Army adding high-flying blimps to Aberdeen airspace

Over-the-horizon radar system to add $20 million, more than 100 soldiers to Army base: Ruppersberger

February 07, 2013|By Matthew Hay Brown, The Baltimore Sun

The Army is planning to move an over-the-horizon radar system, with more than 100 soldiers and a pair of giant, blimp-like aerostats that fly as high as two miles up, to Aberdeen Proving Ground in the fall, Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger said Thursday.

Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said commanders chose the Army base in Harford County for the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS, because offers FAA-approved restricted airspace and allows for testing weapons tracking over water.

Ruppersberger said the move would generate about 140 jobs for the region.

"At a time when most of the Department of Defense is experiencing significant budget cuts, this $20 million investment in APG will have a domino effect on our local economy," the Baltimore County lawmaker said. "The JLENS workers will be buying homes, shopping in our grocery stores and eating in our restaurants."

The radar surveillance is conducted from two tethered, helium-filled aerostats that measure 243 feet in length and reach an altitude of 10,000 feet.

Earlier, officials had said they planned to add the system to the umbrella that protects the Washington, D.C., area.

"We're trying to determine how the surveillance radar information from the JLENS platforms can be integrated with existing systems in the National Capital Region," Michael Kucharek, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, told Reuters last week.

Ruppersberger said the Army will host town halls to discuss the project with neighbors and take questions.

"I look forward to working with them and my constituents to ensure all concerns are addressed," he said.

I have received notification that the Army will be relocating its Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS, to Aberdeen Proving Ground this fall. JLENS is a radar system that conducts over-the-horizon surveillance to protect us from air attacks including missiles, drones and rockets. Aberdeen Proving Ground was selected because it provides the ability to test weapons tracking over water and offers already-established FAA-approved restricted airspace.

More than 100 soldiers will be relocating to the APG region to support this mission. The project will also create jobs for about 30 contractors and 10 civilians. At a time when most of the Department of Defense is experiencing significant budget cuts, this $20 million investment in APG will have a domino effect on our local economy. The JLENS workers will be buying homes, shopping in our grocery stores and eating in our restaurants.

The JLENS surveillance is conducted by two tethered aerostats flying as high as 10,000 feet. The Army will be hosting a series of public town halls to discuss the project with local residents and answer any questions. I look forward to working with them and my constituents to ensure all concerns are addressed.

matthew.brown@baltsun.com

twitter.com/matthewhaybrown

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