By Sebastian Sprenger / December 30, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Army officials plan to develop the Long-Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle airship outside the restrictions of the normal acquisition process, the service announced this week.

Internally, leaders already have approved the move to run the effort using a so-called "Other Transaction Agreement" authority, according to a Dec. 29 notice on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site. The plan, aimed at attracting companies "that do not traditionally do business" with the Defense Department, was still pending congressional notification yesterday, the notice reads.

Congress originally authorized the OTA arrangement in the Fiscal Year 1994 National Defense Authorization Act to foster industry cooperation in Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency programs.

Army officials envision an OTA for a five-year technology demonstration, including fabrication of an LEMV airship, payload integration and support, according to the FedBizOpps notice. The vehicle will first be tested within 18 months, with follow-on field field tests scheduled to take place in Afghanistan, it adds.

The basic performance requirements for the LEMV airship include: optionally unmanned; 3 week endurance; 2500 pound payload capability; operating altitude of 20,000 feet above mean sea level, 16 kilowatts of payload power; multi-intelligence capable; supportable from austere locations; 80 knot dash speed and 20 knot station keep speed.

Service officials plan to release a request for proposals for the LEMV OTA on Jan. 29, 2010, according to the notice.