Photos: The U.S. Military’s Prototype for a Flying Submarine

Capable of carrying 66 tons of cargo, the Aeroscraft could bring airships back to the skies

Float tests inside the hangar have been completed. Worldwide Aeros hopes to conduct the first flight test outside the hangar before the summer. If it’s smooth sailing, then airships might once again become a common sight in the skies. Photo by David Vincent Wolf.
U.S. military planners are especially interested in the Aeroscraft’s capacity to take off and land vertically, without a runway. Flying at speeds up to 140 miles per hour and able to travel some 4,380 miles on a tank of fuel, the airships could deliver supplies to remote locales in nearly any type of terrain. Photo by David Vincent Wolf.
Pilots are training for a test flight of the Aeroscraft prototype, a 260-foot-long airship built by the Montebello, California-based Worldwide Aeros Corporation. If successful, the company hopes to begin producing 500-foot-long vehicles capable of carrying 66 tons of cargo, or three times the maximum allowable payload of a C-130J Hercules transport plane—while using one-third less fuel. Photo by David Vincent Wolf.
Like a submarine, the airship can reduce buoyancy by compressing helium in tanks and then sucking in air to act as ballast. Buoyancy can be increased by releasing the helium, which displaces the air. Photo by David Vincent Wolf.
Inside a World War II-era blimp hangar in Tustin, California, the future of aviation is preparing for liftoff. Photo by David Vincent Wolf.