A set of high-tech Army blimps are heading to the Washington, DC area, and soon the blimps will be able to provide the military with surveillance that span hundreds of millions of acres from North Carolina to Niagara Falls, Canada. The blimps are part of Raytheon’s Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System or JLENS. They will offer the United States military what the defense contractor calls “an affordable elevated, persistent over-the-horizon sensor system” that relies on “a powerful integrated radar system to detect, track and target a variety of threats.”
Raytheon has just finished a six-week testing period in Utah and is now sending its JLENS fleet to the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. Once the blimps are there, the Army intends to get some experience that will lead to launching the pair of airships over Washington, DC. Once in flight above the nation’s capital, JLENS will allow the Army to see for up to 320 miles in any direction from the blimps. The airship system may be set up to operate on its own, 10,000 feet in the air, for a month without requiring refueling, and offers the Pentagon surveillance capabilities that dwarf other options at a fraction of the cost.