The Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle — or LEMV for short — may look like a silly little blimp, but it is oh, so much more than that. It’s a 300 foot long hybrid aircraft that is capable of flying three week-long, unmanned surveillance missions — talk about a long-range craft! The LEMV is being developed on a contract from the US Military by Northrop Grumman. For a mere $517 million they’re going to hand-deliver three of these giant vehicles to Afghanistan by the middle of 2011.

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The LEMV is intended to only be used for surveillance missions and will fly far above the range of most weapons at 20,000 feet above sea level with a host of high-tech spying gear on board. As it hums along at a speedy 34 miles per hour, it will take video and photographs of the area under question and beam them back to a control center on the ground. The information will help inform the military about the mountainous areas of Afghanistan (and probably other places in the future) where they’ve had issues with seeing a complete ground picture.

Our offering supports the Army’s Joint Military Utility Assessment that this disruptive innovation must meet the Army’s objective of a persistent unblinking stare while providing increased operational utility to battlefield commanders. Part of our innovative offering includes open architecture design in the payload bay to allow sensor changes by service personnel in the field,” said Gary Ervin, corporate vice president and president of the Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems sector. The three airships will be complete and ready for delivery in 18 months.

+ More about the LEMV

Via Engadget