The A-170 Airship is a 178 ft., free-flying mobile aerial reconnaissance platform, leased from the American Blimp Corporation. The project has entered the testing phase in the fall of 2004. Essentially, this system is a blimb fused with the Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment System (RAIDS).
The A-170 is able to reach a cruising altitude of 10,000 feet (and can fly higher if needed), and can remain airborne for more than 24 hours. The airship can use its surveillance cameras and sensors to monitor and produce a detailed view of the streets and events on the ground while still being high enough to aviod the range of many ground weapons systems.
As of late September 2004, the A-170 was being tested in its piloted version but is capable of being flown unmanned. The pure helium blimp allows for a low pressure construction, giving the airship the ability to remain in flight for hours after an eventual puncture.
Besides surveillance, the A-170 is aimed at providing an efficient form of cargo transport, even being able to land on water if needed. It uses less fuel than cargo planes of the same capabilities, effectivly reducing costs of operation.
The purpose of this program was to create a system which could remain over a battlespace for long periods of time and which could relay, through ground stations, much needed information to the active troops below.
As of late September 2004, the Army had no plans to purchase the A-170 Airship.
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