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September 22, 2004

The U.S. Army plans to conduct mission flights of a leased commercial airship over the Washington, D.C. metro area, Maryland and Northern Virginia starting today and continuing through Oct. 2. The 178-foot-long, A-170 LightshipT will be used in proof-of-concept mission flights for the Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment (RAID) sensor equipment that is currently providing force protection to troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The A-170 will be operating with a complex passive mission system designed for force protection. The RAID system is a currently-deployed persistent surveillance system consisting of electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) cameras mounted on towers and tethered aerostats and controlled from an operations center.

The airship will travel to Freeway Airport, near Bowie, Md., today and will be utilized for miscellaneous mission flights over Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., the Chesapeake Bay and Tipton Airfield, Md., in addition to its flights over Washington, D.C., Maryland and northern Virginia.

During its stay in the Washington D.C. area, the airship will make at least one 24+-hour flight proving its long endurance capability while performing a force protection/infrastructure protection mission for the Department of Defense.

The A-170 airship is multi-mission capable in scope, and is
supporting the RAID system initiatives to use airships for force protection. It will also be supporting the U.S. Coast Guard's Automatic Identification System (AIS ship tracking system) initiatives to use airships in ocean surveillance. There will be no additional instrumentation in the A-170 other than that associated with the RAID and no weaponry will be involved.

The ability of these new airships to provide real time images and other forms of intelligence to ground commanders would increase troop force protection capability, as well as add airborne surveillance capacity for such potential missions as pipeline patrol and improvised explosive device (IED) detection or prevention.

American Blimp Corporation (ABC) manufactures the A-170 LightshipT. It is designed for missions requiring large payloads, and/or extended duration flights.

For additional information contact Lt. Col. Gerard Healy, 703-614-2487, Gerard.healy@hqda.army.mil or Ms. Pamela Rogers, 256-842-0561 or 256-509-4966, pamela.rogers@us.army.mil.


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