Pretty soon, a pair of massive high-tech Army blimps will be floating over the greater Washington, D.C., area to provide 24-hour, 360-degree surveillance. And as testing and advancement of the airship surveillance technology continues, the eyes in the sky could have the ability to keep an eye on folks spanning hundreds of acres, from North Carolina to Niagara Falls and beyond.
The massive blimps, developed as a part of Raytheon’s Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS, will initially allow the Army to see for 320 miles in any direction from 10,000 feet off the ground.
“JLENS uses advanced sensor and networking technologies to provide 360-degree, wide-area surveillance and precision target tracking,” the Defense Department found in an unclassified audit.
The blimps are capable of monitoring targets on land, water or in the air with a trove of powerful onboard surveillance equipment. In a press release, Raytheon said the JLENS surveillance radar can “simultaneously track hundreds of threats.”
Raytheon touts the blimps as a way for militaries to have surveillance equipment out of high in the sky and out of danger while carrying “powerful radars that can look deep into enemy territory.”
But if enemy territory brings to mind visions North Korea or sandy places full of religious fanatics, think again.
After a six-week-long “test-drive” in the Utah wilderness, the Army will fly Raytheon’s enormous JLENS airships from the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, where the twin-radar system will begin a long-term trial watching over Washington, D.C., and nearly a dozen States, stretching from the mid-Atlantic into New England.