September 23, 2012
Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd. and Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) have announced the successful completion of the first flight of the U.S. Army’s Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) [PDF].
They have designed a 400ft (122m) long “lighter-than-air” hybrid vehicle for the US Army, in a contract worth half a billion pounds. The LEMV, a first-of-its-kind airship, took to the sky on the 7th August 2012 at 6:49 p.m. Eastern Time and flew for more than 90 minutes over Lakehurst Naval Air Station.
The vehicle is capable of operating at 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) above sea level with a 21-day on-station availability, a 2,000 mile radius of action, and is runway independent.
These hybrid airships have up to 40% aerodynamic lift, 25% vectored thrust lift, and 60% buoyant lift. They provide zero energy lift for long-endurance flight.
Last year, Nextbigfuture covered a plan to buy around 45 new civilian hybrid air vehicles from this same company by a Canadian customer. These aircraft will be used across Canada’s Northwest Territories. The airships will be produced and deployed around 2014.
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This military platform will establish a new standard for a long-endurance, persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability over the battlefield. LEMV will provide unprecedented ISR capabilities to the U.S. Army in the form of an “unblinking stare” over ground troops, ranging anywhere from one day to multiple weeks. The endurance ability of the LEMV system comes from a design that is built around Hybrid Air Vehicles Limited’s HAV304 aircraft design and Northrop Grumman’s open system architecture design, which provides a modular and flexible payload capability along with room for mission expansion and growth.
“Our air vehicle technology will allow the LEMV program to deliver ISR with unprecedented long endurance capability. The successful first flight of the vehicle demonstrates the readiness of hybrid air vehicle technology to serve military needs,” said Gary Elliott, chief executive officer of Hybrid Air Vehicles Limited.
As the prime contractor, Northrop Grumman is responsible for the overall system development and integration, development and implementation of the open system architecture, unmanned flight control software, mission system flight and ground operations, and maintenance and field support for worldwide operations.
Northrop Grumman’s industry team includes Hybrid Air Vehicles Limited of the U.K. for the air vehicle design, Warwick Mills for fabric development, ILC Dover for hull fabrication and seaming, AAI Corporation for air vehicle control through its Universal Ground Control Station, SAIC for full-motion video exploitation, and a team of technology leaders from more than 18 U.S. states and at least three countries.