Tuesday, January 24, 2006

New U.S. Military Weapon - The Flying Walrus

The United States military is creative indeed. First, they unveiled an "invisible" jet fighter and bomber utilizing stealth technology. Then, they have been perfecting the use of lasers and sound wave blasts as weapons. Now, they are turning to the past in order to move forward:

The blimp.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has launched the WALRUS Program and received several proposals by military and aircraft manufactureres from all over. The L.A. Times recently did a story on a small blimp manufacturing company, Worldwide Aeros. Igor Pasternak, a 41 year old Russian immigrant, is vying for a lucritive $100 million contract to build a new generation of war blimps for the United States military. Pasternak's competition? Military juggernaut Lockheed Martin. The two recently won $3 million phase II grants to continue to compete for the contract, and many people are rooting for the underdog to win the right to manufacture the blimps.

That's right, I said blimps. War blimps.

Why a blimp? Consider this: the U.S. C-130 cargo plane is capable of carrying a maximum load of 22 tons in wartime. These war blimps Worldwide Aeros and Lockheed Martin are working on will be able to carry between 500-1,000 tons...AND travel 12,000 nautical miles in 7 days. And these blimps will be "tri-phibian," traveling over air, water, and land - and doesn't need a runway.

But they're still blimps...as in Goodyear...or the Snoopy one MetLife flies overhead during football games. It's a big helium balloon, really.

“Once you get past the giggle factor of lighter-than-air, [you see] there’s a lot of interest,” said Brian Matkin, head of the smart weapons management office at the Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM) at Redstone Arsenal, AL.

The military believes these war blimps will change the face of how they conduct war. The war blimp would be a central part of the military's new 10-30-30 initiative - To get anywhere in the world within 10 days, win the battle in 30 days, and be prepared to fight again in another 30 days.

99 Luft Ballons indeed.

How does Pasternak feel about his 40 employee company going up against Lockheed Martin?

"In reality we don't feel Lockheed is our technical competitor," said Pasternak. "There is only one solution, and we have that one solution," the Russian-trained scientist insisted.

These blimps would utilize state-of-the art technology. The vehicle would take off into the air using nonflammable helium, but the bottom of its hull would act like a wing to give it additional lift and control. So it would be a blimp/airplane hybrid sort of deal. The craft would be powered by propellers. It could also land under a pilot's control, without ground handlers having to pull on tethers as with today's blimps.

"It can totally change how you conduct warfare," Pasternak said of the concept.

I think blimps could be used in both military and civillian situations. Imagine a blimp carrying tons of water and putting out those wildfires out West. Or maybe in times of natural disasters, blimps could go in and help evacuate thousands of people at a time. Maybe even use such blimps for travel, or entertainment purposes. Pasternak himself invisioned created "flying cruises" for 180 guests complete with rooms, casinos, and restaurant - and it could fly from L.A. to New York in 18 hours. You could use blimps to do surveillance and transport troops and cargo to friendly places.

But warfare? Are you kidding me?

I hate to rain on DARPA's parade here, and I'm no military genius or anything. But wouldn't a gigantic hellium-filled balloon make an easy target for our enemies? Could you imagine using these things in Iraq, for example? Insurgents would have a lot of fun using rocket launchers and just blasting these things out of the sky. I mean, really...these blimps would be floating targets. Just picture flying a giant silver blimp over Afghanistan looking for Bin Laden. He'd laugh his ass off. Any of our foes could easily bring our blimps down without much effort.

Actually, I know one country that could be brought to it's knees by these blimps:

"What do you expect from a culture and a nation that exerted more of its national will fighting against Disney World and Big Macs than against the Nazis?" ---Dennis Miller


Dirk the Feeble said...

All you'd really need is like a slingshot or dartgun or something, right? I mean, it's just a big balloon . . .

KC said...

Do they make a big bang sound when they're shot down? Or do they go out with a whimper?

siren said...

It would be difficult to sneak up on anyone unless they developed a Stealth Blimp.

BuffyICS said...

How fast can that thing go anyway? I have to agree with you, Phoenix, I think it just makes for an easier target.

The Phoenix said...

It can reach up to 120 MPH, which is pretty darn fast. But at that size, it's still a gigantic and easy target.

angel, jr. said...

Will these blimps be flying over football stadiums?

BrianAlt said...

Yay! More fighting faster! What could be better?

Bruce said...

Led Zepplin needs to get in on the marketing campaign for these things. I can just see it now, the USS WHOLE LOTTA LOVE.

Laura:) said...

Hmmm, maybe if they use that "stealth technolgy" that can make an invisible blimp and everything is solved.

The Phoenix said...

I was thinking they could put big letters on the sides and use the blimps to psychologically break down the enemy. They could flash signs that say:

"Bin Laden is a camel humper. Don't protect a camel humper."

"Your leader has really bad hair. He's a nut-job too. Your nuclear missle really can't reach California - we dare you to try it."

"I just saved a lot of money on my car insurance."

Jim said...

it's gunna take one hel' of a big Speedo

Jamie Dawn said...

I was thinking the same thing as you. Easy pickins. By bringing just one of these puppies down, we'd lose a ton of cargo and lives. I don't see these functioning well in a war scenario. Unless, they could be invisible. That would be cool.
I'd like to see them do the commercial cruises in the sky though. Very fun!!

Bruce said...

You could also have a version of the Met Life blimp, with Snoopy in his bi-plane flipping the bird...

Jenn of the Jungle said...

The met life blimp was flying over La Costa last weekend. I was in awe. : )

Interesting concet though.

Sherri said...

It just doesn't seem menacing enough for me. How is a blimp supposed to strike fear in someone??

Pixie said...

Wow I would never of thought that they could go so fast!!

I like the change btw =)

the weirdgirl said...

KC - LOL That was good.

I hate to admit it but some of those blimps looked pretty slick. It would be cool to see them in commercial applications, but warfare? I don't know.

:P fuzzbox said...

At least it will be a good way for the Pentagon to get rid of the excess hot air that they are always putting off.

Ben Heller said...

Monsieur Phoenix,

We French are very proud of our culture,we don't want "Le Grande Mac" as you call it.

We want horsemeat, frogs legs and snails.

People who criticise our culture will have a Plus Grande nose grafted on their face and be sent to Hollywood as a penalty.

Like Gerard Depardieu

Au Revoir

Laurie said...

More government waste of our tax dollars spent on defense.

Why not spend all of that money and research on something that will actually help our citizens?? Or am I asking for too much?

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

Even I couldn't miss that thing with a sling-shot!!!

And that quote from Dennis Miller is HILARIOUS....;)

The Phoenix said...

The only way the French would be able to take out one of our war blimps is if we accidentally punctured it flying over the Eifel Tower.

I would think the sound of the helium gushing out would be enough to scare them into surrender, though.

David Amulet said...

Subway must be furious at all this free publicity its fast-food sub sandwich competition is getting. I mean, it's Blimpie this, Blimpie that.

Or maybe I'm reading this wrong ...

-- david

cube said...

Interesting post. It would've never occurred to me to use a blimp in war. I mean all you need is a long pin!



EagleRaptorJSF said...

at Phoenix: 120 mph is pretty darn fast for a car, but for a plane, especially the fighter types the blimps would go against, its like u running a race against a snail, but one a lot bigger than u and without the agility u have. i agree with you, a blimp in warfare is just money down the drain.

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