Military Review

Helium is over: end of the airship boom


The new boom in the construction of airships has every chance to end so plainly and not having begun.

The US Army is continuously increasing the number of airships sent to Afghanistan. As a result, the limits of the possibility of industrial production of helium are actually achieved, which casts doubt on the large-scale use of these aircraft.

Airships and balloons are rapidly gaining popularity in the military sphere due to their ability to stay in the air for a long time over enemy territory. Already several dozen airships are in the sky over Afghanistan. By the beginning of next year, the US military intends to send two more really huge aircraft there. In addition, there is an active development of projects for the construction of transport airships for civilians.

According to the Pentagon’s Department of Military Logistics, for the Afghan mission, the demand for helium increased from 49 thousand cubic meters in 2009 to 531 thousand cubic meters in the current year.

Helium is also required for the Northrop Grumman reconnaissance airship "LEMV". Airship developers are already experiencing a shortage of this gas. They do not have enough helium to fill the huge shell of the aircraft. The size of the shell is impressive. It is taller than a seven-story building and longer than a football field.

The amount of helium required for LEMV is huge. This is 22650 cubic meters. To support the Afghan mission, the Pentagon had to face a similar problem. Virtually no company had the opportunity to provide the required volume of gas entirely. The US Defense Department had a chance to purchase helium from a large number of small suppliers practically in bits and pieces. The problem was further complicated by the fact that the industrial production of such a volume of helium requires a lot of time. It should be taken into account that in other areas there is also a demand for helium: in electrical engineering, in medicine, etc.

As a result, over the past four years, the demand for helium has steadily increased by approximately 1-2% per year. And very soon all the reserves of this valuable raw material can be depleted.

However, the Pentagon does not intend to continue to abandon the purchase and operation of airships. The US defense department has signed contracts for the purchase of helium up to 2017. It is not difficult to guess that this may lead to an increase in the cost of already expensive helium. In the future, this will lead to higher prices for all non-military products in which it is used. It is necessary to take into account the fact that the cost of operating the airships will increase. This, in turn, will have a negative impact on the development of commercial development of the airship building and in the future will put an end to the development of affordable transport with a large carrying capacity.
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  1. Volkhov
    Volkhov 29 September 2011 12: 12 New
    This is a war with Shambhala.
  2. zczczc
    zczczc 29 September 2011 16: 11 New
    Indiscreet question - and on which trees helium grows? :)
    What do they get it from?
    1. Foamas
      Foamas 29 September 2011 17: 14 New
      It is obtained from natural gas by fractional distillation (cooling), but the process is hemorrhoid because the initial concentration is extremely small, for example, at a Russian field (GazpromOrenburg plant), not more than 0,055% of the initial gas volume, and helium is considered to be technically pure at a concentration of 99,985%. In terms of production, Russia is in third place in the world (5,6 million cubic meters), Algeria-16,7, USA-120., While ours is also the most expensive. Canada and China also produce a little, but less than 1 million. for a couple, and so u, there’s nowhere else in the world.
      1. zczczc
        zczczc 29 September 2011 20: 13 New
        I never thought that balloons were inflated with strategic material.
    2. Professor
      Professor 29 September 2011 19: 01 New
      There is another source of helium, an atomic reactor, as a by-product. So for Russia and the United States there will be no problems with this volatile gas.
      1. Foamas
        Foamas 29 September 2011 20: 36 New
        The product is truly "by-product", consumption is measured in hundreds of millions of cubic meters. France imports from Algeria, although there are enough reactors, and gold can also be mined from water.
  3. Dovmont
    Dovmont 29 September 2011 18: 42 New
    An urgent need to establish a base on the moon - there is a lot of selenite rich in helium.
    APASUS 29 September 2011 19: 25 New
    Here is the problem! Now China will not be offered a lot of money, and the Chinese will blow coal from his lips!
  5. slan
    slan 29 September 2011 20: 18 New
    Too lazy to google, but in my opinion, complete nonsense.
    1. Foamas
      Foamas 29 September 2011 20: 50 New
      For inflating airships, even with a volume of 22350 m300. helium in the United States is enough for 1 years in advance. Cliffside holds approximately 70 billion cubic meters of strategic reserves in Cliffside. helium with a concentration of XNUMX%.
  6. Superduck
    Superduck 30 September 2011 00: 18 New
    So let’s run hydrogen, I love fireworks!
  7. Gonoriy
    Gonoriy 16 February 2013 13: 53 New
    Sly Americans still get this gas somewhere.
  8. Alex
    Alex 29 June 2014 18: 10 New
    Not on one helium the light came together in a wedge. More precisely, not only on helium. It is quite possible to use a mixture of helium and hydrogen in a ratio of about 1: 5. Then helium is needed much less, and hydrogen does not explode (this state is called phlegmatic, the Japanese worked on its problems during WWII) and the lifting force remains quite high. So it’s too early to bury the idea of ​​aeronautics.