Accession Number:

ADA539680

Title:

Bombs from On-High: Weaponized Stratospheric Airships for Close Air Support and Time-Sensitive-Target Missions

Descriptive Note:

Research paper

Corporate Author:

AIR COMMAND AND STAFF COLL MAXWELL AFB AL

Personal Author(s):

Report Date:

2009-04-01

Pagination or Media Count:

69.0

Abstract:

Since the advent of aviation, aircraft have migrated from intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance ISR to weapons platforms. Balloons, airplanes, and UAVs all began as a means to observe the battlefield, but were later armed in order to attack the observed enemy. The DOD currently seeks stratospheric airships that could serve as persistent ISR platforms. However, the warfighters desire to quickly attack observed targets make this concept a candidate for similar weaponization. Like their forerunners in other wars, stratospheric airships could become weaponized stratospheric airship WSA. This paper argues the Air Force should pursue WSAs because they provide a persistent, survivable, and cost effective means of employing long-range munitions over a battlefield. This paper begins by conducting an environmental scan of stratospheric airships to determine likely qualities of persistence, cost effectiveness, survivability, and payload capacity based upon current and projected technology. It will also examine the status of small precision munitions as well as the potential WSA missions of close air support CAS and time-sensitive-targets TST. The paper will then develop two WSA variants, the MZ-1 operating at 75,000 feet and the MZ-2 operating at 125,000 feet. As a thought experiment aimed at examining the strengths and weaknesses of the concept, the paper then applies these variants against two wartime scenarios the low-intensity conflict of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the near-peer conventional conflict of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. The paper will show that even though limited numbers of munitions, significant munitions replenishment time, and low CAS mission situational awareness hamper the WSA concept, it should still be pursued.

Subject Categories:

  • Lighter-than-air Aircraft

Distribution Statement:

APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE