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JLENS and Russia's cruise missile threat

The blimps are essential to our defense.

Last year a blimp from the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System broke its tether and drifted into Pennsylvania from a test pad at Aberdeen Proving Ground ("Seventeen years and $2.7 billion in, Pentagon's high-tech blimps fail to deliver on promise," Sept. 24).

The accident renewed privacy concerns and triggered criticism of the blimp's performance and cost. A NORAD spokesman set privacy issues to rest by explaining that JLENS is a radar missile defense system, and its radar does not see faces or read license plates.

As to performance, critics of the system ignore the high marks JLENS got during tests at White Sands and Utah test ranges. More importantly, critics don't mention that Russia routinely flies cruise missile bombers near our borders, and has launched cruise missiles against Syrian cities from submarines and ships 1,000 miles away.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is sending us a message: He can do the same to us. And Iran has Russian cruise missiles too. Those deadly cruise missile threats are why every member of the appropriations subcommittees in Congress still supports JLENS, as does Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.

Why? Because JLENS is the only way to defend our homeland against cruise missiles that can be equipped with biological, chemical or nuclear warheads.

Major General Francis Mahon, former commander of the Army Air and Missile Defense Command, said at a seminar in Washington on February 9th, "It is all we now have."

Let's get those JLENS blimps back in the air.

Chet Nagle, Alexandria, Va.

The writer is former director of the Committee on the Present Danger.

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