USS Groom Lake

Message posted by Rocketfox on August 10, 2002 at 7:04:16 PST:

You know, it's funny. The evening before this thread started I was considering writing a major post {about the size of this one} reference "Stealth Dirigibles" .

The timing was uncanny. Anyways, here's my speculation, typos & all, for your consideration. Keep in mind please, there's nothing classified in here, no insider knowledge, no secrets, but then again, it may be close to reality.

It started because of a thought, that of the "skyhook" This was a term popular during the War {II} reference hanging things up where there was no place to do so, but it's origin stems from the Dirigibles that the Army Air Corps had in the 20's
{USS Akron, ZRS-4}. You may recall that the "skyhook" was used to launch and retrieve the 5 on-board scout planes.

It was a good idea at the time. What struck me about the idea was that it's even better today. With this original concept in mind, here's a short journey into the realm of speculation.

It follows naturally that if Lockheed is premier in stealth technology both in the air and afloat, it's not a stretch to extend this into the lighter than air arena {aside: someone is also constructing stealth buildings. see
and the Al Udeid airbase}. the prime question of course is how do you conceal something that durn big...

The key may very well be materials. Were it me, I'd construct the majority of such a craft out of plastic. High impact plastic, in large quantities for the struts, the cross-beams, and the major structural components. With the load evenly distributed, there's no reason that this material would not be suitable. Where there was a need for greater strenght, plywood could be utilised in the similar way that the recon aircraft used during the Second World war were nearly radar-invisible. The outer skin and the inner ballonets of course would be mylar plastic, aad all of the connecting components can be PVC pipe {which would work well as structural members in length}. The overall shape {rounded, delta see any good drawing recently} would probably enhance the stealth effect as well. Any metal components could be placed in a RAM-coated arera along the keel {engines & such} where they would be compactly placed in order to provide the lowest signature possible.
Propulsion cold be conventional, current piston engines, ot a tubine& shaft arrangement, driving multiple propellors {is this where the unducted fan dissappeared to?}

It's worth noting that that just covers the radar spectrum. Thermally, the components should be shielded as well. Since the craft is not moving all *that* fast, and the propulsion system can be cooled with the resulting heat transferred to the crew quarters, thermal emissions could be kept to a minimum.

Additionally, there's the question of visibility. Of course it's hard to hide something this large when it's close to the ground, but at operational altitudes it's easier than it looks to conceal an object that is not leaving a visible contrail.
It's very difficult to sopt conventional aircraft if there's no contrail, and usually, it's only be reflections off the skin that provides a clue to it's presence, were the skin an appropriate muted colour as seen from the ground, it would, at altitude. be nearly invisible. There's also the possibility of engaging a very old camouflage technique developed in the Second World War { see Project Yahoodie} where lighting makes an object optically vanish in the sky. It's known that this project has been updated with some speculation { here & in other places} on the possibility of LCD panels on high-performance aircraft that is colour-change capable. Considering the weight penalty of such a system in a dirigible, I would this it's a non-starter for a project this big.

All right, given that we've overcome the hurdles of construction such a behemoth,
made it sufficiently stealthy {after all who's looking that high up for any slow-moving craft? the typical radar systems would factor it out as "noise" or so I'm told} radar, thermally and optically speaking, what would one use it for ?

The first thought I had was the original one, Scouting. Or reconnaisance as it's called now, but with this twist: Wouldn't it be a natural for launching UAV's ?
Of course it would. just toss them out the hatch and let them go.. The prospect of having a base that's only a few miles away {vertically} where no one is looking is almost too good not to miss. launch and recovery are already well-established { that skyhook}, require very little {if any} modification to the aircraft, and everything would remain at high altitude, with no close approach to ground-based radar.

It's nearly ideal.

And then the seond thought, Wouldn't this also be a natural for the installation and use of state of the art multi-spectral imaging ? My goodness, Considering the take we get from satellites, with the inherent problems of known orbits, limited time-over-target and distance, the prospect of having a nearly stationary platform, invisible, that could loiter for weeks in an area of interest would have the gentlemen at NRO practically throwing cash money at the program.

