gun to take it down, so I wouldn't worry about it.

Re:Brilliant! (1)

SilentStaid (1474575) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808089)

Would you say that living in DC could be considered... dangerous?
Would you say it's kind of a zone, that has danger in it?

Re:Brilliant! (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808437)

Would you say that living in DC could be considered... dangerous? Would you say it's kind of a zone, that has danger in it?

I hear there's a highway to DC, too.

Re:Brilliant! (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808151)

If they were using hydrogen, which they're not, the giant ball of gas that's caught fire isn't going to "fall" on anything, until it turns into water - and I don't mean steam either, I mean liquid, heavier than air, water.

Why not use hydrogen? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42807637)

As I understand it, we need to conserve helium. If these things are unmanned, could we not use hydrogen?

Re:Why not use hydrogen? (1)

JustOK (667959) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807669)

If hydrogen is mixed with oxygen in the right proportions, it becomes an incredibly dangerous substance.

Re:Why not use hydrogen? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42807751)

Water?

Re:Why not use hydrogen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42807933)

Yeah, you'll drown in minutes!

Re:Why not use hydrogen? (1)

Cigarra (652458) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808299)

Yeah, water... as a residue from combustion. Water ashes, if you will.

Re:Why not use hydrogen? (2, Funny)

jgtg32a (1173373) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807775)

You aren't talking about Dihydrogen Monoxide are you? That's some scary stuff.

Re:Why not use hydrogen? (1)

damien_kane (519267) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807809)

If hydrogen is mixed with oxygen in the right proportions, it becomes an incredibly dangerous substance.

Water?
I agree, water can be dangerous, but only in significantly large quantities (relative to the specific use)

Re:Why not use hydrogen? (1)

RNLockwood (224353) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807817)

If hydrogen is mixed with oxygen in the right proportions, it becomes an incredibly dangerous substance.

Absolutely! And if it mixed in the right proportions and allowed to combine correctly the product can be really dangerous, for instance, it can cause fatal hyper-hydration.

Re:Why not use hydrogen? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807983)

If an ignition source is then added.

Keeping the proportions away from the danger zone is not hard, blimps don't catch fire so easily when they aren't painted with rocket fuel, and if they do and nobody's around...so what?

Re:Why not use hydrogen? (1)

SilentStaid (1474575) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808079)

Things tend to fall out of the sky when exploding... and raining flaming metal down over Washington DC is a bad thing....

We should come up with some kind of blimp system to prevent that.

Re:Why not use hydrogen? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808259)

These things are almost entirely made of cloth, probably with a couple hundred pounds of metal on board, packaged tightly together. Fly one over an open field and it will be fine.

Re:Why not use hydrogen? (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808049)

True, you can drown in hydrogen mixed with oxygen in the right proportions. And a massive wave of it can destroy beachfront property.

Re:Why not use hydrogen? (1)

kontos (560271) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807781)

The 'helium shortage' is more a problem with economics than it is with the abundance of the element.

Re:Why not use hydrogen? (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807899)

Um, no.

Re:Why not use hydrogen? (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807905)

You could say that about any element we might face a shortage of.

Given unlimited funds you can always make your own elements. Since that is not true your statement is pretty nonsensical.

Re:Why not use hydrogen? (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808093)

Generally the economics are, indeed, linked to the abundance (and availability) of something.

That said, I'd like to see them use hydrogen anyway, like the AC. It's cheap, it's not nearly as dangerous as its reputation, and doing something about the image of hydrogen as a very dangerous thing to put in balloons or other lighter than air craft would help spur development of the latter.

Re:Why not use hydrogen? (1)

Onymous Hero (910664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807851)

Re:Why not use hydrogen? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807985)

Wow forbes, truly they have no agenda.

What the fine article fails to mention is how little helium is captured at wells. There is no point in figuring how much is in fraking wells since none of them capture any of it.

Re:Why not use hydrogen? (1)

kontos (560271) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808223)

What the fine article fails to mention is how little helium is captured at wells. There is no point in figuring how much is in fraking wells since none of them capture any of it.

