Pentagon has turned to technology first used in Napoleonic France to defend the United States from attack in the 21st century: the giant airship.



Sixty-five years after the Hindenburg disaster sent the airship’s prospects crashing to the New Jersey earth, Pentagon officials plan to ring the American continent with giant unmanned craft to spot incoming missiles and aircraft.



The US Missile Defence Agency has asked the country’s largest military contractors to develop a high-altitude airship that can float at 70,000ft, aiming to have an operational fleet by 2010. The agency, charged with protecting America from ballistic missiles, has given the companies until February to submit designs.