Giant Drone-Hunting Blimp to Launch Over Baltimore

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JLENS (via Raytheon)
JLENS (via Raytheon)

A giant blimp is set to hover over the Baltimore area this weekend, and the Ravens don’t even have a home game.

The Army is set to launch the 242-foot JLENS balloon from Aberdeen Proving Ground as part of a test round on Friday, according to Defense One. Technically a tethered airship because it is connected to the ground with a massive cable, the balloon is designed for surveillance. However, it won’t be taking your picture or reading your cell phone records.

It’s designed to survey the area around Washington, D.C. for potential threats like cruise missile attacks. The Army is also especially worried about enemy drones, which are tougher to track with current radar. The balloon is equipped with radar to monitor all aircraft in the area, and can relay messages about potential threats to other military stations.

The Army ponied up $2.55 billion to allow Raytheon to develop the blimp. It sounds fun and all, but didn’t defense blimps go out with the Hindenburg? Well, the Army thinks that flying slow is still in style, as long as you can take it high enough. The balloon can fly comfortably at 10,000 ft., which allows it cover an area that’s much larger than your average Goodyear.

Friday’s addition to the local skies won’t be the only Army-operated blimp in town. In about six weeks, the blimp will get a tag team partner that’s equipped with a different kind of radar.

Stephen Babcock

Stephen Babcock is the editor of Baltimore and an editor-at-large of Baltimore Fishbowl.

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