Feeds

Massive new AIRSHIP to enter commercial service at British dirigible base

UK designers buy baby back from broke US Army

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

An enormous airship built for the US forces has been bought back by its British designers and is to go into commercial service based in old Blighty.

Regular Reg readers will already be familiar with the ship, formerly designated as the first of the US Army's* planned fleet of Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) ships. It was expected that LEMVs, operating without crews aboard, would lurk for weeks on end high in the skies above Afghanistan, carrying spy podules to provide an unwinking watch over huge swathes of territory.

The current winding down of the Wars On Stuff, coupled with sweeping US government budget cuts following the recent economic troubles, saw the LEMV programme cancelled not long after the first ship flew at Lakehurst in New Jersey back in 2012 (famously the place where the mighty zeppelin Hindenburg burned and crashed in 1937, putting an end to the era of the great pre-war rigid ships).

The LEMV had actually been designed by a British firm, Hybrid Air Vehicles, latest in a long line of companies run by UK airship advocates. After the US Army cancellation, HAV negotiated successfully to buy the vessel. It was then taken apart and transported to Britain, and is now being restored to airworthy condition in the famous Number One shed at Cardington - the colossal building in which Blighty's answer to the Hindenburg, the likewise disastrous R101, was built.

The former LEMV - now to be known as the "Airlander" - was built to the HAV 304 design: the company has pulled the details of this off its website for some reason, but we had them noted. The ship is 91m long, 34m wide and 26m high - colossal, but even so it looks small inside the brobdingnagian Cardington hangar. The massive envelope maintains its shape by internal gas pressure, blimp-style, and is intended to generate extra dynamic lift over and above that from its helium filling as the ship flies along. The vessel will normally be heavier than air overall - it won't lift off the ground on its own. This is what is meant by a "hybrid airship".

The Airlander's engines are four 350hp, 4 litre supercharged V8 diesels, and the thrust they generate can be vectored upwards to get her off the ground. Once underway with forward speed generating dynamic lift, the bow engines are shut down in the cruise.

The LEMV was intended to operate mainly unmanned, but a single-pilot cockpit was provided for such occasions as transiting through normal civil airspace where a pilot is required for legal reasons. Apart from the cockpit, the Army version had a payload compartment for surveillance electronics and a "universal load beam". As a spy ship, the LEMV would have had a helium fill allowing operations up to 20,000 feet, and fuel to stay up for 21 days. It could carry 2,500lb (1134kg) of payload on such missions.

Pressure at 20,000 feet being about 0.45 of what it is at sea level, one would expect about 45 per cent of a LEMV's envelope volume to be helium at sea level, with the rest occupied by air in internal ballonets: as the ship climbed the air would gradually be expelled by the expanding helium until the "pressure height" ceiling was reached at 20,000 feet.

Total envelope volume of a HAV 304 is 38,000 cubic metres, so total gas lift of a LEMV at sea level would be about 18.8 tonnes. Given that we're told this might be supplemented by as much as two-thirds again by dynamic lift, maximum all-up weight as a LEMV would be in the region of 30 tonnes.

As the Airlander, we are told that the ship will carry a crew and "a host of celebrities" - plus a couple of competition winners - on its maiden British flight in 2016, so it would seem that the ship will be substantially reconfigured. As we discussed a while ago, it wouldn't be hard to put more helium in it than it would have carried as a LEMV: this would lower its ceiling, but allow the ship to lift more off the ground. Likewise, the Airlander will probably carry less fuel as it will no longer need 21 days of endurance, and this too will allow more payload.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
Human spacecraft dodge COMET CHUNKS pelting off Mars
Odyssey orbiter yet to report, though - comet's trailing trash poses new threat
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.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.