BAE Systems and Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd have announced a Memorandum of Understanding to examine the prospects of the Airlander, a large, long-endurance airship, for use in defence and security contexts.

The Airlander, touted by its makers as a beacon of sustainable aviation, is on the radar for airborne defence logistics and long-endurance airborne communication and surveillance applications, especially with its capability to carry sizeable payloads.

The collaboration is set to be facilitated through BAE Systems’ FalconWorks, an advanced research & technology centre specialising in the Air sector.

One standout feature of the Airlander 10 is its potential to remain in the sky for up to five days, equipped with a plethora of computing, communication, and reconnaissance tools. Furthermore, the aircraft’s versatility to launch from almost any flat surface, inclusive of water bodies, makes it a promising asset in coastal, maritime, and land-based warfare scenarios.

Highlighting the aircraft’s utility in defence logistics, the firms mentioned that Airlander 10 can transport up to a 10 tonnes logistics payload, outperforming current military transport helicopters in terms of range, cost, and capacity. Future iterations, namely the Airlander 50 and Airlander 200, are projected to bring forth sustainable, low-cost air lift capabilities at both tactical and strategic levels.

Dave Holmes, Managing Director of FalconWorks at BAE Systems Air, expressed the evolving nature of conflicts necessitates innovative solutions. He said, “The changing character of conflict is driving new and novel approaches across the defence sector… We’re excited to work closely with the Hybrid Air Vehicles team to jointly explore and advance Airlander’s potential defence and security capabilities.”

Tom Grundy, CEO of Hybrid Air Vehicles, emphasized Airlander’s revolutionary design, describing it as the “world’s most efficient large aircraft.” Grundy expressed enthusiasm about the partnership with BAE Systems, viewing them as the ideal ally to fast-track the development of tailored Airlander systems for the worldwide defence sector.

Tom has spent the last 13 years working in the defence industry, specifically military and commercial shipbuilding. His work has taken him around Europe and the Far East, he is currently based in Scotland.
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Ron Stateside
Ron Stateside
2 months ago

An AEW Aerostat for the Type 82 Destroyer? It might seem counter-intuitive, but Washington, D.C. was being protected by AEW blimps (JLENS) in the 2010s. There was an accident where one got untethered and there was negative publicity, so I’m not sure if that’s still the case. Nevertheless, the cost/manpower/energy that goes into AEW could be drastically reduced if these things were practical (low radar signature etc.)

Rob N
Rob N
2 months ago
Reply to  Ron Stateside

Yes they should have some supplementing UK AEW and maybe for tge CSG….

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
2 months ago
Reply to  Ron Stateside

Under the ‘Sort of Connected’ banner, I’m often struck by the time that some of our UK companies’ innovative technology remains on the development back burner, so to speak. This is one, but another example is Reaction Engines Sabre.
The comparison I tend to draw is with US companies like Spacex & Stoke Engineering, but you’ll likely know of others.
Rgs

Last edited 2 months ago by Gavin Gordon
terence patrick hewett
terence patrick hewett
2 months ago
Reply to  Gavin Gordon

Reaction Engines is still in the game: they are currently partnered with Virgin Galactic with a new craft, to take VG, horizontal take off technology, from the edge of space, into space. You will find details, on the RE website, under “news.”

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
2 months ago

Cheers, Terence
Knew they were still around, it was more UK comparative pace of progress. Don’t buy into the tortoise vs hare fable that much, since the hare rarely sleeps these days. Many of the technologies of which we were also at the forefront we now have to go with begging bowl to others – less of whom seem friendly each time.
But it isn’t just us; seems Musk uses China for Tesla production a great deal.
Rgs

terence patrick hewett
terence patrick hewett
2 months ago
Reply to  Gavin Gordon

Yes, Gavin, I agree: both China and India, if they had the technology, would be pouring billions into this. We however, are putting £100 billion into a trainset from London to Birmingham. Virgin Galaxy is shaping up now, that Branson has sold his interests in the company. Yes, they are slow, but they will get there in the end.

terence patrick hewett
terence patrick hewett
2 months ago
Reply to  Gavin Gordon

Re, last post, the details of new Reaction Engines project is on the RE website @ News/ “Reaction Engines chosen for high-speed transportation concepts under the UK Space Agency’s International Bilateral Fund.”

