The Northrop Grumman Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV), a lighter-than-air vehicle meant to keep sophisticated sensors airborne for weeks at a time, has been canceled by the US Army.
“This project was initially designed to support operational needs in Afghanistan in Spring 2012; it will not provide a capability in the timeframe required,” says the Army. “Due to technical and performance challenges, and the limitations imposed by constrained resources, the Army has determined to discontinue the LEMV development effort.”
The LEMV programme, more than a year behind schedule and far over budget, was meant to deploy to Afghanistan to support intelligence collection efforts. The Army is in the midst of withdrawing from Afghanistan after 12 years of war there.
Airships, which use very little gas and maintain more-or-less neutral buoyancy, are ideally suited for intelligence missions that require targeting a single area for long periods of time. Conventional unmanned air vehicles (UAV) can fly over 24h, which is not long enough for some applications.
Northrop declined to comment, directing questions to the Army.