Army Airship on Schedule

The Army's Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) airship packed with sensors and capable of staying aloft for 21 days passed its critical design review today, just six months after the contract was awarded to a Northrop Grumman/Hybrid Air Vehicles (UK) team.

Alan Metzger, the Northrop Grumman veep in charge of the airship program said he expects the first LEMV flight this spring, and a long endurance flight acceptance test for the Army by year's end.

In an era when military projects take years to go from concept to reality, the LEMV program gives a new meaning to the phrase fast track. The Army Space and Missile Defense Command kicked off the procurement just a year ago this month, and plans to complete flight tests 18 months after the contract award.

It takes some agencies longer to run procurements for plain vanilla PCs and get them installed.

The LEMV marks a bold adoption of century old flight technology -- balloons, dirigibles and blimps -- with an advanced airfoil. It comes at a time when the fuel savings promised by airships can make a real bottom line difference.

I'm somewhat obsessed with airships because as a very young child I spent my summers at a lake house just miles from the now defunct South Weymouth (Mass.) Naval Air Station. I spent those summers marveling at sky filled with Navy blimps, which means I was imprinted with airships.

NEXT STORY: IT Workers Want Better Tech Tools