labels: News reports, Defence general
Pentagon's spy blimp to remain aloft for up to 10 years news
16 March 2009

In the race to develop ever more sophisticated surveillance platforms the United States defence department is readying itself to issue contracts for the construction of a sophisticated, ultra-high altitude, 450-foot long blimps that will hover above the earth's surface at 65,000 feet and remain airborne for up to 10 years.

Powered by solar panel technologies and hydrogen fuel cells, the blimp, unlike contemporary long endurance surveillance platforms such as drones, will provide constant surveillance capabilities.

The high-flying airship are estimated to cost $400 million.

Reports in some US, UK publications suggest the aircraft will be able to remain in flight for up to 10 years maintaining a constant altitude of 65,000 feet, At such heights it will remain out of range of hand-held SAM systems as well as fighter planes. The blimp will be able to track targets in a 375 mile range.

Reportedly, the blimp would be twenty times the size of the famed Goodyear blimp and will have high resolution cameras in addition to a football-field sized radar antenna.

The blimp's main attraction would lie in its ability to provide uninterrupted surveillance and the fact that it would be easily redeployed to any number of trouble spots worldwide, where it would provide real time information.

''When you only have a short-term view whether it is a few hours or a few days that is not enough to put the picture together,'' Werner Dahm, chief scientist for the US Air Force, is quoted as saying in these reports.

Apart from huge savings in costs, compared to existing satellite based systems, the system would also avoid the risks from space junk, a phenomenon recently highlighted by near misses to the International Space Station and also the mysterious deaths of satellites, which, very, were damaged by space debris.

The report said a prototype is expected by 2014.

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Pentagon's spy blimp to remain aloft for up to 10 years