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The Military Transportation

US Pentagon Plans For a Spy Blimp 374

Posted by kdawson
from the unblinking-eye dept.
nloop writes "The Pentagon is intending to develop a new spy ship — a dirigible. At 65,000 feet it would provide a 10 year, solar power based, unblinkingly intricate and continuous view of the surface via radar surveillance. Because of its altitude it would be safe from surface-to-air missiles and most aircraft. A 1/3-scale prototype, now being designed, is 'known as ISIS, for Integrated Sensor Is the Structure, because the radar system will be built into the structure of the ship. ... 'If successful, the dirigible... could pave the way for a fleet of spy airships, military officials said.'"
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US Pentagon Plans For a Spy Blimp

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  • by malkir (1031750) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @04:01PM (#27194881)
    China works on 'giant slingshots' armed with darts to combat the US spying mission.
    • by markov_chain (202465) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @04:29PM (#27195111) Homepage

      Just use a laser

    • by couchslug (175151) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @04:31PM (#27195143)

      "China works on 'giant slingshots' armed with darts to combat the US spying mission."

      That First Generation War stuff isn't the only game in town...

      Observation doesn't necessarily require being directly over enemy territory. Such airships would be excellent for covering borders and providing 25/7 situational awareness over areas of Iraq and Afghanistan. They can also observe large marine areas, which is why blimps never totally went out of US service. They aren't sexy, and the general public keeps confusing them with the Hindenburg, but they are useful pieces of gear. UAV don't have near the loiter time of a blimp/airship, but they can plug gaps when the blimp is out of service. Working together they could make for excellent surveillance/interdiction systems.

      • by aliquis (678370) <dospam@gmail.com> on Saturday March 14, 2009 @06:54PM (#27196199) Homepage

        Such airships would be excellent for covering borders and providing 25/7 situational awareness over areas of Iraq and Afghanistan.

        I've heard about how low the science knowledge is in the US [slashdot.org] but 25 hours / day?

        Though totally match my sleeping pattern.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rtb61 (674572)

        That is totally correct the blimps have absolutely nothing to do with monitoring so called enemy territory but everything to do with monitoring 'enemy' domestic populations or subjugated countries. This is the panopticon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panopticon [wikipedia.org] taken from behind prison walls, and put out into all public spaces and private space, welcome to prison planet.

        The dirigible will obviously sport a full range of optical and infra-red sensors, spy video captured 24/7. Truly dangerous stuff, they wi

    • Get it right, giant kites... probably breathing fire at that.

    • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @05:30PM (#27195611) Journal
      Comsidering that an F-15 successfully shot down (destroyed) a satellite which was orbiting 555km above the Earth, the assertion that a blimp would be safe from aircraft attack is demonstrable bunk.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F-15_Eagle#Operational_history [wikipedia.org]
      Moreover, a preproduction F-15 (the "Streak Eagle") in breaking its eighth time to altitude record, went from standstill on the ground to 98,425 feet (30 km) in 208 seconds, and coasted to 103,000 feet. Modern interceptors can reach such altitudes with little if any modification. 65,000 feet is within their normal operating capability.
      http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=621 [af.mil]
      • by DustyShadow (691635) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @05:36PM (#27195655) Homepage
        You may be right but the good part about a radar system that is at 65,000 feet is that it can be a long long ways from the battlefield. Any aircraft that started heading towards the blimp would most likely be intercepted before it got anywhere near it. The Global Hawk flies around that same altitude and it can see a very long way. This blimp will most likely carry a radar that is much larger with much greater capability.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by MrNaz (730548) *

          Why is there an assumption that this is for battlefield use when the US government (and its lackey states) have such a demonstrable desire to spy on its local populace as invasively and pervasively as possible? This is so obviously for domestic use as cheap satellites that can do pervasive Eye In The Sky tracking of civilians.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by VisceralLogic (911294)
            I could be wrong, but I don't think radar would be a very effective means of spying on the general populace...
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              I could be wrong, but I don't think radar would be a very effective means of spying on the general populace...

              On the general populace - no. Tinfoil hat wearers, on the other hand...

      • by thesupraman (179040) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @06:14PM (#27195889)

        Who needs that, the good old Mig 21 has a service ceiling of 17500m, and its GP-9 gun pod has a known effective range of 3000m.

