WASHINGTON – The blimp-like aircraft called aerostats are designed to protect against terrorist attacks from thousands of feet above the clouds.
Soon, they are coming to the Washington, D.C. area.
The aerostats are filled with helium and are three-fourths of the size of a football field. They fly up to 10,000 feet above sea level while tethered to mobile stations on the ground. They carry powerful, 360-degree radars that can see threats beyond the horizon, alerting the military of potential terrorist attacks.
The aircraft is also known as Raytheon’s Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS. The Defense Department will integrate JLENS with existing surveillance programs.
Reuters reports the $450 million dollar aerostats will arrive in the area by Sept. 30. They will be tested at an undisclosed location for up to three years.