US: Raytheon Company has revealed that the US Army lofted a blimp equipped with a new cruise-missile and drone-fighting radar system, high above rural Maryland, US, for the first time.
The system, made by Raytheon and known as JLENS, consists of two helium-filled aerostats, or tethered blimps, that float 10,000 feet above the ground and carry powerful radars. "JLENS is strategically emplaced to help defend Washington D.C. and a Texas-sized portion of the East Coast from cruise missiles, drones and hostile aircraft. LENS can detect potential threats at extremely long ranges, giving North American Aerospace Defense Command more time to make decisions and more space to react appropriately,” said Dave Gulla, Vice President of Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems' Global Integrated Sensors business.
According to a spokesperson from the company, as part of the deployment, Raytheon engineers raised one of the football-field sized aerostats thousands of feet in the air and conducted a series of tests to ensure it was operating as designed. The company will continue to test and integrate the radar for several more days, then turn the first JLENS balloon over to Soldiers of the US Army's A Battery, 3rd Air Defense Artillery. The second aerostat is scheduled to go aloft in early 2015. Following a series of additional tests, it will also be turned over to the Soldiers, who will conduct an operational exercise with JLENS. During the exercise, information from JLENS will be used by NORAD, the US-Canadian organisation charged with aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning for North America. The 263rd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, which is responsible for defending the airspace over the National Capital Region, will also use information from JLENS.