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IAI developing airship the size of a football field ["nothing like it in the world"]
Haaretz ^ | 2/19/2004 | Amnon Barzilai

Posted on 02/18/2004 6:12:18 PM PST by yonif

The Israel Aircraft Industries is developing a craft 200 meters long and 60 meters wide that will be geostatically positioned 21 kilometers in the air to photograph objects as far away as 1,000 kilometers, sending the images back to a ground station.

"It will be an airship the size of a football field, nothing like it in the world," says engineer Avi Baum, head of the R&D department at Malam in the IAI. "The quality of the photographs will be very high, with optimum resolution. The quality will be good enough to read the license plates on moving cars on highways."

The airship will be able to carry a variety of payloads for both civilian and military purposes. The platform could serve as a communications transponder between planes, satellites and the ground, capable of intelligence gathering and other purposes. The plane could provide broadband Internet, relay TV and radio signals, monitor air, land and naval traffic, as well as provide weather forecasting services.

The development plan, which is still only in the feasibility study stage, is under the supervision of the defense establishment's weapons development administration and has received the blessings of the Defense Ministry's top management. Current calculations say a prototype could be operationally ready within four years.

The idea was born at Malam in the mid-1990s. Baum says it was "a brainstorm by a team of engineers. We looked at the space between the atmosphere and space where planes, whether manned or not, or satellites don't go. We thought about how to develop something that would be less expensive than satellites."

They were not the first to think about such airships. But they decided to deal with a technological challenge so far unsolved, of- how to give an airplane the ability to remain geostatic, meaning remaining stationary above a specific place on the earth, to serve a as a kind of airborne watchtower over a given area. Theoretically, says Baum, the plane could be unmanned and remain aloft for as long as three years, changing its position on the order of ground stations. And unlike satellites, it could be brought back to earth safely and refitted, upgraded and reused.

Part of the challenge is to devise solar panels that would collect solar energy, which could be converted into electricity for operating the plane's systems.

Malam is considered a pioneer in breakthrough technologies. It developed and manufactures the Arrow missile and the Shavit missile launcher, which foreign sources say is an offshoot of the Jericho intercontinental ballistic missile. In the mid-1990s, Yair Ramati was head of future developments at the company and gave his approval. "We tried pushing the plan with the American administration and domestic defense agencies," says Baum. "But nobody listened. We reached the conclusion we were ahead of the time with the idea. And Yair made the courageous decision to do what engineers don't like to do, and put the project on hold."

But about 18 months ago, a new engineering team, headed by Baum reexamined the problem. This time, the team was able to prove the potential for the solar-powered airplane. Ramati, now CEO at the company, was persuaded the idea was possible and that Malam had the engineering capability to develop it.

The plan calls for the plane to be divided into two separate compartments, one containing air and the other helium. On the ground, most of the plane would be full of air. The helium would be compressed, making it heavier than air. But to lift off, the helium would gradually by released and fill the air pockets. "It is similar to what happens in a submarine, in reverse," said Baum, "with water filling the air compartments, but to rise, the water is pumped out and the air pumped in."

To keep the plane in geostationary position, a steering mechanism would be needed, based on a large rear propeller controlled by an electric motor. Since the idea is for the plane to remain aloft for a very long time, there would be a need for a continual supply of energy. That leads to the need for solar panels on the upper surface of the plane, collecting energy during the day and storing it in fuel cells.

No runway is necessary for launching the plane, and it could be made of very flexible lightweight polymers. The current specifications say the plane would weigh only 10 tons and carry payloads of about 1.9 tons.

With the feasibility study competed, the IAI now faces the challenge of finding the estimated $100-150 million to build it. Malam, says Baum, is seeking an international partner for the project, while also considering industrial partners. Lockheed Martin is also at work on a similar concept, and the Israeli project has been presented to it. One possibility is for the two companies to join forces.


TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; Israel; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: airship; israel; waronterrorism

1 posted on 02/18/2004 6:12:19 PM PST by yonif
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To: SJackson; Yehuda; Nachum; Paved Paradise; Thinkin' Gal; Bobby777; adam_az; Alouette; IFly4Him; ...
Ping.
2 posted on 02/18/2004 6:12:29 PM PST by yonif ("If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem, Let My Right Hand Wither" - Psalms 137:5)
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To: yonif

3 posted on 02/18/2004 6:16:39 PM PST by al baby (Hope I don't get into trouble for this)
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To: yonif
A nice big juicy target. The Italian Air Force could score it's first kill in history.
4 posted on 02/18/2004 6:28:29 PM PST by buccaneer81 (Rick Nash will score 50 goals this season...)
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To: yonif
Actually, you can expect to see even larger airships from the US soon for surveillance and other applications.
5 posted on 02/18/2004 6:41:50 PM PST by Laserman
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To: al baby

And you know, the Arab airforces would *still* miss it!

6 posted on 02/18/2004 6:44:12 PM PST by Mudcat
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To: yonif
Nevermind them dropping guns that were never fired..

.....the French will immediately surrender in their apoplectic anxiety over penis envy.

7 posted on 02/18/2004 6:48:11 PM PST by Focault's Pendulum (The Sixties song/mantra....Where Have All The Flowers Gone?.....low carb dieters living large.)
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To: yonif
Inexpensive alternative to satellites or ICBMs. Could they rack short range nuke missiles under those?

It could happen.

8 posted on 02/18/2004 6:54:43 PM PST by CholeraJoe (Gwell Angau Na Chywilydd)
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To: CholeraJoe
Folks if you believe some of the sightings around area 51 the USAF has been testing something like this for the last 10 to 15 years.
9 posted on 02/18/2004 7:06:31 PM PST by Bombard
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To: Bombard
"All Your Base are Belong to Us."
10 posted on 02/18/2004 7:14:26 PM PST by CholeraJoe (Gwell Angau Na Chywilydd)
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To: yonif
I'm not sure why IAI wants the world to know about this project.
11 posted on 02/18/2004 7:39:30 PM PST by Imal (Ironically, there really is a vast, right-wing conspiracy.)
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To: yonif
Flying triangles, anyone?

Hey, put one flying triangle on top of another and you have a flying Star of David!
12 posted on 02/18/2004 8:23:25 PM PST by RightOnTheLeftCoast
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To: Imal
What they need is something that can tell the difference between a Palestinian terrorist and innocent bystander from 1000 meters away.
13 posted on 02/18/2004 8:27:38 PM PST by 537 Votes
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To: 537 Votes
If a gang banger is shooting at the cops and you are standing next to him, do you walk or run away? Because if you do not distance yourself, but run to him, you are NOT an "innocent" bystander you are an accomplice. What the heck are you doing "standing by" a murderer, busy doing his "work" anyway?
14 posted on 02/18/2004 9:50:47 PM PST by American in Israel (A wise man's heart directs him to the right, but the foolish mans heart directs him toward the left.)
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To: yonif
"The quality will be good enough to read the license plates on moving cars on highways." "

Guess whose plates they will be reading...
15 posted on 02/18/2004 10:23:43 PM PST by Yehuda (http://www.JewPoint.blogspot.com)
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To: yonif
The U.S. is already planning its own blimps:
http://www.popsci.com/popsci/aviation/article/0,12543,583484,00.html
16 posted on 02/18/2004 10:31:15 PM PST by David1
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To: yonif
Bump this sucker for DH!
17 posted on 02/18/2004 10:31:40 PM PST by AmericanVictory (Should we be more like them, or they like us?)
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To: yonif
Dunno whether you guys over there had Captain Scarlet on TV back in the sixties, but this report put me in mind of Cloudbase, the hovering HQ of Spectrum.


18 posted on 02/19/2004 2:26:23 AM PST by Da_Shrimp
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To: American in Israel
You hit the deck behind the nearest cover that you can find & if none is within 4-5 paces you hit the deck period ! let the shysters argue about who was doing what,when & where!
19 posted on 02/19/2004 7:55:56 AM PST by Nebr FAL owner (.308 REACH OUT & THUMP SOMEONE .50BMG REACH OUT & CRUSH SOMEONE!)
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To: Nebr FAL owner
Sounds like a plan for me, than and exit stage left...
20 posted on 02/19/2004 10:22:41 AM PST by American in Israel (A wise man's heart directs him to the right, but the foolish mans heart directs him toward the left.)
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