Which is why I called it an economic problem. You can damn well be sure that fracking wells would figure out a way to capture the helium if Joe Consumer's floating balloon budget started to approach his natural gas heat and appliances budget.

Re:Why not use hydrogen? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808265)

No, because that kind of demand is very elastic.
Joe Consumer would just stop buying it and there will be little incentive to capture it.

All shortages are economic, if you had unlimited money/other resources you could make all your own elements. So that is a nonsense statement.

Re:Why not use hydrogen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42808203)

Yes! Helium is renewable over a geological timeframe so we need not worry about venting it into the atmosphere. Meanwhile scientists and engineers who live in non-geological time actually need this stuff *now* while you advocate flushing a significant portion of their research budgets down the drain in order to subsidize your kid's party favors.

WWII (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42807657)

Didn't we used to call these barrage balloons [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:WWII (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807979)

That was my first thought too, but these operate in a completly different way. Barrage ballons were themselves the anti-air defence, carrying strong cables to ensnare low-flying attackers. These blimps are just radar platforms. Their advantage is just price: It's cheaper to keep a blimp inflated than to keep a radar-helicopter in the air.

Scary Blimps (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42807661)

The designers should give the blimps a dark steampunk look so that visitors to DC can pretend like they are in a euro-WWII-alternate-timeline story.

Re:Scary Blimps (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808001)

Haha thought the same thing. But is the white and shiny word of Mirror's Edge that much less bad because it doesn't look evil?

The REAL solution (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42807689)

Just put a big dome over the whole place, and don't let anyone out. They can all pretend they're running the world, and the rest of us can finally be left alone to run out lives.

Re:The REAL solution (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808041)

You've gotta give it a PR angle... tell em its to protect them from west nile virus mosquitoes (DC is pretty much a swamp in the summer, so they'll love this idea)

well the bad news is (4, Insightful)

nimbius (983462) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807691)

1984 appears to be rocketing right along as movie-turned-reality. instead of addressing foreign policy mistakes we've taken to bubblewrapping and tripwiring the nation until americans stop worrying about it and learn to love the terror

the good news i guess is DC is going to start looking a lot more like bladerunner, and if we're lucky it will mean eventually, just maybe, i can order chinese from a blimp chop suey shop like corbin dallas.
although im not entirely looking forward to the Judge Dredd approach to criminal justice, i am admittedly kind of excited to see the voice-activated guns and flying motorcycles :)

Re:well the bad news is (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807829)

Nope, this is definitely a Dr Who plot, the mother-ship is a giant air ship in the shape of a Dylect(sic?), it will be arriving any day now.

Re:well the bad news is (4, Insightful)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808011)

Judge Dredd is a real thing, but he's a semi-autonomous flying robot and he has a lot less respect for due process than the fictional character...

Re:well the bad news is (2)

squiggleslash (241428) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808247)

Blade Runner is the one with Harrison Ford, I think they use a blimp at one point for advertising living on other planets but beyond that the blimps aren't really a fixture. As blimps are, today (and before the movie came out), used for advertising, that's not really a prediction of the future.

Corbin Dallas orders his meal from a blimp in The Fifth Element. While again blimps don't make other appearances (from memory) in that movie, the unusual (by 21st century standards) nature of the interaction, apparently considered usual in the Fifth Element universe, means that it's more likely to be what you're talking about.

This has been Morning for Pedants. Coming up next: the hilarious new game show "Your using the wrong word!"

Systems integration (3, Insightful)

scotts13 (1371443) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807701)

They state as fact the blimps will be deployed, but they're still "trying to determine" how they can be integrated into the air defense system? Isn't that kinda backwards?

Re:Systems integration (2)

rioki (1328185) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807795)

Not if you think about government spending. First spend the money, then see if you can do something useful with it.

Re:Systems integration (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42808087)

I work in government. Don't spend money you've been allocated and not only will your budget be cut even harder next year, but you'll also be criticized for "sitting on" the money. It's totally fucked up. Once your budget is set (playing a game of "I want a pony" to receive a small dog) it's better to overspend than to save. My department was almost set on a plan to blow cash on some very expensive software packages that we knew would be lightly used to "bleed off" some budget, but then we got the order to go into survival mode and save everywhere - which works fine for me since that package was almost used in place of some FLOSS that could do the job just fine, what a waste that would have been.