        17500+3000=20500m, or 67,000 feet....
        and that is one hell of a big target.

        So it is easily hitable by anyone with even a historic jet airforce. It would be safe from foot soldiers and shoulder launched missiles.

        http://members.tripod.com/YUModelClub/yugoslav_air_force/mig21/mig21var.htm

        http://www.janes.com/extracts/extract/jalw/jalw2788.html

        Would be just the thing for monitoring the home populous though.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Indeed. The SR-71, at Mach 3 and cruising at 80,000 feet, was hit by shrapnel from an attempted shoot down at least once.

        A very slow-moving or stationary dirigible at 65,000 feet isn't safe by any possible definition of the word. (Well, I suppose an air force consisting solely of Cessna 172's with gunners sporting .22 hunting rilfes wouldn't pose much of a threat; but that's about it.)

        It *MAY* be safe from insurgencies like in Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan, though.

  • by EdZ (755139) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @04:03PM (#27194903)

    Because of its altitude it would be safe from surface-to-air missiles

    The U2 went for this, and it didn't work for long. Though I'm guessing that for what is essentially a balloon with a sensor package, it's radar signature will be pretty low to start with, and extra stealth technology notwithstanding.

    • Considering modern Mig's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikoyan_MiG-35) can reach approximately 62,000 feet already, having a missle go the extra distance from there would be relatively trivial. Not like this thing is going to be very speedy and even if it has no heat signature as you would expect, it still is going to be a massive not-so-moving target to hit at relatively close range...

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @04:19PM (#27195035) Journal
        Don't worry, after the couple of unfortunate incidents, the surplus will be sold off at a substantial discount to local law enforcement agencies who wish to better Secure the Homeland(tm).
      • by Eevee (535658) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @04:23PM (#27195063)
        From the fine article:

        and safe from most fighter planes.

        Hmmm. most...It's almost as if they thought that there might be some advanced planes...almost as if they had done some research on possible opponents...almost as if experts in the field are as smart as a Slashdot reader.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Tubal-Cain (1289912)

        Considering modern Mig's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikoyan_MiG-35) can reach approximately 62,000 feet already, having a missle go the extra distance from there would be relatively trivial.

        But at what cost?
        The missles aren't cheap, and neither is the costs of sending the plane up there (fuel, maintenance...and don't the higher-end planes that will be capable of reaching that altitude cost more in every way?). If the blimp costs $20,000 and missiles are $50,000; $ENEMY could have a problem.

        • If the blimp costs $20,000 and missiles are $50,000; $ENEMY could have a problem.

          It depends on what the value of the intel is to the enemy. *WE* will not be spending 50K to shoot down *OUR* 20K blimp.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by torkus (1133985)

          Even if they are disposable (1 year aloft doesn't seem all that disposable) you mistakenly associate disposable with inexpensive ... as it's certainly not the case with the military in the US

          The chinese can probably launch a space shuttle for what one of these buggers will cost us :)

      • It's been quite a while since there has been a war between belligerents who were both technological advanced enough to either field such a sensor platform or attack it. Right now the powers that could do it aren't directly engaged and nobody that could provide the technology doesn't deploy that technology to their proxies. I would think that the Israelis would have an all day woody if they got it from us or developed it on their own.

      • by Ash Vince (602485) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @05:10PM (#27195463) Journal

        You are completely missing the about about this things use. In all modern warfare contexts the US has total air superiority. If a war arises where that is not the case, the US makes sure it gains air superiority very quickly.

        Once you have air superiority and have bombed shit out of everything that could launch a missile large enough to reach it this thing is perfect for spotting hostile forces on the ground. Most of the people we now fight against are so out gunned in the skys they resort to terrorist and guerilla actions. This thing can be kept flying for very long periods, very cheaply. It also has the advantage of being able to hover. This means when it sees a target, it can remain stationary above it and maintain a visual for long periods.

        The current solution is to use spy drones but they are vulnerable to small arms fire form the ground, need fuel, and have to fly in circles to maintain a visual on a fix position. This circling vastly reduces the effectiveness of the drones in urban environment with tall buildings.

