Airship Renaissance

As I reported today, both the Army and TRANSCOM are eying development of a new class of airships that can carry up to 40,000 pounds of cargo 1,000 miles.

But that's not all, folks. Lockheed won a $400 million contract from DARPA in 2009 to develop an airship to carry a radar so powerful it could detect a car hidden under trees 185 miles away.

Though Lockheed lost an Army $517 million contract to Northrop Grumman to develop an airship packed with sensors this June, the company says it "absolutely" sees other opportunities for new business.

The Navy, which operated large fleets of blimps during World War II, decommissioning the last in 1962, once again got back into the blimp game this spring when it took delivery of a new blimp, the MZ-3A airship manufactured by the American Blimp Corp. based in Hillsboro, Oregon.

The Thai Army has contracted for an airship from Aria International to perform border surveillance while the U.S. Air Force operates a fleet of tethered aerostats for border surveillance in this country.

All of the above goes to show that a concept first hatched by Jean Baptiste Marie Meusnier in France in 1783 still has currency today.

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