August 13, 2012
Credit: Credit: Northrop Grumman
The U.S. Air Force may have canceled its persistent-surveillance airship, but the U.S. Army has kept the faith, and Northrop Grumman's Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) made its delayed first flight on Aug. 7.
More than 300 ft. long, the hybrid airship (see photo) flew manned for more than 90 min. from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. “The first-flight primary objective was to perform a safe launch and recovery with a secondary objective to verify the flight-control system operation,” says the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command.
“Additional first-flight objectives included airworthiness testing and demonstration, and system-level performance verification. All objectives were met during the first flight,” says the Army. “Additional manned flights will resume following a planned and very detailed inspection of the vehicle.”
When Northrop signed the $154 million contract for the LEMV in June 2010, first flight was scheduled for 12-13 months into the 18-month development program. The airship is slated to deploy to Afghanistan after the completion of testing.
The LEMV is designed to operate unmanned at 20,000 ft. for 21 days, providing up to 16 kw of electrical power for a 2,500-lb. payload of several different sensors. Hybrid Air Vehicles of the U.K. is the subcontractor responsible for the airship.
The Air Force canceled its Blue Devil 2 surveillance airship in May, 18 months after contract award, issuing prime contractor MAV6 a stop-work order owing to poor performance. The lighter-than-air non-rigid airship had been inflated and was undergoing integration, but had yet to fly.