The DARPA program, Integrated Sensor is Structure, is intended to research the risks tied to building a next-generation airship should the Pentagon ever decide to build such a blimp. The program, which is contracted to Lockheed Martin, is designed to provide the Air Force enhanced radar and intelligence and surveillance capabilities.
Within four years Lockheed Martin, with team member Raytheon will fly a stratospheric airship of unprecedented proportions, carrying an integral radar sensor that could detect small military valuable targets from a distance hundreds of kilometers away. Under a recently awarded $400 million Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program, the “Integrated Sensor Is Structure” (ISIS) airship program is promising to revolutionize persistent, theater-wide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). It will demonstrate battlefield surveillance, tracking and fire-control, and enable engagement of hundreds of time-critical air and ground targets simultaneously in both urban and rural environments, provided by a persistent, maintenance free satellite-like system.
“This is an extremely advanced machine that represents a dramatically different approach to persistent real-time intelligence” said Eric Hofstatter, Lockheed Martin ISIS program manager adding that the new platform required the development of high energy density power systems, an extremely lightweight radar solution and an advanced flexible composite material were necessary to make a stratospheric airship like ISIS possible. The current third phase of the program contracts Lockheed Martin to build the 1/3 scale airship featuring Raytheon’s new, low-power density radar. In an operational system, these radars would be approximately 6,000 square meters in size, forming an extremely large radar aperture, and would be embedded into the structure of the airship, which would cruise at altitudes of about 70,000 ft above the earth, staying on station for years.
A radar antenna the length of a football field that would weigh less than the 22 players in action on it is in development by Raytheon Company under terms of an $8 million contract associated with the Integrated Sensor is Structure or ISIS program from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
The active electronically scanned array (AESA) antenna would be bonded to the hull of an unmanned airship 150 to 300 meters (164 to 328 yards) in length that could hover for long periods above the jet stream at altitudes of 65,000 to 70,000 feet. The antenna would transmit on UHF and X-band. Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems (SAS) is a leader in AESA technology, which uses no moving parts to scan at nearly the speed of light.