In 1968, the intelligence-collection ship USS Pueblo (AGER-2) was forced to surrender to North Korea, which claimed the ship was operating in its territorial waters. The result was the loss of the ship, the death of one U.S. sailor, and the compromise of hundreds of classified documents and sensitive equipment. Soon thereafter, the U.S. Navy’s offshore intelligence-collection mission was distributed to other platforms, and “spy” ships were removed from service.1 Russia and China, however, continued developing spy ships. In 2015, Russia commissioned the Yury Ivanov, the first in its newest class of large reconnaissance ships.2 And China added its latest hull to the Dongdiao-class auxiliaries general intelligence (AGI) ship in 2017.3 China and Russia have continued developing these vessels to meet an increasing demand for information in a world where exploiting the electromagnetic spectrum is more critical than ever in warfare.4
1. Norman Polmar, “U.S. Navy: American Spy Ships,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 129, no. 10 (October 2003), 117–18.
2. “Project-18280: Yury Ivanov Large Reconnaissance Ship,” GlobalSecurity.org, www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/russia/18280.htm.
3. Matthew M. Aid, “China Continues to Build a New Generation of Spy Ships,” 18 February 2017, Tumblr blog post, www.matthewaid.com/post/157394518576/china-continues-to-build-a-new-generation-of-spy.
4. Desmond Ball, “Intelligence Collection Operations and EEZs: The Implications of New Technology,” Marine Policy 28, no. 1 (January 2004): 67–82.
5. Ball, “Intelligence Collection Operations and EEZs.”
6. Richard Dudley, “U.S. Air Force Deflates the Blue Devil II Airship,” Defense Update, 29 May 2012; David Szondi, “U.S. Army Cancels LEMV Airship Project,” New Atlas, 15 February 2013; Dan Grossman, “Breaking News: U.S. Navy Airship Program Canceled; MZ-3A Blimp Grounded,” AirShips.net, 8 December 2014.
7. See Hybrid Air Vehicle’s website: www.hybridairvehicles.com/aircraft/airlander-10.
8. Phillip W. Lynch, “Hybrid Airships: Intratheater Operations Cost-Benefit Analysis,” Defense Technical Information Center, November 2008.
9. Lynch, “Hybrid Airships: Intratheater Operations Cost-Benefit Analysis.”
10. Jane Wells, “This Airship Transports Lockheed into New Territory,” CNBC Markets, 10 March 2016; Ellie Zolfagharifard and Hugo Gye, “Lockheed’s Airship Gets the Green Light; FAA Approves Massive Hybrid Vehicle that Could Launch in 2018,” DailyMail.com, 23 February 2017.
11. Vlad Savov, “Airlander 10: Up Close with the Gigantic Airship the U.S. Army Wanted,” The Verge, 8 July 2014, www.theverge.com/2014/7/8/5880061/airlander-10-photo-essay.
12. U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs,” March 2013, www.gao.gov/assets/660/653379.pdf; Graham Warwick, “Cost Overruns Put Global Hawk at Risk,” Flight International, 8 March 2016; Scott C. Truver, “Don’t Short the Coast Guard’s New Cutter,” USNI News, 18 March 2013; See Airlander 10 technical data at www.hybridairvehicles.com/downloads/Airlander-21.pdf. I estimate a sensor payload of $30–$40 million per unit.