IKnowNothing
IKnowNothing
2 months ago

I just like the idea of them. Not very technical perhaps, but I like them and I’d really like to see them finding a military use. I can imagine one or two providing persistent AEW coverage perhaps?

Andy P
Andy P
2 months ago
Reply to  IKnowNothing

I’m the same, probably some romantic notion from watching ‘The Island at the top of the World’ as a kid. I’ve always thought they would be great in the MPA role, on station for days rather than hours and with the advances in drone technology could even carry torpedo launching drones for ASW. Getting low enough to dip might be tricky right enough but they could carry a shit load of buoys. AEW is an interesting one, I guess there is scope to have them RAS’d by something like a carrier or RFA without landing, you could even do crew… Read more »

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
2 months ago
Reply to  Andy P

Don’t know much about it but these new techniques for discovering subs be it electro magnetic or minute water current changers that can be detected from airborne platforms would be perfect companions to a craft like this I suspect, potentially superior to being aircraft based I would think. Certainly worth trialing the possibilities. Certainly a carrier for drones could be very interesting and the ability to land on water is distinctly interesting. It’s one of those things that you have to use for a few years to determine its abilities and capabilities, a lot of aircraft found their true calling… Read more »

Andy P
Andy P
2 months ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

Certainly a carrier for drones could be very interesting and the ability to land on water is distinctly interesting.”

Taking things even further off piste, if we’re talking of landing on water for drones, we could go down the route of the old seaplane carriers. Launched from the deck and land in the water to be recovered by crane. It could allow heavier drones to be used and recovered, assuming they’re designed to land on the oggin.

A unit designed to support them wouldn’t need to be a hoofing big carrier either. Just running with your idea.

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
2 months ago
Reply to  IKnowNothing

Well it was initially developed with funding from the US military for a range of functions I believe but they lost interest and the venture returned to Britain. Good to see a company like Bae get involved they tend to be somewhat ‘safe’ in their new ventures certainly outside of their mainstream so clearly this new department of theirs is already making an impact. Certainly can see a use around our shores to fill in a range of gaps that underfunding has inevitably left us prone to. Be perfect to ‘escort’ Russian, or other hostile vessels as they transit around… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
2 months ago

I recall the army was trialing one in some secrecy down at Wallop in the 90s with reports of one seen at night over SPTA. Wonder what the results were.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney
2 months ago

To call this a Blimp is quite simply insulting to what it actually is, it is way more advanced than that.
The irony is that it was designed for the US Army LEMV programme but was cancelled due to teething problems but mainly cash needed elsewhere.
Designed to carry radar and other sensors in manned and unmanned missions. Quite why it has taken so long for MOD to wake up is a mystery to me, this vehicle could make Aircraft for AEW, COD, MPA and persistent surveillance obsolete.

Jon
Jon
2 months ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

It took them so long that HAV gave up and went civil zero carbon. These airships get better as they get bigger and perhaps the Airlander 50 will raise a few opportunities, especially when married to the autonomy software that BAES can provide.

I think we’ll see the command part of AEW&C move to ships as Crowsnest is replaced by drones,, but sensors will always be useful. A combo heavy COD, delivering NavyPODS, aircraft engines, whatever, and extra AEW sensor from 20.000ft would work well, I think, especially as it won’t need a large flight deck.

Rob
Rob
2 months ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

Are they still made in the Cardington sheds?

Steve Smith
Steve Smith
2 months ago
Reply to  Rob

No, both hangers are film studios now. When it crashed I understand the Co had a big insurance pay out.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney
2 months ago
Reply to  Rob

Not built there, but the new production facility is going to be in South Yorkshire and probably on the site of the former Sheffield Airport at Tinsley.