    • by Cassini2 (956052) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @04:23PM (#27195061)

      It all depends on the target country. Afghanistan and Iraq have constant Predator overflights. I expect the blimp will offer a stationary surveillance over relatively unarmed or poorly armed countries. It might also be use for UN crisis zones, like Sudan and Somalia, or where the local government has largely broken down.

      Alternatively, the blimp could be used to patrol U.S. air space. There is always the coast guard, border patrol, war on drugs, war on terrorism, war on crime, and even coastal rescue. A stationary surveillance platform might be really useful for those applications.

      The main target of this platform might be here at home in America.

      • by owlnation (858981) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @05:39PM (#27195687)

        Alternatively, the blimp could be used to patrol U.S. air space.

        It's funny, living in the UK I immediately assumed it would be used to spy on US citizens. It wasn't until I read the comments that I realized it might be used on other nations.

        What an unusual concept for someone from UK -- a spy weapon being used on genuinely, or potentially, hostile nations, rather than on its own people.

        We may joke about how bad things are in the UK here often. However, I don't think people realize how bad the state of this country is, and how incredibly evil the UK Government appears to be.

        There may come a time soon when you won't be hearing from the UK for a decade or two. They have effectively sealed up the borders with new Legislation yesterday [telegraph.co.uk] (news released on a Friday deliberately to avoid a news cycle obviously). Or at least this gives them the power to seal up the border any time -- virtual Berlin Wall.

        God help us all in the UK. We have little hope.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ntrfug (147745)

          God help us all in the UK. We have little hope.

          The U.S. is unfortunately catching up with you.

    • by (H)elix1 (231155) *

      The U2 went for this, and it didn't work for long.

      It would be high enough to avoid the 'portable' launchers. Sure, the Russians can knock down something that high, but...

      I'd guess Iran would have the Sayyad-1 [wikipedia.org] or something along that line of thought. It has a flight altitude of ~66,000 feet and the blimp is going to fly at ~65,000 feet. Just in the envelope, but *that* is a serious rocket - not something that can be just launched from the back of a truck. You would probably use this over airspace you mor

    • The summary was poorly worded ... at 60+ thousand feet it'd be safe from most handheld surface-to-air missiles. The article itself is incorrect in stating that the altitude would keep it safe from most fighter aircraft, since anything with the performance of an F-4 (first built in 1955) or better can zoom to that altitude, take a passing gun shot, or launch a missile - it's not like the blimp can maneuver very quickly.
    • by SharpFang (651121)

      If it's to use (active) radar for its primary purpose (sensor/surveilance), it will have a blatantly huge radar signature.

  • Targets (Score:5, Funny)

    by Romancer (19668) <romancerNO@SPAMdeathsdoor.com> on Saturday March 14, 2009 @04:04PM (#27194909) Journal

    and I thought that model rocketry was dead.

  • And at 65,000 feet, these will spy on who? I'm not really buying the "safe from missiles" claim, but even if it were true a slow moving blimp would not be very safe over foreign soil, it could even be attacked by an attack blimp with a pointed stick on the front. They claim this is a project of the Pentagon, but it sure seems like this is being designed to spy on the country's own citizens.
    • by cyfer2000 (548592)
      Or naked Chinese fishermen?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      TFA is actually pretty informative.

      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..... The giant airship's military value would come from its radar system. Giant antenna would allow the military to see farther and with more detail than it can now.

      Sounds pretty useful to me. Not against countries with advanced weapons but probably Afghanistan. Think of it as a Protoss Observer. Not invincible but godly useful for recon.

    • You obviously have never played RTS games with the Fog of War on. And even then the information is much better than what battlefield commanders have to work with.
    • Re:spy on who? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Nyeerrmm (940927) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @05:28PM (#27195597)

      You're right, it wouldn't be useful for a full, conventional conflict with a country like China or Russia, or even pre-invasion Iraq. However, since the fall of the Soviet Union we've been much more involved in police action (the Balkans, Somalia) and insurgency fighting (Iraq and Afghanistan). When they say safe from missiles, they mean safe from shoulder mounted rockets that can devastate helicopters, low-flying aircraft, and any aircraft on take-off or landing. Having something that high with 10 years aloft means that its safe in this style of modern warfare.

