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U.S. Army plans to use blimps JLENS system to protect Washington D.C. against cruise missiles 191214


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Military Defense Industry Technology - JLENS Aerostat

 
 
Friday, December 19, 2014 09:42 AM
 
U.S. Army plans to use blimps JLENS system to protect Washington D.C. against cruise missiles.
The U.S. Army plans to launch two stationary blimps next week to better protect the Washington, D.C. area from cruise missiles and other possible air attacks. The aerostat, part of the "Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor" system, referred to as JLENS for short, is a nearly 250-foot blimp-like vehicle that will stay aloft for a three-year evaluation period.
     
The U.S. Army plans to launch two stationary blimps next week to better protect the Washington, D.C. area from cruise missiles and other possible air attacks. The aerostat, part of the "Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor" system, referred to as JLENS for short, is a nearly 250-foot blimp-like vehicle that will stay aloft for a three-year evaluation period.
The JLENS aerostat will be tethered to the ground at Graces Quarters, part of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. It will float at an altitude of about 10,000 feet. The aerostat carries radar equipment meant to help better detect cruise missiles.

     

Experiences in Operation Iraqi Freedom demonstrated that even conventional cruise missiles with limited reach could have disruptive tactical effects, in the hands of a determined enemy. Meanwhile, the proliferation of cruise missiles and associated components, combined with a falling technology curve for biological, chemical, or even nuclear agents, is creating longer-term hazards on a whole new scale. Intelligence agencies and analysts believe that the threat of U.S. cities coming under cruise missile attack from ships off the coast is real, and evolving.

The JLENS is designed and manufactured by the American Company Raytheon. JLENS, which is short for Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, is a system of two aerostats, or tethered airships, that float 10,000 feet in the air. The helium filled aerostats, each nearly as long as a football field, carry powerful radars that can protect a territory roughly the size of Texas from airborne threats.

During the evaluation period the Army hopes to show that the JLENS aerostat, which carries a radar system that can detect cruise missiles, can be successfully integrated into existing North American Aerospace Defense Command systems designed to protect airspace over the East Coast of the United States -- an area that includes New York City, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.

     
The U.S. Army plans to launch two stationary blimps next week to better protect the Washington, D.C. area from cruise missiles and other possible air attacks. The aerostat, part of the "Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor" system, referred to as JLENS for short, is a nearly 250-foot blimp-like vehicle that will stay aloft for a three-year evaluation period.
Lt. Col. William Pitts, with 263rd Army Air Defense Command, spoke with members of the press during a Dec. 17, 2014, media day at Graces Quarters, part of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. During the media day, Army officials discussed the upcoming launch of an aerostat -- part of the larger "Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor" system.
     
In the event that a cruise missile were to enter the area observed by the two aerostats, information gleaned from their systems would be fed into existing NORAD Eastern Air Defense Sectors systems and that information could in turn be used to bring down the cruise missile using aircraft launched munitions, ground-based air defense systems, or even an Aegis Combat System.

"It is based on who can get the best shot possible," said Maj. Gen. Glenn Bramhall, commander, 263rd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, during a press briefing, Dec. 17.

Right now, the purpose of the three-year evaluation of the JLENS system is to see how well it can integrate into existing NORAD detection systems. The JLENS system has already shown it is effective at detecting cruise missiles -- something it proved during evaluation on test ranges in Utah, said Lt. Col. William Pitts, with 263rd Army Air Defense Command.

From its 10,000 foot perch, the JLENS aerostats can get a more thorough picture of the area they are meant to protect than can ground-based radar systems. Current systems cannot see everything, Bramhall said, so what is needed is something that flies much higher in order to detect everything that could pose a threat.

In addition to its expanded coverage range, the JLENS system also provides persistent over-watch. The system stays aloft for 30 days at a time, coming down only for maintenance or severe weather. With the amount of time it can stay aloft, it is much less expensive than it would be to get the same capability via manned missions with an E-3 Sentry with the Airborne Warning and Control System, referred to as AWACS, or an E-2 Hawkeye with an airborne early-warning system.

About 100 Soldiers from Alpha Company, 3rd Air Defense Artillery, part of the 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, will run the aerostat's operations. About eight Soldiers will be responsible for actual operations of the aerostat. Another crew will operate the radar system.

The first JLENS aerostat is expected to be launched at Graces Quarters, part of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. The second will also launch at Aberdeen Proving Ground, in the nearby Edgewood Section of the installation.

     

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