Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Walrus: the US Army contemplates building an aircraft the size of a football field

Moving an elephant atom by atom costs a lot more than moving the elephant in one pre-assembled lump. And that is what the US Army's Project Walrus is about - putting together an entire action unit of war machinery, with all the wiring and plumbing preinstalled, and placing it in the most strategic place. Whilst this would completely rewrite the way that war is conducted, the Walrus - a massive lozenge-shaped blimp the size of a football field capable of transporting 500 tons at a time - could offer solutions to myriad peacetime problems, opening land-locked countries to trade, enabling heavy construction materials to be delivered into urban centres with minimum disruption, freeing our highways of high volume, heavy loads, offering a more robust and agile air transportation network capable of absorbing disruptions due to weather or attack.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Of course, the Walrus invites comparison to the "flying triangle" phenomenon. I think it's likely that if the military is openly contemplating such an airborne monster now, then it's almost certainly pre-tested the idea with various prototypes.

The Walrus doesn't seem to account for all FT sightings, but perhaps it can help explain some of them. For example, the FTs' alarming tendency to hover over busy highways and even suburbs might make sense if the Air Force is assessing a flying platform's merit as a roving supply base for use in heavily populated areas (such as post-war Iraq or ground zero of the next big natural disaster).


Ken said...

Bigger by far than the Pelican.

"It would be the biggest bird in the history of aviation.

Dwarfing all previous flying giants, the Pelican, a high-capacity cargo plane concept currently being studied by Boeing Phantom Works, would stretch more than the length of a U.S. football field and have a wingspan of 500 feet and a wing area of more than an acre. It would have almost twice the external dimensions of the world's current largest aircraft, the Russian An225, and could transport five times its payload, up to 1,400 tons of cargo.

Designed primarily for long-range, transoceanic transport, the Pelican would fly as low as 20 feet above the sea, taking advantage of an aerodynamic phenomenon that reduces drag and fuel burn. Over land, it would fly at altitudes of 20,000 feet or higher. Operating only from ordinary paved runways, the Pelican would use 38 fuselage-mounted landing gears with a total of 76 tires to distribute its weight."...

...""Why would such a huge airplane be flown at such a low altitude?

By flying low, the Pelican, like its name-sake, exploits the aerodynamic benefits of a well-known phenomenon called ground effect. Flying close to water, the wing downwash angle and tip vortices are suppressed, resulting in a major drag reduction and outstanding cruise efficiency.

"It's an effect that provides extraordinary range and efficiency," Skorupa said. "With a payload of 1.5 million pounds, the Pelican could fly 10,000 nautical miles over water and 6,500 nautical miles over land."...

At this rate, I wouldn't be surprised to see "Cities in Flight" ... ahem. :-)

W.M. Bear said...

The Walrus? I thought for a minute there that the Air Force was contemplating using John Bolton as an experimental aircraft! But no, apparently they plan to use a sort of helium foam instead of hot air.

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