Military

US Army cancels LEMV airship project

US Army cancels LEMV airship p...
First flight of the Northrop Grumman LEMV airship (Photo: Northrop Grumman)
First flight of the Northrop Grumman LEMV airship (Photo: Northrop Grumman)
View 5 Images
Artist's concept of the Northrop Grumman LEMV airship (Image: Northrop Grumman)
1/5
Artist's concept of the Northrop Grumman LEMV airship (Image: Northrop Grumman)
Artist's concept of the Northrop Grumman LEMV airship (Image: Northrop Grumman)
2/5
Artist's concept of the Northrop Grumman LEMV airship (Image: Northrop Grumman)
First flight of the Northrop Grumman LEMV airship (Photo: Northrop Grumman)
3/5
First flight of the Northrop Grumman LEMV airship (Photo: Northrop Grumman)
First flight of the Northrop Grumman LEMV airship (Photo: Northrop Grumman)
4/5
First flight of the Northrop Grumman LEMV airship (Photo: Northrop Grumman)
The Northrop Grumman LEMV airship (Photo: US Army)
5/5
The Northrop Grumman LEMV airship (Photo: US Army)

When Northrop Grumman announced that it was building the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV), it looked as if the age of the great airships was returning. When the LEMV took to the air in its maiden flight, it seemed a certainty. Now, the US Army has announced that the US$517 million program has been cancelled.

When we contacted the US Army, a spokesman said, “The Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV), a hybrid air vehicle, is a technology demonstration project administered by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command. This project was initially designed to support operational needs in Afghanistan in Spring 2012; it will not provide a capability in the timeframe required. Due to technical and performance challenges, and the limitations imposed by constrained resources, the Army has determined to discontinue the LEMV development effort."

The LEMV was intended to act as a very long endurance aircraft that could hover on station at an altitude of 20,000 feet (6,100 m) for 21 days, for surveillance and reconnaissance.

The Northrop video below shows the LEMV taking off.

Source: US Army via Popular Science

LEMV First Flight

22 comments
Dave MacLachlan
Oh, for crying out loud. Over half a billion spent on developing this, and now they decide it won't be of use? I would rather see it be completed and then deployed for other regions. There's always going to be another hot spot bubbling up that could use an observation platform with that kind of endurance.
Stephen Funck
It was high cost, limited use. Hopefully now they will take a look at something much more viable. At least run some studies to check this out. ConcordLift.com has animation and the paper presented to last fall's AIAA conference. There has been nothing found that renders this concept unworkable in an engineering sense or without potential profitability. 5 million shipping containers are in motion each day. Just 1% would need 1000 large ConcordLift. Lower cost than 3rd world truck, rail and less than small ships. Faster more direct for less cost.
Grunchy
These were always too easy a target even in WWI. The LEMV was a boondoggle since day 1, I don't know how it escaped administrative notice until today. I am a big fan, but these gentle giants are peacetime vehicles only.
VoiceofReason
Easy. Keep it on station and pack it with a few emergency cell tower equipment. At altitude it should cover about 10 states.
yrag
VERY disappointing. I wonder if the looming threat of sequestration was the death knell. Like Dave, I'm hoping that much of the hard work was already done and that Northrop Grumman and it's partners can keep the project alive by appealing to cargo companies, etc. And the did build and demo the LEMV we see in the video as proof of concept, so all we boasters can do is hope that someone in industry picks up where the Army left off.
Savin Wangtal
Even if not for war, airships seems to me like a savior for civilian transportation. They are VTOL (hence requiring almost zero runway), are a HELLAVALOT cheaper than planes (even if they lose economical edge once you scale them up), require no jet fuel (arguably they can probably run fine on solar rechargeable battery), and will still make a much smoother and faster ride than cars. I can really see this being a great option for close to mid distance transport, like interstate ride. Budget airlines are already doing these routes with small planes, but I think a Blimp holding those 30-50 passengers will be a hellavalot cheaper than planes. (Not that I really know their price, but I suppose that should be about accurate)
BigGoofyGuy
That is a big disappointment. I was hoping for the military to have it so it can be transformed for civilian purposes; like the show that had things developed for the military but become useful for civilian use; an example is GPS. I think it would be really cool as a floating cruise ship; like the Hindenburg but way safer.
Derek Howe
pshh, typical government waste... Think of a good product, create it, then scrap it. I think airships/hybrids have a bright future, I think the biggest money maker for them will be lifting heavy, large, & oddly shaped items. This project got canned, but the one that I think shows the most promise (Aeroscraft) is still chugging along with progress.
Robert Fallin
Does this thing have any cargo or passenger capacity? If so, I can see quite a number of commercial applications.
qwester
There is a severe shortage of helium so the cost of it has skyrocketed ergo project cancellation.