At Last, Huge Hybrid Airship for ISR Makes First Flight

 - August 10, 2012, 6:00 PM
The huge hybrid airship known as the long-endurance multi-intelligence vehicle made a 90-minute first flight at Lakehurst, N.J., on August 7. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The Northrop Grumman long endurance, multi-intelligence vehicle (LEMV) has made a 90-minute first flight, about one year behind schedule. The 304-foot-long optionally manned hybrid airship was released from tether at Lakehurst, N.J., on August 7, according to the sponsoring agency, the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command (USASMDC).



The primary objective of the first flight was to perform a safe launch and recovery, with the secondary objective of verifying the flight control system, the USASMDC said. “Additional first-flight objectives included airworthiness testing and demonstration, and system-level performance verification. All objectives were met during the first flight,” the Army continued. The LEMV was manned for the first flight, and will also be manned for subsequent test flights following “a detailed inspection of the vehicle,” the USASMDC added.

The LEMV was designed to support ground troops by providing a continuous stream of imagery and signals intelligence from multiple sensors over many days. The platform was designed by Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) of the UK under subcontract to Northrop Grumman. HAV flew a subscale version of a hybrid airship some years ago, but nothing on the scale of the LEMV has ever been attempted. The vehicle was supposed to be flight-tested, and its mission systems integrated, in time for a deployment to Afghanistan early this year.

HAV business development director Hardy Giesler told AIN today that, configured as a freighter, the airship could carry a payload of 20 tonnes, but for the ISR mission it is designed to carry a 2,500-pound payload at 20,000 feet for 21 days. The Army says the airship will perform the ISR mission with fuel consumption 10 times less than that of mission-comparable platforms, and that it will provide a 2,000-mile radius of action.



Congratulations to Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd who designed and manufactured the LEMV. It's been a long road for many of the great team involved and let us not forget this wonderful new type of aircraft (It is not a blimp or airship) was Roger Munk's baby and looking at the pictures we can all see just what a beautiful great big baby she is!
The aviation fans in the UK are delighted that one of our companies has done something all the rest, including Lockheed and Boeing could not do. This HAV will join the hovercraft, Harrier jump jet and Concord as real game changers, only this time it will be a fuel efficient green game they have changed, as the other first in field types were a tad thirsty.
I am looking forward to the first flight of the slightly bigger more powerful AIRLANDER (HAV 366) that is mentioned in the updated web site. There is a very serious need for a cargo and vertical heavy lift hybrid for remote area operations and Cardington is one great place to build the first.
If you want to read all about the Airlander, just Google hybrid air vehicles or even my company name.
Regards to all, Hybrid Pilot Services

I wonder which hanger the Airlander will be built. No 1 hanger is currently having its roof removed.

What a topsie turvy year,huge orders yet only three confirmed by Northrop Grumman one ship built flown for 90 mins then put back in i'ts box is it going to fly again?. Since then an order from India for their border area will they order more? only time will tell, again Northrop Grumman is supplying and building the Ship. Are you currently building any, using British Workers as i'v never seen one actually flying the Flag, and Advertising a British Achievement. Yours Sincerely L.Rothwell