A pair of big, blimplike craft, moored to the ground and flying as high as 10,000 feet, are to be added to a high-tech shield designed to protect Washington from air attack, at least for a while.
The bulbous, helium-filled aerostats — each is 243 feet long, more than three-quarters the length of a football field — are to be stitched into existing defenses as part of a test of new technology ordered by the Defense Department.
The coming addition to the umbrella over Washington is known as Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS. Raytheon is the prime contractor.
“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,” said Michael Kucharek, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command. NORAD is responsible for defending air space over the United States and Canada.