Northrop Grumman has proposed its long-endurance multi-intelligence vehicle (LEMV) hybrid airship to meet new Indian requirements for border surveillance, AIN has learned from a senior official at the country’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The huge, unmanned LEMV was being developed for U.S. Army missions over Afghanistan, but has fallen behind schedule. It first flew last August, one year later than promised.
In a presentation to the MHA, Northrop Grumman described the LEMV as a lighter-than-air (LTA) vehicle that offers “a revolutionary capability in persistent surveillance with reconfigurable payloads to meet emerging multi-mission needs.” Discussions began a year ago, followed by presentations to the Border Security Force (BSF), which is controlled by the MHA. The official said that Northrop Grumman had emphasized cost savings resulting from a reduced force structure, since one LTA could replace 25 medium-altitude, long-endurance (Male) UAVs, the company claimed. It suggested a cost of only $20,000 to keep the unmanned LEMV in the air for three weeks, carrying a 2,750-pound sensor and communications payload. Northrop Grumman offered to integrate indigenous intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) payload options on the LTA, which has modular payload bays.
The MHA is expected to release a request for proposals in March for surveillance solutions over seven different areas. The LTA will likely be bid for maritime surveillance, as well as for over remote areas along India’s borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh. The MHA is expected to purchase approximately five such systems. India is expected to spend an estimated $30 billion on homeland security by 2016, mostly for policing, but also including surveillance systems.
No further progress with LEMV flight-testing in the U.S. has been reported since the first flight. The prototype flew with pilots on board, and without any payload. Last October, an Army general suggested to the website Inside Defense that the LEMV might never be deployed to Afghanistan. By press time, neither the U.S. Army nor Northrop Grumman had responded to AIN’s request for an update.