Financial Breakdown: A Very Expensive Aerostat?

JLENS great background from Raytheon

Image from Raytheon

This is the second blog in our ‘Q&As from the Poster Session’ series.

Given that the JLENS project will be launched less than six months from now, many citizens and community members may have questions regarding the financial agenda of JLENS. When Skywatchdc presented at Georgetown University  last week, we received a number of questions pertaining to the cost and allocation of funds. Part of our goal is to make useful information about the JLENS project available to the general public.

Jim Wolf states in a Reuters article that the $450 million project will cover the cost of two ‘twin’ aerostats that make up the system. (See this Skywatchdc post which discusses the system in further detail). There appears to be limited data or information related to specific budgetary amounts of the JLENS project, which may be due to the classified nature of the military project.

The JLENS project was supposed to be more robust than it is currently. According to Bloomberg, 32 surveillance-capable aerostats were supposed to be developed in 2007, at a cost of $6 billion. By 2012, only four aerostats were ready for full testing and faced initial issues such as poor target recognition and limited identification capabilities. The article speculates that this may be a reason why only two aerostats are being unveiled in 2013. The official reason is the deep budget cuts. Implementing two areostats reduces the costs signifcantly compared to implementing 32. However, the testing provides Raytheon and the U.S. Army the opportunity to fix any issues during the three years JLENS is deployed in Maryland and then improve the system should it be decided to establish more aerostat technologies in the region.

According to Raytheon’s JLENS website, this project is an “affordable defense from real world threats.” Raytheon, a public-traded company, has a stock value currently of $56.94 per share (at the time of this writing) and works closely with the military. The company’s net sales totaled $24.4 billion in 2012.

Wolf, Jim.  “Blimps to bolster Washington’s air shield in test.” Reuters. 1 Feb 2013. <;

Berfield, Susan. “Raytheon Missile-Seeking Blimp to Get Test Run Guarding Capital.” Bloomberg. Bloomberg L.P. 28 Feb. 2013. <;

“JLENS.” Raytheon. Raytheon Company. 2013. <;


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