Pentagon Prefers Blimps to $35M Spy Planes

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 5, 2009 7:34 PM CDT
Blimps are an increasingly popular, and cost-effective, means of spying from the air.   (Shutterstock)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – Financially grounded by the recession, the Pentagon and governments around the world are launching blimps to spy on their enemies, the Economist reports. Such balloons cost far less than Predator and Global Hawk drones—which can sell for $35 million each—and stay airborne for more than a week, while drones last about 30 hours. Blimps are also hard to shoot down, even when they are hit.

Blimps' helium gas is not flammable, for one thing, and the pressure inside a blimp is about the same as in the air—so gas doesn't quickly flow out. Blimps also suit Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who said he wants "75% solutions" enacted in weeks or months, not "exquisite systems” that take years. What's more, "insatiable" US ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan hunger for aerial data that the Air Force has failed to provide, one analyst said.