The JLENS aerostat system: Coming to the DC region in September 2013

Aberdeen Proving Ground

Image from Skywatchdc

Skywatchdc is committed to publicizing the planned deployment of Raytheon’s JLENS aerostat system by the U.S. Army to the Aberdeen Proving Ground on Maryland’s east coast in September 2013. In pursuit of that goal, Skywatchdc wrote a final report summarizing the materials that have been shared through our website, social media, poster and brochure, and video. Please follow the link below to our report.

Skywatchdc Final Report

To help with the visualization of a 341 mile radar range from 10,000 feet above the Aberdeen Proving Ground, we have adapted the following map from Google Maps.

Image from Google Maps

Image from Google Maps


A Video from Skywatchdc


Skywatchdc has created an informational video combining our research on the JLENS aerostat technology, images and video, and the interview with Dr. Tom Crouch from the National Air and Space Museum to provide an overview of the technology, the historical perspective, and the possible citizen concerns.

Dr. Tom Crouch Interview Transcript

Tom Crouch photo

Photograph of Skywatchdc Team members Uwa, Zhou, and Tyler with Dr. Tom Crouch

Please click on the link below to read the transcript of the first 10 minutes of Skywatchdc’s April 8, 2013 Interview with Dr. Tom Crouch, Senior Curator at the National Air and Space Museum, on the history of tethered balloon technology. Dr. Crouch provides a historical context to the use of hot air balloons and aerostats in surveillance.

Transcript of Interview with Dr. Tom Crouch

Poster Presentation

skywatchdc posterSkywatchdc presented our poster and our publicity materials–brochure and postcard–at a poster session open to the CCT Georgetown Community on April 18.  The team members answered questions on our materials and the JLENS aerostat.  It was a great opportunity to introduce people to the JLENS technology and make them aware of the upcoming deployment.  We anticipate that knowledge of the JLENS aerostat in the DC area will increase as the September deployment date approaches and Skywatchdc is prepared to meet the need for information.

We will be introducing a new series of blog posts, called Q&A’s, based on questions that were asked during the poster session.  Planned future topics include items similar in size to the JLENS, a comparison of aerostats versus drones, and the $450 million cost of the JLENS.  Please post any questions that you would like us to address in future blogs in the comment section below.

Skywatchdc Team with Poster

The Skywatchdc team with the official Skywatchdc poster
Man, Emily, Tyler, Zhou, Uwa

Skywatchdc Presentation

Today, Skywatchdc gave a seven-minute presentation to the CCT 506 professors and students on the details of the JLENS aerostat, its historical context, and the positive and negative aspects of its upcoming deployment to the Aberdeen Proving Ground.  We also answered a variety of questions from the audience.  In addition, we previewed our upcoming interview-based video with a special trailer-length version.  The following slides were used in the Skywatchdc presentation and the photograph shows the Skywatchdc team mid-presentation.

Skywatch Slide 1Skywatch Slide 2Skywatch Slide 3Skywatch Slide 4Skywatch Slide 5


Skywatchdc Team During the Presentation
Zhou, Emily, Tyler, Uwa, Man

Introduction to Skywatchdc

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.