02 January 2010

Airships? Again?

It seems like every few years someone comes along and starts touting the wondrous powers of "airships" (read: blimps) for military purposes again. Right now, both the Navy and the Army are considering airships for radically different uses (Navy as transport, Army for surveillance).

I'm not really sure why this is such a perennial, especially considering it never gets anywhere. Is steampunk really that deep in our cultural DNA? I'll be the first to grant that these will all work far better than the Hindenburg. I'm also willing to grant that they could be more "green" than planes (it doesn't require the additional thrust and power to stay aloft, and they are just slower in general). But do they have any actual military advantage? The Navy slideshow tries to show one, but I am just not convinced.

The biggest advantage put forward is the movement of large amounts of material and manpower anywhere, anytime. These new blimps are supposed to be able to land on just about anything, regardless of facilities or ports. However, at the speed they travel (and particularly descend!), you have to already have full control of the area. I could see it as a possible supply alternative, but I'm just not sure it makes sense overall. If I hadn't been hearing the same thing for the last 15+ years, I'd be less skeptical, but as it is, I'll believe it when I see it.


  1. Hey, they work for the Final Fantasy protagonists...


  2. Given the quality and quantity of weapons today, airships might make very little military sense but I'd love to see them reintroduced for commercial freight and passenger travel. Not so much steampunk but some other variant of nostalgia for a time that never was. Kinda like talking to old commies who lament that communism didn't fail, it was never properly tried.