High-Altitude Airships for the Future Force Army
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Across the services, there is an increasing demand for overhead communications capacity. New, lighter-than-air (LTA) vehicles that operate at very high altitudes have an obvious attraction for planners of surveillance and communication missions; the ability to see to a more distant horizon results in greatly expanded surveillance volumes. This report informs the U.S. Army about the usefulness and limitations of high-altitude airships (HAA) in the role of platforms for communications and surveillance suites in theater battlespace. Potential alternatives are solar-powered HAA and airplanes flying at 65,000 feet or above that can remain geostationary for months. Potentially, HAA may provide communications satellite capabilities for the WIN-T network that are less expensive than satellites and may support a Global Hawk-like surveillance package in the Multi-Sensor Command and Control Constellation (MC2C). HAA performance issues include engine power, envelope strength, and permeability, solar-cell power, fuel-cell capacity, weather, launch and recovery, and air defense survivability.
Table of Contents
Research and Development
Missions and Payloads
Airship Limitations and Vulnerabilities
The Tradeoff Between Airship Volume and Operating Altitude
Research conducted by
The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Army and conducted by the RAND Arroyo Center.
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