At last - the Army goes Salamander!
The US Army has asked Northrop Grumman to design three hybrid airships that are capable of providing American soldiers with persistent ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) capabilities in Afghanistan.We've been asking for this for years. Hybrid airships are perfect for persistant ISR - better in many cases than Global Hawk/BAMS. I have a bias towards manned systems - but for ISR we could go UAS if we must.
The airships - which have been dubbed Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) systems - will be deployed in just 18 months.
"It is critical [for] our warfighters [to be] equipped with more enabling integrated ISR capability to tackle today's and tomorrow's conflicts," explained Northrop spokesperson Alan Metzger.
"[So], we have designed a system with plug-and-play capability to readily integrate into the Army's existing common ground station command centers and ground troops in forward operating bases."
According to Metzger, the LEMVs are expected to be capable of sustaining altitudes of 20,000 feet for a three-week period.
Next step is to get some manned cargo/transport versions that are ready to be built and can go places with more stuff than any C-17 to C-130 can.
As for this ISR one from LMT - a little more the Army's Solicitation.
The LEMV will be utilized to provide persistent Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) support in multiple environments, including combat areas. Technical objectives for the LEMV include the following performance parameters: a. Unmanned air vehicle capable of being controlled through existing DOD ground station; b. 3 week flight endurance; c. 2500 pound sensor payload; d. 20,000 foot operating altitude; e. Multi-INT capable; f. 16Kw power for payload; g. capable of station keep; h. recoverable and reusable.
Really? Really? We quit that soon for such a lazy reason? Sure, it is part of the environment ... but more often than not it is an excuse for the lazy mind.
Career path? Harumph. Then give them to the CWO/LDO professionals - they won't spend all their time tracking the career paths of others in their select group. Better yet, give it to the Reserves and Guard. Goodness knows that we have excess capacity in the USNR compared to the USAFR, USAR, and ANG.
What would I give up - you budget geeks ask (correctly). Simple. Four LCS. I like the bang for the buck of ~$3.5 billion in ISR and Transport hybrid airships any day. Make the cargo force 1/3 active duty with 50% CWO/LDO pilots (AWs need honest work now days anyway) and 2/3 USNR so we can recapture some of the money we spent on pilot training when the 1310s leave active duty. Another option - save more personnel costs by making the ISR hybrid airships part of the BAMS squadrons (large overlap in skill sets WRT mission systems).