Pentagon to deploy huge blimps over Washington, DC for 360-degree surveillance

A pair of high-tech Army blimps is coming to the greater Washington, DC area, and soon they will be able to provide the military with surveillance powers that spans hundreds of millions of acres from North Carolina to Niagara Falls, Canada.

The airships are part of Raytheon’s Joint Land Attack Cruise
Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS, and when
all is said and done they’ll 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 wrapped up a six-week testing period in the
state of Utah and is now sending its JLENS fleet to the Aberdeen
Proving Ground in Maryland. Once there, the Army intends to get
some hands-on experience that will eventually culminate in
launching the pair of airships over Washington, DC.

Screenshot from YouTube user raytheoncompany

Once above the nation’s capital, JLENS will allow the Army to see
for 320 miles in any direction from 10,000 feet above the earth.
The system can be set up to operate on its own for an entire
month without requiring refueling, and offers the Pentagon
surveillance capabilities that dwarf other options at a penny of
the cost.

Its manufactures say JLENS “enables commanders to defend
against threats including hostile cruise missiles, low-flying
manned and unmanned aircraft, tactical ballistic missiles, large
caliber rockets and moving surface vehicles such as boats,
SCUD-launchers, automobiles and tanks
.”

Affordable defense from real world threats,” Raytheon
touts the system on its website.

To provide that security, though, the Army will send its
integrated pair of airships – around 75 yards in length each –
high into the sky carrying “powerful radars that can look deep
into enemy territory
.” First, however, the residents of the
metropolitan Washington, DC area – and those in around a dozen
states stretching the mid-Atlantic into New England – will be
asked to ignore a pair of sophisticated spying machines.

Screenshot from YouTube user raytheoncompany

JLENS uses advanced sensor and networking technologies to
provide 360-degree, wide-area surveillance and precision target
tracking
,” the Defense Department found in an unclassified
audit of the system conducted in late 2011. But while that
tracking is designed to go after enemy drones and spot other
suspicious activity, it is also touted as being able to provide a
good enough image of moving land targets – or essentially
anything. In a press release from February, Raytheon said the
JLENS surveillance radar can “simultaneously track hundreds of
threats
.”

Of course, the surveillance ship is only half of the JLENS
program. That aircraft, one of the two tethered blimp-like
vessles, is equipped with the appropriate lenses to wage
sophisticated surveillance missions. Also included in the package
is a separate ship equal in size that contains fire control radar
that picks up data about incoming threats and then communicates
with separate missile systems that can then wage attacks, or
counter-attacks.

We’re proving blimps can see more than just the 50-yard
line
,” JLENS program director Doug Burgess told Popular
Science this week. “We really feel like we’re at the point now
– development is complete – and the system is ready to be
deployed wherever it’s needed
.”

Screenshot from YouTube user raytheoncompany

According to PopSci, the JLENS already successfully completed two
exercises in 2012 in which it guided a missile to shoot down
other missiles – one over sea, another over land.

But while the likelihood of having one of the airships shoot down
an armed drone heading for the White House seems unlikely, it’s a
precaution that the Army intends on being prepared for – even at
the widespread cost of losing privacy.

When the government is conducting real-time aerial
surveillance within the United States
,” Marc Rotenberg of the
Electronic Privacy Information Center told The Huffington Post,
there are privacy issues that need to be addressed.”

Raytheon estimates the using the JLENS instead of traditional,
fixed-wing surveillance aircraft, could bring the cost of
operation down by as much as 700 percent.

Screenshot from YouTube user raytheoncompany

Republished from: RT