The operational benefits of a cost-efficient, stable platform, with very long duration have resulted in the Airlander team turning its attention to defence and security applications.
Talking at Farnborough International Airshow 2018, Airlander Executive Director Tom Grundy and Head of Defence Simon Evans explained to Jane’s the potential benefits of using this giant airship for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) roles in the future.
According to the company, the main benefits are five-day duration flights, a three-tonne mission payload, and a six-person mission analyst team on board. This obvious persistence is a real change in wide-area surveillance operations, ideally suited to fishery protection, coastal, and stand-off border reconnaissance, without any real rivals.
The US Army has undertaken many experiments with ‘blimps’, most recently the Raytheon-built airship under the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Elevated Netted Sensors (JLENS) programme.
However, Grundy and Evans are convinced that the Airlander ‘Defender’ offers greater maturity (Technology Readiness Level 7), lower procurement, and cost per flying hour compared with conventional rivals, which strengthen the defence/security business case.
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