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Cranfield airship firm bids to buy back US Army craft

Hybrid Air Vehicles
Image caption The vehicle acquired by the US Army is 10 storeys high, 180ft (55m) wide and 400ft (122m) long

A Bedfordshire company says it is trying to buy back one of its airships left redundant at an US Army base.

Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) of Cranfield designed and built the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) for the US Army for a reported $300m (£197m).

It first flew in the US in August 2012 but, after Federal budgets were cut, is now due to be dismantled.

HAV wants to buy it back but the US Army has yet to make a decision.

The 10-storey high LEMV is 180ft (55m) wide and 400ft (122m) long.

It is designed to be used for surveillance but can also carry cargo and people.

'Substantial cuts'

It is now sitting unused in a US Army hangar after US Federal budgets were reduced on 1 March.

"The number of cuts [the US Army] have to make to existing operations, as well as projects for future equipment, is substantial and this is one of the casualties," said Hardy Giesler of HAV.

He said HAV wanted to buy back the aircraft at "a cost to be negotiated".

It hopes to complete the flight test programme and carry out trials to show the vehicle's commercial capabilities, while allowing the army continued access to technology and flight test data.

"Anything we learn we are willing to share at no cost to them," he said.

Mr Giesler said this solution would "best benefit" the army as it would avoid the cost of dismantling and storing the craft.

"And if they decide to destroy the vehicle, there's not much to learn from that," he said.

"The option we are putting forward helps us and many other companies, military as well as civilian, who have expressed an interest in using this vehicle to carry out tests."

Mr Giesler said that having a vehicle to show to potential clients was likely to increase the speed of orders and the company's expansion.

A US Army spokesman said: "The matter is under review."

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