China’s interest in the use of airships — balloons, blimps and various other lighter-than-air aircraft — was discussed in a new report (pdf) from the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC).
Airships have been used in China for disaster relief, since they were able to reach distant areas when ordinary transportation was impaired, and for construction in mountainous or unstable areas, the report said. High altitude airships may also be considered for wide area surveillance, early warning detection, or other military applications.
See “Current and Potential Applications of Chinese Aerostats (Airships),” NASIC OSINT Topic Report, March 23, 2010 (For Official Use Only).
The U.S. has deployed airships along the border with Mexico to aid in drug interdiction, and in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. See “Potential Military Use of Airships and Aerostats” (pdf) by the late Christopher Bolkcom, Congressional Research Service, September 1, 2006.