Designed to patrol the eastern seaboard from an altitude of up to 10,000 feet, JLENS is made up of two blimps, each equipped with a different radar system, which can spot potential incoming threats from up to 340 miles away.
The program is the only one of its kind, and offers military planners the promise, in a pair of airships, of the kind of long-term, uninterrupted defensive capabilities that would today require at least five early-warning aircraft. JLENS is also thought to provide substantially more notice than is possible from standard early-warning planes
For the last three years, the Army has been testing the 243-feet-long, helium-filled, tethered blimps in the skies over its Dugway Proving Ground in the deserts of western Utah, putting it through various simulated attacks. But now, JLENS is leaving simulations behind in order to watch over an area that spans from Norfolk, Va., to southeastern Massachusetts, which, crucially, includes Washington, D.C.
JLENS is armed with both a surveillance radar that can detect everything from boats to airplanes to drones, and even trucks and cars, and a fire-control radar that integrates with the military’s major missile systems. Each blimp carries one radar system.
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