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Light of Day for LEMV

A photograph on a social networking site shows that the US Army hybrid airship known as the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV)  has finally seen the light of day.  LEMV was rolled out of the historic Hangar No 1 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (formerly Naval Air Station Lakehurst) on the morning of 3 July 2012.  The vehicle has not yet flown, as far as we are aware.

The US Army has maintained a tight silence about the vehicle and payload, as have all those involved in the project.  The LEMV platform has been constructed by Northrop Grumman and it's partners, in 2 years from the date of contract, which must be considered reasonably impressive for modern manned air vehicles (optionally manned if you are going to be picky).  The venerable Hercules flew 3 years after contracts were signed, the C17 took 6 years and the Airbus A400M took 6.5 years.  Nevertheless, the contract is running significantly behind the original schedule, and despite the de-risking carried out by those involved, problems have arisen and been overcome.

After Flight Testing, various press reports indicate that the prototype will be flown to Florida where the ISR Payload Module will be attached, prior to transit and testing at the Yuma Testing Ground in Arizona.  If those tests are satisfactorily completed, then the LEMV will be transported to theatre for assessment in a live environment.

LEMV is designed to carry 1500 lbs of ISR equipment at 20,000' for up to 3 weeks, but an additional benefit of LEMV over other UAVs it the possibility of re-configuring the vehicle to carry heavy loads (up to 20 tons?) at lower altitudes.  See here for Northrop Grumman's Product Description.

The base year contract was for $154m, with a maximum total value of $517m if all the options were taken up, including ground-stations and the ISR Payload; those options include 2 further LEMV platforms.

 

 

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