WASHINGTON: This is a deflating month – literally — for Mav6, a small Mississippi defense company that’s been working five years to complete a massive military airship, the unmanned M1400 Blue Devil II intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) craft.
On orders from the Air Force, “We’ve started to disassemble the airship,” reports David Deptula, CEO of Mav6, who retired from the Air Force in October 2010 as a three-star general and deputy chief of staff for ISR. Mav6 and its supporters in Congress are hoping the Navy will save Blue Devil II from what they view as a short-sighted decision by the Air Force, which two years ago took over the project from the Army. Keep reading →
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.
But three of the most prominent new-breed airship programs came crashing back to earth in early 2012. A massive, in-development Air Force spy blimp, a Navy test blimp and an Army tethered airship that’s part of an evolving missile-defense network — all were canceled or curtailed. It might have seemed that the promise of a new generation of military blimps was, well, so much hot air. Keep reading →