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Lockheed Martin to Build Airship for DARPA


Graham Warwick graham_warwick@aviationweek.com





Lockheed Martin will build the prototype of a high-flying radar-equipped airship for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and Air Force under a contract valued at almost $400 million. Northrop Grumman was the losing bidder.


Scheduled to be flown in Fiscal 2013 under DARPA's Integrated Sensor Is Structure (ISIS) program, the unmanned airship will have Raytheon-developed X- and UHF-band active electronically scanned arrays (AESA) built into its structure.


Designed to operate autonomously, the prototype will be a one-third-scale demonstrator for an operational solar-powered stratospheric surveillance airship that would be able to stay on station at altitude of 70,000 feet for up to 10 years.


"This is an extremely advanced machine that represents a dramatically different approach to persistent real-time intelligence gathering and to the overarching utility of airships," says Eric Hofstatter, Lockheed Martin ISIS program manager.


The full-size vehicle would carry a 6,000 square-meter radar array cable of detecting and tracking a small cruise missiles and unmanned air vehicles at up to 600 kilometer (km) range, and dismounted soldiers and camouflaged vehicles at up to 300 km.


The ISIS demonstrator will carry 100 square-meter X-band and 600 square-meter UHF-band AESA radars with lightweight, low power-density arrays using extremely low-power transmit/receive modules, according to DARPA.


The airship itself will feature low areal-density flexible composite hull materials and a high energy-density regenerative electric power system, and will operate more like a satellite than an aircraft.

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