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Aerostat Hybrid


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Electronics 

OBJECTIVE: Enhancement of current Aerostat capabilities to provide Low Cost Persistent Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (LCP ISR)) during high intensity conflicts with Class A adversaries. 

DESCRIPTION: While Aerostat systems are an essential tool for support to ongoing combat operations their utility is limited during high intensity conflicts due to their static nature, inability to rapidly redeploy within theater and inability to provide persistent Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) in support of Wide Area Operations. Despite these shortfalls Aerostats are in high demand from our coalition partners. It is anticipated that the airship functionality could potentially be obtained thru normal P3I efforts and little to no additional program costs. Our fires community can provide strategic fires hundreds of miles further than our current sensors can currently provide persistent coverage. UAV and space based assets are vulnerable to enemy targeting and are too expensive to provide persistent low cost wide area coverage. Once targeted UAV and space based sensors are difficult and expensive to reconstitute in any reasonable period of time. Desire is to implement P3I initiatives against our current Aerostat system which would provide immediate enhanced capabilities in regards to persistent & low cost wide area ISR while leveraging the current Aerostat infrastructure currently deployed. Follow on efforts would further scale this capability for use in tactical, operational and strategic missions. This would provide the Army and the department of defense a significant operational capability for Force Protection, Cyber, and Precision Fires all of which are critical capabilities for battlefield dominance and would provide a substantial procurement & sustainment savings over our current operations. Effort would enable Aerostats to operate autonomously or as remote controlled unmanned Airships that can be statically deployed via tethers as they are now but with the ability to drop its tether and self-deploy within its theater while conducting limited wide area operations LCP ISR. Endurance for static operations would be 30 days continuous operations and 7 days during airship mode operations with an operational range of 2000 miles. While these systems would be vulnerable to enemy targeting and destruction, the systems would be considered attritable and due to their low cost; easily replaceable. It is anticipated that enemy action would be counterproductive due to the necessary enemy disclosure that would result. 

PHASE I: Carry out a feasibility study for leveraging current commercial Airship designs for military use and demonstrate potential capabilities via use of commercial products as military prototypes. Phase I will define factors for a Phase II sensor demonstration for Fires, Cyber, and Force Protection. 

PHASE II: Demonstrate capabilities using the commercial prototype for Fires, Cyber and Force Protection. 

PHASE III: Develop prototype (aka battle type) that would be deployed into a combat theater for proof of concept assessment. Potential DoD customers/transition partners include Army program-of record Force Protection systems, US Marine, Navy Command units, USAF Security force operations, Coast Guard, Customs and Border Patrol, Nuclear Energy Commission, Homeland Security (Cruise Missile Defense) and Foreign Military Sales. 


1: A. F. L. Deeson, An Illustrated History of Airships (Bourne End, Bucks: Spurbooks Limited, 1973), 15-20.

2:  R. P. Largess, "Reviving the Naval Airship," NAVAL FORCES vol XI, No 1 (1990): 13.

3:  David Brinkman, "Sentinels in the Sky," JANE’S DEFENCE WEEKLY vo I 15, no 3 (19 Jan 91): 89.

4:  "Potential Military Use of Airships and Aerostats," Congressional Research Service,, RS21886, September 1, 2006.

5:  D. E. Ryan, Jr., "The Airship's Potential for Intertheater and Intratheater Airlift," Thesis at School of Advanced Airpower Studies Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, May, 1992.

KEYWORDS: Aerostat, LCPISR, Unmanned-airship 

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