The US military gave Northrop Grumman a $ 517 million contract to create an LEMV or Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle. The LEMV is basically a giant airship that will provide long term aerial reconnaissance and surveillance support for ground troops.
The LEMV is a 300 ft. long behemoth that, like many of the new aircraft being developed, will be unmanned. It can stay aloft in the air for up to three weeks at a time and has a low pressure helium hull. However, what's really incredible of the LEMV is that its aerodynamic hull accounts for 40% of its lift. As a result, the hull does not need a lot of helium to keep it in the airship in the air and so, when the fragile surface of the hull is somehow punctured or shot, the airship will not explode or fall out of the sky.
The LEMV will be powered by four diesel engines and will cost $15 000 per re-fuel for every three-week mission. This is amazingly one-tenth of the price of fuel used for a helicopter and one-quarter of the price of fuel used for an airplane per mission.
The LEMV is set to be finished and operational in the latter half of this year. It will be used for a demonstration mission in Afghanistan and upon success of the missile, five more will be built.