The U.S. Army’s Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) flew for the first time from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., on Aug. 7. The LEMV is designed to fly at 20,000 feet for three weeks at a time, using cameras, radar
and other sensors to gather intelligence on targets below.
upcoming fleet exercises. Essentially, the blimp would
be loaded with video sensors, radar and digital data
relay equipment to serve as a multimission sensor platform and communications node, Race said.
And in August, a deal was being finalized between the
Navy and the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO)
for up to two years’ worth of work testing advanced surveillance and reconnaissance equipment.
As part of the deal, JIEDDO will pay to reconfigure
the blimp’s gondola so the MZ-3A crew can more
quickly install and uninstall equipment designed to
counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs), Race
said. For an organization like JIEDDO, time is critical
when testing gear that is headed to the battlefield.
Testing the same equipment on helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft could mean delays while waiting for airworthiness assessments, Race said. Flight clearances
for MZ-3A are generally quicker to obtain because the
blimp’s inherently low-G flight regime reduces fabrication, engineering and analysis requirements.
“It’s really hard to beat us for getting stuff in the air
quickly and safely,” Race said.
Cost is another factor in the MZ-3A’s favor.
Fuel consumption on the airship “is one to two orders
of magnitude less than any other air platform carrying an
equivalent payload,” Race said. An order of magnitude is
a term scientists use to mean a factor of 10.