Re:Systems integration (1)

WGFCrafty (1062506) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808479)

Not if you think about government spending. First spend the money, then see if you can do something useful with it.

Why is this "troll?" Anyone else just read about rape-i-scan machines?

Typical political operation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42807863)

Looks good.
Use non-renewable resource.
Expensive in operation.

Doesn't work though.

Yep. looks like a typical government operation.

Threats.... (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42807703)

If you weren't such douchebags to so many people of the planet... You wouldn't need to worry so hard about 'threats'...

Not being an ass is even free.

Balloons? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42807729)

moored to the ground

They might look similar to blimps from a distance, but it sounds like they're just balloons carrying radar, not actually capable of moving around.

Re:Balloons? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808157)

Meh it's playing with words. An aerostat is still a blimp, and a blimp is still a balloon, just as a Cessna and a kite are both aircraft.

If it had a rigid frame it could even be a zeppelin and an aerostat at the same time.

Re:Balloons? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808169)

*Cessna and a kite are both fixed wing aircraft. Balloons are aircraft too.

You're joking, right? (5, Insightful)

poofmeisterp (650750) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807741)

Yeah, because the 9/11 attacks were all about not having radar visibility of the aircraft, uh huh. Sure.

They were perfectly visible by radar.

So this is a hidden agenda (technology that will not be mentioned by them) or a complete BS example of making Americans feel comfortable, like nothing will ever happen again because they're being watched out for.

Re:You're joking, right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42807931)

What's preventing these from being downed by a high output laser mounted on a rooftop?

Re:You're joking, right? (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807969)

Wouldn't a hunting rifle be much cheaper and more practical?

I can hit a clay pigeon on a pole at 300 yards with one, I am sure a better marksmen could hit such a huge target from much further away.

Re:You're joking, right? (1)

poofmeisterp (650750) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808111)

Wouldn't a hunting rifle be much cheaper and more practical?

I can hit a clay pigeon on a pole at 300 yards with one, I am sure a better marksmen could hit such a huge target from much further away.

I'll future-quote:

"Uh, that was planned for. We were uh, using, uh, the blimps to, you know, ummm, find the evil people that were trying to take them down to prevent them from spotting their allies. Yeah! That's what happened and the DoD documents will, I mean, DO say so!"

Re:You're joking, right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42808207)

This aerostat says its altitude is 10,000 feet, but no caliber rifle right now will be able to shoot vertically more than 1,500 ft. The ballistics on a horizontal shot for a .750 gr Hornady are 2500 yds at a 108 MOA, which is basically pointing your gun at a damn-near 45 degree angle.

Re:You're joking, right? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808317)

.750 grains? That seems very light.
I think you mean .50 BMG which is 750 grains.

108 inches seems small compared to the size of a blimp.

I did not think about the altitude though. Still another ballon towing some sort of explosive then seems cheaper and easier than a laser.

Re:You're joking, right? (3, Informative)

mcd7756 (628070) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808395)

They're not going to pop like a party balloon:

"Because the aerostats are not highly pressurized, bullets won’t burst them; they can actually remain buoyant for hours after suffering multiple punctures." (http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/the-usas-raid-program-small-aerostats-big-surveillance-time-02779/)

If you google harder than I did, you'll find more information about aerostats.

However, if you'd like to be a worrier consider the following:

  • Aircraft landing at Washington Nation, Dulles and Andrews (home of Air Force One).
  • Ubiquitous surveillance of civilians

A powerful laser would be a killer idea! (1)

drainbramage (588291) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808443)

And please, please, please make the blimp look like a giant shark.
Maybe that's an acronym, something like the Sky High Anti Radar Killer?

Re:You're joking, right? (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807935)

Stop thinking about conspiracies, the answer is looking you in the face.

This is a way to spend money on defense and defense contractors. That is really it. No conspiracy or secret motive, just another move to hand our tax dollars to someone's buddies.

