Eyes in the Sky

The Army now has a large, radar-equipped aerostat perched high above the Washington, D.C., area that will help defend the nation’s capital and nearby region from air threats, announced manufacturer Raytheon. Company engineers lofted the football-field-sized tethered blimp above rural Maryland in late December and then ran tests with it, states the company’s release. A second aerostat is scheduled to go aloft early this year. The two helium-filled aerostats comprise the company’s JLENS system. From their perches about 10,000 feet above the ground, the blimps will be able to support NORAD’s mission of defending North American airspace by detecting threats from long ranges. “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,” said Dave Gulla, Raytheon’s vice president for global integrated sensors, in the company’s Dec. 27 release. (See also Missile-Tracking Blimps on Demand.)