      Also, while minute-by-minute persistence, what you get from this, is much more important in this kind of asymmetric warfare. Fighting a conventional battle with a large army involves tracking troop movements and other large-scale things that are hard to hide from a satellite. However, for finding insurgents in Baghdad or tracking fighters crossing the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, persistent observation where you can follow an individual's or small group's movements is much more valuable.

      The current Secretary of Defense is very big on fighting the current wars instead of developing more cold-war relics like the F-22, so this seems right in line with his priorities, and it makes sense. If it were intended for spying on US cities, they would be trying to keep it much quieter and, as others have pointed out, it wouldn't really be impossible to see the airships. Given the (correct) uproar over the NSA wiretapping, which only focused on phone-calls going out of the country, I can only imagine how quickly such a program would be brought down, especially given how much harder it would be to hide.

      • If it were intended for spying on US cities, they would be trying to keep it much quieter and, as others have pointed out, it wouldn't really be impossible to see the airships.

        Oh hell, just put a 'Goodyear' logo on it and everyone will just wave at the thing. Smile for the camera!

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by evilviper (135110)

        The current Secretary of Defense is very big on fighting the current wars instead of developing more cold-war relics like the F-22,

        Try not to bash the high-tech weaponry being developed by the US military.

        For one, other "cold war relics" like the stealth bombers have been used extensively and extremely effective in modern wars.

        Secondly, and this is really the more important issue... maintaining vast military superiority over all potential challengers is what has provided the relative levels of peace that m

  • Invisible my foot (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Trapezium Artist (919330) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @04:12PM (#27194959)
    What's this business in the article about it being "nearly impossible to see"? A 450 foot dirigible at an altitude of 65,000 feet would subtend an angle of 0.4 degrees from ground-level directly underneath, just a little smaller than the full Moon. Or will it be painted with big words on the side saying "Please ignore the spy in the sky", instructions that we all will no doubt dutifully follow, like the sheep we are?
    • by Xylaan (795464)
      Well, compare it to say, a 747 (250 feet long, and a cruising altitude of what, 35000 feet)? It subtends an angle of 0.4 degrees as well, but they're not always clearly visible.

      The Moon has the advantage of being a significant source of light in addition to its size. Now, I would expect that during certain times of the day (around dawn and dusk), the angle of the sun would be such that the blimp would actually reflect light down to an observer on the ground. In that case, the blimp would fairly obvio
    • by QuoteMstr (55051)

      i think that's the point. It will be a visible symbol of hegemonic domination.

    • by smoker2 (750216)
      You are mistaken. 1 degree is approximately the width of a little finger at arm's length, so at less than 1/2 that it will hardly stand out, and you definitely won't be able to read anything on it. Can you read the insignia on a 747 at 35,000 feet from below ?
    • Right now the "bad guys" pretty much know when the spy satellites will be over head and just hide from them a couple hours twice a day and operate a lot at night; this thing will put a real crimp in their operations, they'll be under scrutiny continuously when it's deployed.

  • This only applies to existing air defense systems. There's around two dozen nations who have the capability to develop a specific weapon against such a blimp on a relatively short notice, and not all of them are US allies.

  • by meist3r (1061628) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @04:13PM (#27194977)
    The last project trying to revive the blimp ended by having to transform the hangar into a tropical bath. Good luck.
  • by creimer (824291) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @04:15PM (#27194991) Homepage
    I for one welcome our steampunk [wikipedia.org] overlords.
  • I realize it's not the editor's fault this time because the original article makes the same mistake, but dirigible and blimp mean two different things. A dirigible has a support structure holding the gas cells; a blimp depends on the pressure of its gas cells to hold its shape.
    • by fm6 (162816)

      Why is this not the editor's fault? Part of an editor's job is to filter out crap. If an editor approved a story claiming that John Lennon had returned from the dead and was now named Barack Obama Jones, would you say it was the original writer's fault only?

  • Laser (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Akardam (186995) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @04:19PM (#27195033)

    Hmm. Large gas-filled object, presumably with a not overly-thick skin to keep the weight down. Ground based laser of sufficient power to pop a hole in the giant balloon.

    Yeah, this is gonna work real well.

    • Re:Laser (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 14, 2009 @04:26PM (#27195081)

      Yes those laser armed taliban have been a real problem.



