Feeds

Huge US command-&-control airship gets quantum optics

Fibre-fat pipage for 'Blue Devil' aerial computer warship

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Not unmanned - Optionally manned

The Blue Devil is "optionally manned", able to fly with a crew if required (as when transiting civil-controlled airspace, for legal reasons) or without (as will probably be the case on most operational missions). The big ship is now inflated with helium and floating moored inside MAV6's North Carolina hangar while company technicians fit it out with payload and systems: it's expected to fly and then deploy to the warzone next year.

The Blue Devil 2 envelope inflated in the hangar. Credit: MAV6

It's big alright.

True to the acronym C4ISR, the Blue Devil is also intended to offer some hefty computing grunt, acting as an airborne server for ground troops with mobile network terminals (and offering more services to "advantged users" in forward bases etc with better kit). The "processing pallet" in its payload car will be of supercomputer grade, which should reduce the strain on the pipes relaying sensor data down to the ground - though with the addition of FOENEX, those pipes will be a lot fatter.

Interestingly, we also learn from the new DARPA announcement that Blue Devil is referred to at the Pentagon as "the USAF/Big Safari Blue Devil Block 2". "Big Safari" is a magical phrase in this context, referring to long running and generally highly secretive airborne spookery efforts by the US Air Force and partner agencies. Big Safari has put many strange-looking secret spy planes, drones etc into the sky over the decades: it would seem it is now getting into the airship business as well.

Other parts of the US military also plan to use airships above Afghanistan as airborne spyeyes and comms relay posts. The US Army's Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) uses a more sophisticated "hybrid" design from British engineers which should means it will be more economical with helium, and thus is of more interest to airship buffs (the more so as it could potentially carry heavy cargoes at lower altitudes): on the other hand it was supposed to have made its first flight some months ago now, and instead there has been ominous silence from the programme.

At $517m, LEMV is a much more expensive project than the $86m Blue Devil 2, but it could be that the Blue Devil will actually beat it into the air.

There's also one final aspect for airship fanciers to ponder: MAV6 advertise their big blimp not only as a C4ISR node, but also a "weapon system platform". It could be that the days of the armed aerial warship are about to return. ®

Bootnote

For those noting the term "Blue Devil Block 2" and wondering what "Block 1" might be - perhaps supposing that an earlier giant spyship is already in the air above Afghanistan - a MAV6 blog post provides the answer:

Blue Devil Block I is a fixed-wing aircraft based, multi-INT capability currently doing God’s work.

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Docker's app containers are coming to Windows Server, says Microsoft
MS chases app deployment speeds already enjoyed by Linux devs
'Hmm, why CAN'T I run a water pipe through that rack of media servers?'
Leaving Las Vegas for Armenia kludging and Dubai dune bashing
SDI wars: WTF is software defined infrastructure?
This time we play for ALL the marbles
'Urika': Cray unveils new 1,500-core big data crunching monster
6TB of DRAM, 38TB of SSD flash and 120TB of disk storage
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
Windows 10: Forget Cloudobile, put Security and Privacy First
But - dammit - It would be insane to say 'don't collect, because NSA'
Oracle hires former SAP exec for cloudy push
'We know Larry said cloud was gibberish, and insane, and idiotic, but...'
Symantec backs out of Backup Exec: Plans to can appliance in Jan
Will still provide support to existing customers
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.