Re:You're joking, right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42808155)

Stop thinking about conspiracies, the answer is looking you in the face.

This is a way to spend money on defense and defense contractors. That is really it. No conspiracy or secret motive, just another move to hand our tax dollars to someone's buddies.

Uh... but that is a conspiracy. Someone and his buddies are conspiring together to acquire the nation's tax dollars for their own benefit.

Re:You're joking, right? (4, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808341)

No, a conspiracy has to be something hidden, this is being done in public with everyone in full knowledge of the money being spent.

Re:You're joking, right? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42808331)

I agree that commercial airliners are easy to see on radar, especially when they have FAA transponders. But this program is meant to deal with missiles and drones, which are much smaller and do not sport transponders. And I think even the conspiracy crowd can agree that the total cost of these two balloons is minuscule compared to a successful terrorist attack on DC.

Re:You're joking, right? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808415)

That is not what the cost has to be compared against.

It must be compared against the cost of the attack and the likelihood of such an attack. The last one kills your little idea.

I wish you we were joking. (1)

drainbramage (588291) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808413)

This is not at all about making Americans feel comfortable.
It's about keeping their voting bloc in line.
Now I wish I was joking.

So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42807747)

Their new fancy defence idea is...Barrage balloons.

The 1940's called, London wants their stuff back.

Debt ceiling is what? (0)

kurt555gs (309278) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807749)

More waste. More welfare for political cronies. Useless as a kick stand on a bass boat.

So rather than... (2)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807769)

So rather than do the sane thing to reduce attacks (which saves money both in the short and long run!) which is to fix our foreign policy to one of free trade and friendship rather than secret assassinations, embargoes, invasions and occupation that we currently have. We instead decide to spend even more money on useless counter-measures.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Re:So rather than... (4, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807967)

See, you're misunderstanding: The spending tons of money on useless counter-measures is big profits to the politically-connected seller who's just happened to provide appropriate amounts of graft to the government folks.

The goal isn't (and generally has never been) to fix the problem, the goal is to maximize profits.

Re:So rather than... (1)

snemiro (1775092) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807997)

I would like to see a day when politicians are accountable (financially) for their job. If the debt goes down, they receive a proportional pension...if the debt goes up, they don't receive any perks but they are financially in debt with the Govt to cover the difference.

Blimps to Help Protect DC? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42807771)

Nice of Michael Moore and Rosie O'Donnel to pitch in.

Re:Blimps to Help Protect DC? (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808017)

Hey, don't forget Rush Limbaugh's contributions too.

Re:Blimps to Help Protect DC? (2)

jgtg32a (1173373) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808113)

Too much hot air, he's stuck in the lower mesosphere

Re:Blimps to Help Protect DC? (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808119)

Conan O'Brien just called me to say the governor of some State south of New York would pitch in too, but as I've heard the same f---ing joke now, from Conan, about a gagillion times now I slammed the phone down.

Having worked for the company who wrote the SW.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42807815)

...I can tell you sincerely that we are all fucked if we have to depend on this system.

Re:Having worked for the company who wrote the SW. (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808229)

Good thing no plane will ever be hijacked again. They'll either make it to the destination or explode before anyone knows there's a problem.

camera on hot tubs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42807889)

They would not put in a huge down looking camera would they? They could track where every car has gone and zoom in on those hot tub parties.
Current satellites can see very well. This could hold a bigger camera a LOT closer.
I would like this tech in Afganistan to watch roads for IEDs. Not in the U.S. to follow suspects around.

