Officials present radar blimp plans for Aberdeen Proving Ground

The Pentagon plans to launch a pair of helium-filled blimps over Aberdeen Proving Ground capable of detecting, tracking and targeting cruise missiles, rockets and aircraft 340 miles away.

Military officials offered details of the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS, at a sparsely attended public hearing Thursday in Baltimore County.

The 240-foot-long blimps, known as aerostats, would be tethered at an altitude of two miles over the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground. On a clear day, officials said, they would be visible from Downtown Baltimore, 16 and 19 miles away.

The aerostats, which can remain aloft for up to 30 days at a time, are equipped with radar that can spot objects in the air from North Carolina to the Canadian border, and objects on the ground from Virginia to New Jersey.

Officials are planning a three-year exercise to assess the system's effectiveness for defense against cruise missiles and other low-altitude threats in the National Capital Region.

The exercise, scheduled to begin this year, is expected to bring about 100 troops and 30 civilians to Aberdeen Proving Ground.

First, officials must secure permits to build pads, buildings, utilities and parking for each of the aerostats. The pads would be built four miles apart — one at Graces Quarters in Baltimore County and one at G-Field in Harford County.

The hearing Thursday was held by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Maryland Department of the Environment, which will decide wetlands permits for the project.

About 25 people attended, many of them employees of the organizations involved in the JLENS project. No members of the public spoke during the hearing.

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