The past decade has seen an unlikely revival of a long-grounded technology. Military airships, last operational with the U.S. Navy in the 1960s, took back to the skies, propelled by soaring demand for long-endurance, low-cost aerial surveillance in Iraq and Afghanistan. Per flight hour, an airship costs a fraction of what a helicopter or a fixed-wing plane costs.
Archived posts with tag ‘airships’
Military air travel can be one of the most exciting things in the world: catapulting off an aircraft carrier in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, churning low over the Afghan countryside in a twin-rotor Chinook helicopter, spiraling down for a tactical landing in a C-130 bound for Baghdad. By comparison, my Zeppelin ride was almost tranquil.
In the 1920s and ’30s, the U.S. Navy operated large airships for maritime patrol. Poor weather forecasting doomed four of six rigid Navy airships when they crashed in storms. Today, better forecasting and GPS have made airship operations much, much safer — and the military is considering getting back into the lighter-than-air business in a big way.