Blimps, manned and unmanned (4, Informative)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807913)

I remember reading about an unmanned blimp crashing:
.
San Diego Union Tribune [utsandiego.com] article about an unmanned Army blimp brought down in Pa. woods
A remote-controlled, unmanned reconnaissance blimp launched from Ohio by defense contractor Lockheed Martin was brought down Wednesday in a controlled descent in the woods of southwestern Pennsylvania after it was unable to climb to the desired altitude.
The HALE-D blimp was designed to float above the jet stream at 60,000 feet and can be used for reconnaissance, intelligence and other purposes often accomplished by satellites, but at lower cost. The blimp was being tested as a communications relay device as part of a contract Lockheed Martin has with the Army

And another one, found by searching for military and blimps, also found in gizmag and wired, is a dedicated blimp site article [blimpinfo.com] about the army preparing and training for using a huge/mammoth spy blimp, an LEMV = US Army's massive Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle:

The Air Force's highly computerized (and potentially missile-armed) Blue Devil 2 airship recently ran into integration problems, forcing the flying branch to cancel a planned test run in Afghanistan. (Although the service had never been too hot on airships in the first place.) The Navy meanwhile grounded its much smaller MZ-3A research blimp for a lack of work until the Army paid to take it over. The LEMV seemed to be losing air, too, as Northrop and the Army repeatedly delayed its first flight and planned combat deployment originally slated for the end of 2011.

also http://www.gizmag.com/lemv-first-flight/22675/ [gizmag.com]
and http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/05/massive-spy-blimp [wired.com] : Army Readies Its Mammoth Spy Blimp for First Flight ...
There wass also an auxilliary naval air field north of La Jolla in Del Mar that also was used for blimps: http://www.militarymuseum.org/NAAFDelMar.html [militarymuseum.org]

The rest of you (0)

vinayg18 (1641855) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807915)

DIE!

Time for our elected officials to "man up." (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42807937)

I'm sick and tired of elected officials thinking of themselves as a valuable commodity. They're just citizens. No better, no worse than the rest of us. They need to send a message to the "terrorists." This message should be something to the effect, "You can hurt me, kill me, do whatever you want, but know that there are plenty of other people in line to take my place."

I really do believe that the current breed of politician would make the founders of the U.S.A. sick.

missing from TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42807955)

all the downward-looking cameras and radio scanners.

But what about the aliens? (1)

robinsonne (952701) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807989)

What about the aliens?!?!? Are these blimps going to save our government from the aliens' attack that could come any moment?!?! Everyone knows Independence Day was a documentary sent back from the future to warn us!

/sarcasm

I think that their imagined threat of terrorist airplane attacks is about as likely to happen.

Over the horizon radar (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42807995)

fly as high as 10,000 feet

powerful long-range surveillance radar with a 360-degree look-around capability that can reach out to 340 miles.

There's a simple aviation rule of thumb (aka its probably less than 10% inaccurate) that 10Kft = 100nm to the horizon.

So they're admitting its a OTH radar. That seems odd, why make a shitty lightweight OTH when you could make a really good one on the ground. In the air would be a good spot for a stereotypical skin painting surveillance radar, however.

I'm suspecting there's some specsmanship going on here were an infinite number of imperial to metric re-conversions and PR rounding up 20 times has somehow lead to the "real" range of "around a hundred miles" getting boosted to the somewhat ridiculous 340 miles.

Or they're confusing individual range with total system coverage. You only need about 3 blimps IN A SYSTEM each with 100 mile range to cover about 350 miles along the widest part of the entire system. I have to think about circle packing, maybe 3 perfectly aligned circles 100 nm apart could cover an absolute minimum diameter of 340 miles as a system. Hmm you'd be looking at the intersection point of two circles vs the farthest point of the 3rd circle or some BS, I think?

And or the journalists failed geometry and are confusing range aka radius with diameter or more like circumference. So they F'd up thinking radius is the same as circumference. Yes, literally, a 100 nm diameter radar (aka 50 mile range) can cover a ground footprint aka "radar fence" that would be a circle on the ground that would be 314 point something miles to walk around (not across).

Please no flames that an airborne radar can see an airplane at twice the horizon at the same altitude as the radar because they're both in the air... the specified security theater is to prevent another 9/11, and if the 9/11 planes were at 30Kft cruising along over NYC then 9/11 wouldn't have been much of a disaster (unless we start building 30001 foot tall skyscrapers in the future or something). The next attack will of course be highly successful because it will be different than the last attack. Generals always prepare to fight the last war. I bet the united states is perfectly prepared to defend against massed cavalry charges and musket fire.

