Bedfordshire-based Hybrid Air Vehicles is trying to sell the Royal Navy on its airships to provide surveillance and transport supplies:
The Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle is set to revolutionise air transport by being able to carry very heavy loads or intelligence kit long distances with the ability to land anywhere, including on the water.
The Navy is looking to buy an LEMV to base above the fleet with sophisticated surveillance cameras to spot threats and spy on enemy movements. With a 50 ton payload it can also be used to carry urgent equipment parts such as engines for Joint Strike Fighters out to ships.
Commanders are also considering using it as a counter piracy vessel as the LEMV can lower up to 150 commandos along with their fast inflatable boats.
Travelling at over 80 knots the airship is almost three times faster than ships and the Navy’s version can travel for several days without refuelling its four gas turbine engines.
With a mixture of 60 per cent helium and 40 per cent air it is far less vulnerable to enemy fire than the hydrogen filled Zeppelins that fell prey to the Fleet Air Arm’s incendiary bullets during the Great War.
Tests by the Bedfordshire-based company Hybrid Air Vehicles have shown that bullets and even missiles can pass through the balloon without igniting the gas mixture which has a very low pressure.
“This could be the ideal solution for logistical support for aircraft carriers and ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) for the Fleet,” said a Navy source.
“Carrying 50 tons of stores and supplies it is more than double the capacity of a Hercules.”
The airships will cost £60 million each and can be flown remotely as an unmanned drone.
(Hat tip to the Alternative History Weekly Update.)