New aircraft in Akron leaves people guessing what’s on board: ‘Strange, strange’

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AKRON, Ohio--  In a city where blimps are a common sight in the skies overhead, one lighter-than-air craft is turning heads.

Lockheed Martin on Monday began testing its newest Aerostat balloon at the Akron Fulton Airport.

The testing had already previously prompted a joint announcement between the company and the city alerting residents of the test, in part, so they would not be surprised by what they saw.

The balloon has been sold for military and civilian purposes for more than seven decades, according to the joint release.

In its literature, Lockheed Martin says it is used for “persistent intelligence.”

The company did not divulge the details of the payload on the newest model it is testing; however in its literature, the company says “Aerostat systems are typically configured with a radar and/or electro-optical sensor to provide persistent, low-cost, wide-area surveillance.”

What captures the attention of spectators is what is absent.

The craft are tethered  to a mooring platform from which they are launched. They are silent. They have no motors, no pilots, no gondola for passengers, and no markings.

During the tests, Lockheed Martin said they will be raised to an altitude of no more than 800 feet for a brief period of time then reeled back into their mooring platform.

The newest aerostat was launched only briefly early Monday.

Spectators near the city’s nearby BMX bike track could only let their imagination guess what might be on board.

“I’m going to guess it’s something, probably a big new weather balloon something like that," said Colton Juarovisech of Green.

“It reminds me of a WWII barrage balloon is what it looks like to me,” said Tim Ingram of Akron.

Lockheed Martin develops the lighter-than-air ships at its Akron facilities, making use of the massive airdock on its property.

It is also working on a high altitude airship at the Akron facility.

Calls to the company’s spokesman for details of the Aerostat project were not returned.
Lockheed Martin plans the tests periodically over the next several days.