We Almost Had a Giant Robot Spy Blimp

We Almost Had a Giant Robot Spy Blimp


David Axe

The Army’s dream was a fantastical one. Build a 300-foot-long, helium-filled, pilotless airship, pack it with sophisticated sensors and other spy gear and park it over the remotest, most dangerous region of Afghanistan, where it would hover for three weeks at a time beyond the range of enemy gunfire, unblinkingly watching for enemy activity.

But the Army’s plan for building this so-called Long Endurance Multi Intelligence Vehicle, or LEMV, turned out to be just as fantastical as the vision for the giant robot airship. Badly managed and repeatedly oversold by its advocates, the LEMV’s prospects gradually deflated even as rising expectations across the military added pressure to the airship’s development.

Originally meant to cost as little as $150 million and go from blueprint to working prototype in just a year and a half, the giant airship drifted out of control. Between 2010 when the program began and its termination in early 2013, the cost of just one LEMV ballooned to $270 million. And the schedule for completing the airship stretched from 18 months to 36. The first LEMV managed just one brief flight over New Jersey last August before an embarrassed Army pulled the plug.

Read the rest of this excellent article by David Axe here:-