Oh, Yeah…The walrus was Paul

Giant Blimp, Deflated

DARPA has de-funded the Walrus airship program. Links and more at Defense Tech.


  1. In the great annals of stupid ideas, this one has got to rank first. I mean, hell, if speed is life, these slow suckers are certain death. They are vastly under powered, which alone makes them unsafe in any but the best of weather conditions. They are nothing but huge missile (or kamikaze) magnets. You’ve really got to wonder about DARPA and the once great Skunk Works when they start pitching crap like this.

  2. Actually the use of Aerostats is a good idea. Thier speed in comparison to other modes of travel is superior. A properly designed aerostate would take a serious beating before being grounded. Next given their unique characteristics – they make excellent solar power stations & an ideal location for laser based defenses or communication and senor technology. One reason for it being removed from the DARPA realm – is that there is a significant private eneterprise commitment to building these things. DARPA would be redundant. DARPA’s money is better spent on the bleeding edge.

  3. Their speed is superior compared to what, walking? DARPA’s money? I didn’t know DARPA had any money, except that which they siphon off of my tax bill. Damn right they’re better off spending on something leading edge. Not some 1920’s reject.

  4. Dfens The Walrus was going to be a less than lighter than air craft. By that think C-5 Galaxy but with total take off weight being cargo only or maybe half that when landing after fuel burnt off. It takes off then flies like a big airplane using aerodynamics to have a controlled flight and using the lifting body lift to carry the cargo once going while thrust is shifted to forward speed rather than lift. To land, it shifts the thrust engines back down to lift and slows to a controlled fall aka approach. The result is a speed up to couple hundred miles per hour and controlled flight were weather is not such a factor. In this configuration the idea is a big airplane with some gas assisted bouncy aka lift. Not an old school lighter than air floats with the wind blimp. With the gas held in multiple internal cells to make one crash would require a lot more than for say a C-5galaxy. Not to mention this is a CARGO ship not exactly designed for the hot landing zones more like safe rear areas or secured zones to descend into. I don’t think we will see our C-5’s making landing runs down SAM alley anytime soon either. The simple fact is if this thing can carry 500tons or a whole combat brigade even near 200mph speed it should be pursued and built. Even if it can only fly over water or friendly territory and land in friendly or well secured landing zones. Hope you are right about the commercial market. I would like to see it come to be.

  5. As for myself, I have to sit midway between Dfens’s skepticism and C-Low’s optimism. The system as described has the potential to give us a very useful capability. But… It seems unwise to invest heavily in this technology until it is well proven. (Depending on it to move a brigade would certainly qualify as ‘heavy investment’.) And then there are other questions I should like answered. We’re told the craft can fly over nasty weather; that’s fine. But what weather *can* it fly in? It’s all fine and good to fly over the thunderstorms en route, but what about the weather at takeoff and landing? There’s no way around that. Secondly, what kind of runway requirements would the craft have? Big aircraft generally have big runway requirements; perhaps aerostat technology allows us to circumvent this, but a brigade’s worth of heavy equipment seems like it would require a rather strong runway. Lastly, how vulnerable will the craft be to nasty weather while on the ground? Will it require special mooring or other facilities? (I’ve seen the blimp hangars at NAS Lakehurst. Good lord.)

  6. I’ve been in the blimp hanger in Akron, Oh, and it is huge. Has weather inside. Personally, I think that among all the other bad things we can lay at the feet of the Nazis (and far down the list, I know) is killing the idea of the airship thanks to using highly flammable Hydrogen as a lift gas in the Hindenberg. If it had been helium, it might have crashed – but it would not have been so, uh, photogenic. I know that we didn’t sell Helium to the Nazis, but that’s cause they were Nazis, so its still their fault. If we’d had decades of continuous development on the airship idea, we might have had these things back in the eighties. I hope someone builds one, as it would be an incredible sight to see one drifting overhead.

  7. Yeah, these big blimps are God’s gift right now. Wait until they get cranked up to full empolyment on the huge public works projects. Then it will be one problem after another. You’ll be able to fill that hole in the sky with $1,000 dollar bills before a single one will fly. Those tiny engines first of all will not propel it at 200 mph, and second will not provide sufficient lift to keep the thing from leaving a smoking pile of wreckage when it runs out of gas. These are a slow, stupid waste of taxpayer dollars. There has been no technological leap in the last 100 years that has changed the fact that speed is life. These are nothing more than a floating Maginot line. They’ll ensure full employment, make the simple think they’re safe, and get a lot of good Americans killed if they ever get built.

  8. By the way, the Hindenburg didn’t burn because it was filled with H2. It burned because the paint contained both Al and iron oxide. If you’re as weird as I am, that will say thermite to you too. In fact, they’ve talked about filling these monstrosities with H2, but have been reluctant to say so publically because of the Hindenburg stigma. Anyway, the Hindenburg didn’t kill dirigibles, the airplane did. They were, and still are, faster, more maeuverable, and less susceptible to weather.

  9. Think of a Walrus as a really fast baby Ro Ro that can go over land. Then stop demanding that it have a fighter’s speed. I’d like to know why they dropped it, myself–it seemed like just the sort of thing that DARPA should be doing. If it works, it could revolutionize strategic logistics. Was the technology just not there? The economics? What?