Some practical thoughts:

Communication. You don't want to give away your position by radio location. In this case it would be asry to transmit any signals upwards, to communications staellites, for retransmission to land stations. The same would apply to imaging results, bounced around the encrypted satellite network to the end-user. This would make the use of smaller dish antenna workable, with the resulting reduction of non-stealth components. {that smaller, upward-pointing dish}

Resupply. This is possible, given that there's an internal hangar space. resupply could be accomplished using a variant of the system that was originally used to capture CORONA satellite film canisters. where the recieving aircraft "caught" the parachute suspension lines and attached a winch to the payload straps to haul in the package {I'm not giving away anything here, I've got pictures of this published in the National Air & Space magazine}. A similar system could be used, where a package is pulled out of a C-141 by catching the drogue chute, and winching it aboard the Dirigible. An alternative method cold be resupply by a smaller craft, capable of being stored in the hangar bay when not needed, {or on the ground for that matter} that could match speeds and be winched, payload and all into position for unloading. This would also serve for personnel rotation, with the larger craft remaining aloft nearly indefinitly

Refueling. Depending on the speeds, refueling could be accomplished by the same transfer technology used in high-performance aircraft, using already existant tankers. Since I don't know what the probable speeds of this craft are, I wouldn't guess the tanker craft used, but it could be anything from a KC-135 to a Harrier with buddy stores, with a possibility of multiple refuelings.

Self-defense. Aside from the stealth capabilities, self-defense of a relatively slow-moving object becomes a consideration. Air to air missle batteries of course are possible, the employment of chemical lasers are also a possibility, as well as individual Stinger-type weapons that could be fired from positions within the hanger deck. Also, the use of Armed UAV's could be considered. Passive detection of threats becomes a requirement, but could well be covered by thermal devices, IR receivers, and electro-optical systems already in use in other applications. .

Offensive systems. The adept student may recall that in the First World War Dirigibles were used to drop ordnance on unsuspecting cities with great effect.
With today's technology the effectiveness only improves with accuracy and surprise. While it remains obvious that offensive operations would surely require the system to "come out of the black" and enter the operational world, the employment of GPS ordnance from a slow-moving platform becomes a definite possibilty, allowing gravity to work to it's best advantage. The advantage of suprise is not to be discounted. Resupply of ordnance is a consideration, but already covered in earlier paragraphs.

Basing. Earlier in this thread it was asked where one would hide one {or more} of these thngs. While it's obvious that it's not going to be easy, it's still possible. there are large tracts of land available for such a task, and if the dirigible is the right colour, it could easily blend into the landscape as seen from above with ease. {refer to the pictures already mentioned of the base in Qutar, where the buildings are well concealed, and only distinctive by the roads and taxiways leading to them.
Currently there are few known hangars of such a size that could accomodate such a craft, and their locations are well-known and available to public view. However, this does not preclude the possibility of collapsing the craft,, using flexible jointing and high-speed compression pumps, where the size could be folded up to fit inside an already existing hanger.

That, of course, presumes the need for a hanger. As I mentione earlier, there's no problem with just keeping the thing outdoors, in an are out of sight of the public.

Turn now to the maps section of Dreamland, please, to the range chart for Nellis.
In Area 19 {R-4807-B}, there's an object labeled "Mysterious Pylon" Pylons are well known as a requirement for holding lighter-than-air craft so that they can turn in any direction "into the wind" as needs be. Further, you will note a good road network in the area, a prime consideration, as well as it being well-screened from public view.
if the craft, on it's infrequent landings does so at night, under blackout conditions usind IR systems for guidance, who's to see ? NOw I'm not syaing that's what that pylons for, but I saw it, and added 2 + 2 to arrive at 5.. Another good place would be any of the dry lakes in the Indian Springs area {R-4086-W} that meets similar criteria.

Equally obviously, Area 51 is a candidate, if the landing/takeoff approach is made from a non-public direction, but I figured that it's more likely that the base would be valuable as a staging area for a mobile support system than an actual landing/storage area, due to its popularity, and it's relative ease of being observed, even though from a distance. My best bet is, to park it anywhere in the Nellis range, where there's no chance of accidental discovery and trun supplies and such to it. were the top of the craft coloured close enough to the landscape it would be very hard to see from overhead, as no one would be looking for something of that size.

Were it me, that's how I would do it, and where I would hide it. Obviously, one would not want the craft on the ground when the overhead cameras were in operation taking the public-access pictures we've see posted or linked here. in this case, shutter control would be a "good thing" .

Now I'm sure that I've missed something, overlooked a possibility or three, or made some other obvious error. If so, feel free to edit, amend, opine, to your heart's content. As I said at the start, it's speculative in nature, not from knowledge, but a "flight of fancy" , and your milage may vary. On the other hand, if the craft { can we call it the USS Groom Lake? I would...} does not exist, it's such a possibility that other countries may very well spend inordinate amounts of coin of the realm devising suitable detections systems for a craft that does not exist.

Which is a concept all of itself.

Thanks for your time, hope you enjoyed.


In Reply to: On MSNBC posted by topcat on August 05, 2002 at 12:54:01 PST:


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