[NetBehaviour] Pentagon plans blimp to spy from new heights.

marc garrett marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Mon Mar 16 11:50:10 CET 2009


Pentagon plans blimp to spy from new heights.

The giant dirigible would use radar to closely and constantly monitor 
activity on the ground from 65,000 feet.

By Julian E. Barnes

Reporting from Washington -- The Pentagon said Thursday that it intends 
to spend $400 million to develop a giant dirigible that will float 
65,000 feet above the Earth for 10 years, providing unblinking and 
intricate radar surveillance of the vehicles, planes and even people below.

"It is absolutely revolutionary," Werner J.A. Dahm, chief scientist for 
the Air Force, said of the proposed unmanned airship -- describing it as 
a cross between a satellite and a spy plane.

The 450-foot-long craft would give the U.S. military a better 
understanding of an adversary's movements, habits and tactics, officials 
said. And the ability to constantly monitor small movements in a wide 
area -- the Afghanistan- Pakistan border, for example -- would 
dramatically improve military intelligence.

"It is constant surveillance, uninterrupted," Dahm said. "When you only 
have a short-time view -- whether it is a few hours or a few days -- 
that is not enough to put the picture together."

The project reflects a shift in Pentagon planning and spending 
priorities under Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who has urged the 
military services to improve intelligence and surveillance operations 
while cutting high-tech weaponry costs.

If successful, the dirigible -- the brainchild of the Air Force and the 
Pentagon's research arm -- could pave the way for a fleet of spy 
airships, military officials said.

However, it marks the return to a form of flight that has stirred 
anxiety and doubt since the 1937 Hindenburg disaster. Thirty-six people 
were killed when that airship went up in flames in New Jersey.

more...
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