Rob
Rob
2 months ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

Really, I’ll have to go take a look.

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
2 months ago
Reply to  Rob

One of the Cardington sheds is a film studio now, the other is still active I believe and Im sure when the project was first moved back here it operated out of there I remember the press releases..

Dern
Dern
2 months ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

It would be interesting if in a more Carbon Neutral world we start seeing Blimbs take over from Airplanes again.

FormerUSAF
FormerUSAF
2 months ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

Exactly. Multitude of roles could be envisioned, either operating independently or attached to CSG. However, if attached to CSG, could that elicit unwelcomed attention from the opposition? 🤔

Tom
Tom
2 months ago

This airship has been around for quite some time now. The US then showed some interest in it, which slowly ‘withered away’. Now supposedly bae are ‘sniffing around’, looking to see if its of value to them.

Alabama Boy
Alabama Boy
2 months ago

Ground handling, particulaly in high winds, is always the “achilles heel” of Airship operations. All the advantages are well known from the past.Large blimps such as the Airlander system require large hangars. US Blimps were/are ground tethered. I am suprises BAE are interested as the Airkander system has been around for some time and as I recall Ferranti tried hard to sell simlar systems before it went bankrupt in the early nineties. .

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
2 months ago
Reply to  Alabama Boy

I remember a a solder telling me they had a blimp/balloon over Basra will million £ cameras etc on it and I got loose. They got sent on the go find it mission. Out for hours looking on the way back in the dark a large militia stopped them on the road. Brown trouser moment as he referred.

DaveyB
DaveyB
2 months ago
Reply to  Monkey spanker

Both Basra and Kandybar, as did most of the really large bases operated by the US had tethered aerostats. They mounted the same EO turret as fitted to a Reaper. Didn’t stop the rocket attacks at Kandybar though!

Defence thoughts
Defence thoughts
2 months ago

I’d love to know why kites aren’t used as spotting platforms anymore. Would have thought something at a decent height being towed by a warship would be of at least some use…

Coll
Coll
2 months ago

Today’s MoU follows on from the strong partnerships Hybrid Air Vehicles has formed with the United States Naval Postgraduate School and the US Department of Defense Operational Energy Office’ – Aerospace manufacturing magazine.

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
2 months ago

I think in an actual war scenario things would advance fast with anything that gives a better view.
If tech can be worked out to find a classify objects rapidly we will see lots of devices perhaps including kits type vehicles.

DaveyB
DaveyB
2 months ago

The biggest issue towing any air vehicle be that UAV, kite or aerostat, is that it practically stops the ship from using its helicopter or have another land on it. This is due to the time lag in the cable when turning. But just as importantly is loosing the cable visually. Even with lights, its very difficult to maintain the cable in sight. As soon as its lost, you have to bank away smartish. This was one of the reasons why the Puma was lost in Afghan, The crew lost sight of the cable, but kept on going, where the… Read more »

Ian
Ian
2 months ago

Airlander has been around for years. If memory serves- they were originally pitching at providing heavy cargo transport to isolated locations, such as the Alaskan mining towns currently served by ice roads.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney
2 months ago
Reply to  Ian

Originally it was a US Army funded project for persistent ISTAR use over Afghanistan. When they cancelled it, it all came back to U.K.

Stretch
Stretch
2 months ago

No need for radar with a slow moving target that size. Best sell ’em to the other side. Keep the pointy ended drones though.

Ian
Ian
2 months ago
Reply to  Stretch

Gas envelopes are surprisingly hard to kill. You can make them transparent to radar, and anti-aircraft missiles tend to punch clean through them instead of detonating. Even if you do create an explosion close to the skin it tends to go ‘boing’ rather than disintegrate.

Stretch
Stretch
2 months ago
Reply to  Ian

But things have changed. A set and forget visually targeted pointy blimp-shape trained AI drone could leisurely wander up and explode on envelope.
Make ’em out of cardboard if you want.

