Army's Blimp-like Airships Get East Coast Test
The Associated Press
The Army showed off a blimp-like airship Wednesday that is designed to help the military detect and destroy cruise missiles speeding toward the nation's capital or other major East Coast cities.
The radar-toting vehicle will be launched next week as part of a three-year test of the system at Aberdeen Proving Ground, about 25 miles northeast of Baltimore.
When fully deployed next spring, the system will feature two, unmanned, helium-filled aerostats, tethered to concrete pads 4 miles apart. They'll float at an altitude of 10,000 feet, about one-third as high as a commercial airliner's cruising altitude.
One balloon will continuously scan in a circle from upstate New York to North Carolina's Outer Banks, and as far west as central Ohio. The other will carry precision radar to help the military on the ground to pinpoint targets.
The aerostats won't carry weapons, military officials said. Enemy missiles would be destroyed by air-, ground- or ship-based weapons.
The system is called JLENS, short for Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System.
The white balloons, each 80 yards long, are part of a new wave of lighter-than-air surveillance equipment. The government also has deployed tethered airships near the Mexican border, in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the Caribbean Ocean to combat drug smuggling.
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