Army spy blimp flies over New Jersey (VIDEO)
Video footage has surfaced of what is believed to be the first domestic test flight of the Pentagon’s Long-Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle, or LEMV, a space-age surveillance craft that can conduct spy missions high in the sky.
The military did not announce to the public ahead of time that it would be conducting test missions of the surveillance craft, which caused confusion for many civilians who saw the LEMV stay afloat for over an hour. Finally late Tuesday, John H. Cummings, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, confirmed to Gannett that the LEMV did engage in a 90-minute test flight Tuesday evening over Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, just south of Trenton.
In a statement made this week, Mr. Cummings tells the media that the test run was successful and that researchers are now conducting additional testing to see how the vehicle withstood the flight.
"The first flight primary objective was to perform a safe launch and recovery with a secondary objective to verify the flight control system operation," Cummings says. "Additional first flight objectives included airworthiness testing and demonstration, and system level performance verification."
"All objectives were met during the first flight," Cummings adds.
The craft, believed to run the military as much as $517 million apiece “if all options are exercised” and can soar in the sky at heights of 20,000 feet for as long as three weeks. The LEMV is 370-feet in length and its manufacturer, Northrop Grumman, says it can be powered either by in-air pilots or by remote control. It can transport seven tons of cargo from Pittsburg to Los Angeles at 30 miles-per-hour and can spy on entire cities from a single spot in the sky.
“Additional manned flights will resume following a planned and very detailed inspection of the vehicle,” Cummings says.
Previously, the Pentagon invested nearly $200 million on the Blue Devil Block 2, a similar surveillance drone developed by researchers at Virginia’s Mav6, that never made it as far as their newest LEMV did. Despite plans to put the Blue Devil over Afghanistan — where they hoped it could scan 36 miles at a time from the sky — the Pentagon cancelled the program after growing costs and ongoing problems made the price tag for maintenance alone quadruple.