Pentagon Bringing Back the Blimp

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Pentagon Bringing Back the Blimp

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It's a bird, it's a plane, it's ... an experimental military stealth blimp!

Airships don't exactly have the best history. Most often than not, whenever someone mentions blimps, we either think of a giant Goodyear airship floating around outside a sports stadium or the horrific Hindenburg disaster from way back in the late 1930s. And while airplanes are more or less the go-to way to travel around the world, a new Pentagon-backed project looks to bring airships back into style.

Meet the Pelican, a 230 foot long prototype airship developed by Aeroscraft, and the first of what may be a new fleet of blimps designed to transport several tons of cargo across long distances using far less fuel than your typical airplane. Using a system that pumps helium from "lifting-gas cells" to pressurized tanks, the Pelican is capable of flying vertically and controlling its own buoyancy much easier than other types of airships, which usually require runways to get airborne and require extra ballast to stay grounded.

The Pelican is still in the testing phase, and hasn't seen much travel outside of its California-based hangar. Provided future tests go well, Aeroscraft is hoping to build a much larger, 450 foot long airship capable of hauling over 60 tons of cargo. Along with ferrying supplies around, the Pentagon is already thinking of how it could be used for surveillance missions, albeit one has to wonder how inconspicuous a giant floating balloon might look overhead in a warzone.

Source: AviationWeek

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You know, this looks kinda like Thunderbird 2... Maybe that means the US are gonna stick a tiny submarine in the middle of it then?

Anyway, this is cool, I guess? They should definitely try and bring back the blimp though. We're one more step closer to steampunk style worlds where every gentleman has their own personal airship!

If that doesn't call for dozens of UFO sightings I don't know what will. It's even green and shiny.

And stealth always makes things better, not for nothing is Gilette now selling modern cloaking and energy production devices with built-in razor.

Hmmm...

First thing to come to mind...

(mostly the first few minutes.)

I'm not sure a flying watermelon is that much more stealthy.

If there's been one thing that I've consistently wondered about and cautiously wished for it's a second age of airships.

I'm hoping this really takes off. Pun unintentional but wonderfully relevant.

I originally thought the headline was "Bringing Back The Bling"

I am now overwhelmingly disappointed.

DVS BSTrD:
I'm not sure a flying watermelon is that much more stealthy.

It's also a lot more dangerous. Just look what happened the last time they tried to launch a watermelon!

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An airship that pumps helium into compressed tanks to control it's altitude... Not a bad idea until one of the tanks bursts...

Hello, Airplanes? It's Blimps, you win.

And then the conspiracy theorists run out of nowhere claiming they have proof its using ET tech.

DVS BSTrD:
I'm not sure a flying watermelon is that much more stealthy.

The idea is to park the blimp at an altitude most planes (and by extent SAM's) can't reach. Not exactly stealthy, but than again there is not much the other side can do about it.

doggie015:
An airship that pumps helium into compressed tanks to control it's altitude... Not a bad idea until one of the tanks bursts...

They've been storing compressed helium in tanks for decades in the space program. I'm pretty sure the storage technology is proven.

doggie015:
An airship that pumps helium into compressed tanks to control it's altitude... Not a bad idea until one of the tanks bursts...

Why would this be a problem?

Helium is inert.. It doesn't burn.. the worst thing to happen would be some potentially hilarious mayday messages sent by chipmonks.

ascorbius:

doggie015:
An airship that pumps helium into compressed tanks to control it's altitude... Not a bad idea until one of the tanks bursts...

Why would this be a problem?

Helium is inert.. It doesn't burn.. the worst thing to happen would be some potentially hilarious mayday messages sent by chipmonks.

If this airship operates at anywhere near the altitudes of modern day airliners then it's a long way down...

doggie015:

ascorbius:

doggie015:
An airship that pumps helium into compressed tanks to control it's altitude... Not a bad idea until one of the tanks bursts...

Why would this be a problem?

Helium is inert.. It doesn't burn.. the worst thing to happen would be some potentially hilarious mayday messages sent by chipmonks.

If this airship operates at anywhere near the altitudes of modern day airliners then it's a long way down...

True, 35,000 feet is very very high and very very cold and the air is thin and there isn't as much pressure.
However it only goes to 12000 feet according to their site. Still, if such a disaster were to happen I do feel that 2 things would happen.

First of all, there would likely be multiple tanks so they'd be able to vent the escaping helium in time so they'd go down instead of up in order to get the blimp on the ground at a safe speed.. it's also hardly very aero dynamic, it's quite light and has a semi rigid structure so while level so it wouldn't have much of a falling speed anyway due to drag as long as they could keep it level. It wouldn't pop like a balloon and go flying off like in cartoons.

and Secondly, the chip monk effect could last for longer so even if the everyone on board was doomed, they'd have a laugh about it.

EscapeGoat:
You know, this looks kinda like Thunderbird 2... Maybe that means the US are gonna stick a tiny submarine in the middle of it then?

Anyway, this is cool, I guess? They should definitely try and bring back the blimp though. We're one more step closer to steampunk style worlds where every gentleman has their own personal airship!

Dammit, that was exactly the humourous comparison I was planning on making:

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Weren't blimps phased out because they were too slow, although that information comes from the zeppelin episode of Archer, so I don't know how reliable it is:

Oh, also I thought we don't need stealth spyplanes anymore, thanks to satellites we can film and photograph people anywhere in the world at any time without any risk of being shot out of the sky, that's why the SR-71 Blackbird retired.

EscapeGoat:
You know, this looks kinda like Thunderbird 2...

First thing I thought when I saw that picture, yes.

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Who else had this as the first thing to pop into their head?

DVS BSTrD:
I'm not sure a flying watermelon is that much more stealthy.

That was immediately what came to mind when I saw it.
Get out of my head, you stealing thought-stealer!

This is relevant to my interests. (I work in logistics/freight)

I'd be fascinated as well to see what we could do with tall ships. Take modern engineering and materials, and apply the shipping techniques of pre-steam vessels. It'd be slower, but you'd have practically zero emissions (presuming we use solar power and small wind turbines). It'd increase the cost of international freight, as you'd require more crew, but that may well be a good thing.

The ease of transport internationally makes manufacturing and construction overseas cheaper and faster than producing locally. This is exactly the sort of shit that would put the ball back in the West's court. Our physical worlds would become smaller again (international travel would again become the realm of the rich and powerful), but it'd be fantastic for local economies.

And I also just imagined an airship shipping dozens of cows through the sky ... rollin' rollin' rollin', keep those airships rollin', rawhide!

This has me wondering where they're going to get the helium for a project like this. Isn't there a shortage right now?

Dear God, Please let this happen. In the Name, Amen

OK, this is awsome. We would save so much on fuel costs and transport more. Also, Force the aircraft industry to improve the planes. Plane could be for getting somewhere fast, Blimps to get somewhere cheaply.

Also, Blimps are safer.

DVS BSTrD:
I'm not sure a flying watermelon is that much more stealthy.

They are still testing. We will get there soon.

Hero in a half shell:
snip

Weren't blimps phased out because they were too slow, although that information comes from the zeppelin episode of Archer, so I don't know how reliable it is:

snip
Oh, also I thought we don't need stealth spyplanes anymore, thanks to satellites we can film and photograph people anywhere in the world at any time without any risk of being shot out of the sky, that's why the SR-71 Blackbird retired.

No, they were phased out because of the Germans were using Hydrogen instead of Helium (though the low-grade "rocket fuel" paint did not help either). They got an unfair reputation for being unsafe.

Onto satellites, there are issues with relying solely on them. They are much higher up in the atmosphere so there are more issues with cloud cover. Also, against popular myth, we cannot watch every part of the Earths surface 24/7. There is a way to change orbit but not always to go exactly where you want to. A SpyBlimp can stay in one region and observe that area for months, uninterrupted. The strategy is to have multiple systems in place and choose the one best suited to the situation.

smearyllama:

DVS BSTrD:
I'm not sure a flying watermelon is that much more stealthy.

That was immediately what came to mind when I saw it.
Get out of my head, you stealing thought-stealer!

NEVER!
I just paid-off the mortgage!

Zen Toombs:
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Who else had this as the first thing to pop into their head?

