This is cool.

August 24th, 2006  

Topic: This is cool.

Several companies have begun design work on a prototype airship that could hover at an altitude near space where it would be able to track ground and aerial targets for up to a year at a time. Whether the program, known as Integrated Sensor is Structure (ISIS), moves beyond the design stage any time soon, however, will depend on the final version of the 2007 defense budget.

The U.S. House of Representatives funded the full $16.3 million request for the effort in its version of the 2007 Defense Appropriations Act, which passed the House in June. The Senate Appropriations Committee, however, has recommended denying the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s entire $16.3 million budget request for the program in 2007. The bill is currently awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.

The House and Senate will address the issue when they meet to resolve differences between their bills later this year.

Jenny Manley, a spokeswoman for the Senate Appropriations Committee, did not respond to a request for comment on the committee’s proposed cut to the ISIS program.

Jan Walker, a spokeswoman for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, said that program officials declined to comment on the ISIS effort at this time.

The Air Force Research Laboratory of Rome, N.Y., has awarded several contracts to industry to begin work on various aspects of the ISIS program. The lab awarded a two-year, $10.3 million contract to Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors of Akron, Ohio, in June to begin work on the airship platform.

The lab awarded two contracts earlier this year to Northrop Grumman Corp. for the ISIS effort. Northrop Grumman Space Technology of Redondo Beach, Calif., will develop a transmit-and-receive module for the radar sensor that is expected to be lightweight and extremely power efficient under a $6.8 million contract awarded in April. Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Systems sector, which is based in Linthicum, Md., is developing an antenna that can handle radar as well as transmit data simultaneously under an $8 million contract. Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems of El Segundo, Calif., also is working on a design for the antenna under an $8 million contract.

If the program does go forward, the airship, will feature a radar sensor of “unprecedented proportions,” according to a Pentagon document.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s 2007 budget justification materials, which are posted on the agency’s Web site, describe ISIS as a sensor capable of conducting surveillance and tracking hundreds of time-critical targets in both urban and rural environments.

The sensor is being designed to track airborne targets at a range of 600 kilometers, and ground targets at a range of 300 kilometers while distributing that information to U.S. forces through hundreds of covert wideband communications links, according to the budget justification materials.

The agency wants the sensor to detect and track targets including aircraft, cruise missiles, tanks and troops, according to briefing charts posted on the agency’s Web page. The agency also wants the sensor to detect mortar and artillery fire.

Challenges involved with building the system include finding ways to keep the weight, power requirements and logistics requirements minimal, according to the budget justification materials.
August 24th, 2006  
Team Infidel
that's pretty cool
August 24th, 2006  
sounds like an easy target if anyone has an air force.
August 25th, 2006  
that's why airships went out of style, well that and the hindenburg disaster. I figure if you can protect and airship and get it far enough away from the area of conflict, then it should be OK and it be useful.
August 25th, 2006  
Senior Chief
Originally Posted by therise21
sounds like an easy target if anyone has an air force.
There is more to the story than is posted. The hover on these beasts is from 60,000 to 100,000 (I thought it to be 300,000 but I'm not sure). Whichever is the upper hover altitude most of our enemies do not have the weaponry or aircraft to reach that altitude. Our basic ceiling is somewhere around 50,000 IIRC. In any case not many, if any, of the military groups of the world do not currently have SAM's to reach 60,000 let alone 100,000 feet.

It will not be a target, but it will be useful if they can find a renewable powersource to keep the electronics fired up for the extended loitering time they want.

My concept is that it is a good unmanned sensor to use. If they aren't too expensive to mass manufacture we can have big brother in the sky. I would also speculate that some of the sensors/video systems might be able to read your watch from where they might be floating.
August 25th, 2006  
Sounds like one heck of an interesting alternative to billion dollar satellites.

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