Artist's conception of the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV). The airship will be able to sustain altitudes of 20 000 ft for a three-week period.
Artist's conception of the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV). The airship will be able to sustain altitudes of 20 000 ft for a three-week period.

The LEMV is an unmanned military airship designed to monitor battlefield operations. The first LEMV is scheduled to be airborne by mid-2011.

In June, global security company Northrop Grumman Corporation was awarded a US$517 million contract to develop up to three LEMV systems for the US Army. Under the agreement, awarded by the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, Northrop Grumman will design, develop and test a long-duration airship system within an 18-month time period, and then transport it to the Middle East for military assessment.

Northrop Grumman has teamed with Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd (HAV) of the UK, Warwick Mills, ILC Dover, AAI Corporation, SAIC, and a team of US technology companies to build the LEMV.

UK composite aerospace structures specialist Tods Aerospace has been commissioned to design, develop and manufacture a number of work packages, including tail fins, tail battens and propulsion ducts.

Tods have set aside facilities at its Crewkerne, Somerset and Portland sites for the production of the LEMV structures.

“Both Tods Aerospace and HAV, each with our own specialist aerospace disciplines, move together into the emerging market for next generation airship production," says Tom Hitchings, Programmes Director at Tods Aerospace. "This unique project to include large ultra-lightweight composite structures, will allow our engineering design team to extend their contact with yet another highly respected international industry leader. We look forward to this partnership, and are very confident we can fully exploit our existing skills, with usual military and commercial airframes, on these very large high profile airship structures.”