Second air defense 'blimp' headed skyward over Harford Wednesday

JLENS balloons will operate as a pair over Baltimore and Harford counties

A second massive, blimp-like balloon called an aerostat, part of the military's air defense network over the Eastern Seaboard, is scheduled to be placed in service Wednesday in the skies over Harford and Baltimore counties.

Kelly Luster, a spokesman for Aberdeen Proving Ground, from where the aerostat will be launched, said a test flight was conducted Tuesday. The final launch planned for Wednesday could be rescheduled if there is inclement weather, he said.

The first helium-filled blimp was launched from APG's Grace's Quarters facility in Baltimore County last December and can be seen flying over White Marsh, Bel Air, Fallston, Joppatowne and Edgewood and points beyond.

The second aerostat will be launched from the Army installation's Edgewood Area in Harford County, Luster said.

"The aerostats are a system and will be aloft at the same time," he wrote in an email.

The two aerostats are part of a defense system called JLENS, for Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System. Both are tethered to the ground and can fly up to 10,000 feet, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, which is responsible for aerospace warning and control over North America.

The JLENS blimps use radar to scan in a 360-degree radius for threats such as missiles and aircraft as far away as 340 miles, according to the website of Raytheon, the JLENS contractor.

The system has prompted some concerns from privacy advocates, including some Harford County residents.

In public meetings and briefings with county officials over the past year, Army representatives denied the aerostats would be used to monitor the activities of civilians.

A group of Harford County Council members received a detailed briefing on JLENS at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., earlier this year. Council President Richard Slutzky later expressed his confidence in the system.

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