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Giant Blimp, Deflated

Tuesday, March 28th, 2006

No! Nooooo! Say it ain’t so, Darpa! The Walrus program — the fringe-science agency’s awesomely, almost insanely, ambitious plan to build an aircraft carrier-sized blimp — is over, Defense Technology International discovers.
walrus_HUGEish.jpgCongress had always been skeptical about the idea of an airship that could schlep 500‑1000 tons halfway around the world. (After all, the Pentagon’s current go-to airborne hauler, the C-130 Hercules cargo plane, holds about 22 tons.) But blimp-lovers had pushed the “tri-phibian” (air, land, sea) Walrus as a way to make American forces less reliant on deep-water ports, foreign bases, and billion-dollar airports to wage war.
But it wasn’t meant to be. Darpa took away the fiscal year 2006 funding for the Walrus. And the agency’s 2007 budget request calls for “termination of the Walrus effort.“
Now, the Army’s Surface Deployment and Distribution Command had its own plans for a heavy-hauling airship, too. I’m checking to see if they’re still interested. Keep your fingers crossed.
UPDATE 9:46 AM: Don’t get too bummed, blimp fans. Darpa’s plan for an all-seeing airship that tracks an entire battlefield at once is still intact.