28 March 2006

U.S. Military's Walrus Airship Project Dead

The U.S. military has abandoned plans to develop a vehicle called the Walrus, a transport airship (basically a blimp) which could carry 500-1000 tons of cargo at speeds greater than a fast sealift ship, over land without regard to roads, and over sea, from point to point.

This leaves fast catarmaran ferries like the USS Swift with about 600 tons of cargo capacity and speeds in the vicinity of 50 knots as the only medium load, intermediate speed cargo vehicle.

Currently, the choice is between slow and port dependent sea lift ships, which go 20-30 knots and carry thousands of tons of cargo, which must be loaded and unloaded at fairly deep water ports in many cases, and fast (several hundred knots) but low capacity airlift, which is limited to about 22 tons on a C-130 short range transport aircraft, 70 tons in the C-17 long range transport aircraft, and a little more (perhaps 120 tons) in a long range C-5 transport aircraft. The C-5, unlike the C-130 and C-17, also can't readily land on field airstrips, and instead requires a regular airport just as commercial freight planes do.

A plan to use small airships as reconnaissance platforms is still under development.

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