The Pentagon has evinced great interest in the erstwhile popular technology
The US Congress has approved the program for the construction of airships within the scope of the Walrus HULA project (Hybrid Ultra Large Aircraft). The technical data of the future air monster are very impressive: from 500 to 1,000 tons of carrying capacity, over 22,000 kilometers of range and not less than a week of flying non-stop.
The largest dirigible in the world, Akron (USA), which used to float in the air in the 1930s, had the volume of 184,000 cubic meters, could carry up to seven planes and 200 passengers on board at the distance of 17,000 kilometers without landing.
The history of lighter-than-air engineering shows that airships were prospering in the 1920s and 1930s. This type of aircraft was extremely popular in the world back then: there was even a special governmental dirigible-building department established in the USSR. However, a series of accidents put an end to the further growth of the industry, when quite a number of US, British and French airships crashed. It seemed afterwards that dirigibles would never be used in serious projects.
However, a research department of the Pentagon, DAPRA, has evinced great interest in the erstwhile popular technology.
Defense specialists do not conceal that they find dirigibles technically attractive due to their excellent carrying and flying capacities. The airship as ordered by the Pentagon will combine the qualities of a space satellite and a spy plane.
However, there is a big political problem linked with the project. Unlike space, the Earth's stratosphere is not considered the zone free for international flights. The stratosphere above each state can be described as air space, a sovereign territory of every country.
An academician from the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics, Valentin Belokon, believes that American specialists decided to develop the project to spy on Chinese and Iranian submarines to strengthen the USA's domination in the world.
Two well-known corporations, Lockheed Martin Corp. and Aeros Aeronautical Systems Corp., will spend millions of dollars on the project during the first stage of the development of the flying Walrus.
The US project contains rather curious technological aspects, not to mention its military significance. The concept stipulates the construction of a heavier-than-air aircraft. The lifting force will be created owing to the unique combination of aerodynamic components, engines and gas inside the balloon of the airship.
”The mentioning of aerodynamic components in the message from the Pentagon is not incidental. The geometry of this aircraft is the central peculiar feature of the entire project. Soviet specialists used to develop a similar airship in the middle of the 1970s: it was supposed to look like a flattened bagel or a ring, a flying ring. The project was ready to go, but eventually found itself in a wastebasket because of the death of the leading specialist,” Valentin Belokon said.
Mathematical calculations and aerodynamic experiments showed that the flattened bagel created the lifting effect of a ring-wing. It is a highly effective construction from the point of view of aerodynamics.
The American Walrus dirigible will have a classic, cigar-like shape, according to preliminary outlines. The cross-section of the dirigible will look like an isosceles triangle with rounded corners.
It seems that the Pentagon decided not to flitter away its energy. Another US company, JP Aerospace, develops yet another monstrous dirigible: the project is entitled Dark Sky Station, which actually reminds the title of a science fiction movie. This dirigible is planned to be 1.8 kilometers long; the aircraft is set to reach the height of 30-42 kilometers above the ground. Another shuttle dirigible will probably travel back and forth between planet Earth and a near-Earth space station.