      • We've assumed technical / military superiority over these middle-eastern foes. You're right, that the Taliban's technical resources are severely limited. The likelihood is that their buddies in Iran will use a bit of their oil money to buy powerful laser toys just to maintain destabilization in the region.

        Seth
    • Re:Laser (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Xylaan (795464) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @04:31PM (#27195137)
      It's amazing what 65,000 feet of atmosphere will do to your nice laser. Plus the joy of keeping it focused on one place to allow the heat to build up sufficiently.
      • Re:Laser (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Akardam (186995) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @05:06PM (#27195431)

        It's amazing how trivial those problems are compared to protecting a blimp at 65,000'.

        From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airborne_Laser [wikipedia.org]:

        "If the ABL achieves its design goals, it could destroy liquid-fueled ICBMs up to 600 km away. Tougher solid-fueled ICBM destruction range would likely be limited to 300 km"

        65,000' is just a hair under 20 kilometers. That's beans compared to what the ABL is supposed to be able to do against a smaller, much faster moving target, from a mobile platform. You might need a stronger laser than the ABL carries, but as I said before, most blimps aren't particularily tough.

    • Yeah, ground based lasers capable of focusing enough energy on an object 12 miles away to damage it are real common. I've got two under tarps in my garage.

      • by fm6 (162816)

        Herr Goldfinger! I thought you died shortly after that Fort Knox fiasco!

    • Re:Laser (Score:5, Insightful)

      by srmalloy (263556) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @04:54PM (#27195341) Homepage

      Hmm. Large gas-filled object, presumably with a not overly-thick skin to keep the weight down. Ground based laser of sufficient power to pop a hole in the giant balloon.

      Yeah, this is gonna work real well.

      You are aware that an airship's lift cells are pressurized to barely over atmospheric pressure, don't you? That the lift comes from the volume of gas being less dense than the atmosphere, not from pressure? Take a plastic shopping bag, shake it open, then squeeze the open end closed with your hand. Now poke the inflated bag with a needle. See how violently the bag ruptures? Oh, wait -- it doesn't do that at all; you just get a leak.

      Go back and read how hard it was for Allied fighter pilots in WWI to take down German dirigibles and observation balloons; because they were filled with hydrogen, they would have to shoot holes in the balloon, then fly back and fire tracers or incendiary bullets through the plume of escaping hydrogen gas coming out the holes they'd shot. But airships lifted by helium don't have that weakness, so the problem would be limited to patching holes.

      • by Akardam (186995)

        Perfectly aware, and I was using a figure of speech. However, explain to me how they're supposed to conduct repairs at 65,000'?

        • If the leak is slow enough, you don't have to. Have it limp back to friendly airspace while another heads out, and fix it on the ground. Or, if it can't make it that far, maneuverer someplace the enemy can't reach conveniently and self-destruct.
      • by Deadstick (535032)

        Furthermore, the gas in a dirigible/zeppelin is enclosed in a large number of individual cells called "ballonets". Puncturing one causes a minor decrease in buoyancy.

        And as you say, small holes don't leak very fast at a low pressure differential. The Goodyear blimps have a Plexiglas panel atop the gondola that lets the pilot peer into the bag, so he can see the tiny points of light that indicate leaks; if there are only a few, they can be dealt with by adding a little helium before takeoff. When there get t

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Shihar (153932)

      There are lots of ways to shoot these things down... they are all very expensive and require huge coordinated actions. If you want to smuggle in missiles or lasers capable of knocking one of these down, you are going to shell out cash and open up your entire operation to attack.

      Playing a cash game with the US is a losing proposition. The Taliban isn't going to outspend the US. Hell, the US has airplanes that one of them cost more than every single asset the Taliban has combined. So sure, a guerrilla foe

  • by Carbon016 (1129067) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @04:28PM (#27195101)

    Floating cannon battles with the Ron Paul blimp.

    The engineers don't have to seem as silly now that they get to put the purestrain gold shells to good use. Hard to starboard!

  • I'd like to see some analysis about the feasibility of replacing satellites with airships in certain cases. Isn't it a lot cheaper and more fuel-efficient to put a blimp in the air as compared to a satellite? What if we could use them in place of communications satellites-- instead of satellite radio we'd have blimp radio! You'd have to do some extra work to keep the blimp in a geosynchronous position, but a comparison of the energy expenditures would be very interesting.

