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Soon, a couple of house-sized, tethered air defense blimps will fly at about 10,000 feet above Washington DC capable of guiding missiles, to blow up incoming threats to include automobiles and small boats, AND, to provide surveillance and intelligence as stated by a Retired Commander below.

JLENS stands for Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System

but the system’s capability goes far beyond hunting cruise missiles.

It’s designed to defend against a large assortment of threats, like low-flying manned and unmanned aircraft, large caliber rockets, boats, SCUD launchers, automobiles and tanks. (emphasis mine)

JLENS has already successfully shot down missiles in New Mexico
“This test is of critical importance for the JLENS program because it demonstrates the system’s ability to integrate with existing U.S. Navy systems and proves that JLENS is ready to deploy,” said Dave Gulla, Raytheon’s vice president of Global Integrated Sensors.

The simulated naval engagement took place at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

I'm not quite sure how testing in an area whose weather is the direct opposite of Washington, DC makes sense.  But it is good to know that the two blimps communicated effectly to the ground crew launching the successful anti-missle strike.

JLENS was also successful in tracking down three small swarming boats on the Great Salt Lake, Utah.  I can't find the "three small swarming boat" article again, but I read it this AM.  Darn Google!  

The above-linked Raytheon Blimp/Utah test press release is dated July 24, 2013.
 

The U.S. Army completed Early User Testing (EUT) of the Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN) developed JLENS. During the six-week-long EUT, soldiers tested JLENS' ability to operate in a number of complex scenarios that replicated an operational environment. The soldiers also tested JLENS' endurance by operating the system continually for 20 days.
However, if you read this January, 2012 article from a Salt Lake newspaper, and then peruse the comments, it looks like the blimps have been flying near the Great Salt Lake since sometime in 2011.

Blimp in Utah desert future defense against stealth threats

Comments:

I have been watching this blimp for several months now. I wondered when the news media would say something about it. I question KSL's reporting of its location because I can see it over the southern end of Freemont island from where I live, west of Ogden. This has got to be the Lakeside test area.
Apparently a disgruntled Utah professional had a word for Raytheon
Dear Raytheon - start actually interviewing QUALIFIED candidates for this project, and start paying the industry hourly rate for these professionals, and you will start to actually make real progress on this project.

Keep doing what you are doing and continue to get the dismal results that you are paying for. Eyes are on you as I type.

Again, is Utah's weather a good place to call a test successful?  Why not test on the Great Lakes region that has real storms like DC has?

None of the articles have looked at the possibility of the BLIMPS working in tandem with DRONES, but I don't believe I am being overly imaginative for anticipating the BLIMP DRONE TEAM SCENARIO.

None of the articles mention NSA either.  Booz Allen has lots of NSA job openings in Aberdeen, MD.  Aberdeen, MD is where the two Raytheon Blimps are now headed.

Is it a stretch to suspect coordination between NSA, Drones, and the Raytheon Blimps?

Here's a Raytheon video where you can see the JLENS Blimp promotion:

One of Raytheon's biggest selling features is JLENS cost-savings:

One JLENS orbit can provide the same 24/7 coverage for a 30-day period that 4-5 fixed wing surveillance aircraft (AWACS, JSTARS or E-2C) can provide.

Depending on the kind of aircraft used, a fixed-wing surveillance aircraft is 500-700% more expensive to operate than a JLENS during that same time period because of manpower, maintenance and fuel costs.

A JLENS orbit uses less than 50% of the manpower it requires to fly a fixed wing aircraft. (That’s not counting the ground-support personnel required to launch a sortie).

However, the now two almost-operational-over-DC Blimps are not cheap.

Commander Kirk S. Lippold, US Navy (Ret.) writes on The Hill's Congress Blog on July 22, 2013, in a plea to Congress to spare JLENS from any of that sequester buzz:

We, the taxpayers, have invested over $2.3 billion in the research, development and operational testing of the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS, which was developed to protect the United States against the growing proliferation and threat of cruise missiles and other systems capable of carrying dangerous warheads.  

JLENS also provides commanders the combat edge by providing a 24-hour intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability to enhance homeland defense as well as increased protection within their theaters of operations.  The earlier the threat is detected, the greater your opportunities to identify, react, and counter it.

Commander Lippold has let us know that the Blimps are also SPY BLIMPS as highlighted above.  Again, quoted from the Commander:
24-hour intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability
To date, that breaks down to $1.15 Billion dollars each.  How many Raytheon Blimps will it take to become a tad more cost effective for defense?

Are we to believe that NORAD can depend on these blimps to even partially replace the DC defense systems already in place:

Department of Defense, June 17, 2013 press release:  FALCON VIRGO

NORAD Exercise Planned for National Capital Region

Exercise Falcon Virgo is designed to hone NORAD’s intercept and identification operations as well as operationally test the NCR Visual Warning System and certify newly assigned command and control personnel at JADOC.  Civil Air Patrol aircraft, a U.S. Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and a Dover Air Force Base Aero Club Piper Seneca III will participate in the exercise.

These exercises are carefully planned and closely controlled to ensure CONR’s rapid response capability.  NORAD has conducted exercise flights of this nature throughout the U.S. and Canada since the start of Operation Noble Eagle, the command’s response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Don't get me wrong here.  I'm all for defending the United States and Washington, DC.

I'm just not sure that JLENS is just about defense.  


AGAIN, There is already a huge National Capital Region (NCR) defense system in place as described in this lengthy, detailed MIT Lincoln Labs report, published in 2007, where you will find all the acronyms for the ERSA defense system:

Enhanced Regional Situation Awareness (ERSA)

Raytheon is part of the MIT Lincoln Labs team:

MIT Lincoln Laboratory is first to demonstrate next-generation antenna for airborne communication with Milstar

Your thoughts?

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