Bloke down the pub
Bloke down the pub
2 months ago

With an ability to deploy and recover uas, they could make a fantastic convoy escort but, as a shareholder in HAV I would say that, wouldn’t I?

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
2 months ago

Didn’t they have a contract to sell a couple to Spain for tourist trips.

Luke Rogers
Luke Rogers
2 months ago

I just want to cross the Atlantic in comfort, not crammed in a tin can breathing recycled farts. And I will definitely be annoying people by reenacting that Archer episode.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney
2 months ago
Reply to  Luke Rogers

You may not be flying over the Atlantic any time soon but Spains Air Nostrum ordered 10 x Airlander 10’s last year and added options for 10 more this year.
100 seat capacity and very low carbon footprint.

Mr Bell
Mr Bell
2 months ago

Blimps were used extensively in WW1+2 very useful observation and ASW platforms due to their long endurance and loitering capabilities.
Used as a lift capability they could only deploy into very permissive environments as totally vulnerable, slow big fat targets.

Simon
Simon
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

Would it be possible to land on a aircraft carrier? Could be a good way of delivering equipment. Just a thought

Jon
Jon
2 months ago
Reply to  Simon

Why land? Hover over and lower/raise the equipment. That way it can supply anything from a carrier to an OPV. If necessary this type of airship cann be made capable of landing on water, but I don’t know if the HAV ones do.

Toby J
Toby J
2 months ago
Reply to  Dern

I understand the potential uses for this, AEW, transport, long range patrol etc, but I’m still not sure how it would be deployed/procured. Would the navy buy them or the air force? And how many? They sound quite pricey, probably on a par with a large helicopter or small turboprop

Dern
Dern
2 months ago
Reply to  Toby J

That would be down to internal forces politics. As you can see, American Airships in WW2 where operated by the navy for ASW patrols, but before the war I’m pretty sure all US Airships where operated by the Airforce.
Alternatively, why are the P8’s operated by the RAF not the RN? In the US and Germany they’re operated by the Navy after all.

Enobob
Enobob
2 months ago
Reply to  Dern

There wasn’t a US Air Force before the war! The USAF was formed in 1947

Toby J
Toby J
2 months ago
Reply to  Enobob

But the American aircraft were still split between land (USAAF) and navy

Toby J
Toby J
2 months ago
Reply to  Toby J

It’s whether the navy would fight hard enough to get them treated like enormous helicopters or whether the RAF would hog them for being beyond the FAA’s immediate helicopter role

Dern
Dern
2 months ago
Reply to  Toby J

Thanks Toby.

AlbertStarburst
AlbertStarburst
2 months ago

In the1980s Airship Industries teamed up with Westinghouse for a long-endurance mid-Atlantic AWACS airship.

Airship Industries always ran out of money, and there is the small problem of ground handling and storms.

DaveyB
DaveyB
2 months ago

There’s a few of us on this site, who have been championing this hybrid airship design for years. The current Airlander 10 is ok, but the future Airlander 50 is where possibilities start to get interesting. This will be a much larger airship that can lift a 50t payload consisting of passengers and 6 x 20ft ISO containers. It will have a similar range, speed and height performance as the smaller airship. But is more dependent upon the take-off weight. In a military perspective, it could comfortably carry two crews, including the necessary sleeping, eating, operations etc requirements to operate… Read more »

Steve M
Steve M
2 months ago

There Airlander site shows internal crane for COD would be better to just carry 2-4 ISO under on external crane, fly over RFA/Carrier lower ISO’s to deck detach full one , pick up empty and head back to shore don’t need to physically land. If they only fly at 100kts using for just freight is fine 2k mile flight radius, but for pax spending possibly 20 hours in one would be mind blowing! great fow AEW esically if you have a fleet command ship that acts as its mothership, just need small frieght with large deck fwd/aft that the ship… Read more »