The US Army has asked Northrop Grumman to design three hybrid airships that are capable of providing American soldiers with persistent ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) capabilities in Afghanistan.
The airships - which have been dubbed Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) systems - will be deployed in just 18 months.
"It is critical [for] our warfighters [to be] equipped with more enabling integrated ISR capability to tackle today's and tomorrow's conflicts," explained Northrop spokesperson Alan Metzger.
"[So], we have designed a system with plug-and-play capability to readily integrate into the Army's existing common ground station command centers and ground troops in forward operating bases."
According to Metzger, the LEMVs are expected to be capable of sustaining altitudes of 20,000 feet for a three-week period.
"It will be forward-located to support extended geostationary operations from austere operating locations using beyond-line-of-sight command and control.
"[Our LEMVs will] meet the Army's objective of a persistent unblinking stare while providing increased operational utility to battlefield commanders."
Northrop Grumman has teamed with Hybrid Air Vehicles, Ltd. of the United Kingdom using its HAV304 platform, Warwick Mills, ILC Dover, AAI Corporation, SAIC and a team of technology leaders from 18 US states to build the LEMVs.