  • Why Helium? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Wingsy (761354) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @04:51PM (#27195323)
    Since this thing is unmanned, why not use hydrogen and get substantially more lifting power or get the same lift with a smaller craft?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tubal-Cain (1289912)

      Why not use hydrogen and get substantially more lifting power?

      How much more? Enough to bring it out of reach of more planes? If not, why bother?

  • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @04:53PM (#27195337)
    Forget missiles. If there is a threat from an aircraft (yes, dear, a blimp or dirigible is an aircraft) that flies at 65000 feet, someone will probably rapidly develop a conventional fighter to reach that high. Aircraft evolve to meet the threat. Alternatively, NASA has achieved about 90000ft with a propellor driven unmanned aircraft, so it shouldn't be beyond the wit of the engineers of any developed country to produce a small payload high altitude prop driven solar powered "cruise missile" to take these things out. The payload probably needs to be no more than a few ounces of explosive and a quantity of small shrapnel.

    However, by then the developers will have had the money and moved on to other projects, which is the usual way military R&D works (cynicism borne of experience).

    • I think 65,000 feet is not nearly enough. The Mig 29 has a service ceiling of 59,000 feet, and that means it can go a lot higher. In fact, you can buy a ride on a Mig 29 up to almost 70,000 feet from here:

      http://rusadventures.com/tour27.shtml [rusadventures.com]

      That's plane is plenty capable of popping this balloon, and that's a design at least 30 years old.

      No new technology is needed to shoot down dumbo blimp.

  • BUT BUT BUT.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by scubamage (727538) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @05:00PM (#27195373)
    Who is going to watch the watchers?
  • Hysterical Precedent (Score:4, Informative)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @05:04PM (#27195399) Journal

    "At 65,000 feet ..... it would be safe from surface-to-air missiles and most aircraft."

    Francis Gary Powers was shot down in his U-2 by an S-75 Dvina missile on May 1, 1960. The operating altitude for his mission was 70,000 feet. How is 65,000 safe 50 years after 70,000 isn't?

    It's obviously not. On 13 September 1985 an F-15 launched an ASM-135 ASAT anti-satellite weapon from 38,000 feet and took down the Solwind satellite orbiting at an altitude of 345 miles (1,821,600 feet). The ASM-135 was built from off-the-shelf (ie. already developed, tested and in production) hardware. One can assume the shelf 25 years later to be much better stocked, and any launch platforms to be much more capable, such as the recent development of Mach 1+ missile launch capability.

    With or without the "surface-to-air" in the summary replaced with "hand held" as in the original, TFA is ludicrous.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Shihar (153932)

      I don't think anyone is arguing that it would be safe to park a blimp over China and assume it is safe because it is a few miles up the sky. That isn't the point of these.

      That is like complaining that tanks are totally useless in middle the Pacific Ocean... no shit.

      The point one of these things is to sit over an area that doesn't have massive air defenses. You can safely park one of these of Afghanistan. Hell, you could have parked one over Iraq during the 2nd invasion after a week of air strikes. The

  • IT's funny how the summary says "safe from SAMs", when we already learned in the Eisenhower administration that Russian SAMS can fly just as high as our aircraft can.

    Safe at 60,000 feet?

    I doubt it. Some modern fighter aircraft can just about reach that altitude on their own. Wikipedia gives the service ceiling of a Mig 29 at 59,000 feet, and obviously an aircraft can burst up a bit higher than that.

    These blimps would just be cannon fodder.

  • Isis was the Egyptian goddess representing the perfect mother/wife figure. She is represents the throne, and the power it holds. She is sometimes represented as a kite hovering over the corpse of her dead husband.

    So there you go, the logical conclusion is that they want to show us the power of their throne. And that the Pentagon officials think we're all their dead husbands.

  • I wonder if it is possible to hack into such a dirigible system and feed a faked stream to its home base? Or predator and the likes. This would be revolutionary, - turning military robots against their owners.

    I see the world where a hacker may become its supreme ruler. Some serious mathematics should be involved in it though.

  • Amazing the number of negative comments about this project. Maybe someone in the Pentagon reads /. and this thing will get cancelled before they find out that the blimp can also provide a cheap way to bring telecom links to remote areas.

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