Cover: High-Altitude Airships for the Future Force Army

High-Altitude Airships for the Future Force Army

Published Oct 2, 2005

by Lewis Jamison, Geoffrey Sommer, Isaac R. Porche III


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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.

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The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Army and conducted by the RAND Arroyo Center.

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