Airships in Modern Era

Discussion in 'Air & Space' started by Cossack25A1, May 28, 2016.

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  1. Cossack25A1

    Cossack25A1 1st Lieutenant

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    The last time airships were used en mass in combat was back in WW1, though some countries had airship post-WW1 with some being used in WW2 as coastal patrol and anti-submarine warfare but the development of guided missiles and large aircraft, as well as accidents spelled the end of the airship.

    But in modern warfare, is there a place for airships ("traditional" designs and hybrid airships), whether it is for command and control (alternative to satellites specially in cases the said satellites are knocked out), as cargo carriers and even as launching platform for small drones. Given the advancement in countering missiles using soft-kill, hard-kill or just plain jamming system, as well as materials, is the airship feasible?
     
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  2. Technofox

    Technofox That Norwegian girl Staff Member Ret. Military Developer

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    It never became operational, but in 2012 the US Army's LEMV airship made its inaugeral and only flight. It was supposed to be an intelligence platform

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    Lockheed has designs too:
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    Right now, operational, the MZ-3A is just about it for the US military, it being in USN service and is their only operational manned airship.

    [​IMG]

    For the US they might not make too much sense as intelligence platforms close to home, but as a persistant eye they could be a marvel in the heavily travelled SCS. tethered or floating at high-altitude and slowly, they could survey vast distances effortlessly with without being put into contact with hostile aircraft or ships.

    According to PopSci - which is using a pic of Lockheed's HALE-D solar powered airship:

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    Here's an actual photo of it, not photoshopped to be floating near China:

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    The Chinese military is supposed to be building airships as a long-range recon platform for spotting and targeting naval ships, acting as a sort of OTH radar in that respect.

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/weapons/a17858/chinas-new-spy-airship-cruises-near-space/

    There's definitely a place for airships. No longer as bombers:

    [​IMG]

    But as respectable and capable ISR platforms.
     
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  3. Pathfinder

    Pathfinder Lieutenant Colonel

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    We use them on the border with Mexico:

    TARS System Coverage Map Graphic - FINAL (1200x900)_0.jpg

    Eyes in the sky stretch over the southern U.S. border at 10,000 feet, from Yuma, Arizona, to Lajas, Puerto Rico. Eight special blimps that are part of the Tethered Aerostat Radar System, or TARS, watch over the southern U.S. border. Each balloon is moored to the ground with a special nylon fiber cable, and raised and lowered with a powered winch. Swaying silently in the breeze, U.S. Customs and Border Protection aerostats are unmanned, unarmed, and spend their service lives hovering over a fixed location on the southern edge of the border.

    “TARS is the most cost-efficient capability that we own,” according to Richard Booth, director of domain operations and integration for CBP’s Office of Air and Marine. “TARS is like a low-flying satellite system, but cheaper to launch and operate,” Booth explained.

    “The aerostats are aerodynamic balloons and fly like kites in the wind—no one pilots them,” said Rob Brown, CBP program manager for TARS. "Raising radar and other sensors to high altitude boosts surveillance range, and the physical sight of an aerostat is a visual deterrent to illegal activity in the air and on the ground," explained Brown. Each TARS balloon contains a radar weighing about 2,200 pounds, capable of detecting aircraft at a range of 200 miles.

    https://www.cbp.gov/frontline/frontline-november-aerostats

    I think they are great for border surveillance during peacetime but I believe that they are very vulnerable. A guy with a rifle can take one down.
     
  4. Technofox

    Technofox That Norwegian girl Staff Member Ret. Military Developer

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    I was going to mention Aerostat balloons too, but I don't think they count as airships because they aren't powered. To the best of my knowledge, Aerostats like those of India's DRDO:

    [​IMG]

    And Israel's Skystar 100 Aerostat are balloons - which are a type of Aerostat, as are airships and hybrid designs like helicopter airships:

    [​IMG]

    But because they aren't powered, as seen here with this unmanned, engineless Aerostat on HSV-2:

    [​IMG]

    They aren't considered airships, but rather Aerostats. Regardless, they are still very effective ISR platforms with wide coverage and persistent eyes.

    NASA's pelican is about as close as military airships get, apart from MZ-3A which is operational. and is designed as a cargo transport:

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  5. Cossack25A1

    Cossack25A1 1st Lieutenant

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    What hybrid airships? What is the difference between that and the traditional designs of airship and is the hybrid airships armored.
     
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  6. Technofox

    Technofox That Norwegian girl Staff Member Ret. Military Developer

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    Hybrid airships are craft that take both conventional airship designs and combine them with traditional aircraft, like helicopters or jet aircraft.

    Rotastats, like the Skyhook JHL-40 combine helicopter blades for lift with a helium blimp, which also provides lift:
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    The US Navy's PA-97 was another such design, and one can clearly see the rotar blade nacelles in this pic:
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    Lockheed's LMZ1M is a type of Dynastat, another hybrid design:
    [​IMG]

    Unlike traditional airships, which generate lift with gas bags and ballast, Dynastats generate lift by flying through the air and thanks to their unique designs, this generates lift, much the same way an aircraft's wings do.

    In this respect the Dynastat is similar to lifting body aircraft like the USAF and NASA's X-24A, M2-F3 and HL-10 designs:
    [​IMG]

    these aircraft, like a Dynastat, lack wings and use the surface of their body and bulbous shape to generate lift.
    [​IMG]

    The last type is called a "Gliding under gravity" design.
    [​IMG]

    With this type, the airship is going to be unpowered, but will use gravity to generate speed and lift. By pointing the nose of the airship down, it will generate speed as it accelerates towards the ground. Once it gains an optimal speed, the nose will be pulled up and the aircraft will rise and gain lift. By repeating the process, the platform can cross long distances all without power.

    While I don't have an example of this type of airship on hand, I do have a video of batman demonstrating the concept in Arkham City:



    Notice how the player dives to gain energy, then "pulls up" to gain altitude? He can do this repeatedly without needing to land... but ultimately does because he hits a building:D.

    The concept also works on "Underwater gliders":

     
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  7. Falcon

    Falcon Major Staff Member Social Media Team

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    For transporting large loads in friendly territory hybrid air balloons look like a great solution. Does anyone know how complicated it is to produce these air balloons?
     
  8. Blimper

    Blimper Officer Candidate

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