Northrop Grumman’s 300-foot-long, 70-foot-tall, remotely piloted Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) airship is scheduled to fly for the first time in early June at Lakehurst, N.J. The maiden flight could take place anytime between June 6 and 10, weather permitting, and will be followed by a trip to Florida where it will be outfitted with surveillance gear. The LEMV has been designed to operate for the U.S. Army as a surveillance and reconnaissance platform, capable of loitering in the sky for days, or weeks, at a time … provided it’s not really windy at its operating altitude.
Alan Metzger, Director of Airship Programs at Northrop Grumman, told The Engineer magazine that the LEMV should be capable of carrying up to 2,500 pounds of payload and have a maximum endurance near three weeks. According to Metzger, the LEMV will be “vastly cheaper to operate” than most conventional aircraft. Three weeks in the air could cost roughly $20,000 for 3,500 gallons of fuel burned, depending on fuel prices. The vehicle can travel at speeds up to 80 knots, so winds above 20 mph are cause for consideration. The LEMV is expected to head across the Atlantic this winter for a front-line combat demonstration.
Northrop Grumman’s open architected Long Endurance Multi Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) is a revolutionary aviation concept that will shape the future of ISR. We’ve developed a clean aerodynamic design with less drag than competing designs, use existing proven hull materials, a type certified engine, off-the-shelf sensors, and the Army’s Universal Ground Control Station with 100% interoperability with DCGS-A. We integrate ISR payloads most efficiently through our Murphy Bay on the vehicle centerline. Every design tradeoff was made with an unyielding commitment to schedule. Our open architecture and business model invites third parties to get onboard the aircraft with limited interference, weapon system, balanced by its elegant simplicity.
• Simple, non-exotic solutions with proven components
• Energy efficient. Fuel consumption more than 10x less than comparable capability
• 12-24 forward deployed crew members to support 18 vehicles 24/7/365
• 1,500nm – 2,400nm range with 15,000 lbs (Heavy Lift Configuration)
• More than 21 days endurance with 2,750 lbs payload (ISR Configuration)
• Payload Volume more than 2,700 cubic feet, heavy lift yield additional volume
• Service Ceiling greater than 22,000 ft. MSL
• Loiter/dash speed: 30/80 kts
• More than 21 days of unblinking stare
• Proven multi-INT payload integration
• Multi-mission capable: persistent surveillance, force protection, counter-drug operations,
• Support host nation ops, disaster, humanitarian relief, overwatch/support troops
• Flexible Murphy Bay modules to accommodate current and future payloads
• Very short or vertical takeoff, excellent ground stability
• Bow thruster provides low-speed control and position hold capability
• Leverage proven type-certified engine
• Future growth accomplished through field installations
• Radar, SIGINT, Full Motion Video, LOS/BLOS COMM Relay