New U.S. Military Weapon - The Flying Walrus
The United States military is creative indeed. First, they unveiled an "invisible" jet fighter and bomber utilizing stealth technology. Then, they have been perfecting the use of lasers and sound wave blasts as weapons. Now, they are turning to the past in order to move forward:
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has launched the WALRUS Program and received several proposals by military and aircraft manufactureres from all over. The L.A. Times recently did a story on a small blimp manufacturing company, Worldwide Aeros. Igor Pasternak, a 41 year old Russian immigrant, is vying for a lucritive $100 million contract to build a new generation of war blimps for the United States military. Pasternak's competition? Military juggernaut Lockheed Martin. The two recently won $3 million phase II grants to continue to compete for the contract, and many people are rooting for the underdog to win the right to manufacture the blimps.
That's right, I said blimps. War blimps.
Why a blimp? Consider this: the U.S. C-130 cargo plane is capable of carrying a maximum load of 22 tons in wartime. These war blimps Worldwide Aeros and Lockheed Martin are working on will be able to carry between 500-1,000 tons...AND travel 12,000 nautical miles in 7 days. And these blimps will be "tri-phibian," traveling over air, water, and land - and doesn't need a runway.
But they're still blimps...as in Goodyear...or the Snoopy one MetLife flies overhead during football games. It's a big helium balloon, really.
“Once you get past the giggle factor of lighter-than-air, [you see] there’s a lot of interest,” said Brian Matkin, head of the smart weapons management office at the Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM) at Redstone Arsenal, AL.
The military believes these war blimps will change the face of how they conduct war. The war blimp would be a central part of the military's new 10-30-30 initiative - To get anywhere in the world within 10 days, win the battle in 30 days, and be prepared to fight again in another 30 days.
99 Luft Ballons indeed.
How does Pasternak feel about his 40 employee company going up against Lockheed Martin?
"In reality we don't feel Lockheed is our technical competitor," said Pasternak. "There is only one solution, and we have that one solution," the Russian-trained scientist insisted.
These blimps would utilize state-of-the art technology. The vehicle would take off into the air using nonflammable helium, but the bottom of its hull would act like a wing to give it additional lift and control. So it would be a blimp/airplane hybrid sort of deal. The craft would be powered by propellers. It could also land under a pilot's control, without ground handlers having to pull on tethers as with today's blimps.
"It can totally change how you conduct warfare," Pasternak said of the concept.
I think blimps could be used in both military and civillian situations. Imagine a blimp carrying tons of water and putting out those wildfires out West. Or maybe in times of natural disasters, blimps could go in and help evacuate thousands of people at a time. Maybe even use such blimps for travel, or entertainment purposes. Pasternak himself invisioned created "flying cruises" for 180 guests complete with rooms, casinos, and restaurant - and it could fly from L.A. to New York in 18 hours. You could use blimps to do surveillance and transport troops and cargo to friendly places.
But warfare? Are you kidding me?
I hate to rain on DARPA's parade here, and I'm no military genius or anything. But wouldn't a gigantic hellium-filled balloon make an easy target for our enemies? Could you imagine using these things in Iraq, for example? Insurgents would have a lot of fun using rocket launchers and just blasting these things out of the sky. I mean, really...these blimps would be floating targets. Just picture flying a giant silver blimp over Afghanistan looking for Bin Laden. He'd laugh his ass off. Any of our foes could easily bring our blimps down without much effort.
Actually, I know one country that could be brought to it's knees by these blimps:
"What do you expect from a culture and a nation that exerted more of its national will fighting against Disney World and Big Macs than against the Nazis?" ---Dennis Miller