A Raytheon-manufactured JLENS
(Joint Elevated Netted Sensor) aerostat broke free from its moorings on Wednesday
, before floating 160 miles over Pennsylvania, prompting the scrambling of F-16 fighters. The blimp eventually came down
in the north of the state after drifting for three hours, after taking down several power lines in the process. The aerostat was one of two providing radar coverage of the east coast, with the second, fire-control radar blimp now grounded. The heavily-criticized
, $2.7 billion program has come under increasing pressure in recent months, particularly after it failed to spot a gyrocopter approaching the Capitol in April
Intelligence agencies and analysts believe that the threat of U.S. cities coming under cruise missile attack from ships off the coast is real, sophisticated and evolving. The proliferation of cruise missiles, combined with a falling technology curve for biological, chemical, or even nuclear agents, is creating longer-term hazards on a whole new scale. Meanwhile, the June 2005 issue of Air Defense Artillery Magazine notes that experiences in Operation Iraqi Freedom showed that even conventional cruise missiles had tactical uses in the hand of a determined enemy.
The primary challenge for theater and national cruise missile defense is the development of a reliable look-down platform to detect, track and identify incoming missiles and support the over-the-horizon engagements in a timely manner. Hence JLENS.
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