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Army looking at VTOL, balloons to meet ISR requirements

Dec 15, 2010

By Army News Service

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 15, 2010) - Unmanned air vehicles that can provide persistent stare capabilities and that can launch vertically are something the Army is investigating now.

During the Army Aviation Association of America's three-day forum on unmanned aircraft, leaders discussed both vertical take-off and landing aircraft, or VTOL, as well as the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle.

"The Army, specifically our folks down at Fort Rucker, the Training and Doctrine Command capabilities mangers, are always doing an analysis of what are the emerging capabilities gaps that are out there," said Col. Bill Morris, director of Army Aviation, G-3/5/7.

"We're looking closely at all of the different joint tests that are being done. The Marine Corps is doing a joint test on VTOL, and we know SOCOM has a vested interest in their VTOL. Once it comes out there we're going to look at that capability."

Terry Mitchell, the director of intelligence futures, Army G-2, said the Army' has specific requirements for VTOL capability.

"(We're) looking at a VTOL capability that has long legs. Something that can stay up for 8-9 hours. Something that can go up to 20,000 feet. Something that can carry about 1,000 pounds of payload. That kind of started our discussion," he said. "(It's) the ability to stay in a mission over watch where you watch a team take down a target, to basically hover over them, to move quickly and keep on them."

Mitchell said that kind of capability is something that can be provided by VTOL aircraft as well as the LEMV aircraft the Army has contracted for. The LEMV, a helium-filled blimp, provides 21-day persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability.

"When it flies, it has four (full-motion video) balls alone," said Mitchell of the LEMV aircraft. The intelligence capability it brings, he said, is equivalent to 20 flights provided by C-12 aircraft.

"That's a lot of mission sets," he said. "What this is bringing is a paradigm shift."

The vehicle is a football-field-sized hybrid airship and is designed to operate at 20,000 feet above sea level and provide a 2,000-mile radius of action.

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