Image from the Missile Defense Advocacy Agency
The JLENS aerostat is an integrated radar system with a 360 degree radar on one aerostat and a fire control radar on the other.
Radar uses the echo of radio waves and the Doppler Shift to gather information about objects. Radio waves are sent out by a transmitter, bounce off objects, and are captured by the receiver. The speed of the waves and the time between the transmission and the receipt is used to determine the distance and the speed of the object. Radio waves reflect especially well off of materials that have high electrical conductivity such as metals, which is why they are very useful in detecting aircraft and ships. The height of the JLENS aerostat extends the radar coverage area and eliminates the potential blocking effects of an area’s geography.
In the JLENS radar system, the 360 degree radar scans the whole region to detect unknown objects such as cruise missiles, aircraft, and swarming boats. Once a threat is detected, the fire control radar system takes over. The fire control radar uses a narrow and intense beam of radio waves directed at the target to track it and gather specific data necessary to calculate a response. It then communicates the information to the response network so that aircraft can be activated or missiles launched from the ground.
Brain, Marshall. “How Radar Works.” howstuffworks. Howstuffworks, Inc. 2013. Web. 4 April 2013. <http://www.howstuffworks.com/radar.htm>
“JLENS and Patriot Team Up in Successful Intercept.” Raytheon. Raytheon Company. 30 April 2012. Web. 4 April 2013. <http://www.raytheon.com/newsroom/technology/rtn12_jlens_teamup/index.html>