Best View in the House

The Air Force, in partnership with DARPA, intends to develop a 450-foot-long airship that could stay aloft for up to 10 years at altitudes of 65,000 ft. above the Earth. Armed with a sophisticated radar system, this giant helium-filled airship would serve as a surveillance platform to observe uninterruptedly the activities in areas of interest on the surface while perched at a safe distance up and away from most enemy missile and aircraft threats. Think of the value of such a system today over the Afghan-Pakistani border region. Werner Dahm, Air Force chief scientist, called the concept “absolutely revolutionary” in a Los Angeles Times report March 13. The newspaper said the Air Force and DAPRA aim to demonstrate a one-third scale model by 2014 as part of the overall $400 million project. DARPA has been developing airship technology and the Missile Defense Agency was also pursuing a high altitude airship with applicable technology that subsequently met the budget axe earlier this decade. (For more, read the UK Guardian’s March 13 report and, for more on the potential resurgence of military airships, read Air Force Magazine’s Are Airships for Real.)