The Washington DC metro region is about to become a testing ground for a new missile defense and aerospace surveillance technology: the JLENS Aerostat. JLENS, which stands for Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, is designed to continuously monitor the region’s airspace, assessing the skies and mitigating threats to security. At an estimated cost of $450 million, the project has been criticized by many in Congress as too expensive given an uncertain economy and dramatic cuts in defense spending. The technology may also alter the region’s skyline. Each aerostat (similar to a blimp) will float 10,000 feet above the city, anchored to mobile moorings on the ground below. Each aerostat is about ¾ the size of a football field, or 243 feet. Recently tested in Afghanistan with cooperation from the United States armed services, manufacturer and defense contractor Raytheon promises that the JLENS system will be lower in cost than the current standard aerospace surveillance methods including fixed wing aircraft, helicopters, and ground-based radar technology.
Skywatchdc will function as a non-partisan informational resource for academic researchers, journalists, civil servants, students, and other members of the community interested in the new technology. By making this information available, accessible, and easy to understand, the public will be better equipped to form their own analysis of a new technology that may affect them in the future.
One would suspect that more and more attention will be given to the JLENS project in the coming months as the deadline for implementing the project approaches. By creating a robust web presence including blogs, social media, and links, Skywatchdc will be able to become the preeminent non-partisan resource on JLENS implementation in a civilian setting. Understanding how the technology works and what it will be used for is the first step in forming an educated opinion on whether or not JLENS should be embraced.