DC's New Protectors? Blimps

Two will begin radar patrols within a year

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff | Suggested by Bongripper420

Posted Aug 1, 2013 6:04 PM CDT

(Newser) – At some point within the next year, DC will get a missile shield of sorts—courtesy of two white blimps. Made by defense contractor Raytheon, the $2.7 billion blimps will float 10,000 feet above the city and use their high-tech surveillance systems to keep an eye out for cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, enemy aircraft, even a swarm of boats, reports Popular Mechanics. The testing phase is over, and the entire JLENS operation is being shipped to the military's Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. (Best quote from the program director about the young soldiers involved: "Their adaptation to it based on their experience with video games and Xbox helped them to relate to this very sophisticated radar operation system.")

Blimps were used to protect cities during World War II, notes Brian Resnick at the Atlantic, but the JLENS blimps—technically called aerostats—are a whole new breed. Those blimps of old "acted as fence posts for a spool of wire that would make it difficult for planes to maneuver in the city," writes Resnick. "Basically, they were barbed wire fences suspended a few thousand feet in the air." The modern ones will perform a similar function, sans physical wire. The price tag may seem steep, but the system will provide constant surveillance that would be far more expensive with planes, adds Adam Clark Estes at Gizmodo. "And who knows? They might be able to pitch in some aerial photography for Redskins games."

A frame grab of one of the blimps.
A frame grab of one of the blimps.   (YouTube)
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A video of the blimp defense.   (YouTube)

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