Upstart Virginia aerospace firm Mav6 is offering to install guided missiles on the massive robotic spy blimp it’s building for the Air Force. The idea would only be slightly terrifying, if the massive airship were headed to Afghanistan, as originally planned. But Mav6 and its CEO, a respected retired Air Force general, are also promoting the giant airship for homeland security missions over U.S. soil. In that way, today’s war blimp could become tomorrow’s all-seeing, lethal Big Brother.
Capable of hovering at 20,000 feet for a week at a time while carrying radars, cameras, radio links and computer processors — the “most powerful” of their type in existence — the Blue Devil 2 airship can also be fitted with “weapons modules,” according to marketing material provided by Mav6. The brochure (.ppt) depicts a rotary launcher fitted with 100-pound Hellfire missiles, capable of hitting pinpoint targets up to five miles away. The launcher would presumably dangle from the tractor-trailer-size gondola that also houses the sensors, radios and computers.
As originally configured, Blue Devil 2 would need help from armed drones or manned jet fighters to attack any targets it finds. With missiles installed, the 100-mile-per-hour airship would theoretically be able to spot and kill bad guys all on its own. What Mav6 calls “semi-automated sensor-to-sensor cueing for enhanced threat detection” should minimize human intervention. Controllers on the ground would provide the basic flight plan, occasionally point the sensors and give permission to fire.
Originally, the company believed those missions would be carried out overseas. But Mav6, whose key executives include former Blackwater employees, is anticipating growing demand from other government organizations. “There are endless examples of non-military, commercial applications for airships,” a company spokesman says. The marketing brochure also lists “law enforcement,” “crowd control,” “pipeline monitoring,” and “border patrol” as possible missions.
(pic of blimp dwarfing 18-wheeler)