JLENS – Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (Credit: Raytheon)
The U.S. Army lofted today the first JLENS – Joint Land Attack Elevated netted Sensor aerostat system at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. This large aerostat blimp is equipped with a radar system optimzed to detect low-level targets, such as cruise missiles and drones. It will cover a wide airspace from Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania up to New York and New Jersey.
Similar aerostat-based radars are already operational in India and Israel; Singapore is also planning to deploy such system next year. Deployment in the Continental US (CONUS) followed due to the US military concern about the risk of rough states or terrorist groups potential to attacks the US capital using cruise missiles launched from cargo ships moving deep in the Atlantic Ocean. Such missiles often fly too low to be detected by conventional radar. Airborne radars such as AWACS or Hawkeye aircraft can detect such threats but they are not airborne 24/7, due to the high operating cost of such airborne assets.
The 74 meter helium filled aerostat (243 foot) carries an air-surveillance radar that provides precise location data of airborne targets, such as cruise missiles, aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, and large-caliber rockets, as well as maritime surface moving targets. The JLENS system, also referred to as ‘orbit’ consists of two unmanned aerostats with radar systems.
The test is part of a three-year operational evaluation conducted by the North-American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) Command beginning in 2015. The second aerostat of the Aberdeen orbit is scheduled to go aloft in early 2015. Another JLENS system is in strategic reserve, ready to be deployed anywhere in the world at the request of combatant commanders, should they require comprehensive cruise missile defense capability. . . .