Julian E. Barnes
The Los Angeles Times
The Pentagon said Thursday that it intends to spend $400 million to develop a giant dirigible that will float 65,000 feet above the Earth for 10 years, providing unblinking and intricate radar surveillance of the vehicles, planes and even people below.
“It is absolutely revolutionary,” Werner J.A. Dahm, chief scientist for the Air Force, said of the proposed unmanned airship — describing it as a cross between a satellite and a spy plane.
The 450-foot-long craft would give the U.S. military a better understanding of an adversary’s movements, habits and tactics, officials said. And the ability to constantly monitor small movements in a wide area — the Afghanistan- Pakistan border, for example — would dramatically improve military intelligence.
“It is constant surveillance, uninterrupted,” Dahm said. “When you only have a short-time view — whether it is a few hours or a few days — that is not enough to put the picture together.”
The project reflects a shift in Pentagon planning and spending priorities under Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who has urged the military services to improve intelligence and surveillance operations while cutting high-tech weaponry costs.