Medium Altitude, Long Endurance (MALE) airship
The airship is intended to carry an Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) payload at medium altitudes for long duration. It is expected that an accelerated demonstration project will prove that the airship concept is capable of accomplishing this goal. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is requesting responses from industry on the feasibility of a near term flight demonstration. There are three classes of demonstration capabilities desired: technology that is currently available, technology that will be available within the next 12 months, and technology that will be available in the 12 to 24 month period. Responses are requested to provide information on several key aspects of the airship system. This RFI is focused on the airship concept; not sensor integration.
The airship is intended to be capable of carrying payload weights of 2,500 to 4,500 lb to 20,000 to 25,000 ft MSL. The airship is intended to provide 15 to 25 kW of power to the sensor payload. The airship is intended to be capable of operating at air speeds of 0 to 80 kts. AFRL is interested in airship loiter time versus loiter speed for rolling and vertical takeoff cases for following nominal conditions:
1) Loiter speed 35 kts +/- 15 kts
2) 2,500 lb +/- 2,000 lb payload
3) 15,000 ft +/- 10,000 ft altitude (MSL) - correction to original RFI
Information about how the airship will be ferried within the Continental United States (CONUS), or from CONUS to locations outside of CONUS, is requested. Information about whether the airship is designed to be remotely operated or autonomously operated is also requested in this aspect. Information on whether the airship will or could be manned on initial check out flights prior to unmanned operations is requested as well in this aspect. AFRL is interested in potential integration of survivability equipment for the airship. Information about airship maneuverability and required operating conditions for takeoff, loitering, landing, and mooring or docking is requested in this aspect. Information about storage and crating concepts is also requested.
The airship is intended to have a low logistical footprint, and so AFRL is interested in concepts that feature small manning requirements, both in terms of ground and flight operations. Information about the responsibility for all airship operations and maintenance is requested in this aspect. This includes airship pilots, airship controllers, ground crew, and meteorologists.
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