Pentagon Spent $300 Million Building Giant Spy Blimp, Then Sold it off—Unused—for only $300,000

Friday, October 25, 2013

Procurement officials with the Department of Defense thought they had devised a new means for a very old form of aviation warfare when they invested nearly $300 million in a high-tech blimp to spy on insurgents in Afghanistan.


But the costly program never panned out, and the Pentagon is now taking heat for selling the unused airship back to its maker for only $300,000.


The length of a football field and seven stories tall, the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle resembled the blimps first used during World War I. But this model of airship could stay afloat for up to three weeks, allowing U.S. Army commanders to monitor enemy movements with an array of advanced cameras, sensors and spy technology.


The airship could even withstand hostile fire, thanks to a blend of unique fabrics, including bullet-proof Kevlar.


But the humongous, floating surveillance center became 12,000 pounds overweight (cutting its endurance capability by 75%), fell eight months behind schedule and, after only one brief test flight over New Jersey, the Army decided to cancel it.


The Defense Department then sold it back to Hybrid Air Vehicles, a British firm that had developed the blimp along with Northrop Grumman, for $301,000.


That decision prompted criticism from government watchdog groups.


“We don’t expect every military acquisition to work perfectly,” Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense told the Los Angeles Times. “But this sale is adding insult to fiscal injury. The contractors are happy. They were paid millions of dollars. Now they have their aircraft back too.”


The Army insists the project was a money-saver, claiming that the technology developed for the craft was a valuable learning experience, applicable toward future projects.


The helium, by the way, was drained from the blimp for resale.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Army Lets Air Out of Battlefield Spyship Project (by W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times)

Air Force Plans Enormous Spy Blimp (AllGov)


Joanie 10 years ago
This makes my blood boil! Think of what $300 million dollars could have been spent on instead of just literally throwing it into the wind. There are so many examples of BILLIONS of dollars being wasted like this. Our government is completely out of control and not being held accountable! These billions could have paid for the health care costs of the "uninsured" and left the rest of us (who liked our insurance) alone! This is who we want to be in charge of our health and well being? No Way!!

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