Coming Soon: Dirigibles

Blue Devil 2

Operational deployment of the U.S. Air Force’s Blue Devil 2 persistent-surveillance airship is on track for February 2012, less than 18 months after initial contract award, a senior official says.

Blue Devil 2 is an optionally manned multi-intelligence platform based on a TCOM Polar 100 airship and being integrated by small Alexandria, Va.-based MAV6.

The airship will provide five days of persistence carrying wide- and narrow-field-of-view, high-definition electro-optical/infrared video sensors and a signals-intelligence payload for cueing, collection, geolocation and target identification, according to Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford, military deputy for Air Force acquisition.

The initial contract was awarded in October 2010, the airship’s hull is to be completed in July and first flight is scheduled for September, according to Shackelford’s presentation at the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Inside Aerospace conference in Washington. MAV6 was awarded an $82.6 million follow-on contract in March.

Blue Devil 2 is a collaboration between the Air Force, the Army and the Pentagon’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization. It is a follow-on to the Blue Devil 1 prototype, which was fielded in December to provide an interim capability, Shackelford says.

Blue Devil 1 is based on a Hawker Beechcraft King Air 90 twin-turboprop carrying a wide-area camera and signals-intelligence system to track individuals using full-motion video and by monitoring cellular-phone usage. SAIC is the prime contractor.

The custom-built airship has a 23-ft.-long, 10-ft.-wide and 7-ft.-high payload bay under the envelope and can be flown both unmanned or manned, with its cockpit mimicking the ground control station.

Source: USAF, Aviation Week

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