I would have if I knew what that was :(

Wait, I know where this is going

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Yeah, obviously. But wait, this is the American side.

DVS BSTrD:

Zen Toombs:

>>>Was ist das?

Tis Castle Wulfenbach, from the glorious webcomic, Girl Genius.

DVS BSTrD:
I'm not sure a flying watermelon is that much more stealthy.

I would imagine its quiet though.

Isn't there a major helium shortage going on?

This is little more than an absolutely gargantuan, easily penetrated target.

Sansha:
This is little more than an absolutely gargantuan, easily penetrated target.

There's a "your mom" joke hiding in there somewhere, but I'm glad that the entire Escapist community is unwilling to stoop that low.

But seriously, how does this even work? Unless it's going up against a) blind pilots or b) inferior tech, I have no idea how it'd be even slightly viable.

first things first. the reason behind the helium shortage is because the USA produces the most helium in the world. storage and production was pretty much government controlled until 1996 when the us government decided to get out of the helium industry and it was thought private industry would take up the slack. which it failed to do. skip forward to now and there is a helium shortage and the us government is looking to get back into production plus there are plans for a few other countries to start producing it enmass.

basically its produced by extracting it from natural gas.

it is really good to see this technology being brought back into service again. airships fit that mid point between planes and ships. they can carry more than planes and are faster than cargo ships. there have been calls for using them for heavy lift for a few decades but the funding has always died up

as for safety there have been 21 deaths with airships since 1947 so its one of the safest forms of travel too. in regards to military service, they did tests a few years back and discovered they make excellent stealth and survellellance platforms too. in regards to them being hit with enemy fire they dont explode and the envelope can have multiple rpgs and mortar rounds passing through the envelope which while it caused leaks and slow deflation still allowed controlled descent hours later.

actually the us navy has put one back into service

i love airships.

*edit*
the british tested using large calibre weapons for ground attack in the 1920's so it could theoretically be used on station for days fulfilling the role of a high altitude gunship too

The Sphyrna carrier blimp from Ace Combat 3 Electrosphere (Yes a fighter jet carrier in the form of a blimp) was the first thing that occured to me.

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I wonder if anyone remembered how ridiculously hard it was to shoot down this thing.

Either way, I'm interested in seeing how this will turn out, although the idea of a giant blimp trying to spy in the sky is as effective as assassinating while carrying a sign saying "Shh I'm an assassin" on your back.

Kinda reminds me of the Triangle sightings in Phoenix in the the late 90's. Quiet object flying overhead at night with 3 lights on.

In fact it fits perfectly, this is very likely the cause of that, or at least a prototype was.

There has been speculation about a Stealth Blimp for ages now. Kinda neat to see the theory come to fruition.

Isnt the world going to run out helium this century? Or is that bit of trivia not supposed to be in my head?

War aspects usefulness: Negative.
Intelligence gathering: Relatively Unless. Possible use as communications craft. Easy target
Transportation of military supplies: Viable but weight limit will not allow for flight of the M1A2 Abrams MBT. Not viable for wartime shipping as slow speed will negate lifting capacity. Speed of aircraft and vastly greater capacity of ships, well whats the point.
Can not fly in heavier turbulent wether. (Most likely can't).

Really this is only good for peacetime shipping. It would be of great use to civilian aspects. Such as construction, lifting sections of radio/tv/cell towers much larger than a helicopter could.
Cross continental shipment of large machinery. Turbines, generators, other large pieces of things.

Really just is an out of warzone/peacetime craft. Though it has it's uses out of them.

doggie015:
An airship that pumps helium into compressed tanks to control it's altitude... Not a bad idea until one of the tanks bursts...

Yeah, and then all that helium leaks out and... Makes you even more buoyant?

...

You do bring up a good point; you need some kind of b-plan for if you can no longer control your buoyancy. Unless you were thinking of something like the Hindenburg, in which case I'll remind you that was caused by hydrogen, not helium. Helium doesn't burn.

My concern would be that helium is actually quite scarce, and a non-renewable resource. There's actually a worldwide helium shortage as of last year, and i'm not sure they ever got it sorted out.

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