Airship Renaissance: Considerations for Operational Warfare
NAVAL WAR COLL NEWPORT RI JOINT MILITARY OPERATIONS DEPT
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Unmanned aerial vehicles UAVs of all types saturate the battlefield and are quickly becoming a key persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance ISR capability for commanders at all levels - strategic, operational, and tactical. Commanders appetite for more ISR is straining the UAV fleet and causing military officials to seek alternatives. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates recently created task force promotes ISR for the warfighters and seeks low-cost, low-tech alternatives to do basic reconnaissance. Modern medium and high altitude airships offer tremendous persistent surveillance capability. They complement, not replace, current air and space ISR capabilities. Given the near-future deployment of airships to Afghanistan, operational commanders should now take appropriate steps to properly incorporate this new capability into their operational scheme. This paper begins with a brief overview of airships and presents historical examples of their performance during previous wars. Then, the paper discusses operational considerations for theater-level commanders to examine when planning for the employment of airships. Next, the paper discusses why critics believe airships are not the right tool for future wars. Finally, this paper highlights potential ways to apply UAV lessons learned to overcome possible challenges to employing airships.
- Pilotless Aircraft
- Military Intelligence
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics