Six months after signing the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) agreement with the U.S. Army to build three airships with 21-day persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capability, Northrop Grumman’s LEMV program team has completed its Critical Design Review (CDR). This is the fourth major milestone achieved by the program since contract award.
According to Alan Metzger, Northrop Grumman vice president and integrated program team leader of LEMV and airship programs, his team performed an in-depth review of the complete system design of the program, which enabled them “to assess where we are in our development and air vehicle production. It went very well.” Metzger also noted that the team’s objective is “delivering this powerful capability into the hands of our combat commanders as soon as possible.”
There are three major milestones yet to reach in the next 10 months, said Metzger. “We’ll have hull inflation in the spring and first flight of the airship test article by mid- to late summer,” he said. “Upon completion of the development ground and flight testing phase, we expect to transition to a government facility and conduct our final acceptance long endurance flight just before year’s end.”
In early 2012, LEMV will participate in an Army Joint Military Utility Assessment in an operational environment,” added Metzger. “As you can imagine, it’s a very aggressive schedule to deliver from concept-to-combat in this time period.”
Under the June 2010 agreement, awarded by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, Northrop Grumman will design, develop, and test a long-duration hybrid airship system all within an 18-month time period.
“The system rapidly accommodates next-generation sensors as emerging field requirements dictate and will provide increased operational utility to battlefield commanders,” said Metzger. “Today, our system readily integrates into the Army’s existing Universal Ground Control Station and Deployable Common Ground System command centers and ground troops in forward operating bases.
The LEMV system also provides a high level of fuel efficiency to the user community, which is a crucial part of life cycle logistics and support in theatre.
According to Metzger, while LEMV is longer than a football field and taller than a seven-story building, it uses approximately 3,500 gallons of fuel for the air vehicle to remain aloft for a 21-day period of service. “That’s approximately $11,000 at commercial prices,” Metzger added.
Northrop Grumman’s industry team includes Hybrid Air Vehicles, Ltd. of the United Kingdom, Warwick Mills, ILC Dover, AAI Corporation, SAIC, and a team of technology leaders from 18 U.S. states and three countries.
In addition to leading the program, Northrop Grumman leads the system integration and flight and ground control operations for the unmanned vehicle to safely take off and land in worldwide operations.