Re:Over the horizon radar (1)

TheLink (130905) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808333)

So what if they could see the aircraft? The last time the air defence didn't work (whether or not it was on purpose), so how would these blimps help if the same things would still apply: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/9/11_conspiracy_theories#Air_defense_stand_down_theory [wikipedia.org]

FWIW I'd have thought the US air bases would be able to scramble jets for interception within minutes, so to me it's quite suspicious that the air defence couldn't take down at least one of the airliners but what do I know.

Blimps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42808029)

How are fat people going to protect the capital?

No ARGUS there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42808033)

I'm posting just to say they there's no chance they'll put something like ARGUS [wimp.com] there just to keep a close eye on the locals. Nope. Not gonna happen.

We need to contact. (1)

Westwood0720 (2688917) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808109)

We need to get into contact with the guy in charge of the tanks and see if they can swap the Helium with the Hydrogen.

I can't wait for the homies to shoot at it (0)

gelfling (6534) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808143)

And then of course the 'black leadership' to claim it's spying on all the 'urban' people.

scarce element (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42808145)

is helium a scarce element (on this planet)? Why not use a different source of levitation to protect our national security? Now government can declare helium production a strategic national security interest? take it and run with it...

Only two? (1)

Coisiche (2000870) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808163)

I'm pretty sure that London had many more than just two during World War II.

Although the intent of them was to provide obstructions to aircraft rather than trying to detect them.

The Threat of Red Baron (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42808267)

My God, the terrorists are going to employ von Richthofen! With his triplane, the blimps have no change.

Zeppelin (5, Funny)

marcroelofs (797176) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808379)

I was just thinking lately, the only thing missing in the similarities between the US and 1935 Germany is a nice big Zeppelin.

Probably a good idea (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year and a half ago | (#42808431)

Since China has a penchant for surfacing their apparently undetectable submarines right in the middle of our naval battle groups, we have no reason to believe that we can detect the presence of their missile subs, nor do we have any reason to believe they don't have one or more parked off the mid-Atlantic coast.

Why our Nation's capital is still in such a vulnerable position is beyond me. A place like Omaha would be much better suited, since it's deep inland, and about the farthest you can get from the border of the continental US. It makes a sub-launched cruise missile or ICBM an untenable option for attacking the Nation's Capital.

JLENS is an electro-optical/IR surveillance system (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42808439)

Former imagery analyst and UAV contractor here.

While I'm not denying that these aerostats are capable of floating high resolution air-search radar, etc, their purpose over in the non-war combat zones of afghanistan and iraq where I lived for 2-3 years was to loft high resolution zoom optics with an EO/IR sensor payload in order to spot shooters and mortar teams within several miles of their ground stations. Essentially it was like having a full-time predator feed orbiting your base, which was really convenient for the aforementioned purposes.

On smaller bases you would have a guyed lattice tower with a camera ball on top, on larger ones, you got an aerostat. The ground station equipment used to view and transport the video feeds was similar/identical to those used for smaller UAV systems.

Again, it's possible these will be used for the stated purpose, but if they are, it'd be the first time I've seen it done. The most advanced surface to air missile systems do not use aerostats; take a look at the Russian S-300 (SA-10/20). It uses a ground-based air search radar and a ground-based target acquisition radar. Of course, this system is designed to be highly mobile, but the terrain around DC isnt so mountainous that a traditional early warning system wouldn't suffice. Even less so a target acquisition or illumination radar, as those two systems usually require LOS to the target. Unless terrorists have learned advanced terrain-following flight profiles and can manage to fly them in a fully fueled passenger aircraft (lol). The extreme precision radars that guide anti-mortar gun systems which can shoot a softball falling at terminal velocity out of the sky are still _ground based_

Believe me, I have every confidence that Washington has managed to find a new lightweight high res radar system to waste money on.

(hint) However, I also advise that it would eliminate a lot of the troublesome FAA and national-security related regulations barring UAV surveillance of the populace if this system is considered a ground-tethered conventional surveillance camera like the ones at wal-mart, rather than a high precision aerial sensor platform, y'know, like it actually is... (/hint)

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