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The Military Technology

Blimps To Help Protect Washington DC From Air Attack 270

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Reuters reports that a pair of bulbous, helium-filled 'aerostats', each 243 feet long, will be moored to the ground and fly as high as 10,000 feet, as part of a high-tech shield designed to protect the Washington D.C. area from an air attack like the one that took place on September 11, 2001. One of the aerostats carries a powerful long-range surveillance radar with a 360-degree look-around capability that can reach out to 340 miles. The other carries a radar used for targeting. Operating for up to 30 days at a time, JLENS is meant to give the military more time to detect and react to threats (PDF), including cruise missiles and manned and unmanned aircraft, compared with ground-based radar and is also designed to defend against tactical ballistic missiles, large caliber rockets and moving vehicles that could be used for attacks, including boats, cars and trucks. '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,' says Michael Kucharek, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command. Washington is currently guarded by an air-defense system that includes Federal Aviation Administration radars and Department of Homeland Security helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft on alert at Reagan National Airport to intercept slow, low-flying aircraft."
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Blimps To Help Protect Washington DC From Air Attack

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  • Re:Brilliant! (Score:3, Informative)

    by WillAdams ( 45638 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:07AM (#42807733) Homepage

    But what are they going to fill it w/?

    Congress is still going forward w/ plans to close the Federal Helium Reserve:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443545504577567102314948314.html [wsj.com]
    http://www.aapg.org/explorer/2012/12dec/helium1212.cfm [aapg.org]

    and has intentionally been pricing helium low, so as to allow it to be used in party balloons instead of MRI units, &c.

  • by girlinatrainingbra ( 2738457 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:25AM (#42807913)
    I remember reading about an unmanned blimp crashing:
    San Diego Union Tribune [utsandiego.com] article about an unmanned Army blimp brought down in Pa. woods
    A remote-controlled, unmanned reconnaissance blimp launched from Ohio by defense contractor Lockheed Martin was brought down Wednesday in a controlled descent in the woods of southwestern Pennsylvania after it was unable to climb to the desired altitude.
    The HALE-D blimp was designed to float above the jet stream at 60,000 feet and can be used for reconnaissance, intelligence and other purposes often accomplished by satellites, but at lower cost. The blimp was being tested as a communications relay device as part of a contract Lockheed Martin has with the Army

    And another one, found by searching for military and blimps, also found in gizmag and wired, is a dedicated blimp site article [blimpinfo.com] about the army preparing and training for using a huge/mammoth spy blimp, an LEMV = US Army's massive Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle:

    The Air Force's highly computerized (and potentially missile-armed) Blue Devil 2 airship recently ran into integration problems, forcing the flying branch to cancel a planned test run in Afghanistan. (Although the service had never been too hot on airships in the first place.) The Navy meanwhile grounded its much smaller MZ-3A research blimp for a lack of work until the Army paid to take it over. The LEMV seemed to be losing air, too, as Northrop and the Army repeatedly delayed its first flight and planned combat deployment originally slated for the end of 2011.

    also http://www.gizmag.com/lemv-first-flight/22675/ [gizmag.com]
    and http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/05/massive-spy-blimp [wired.com] : Army Readies Its Mammoth Spy Blimp for First Flight ...
    There wass also an auxilliary naval air field north of La Jolla in Del Mar that also was used for blimps: http://www.militarymuseum.org/NAAFDelMar.html [militarymuseum.org]

  • by mcd7756 ( 628070 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @11:01AM (#42808395) Homepage

    They're not going to pop like a party balloon:

    "Because the aerostats are not highly pressurized, bullets won’t burst them; they can actually remain buoyant for hours after suffering multiple punctures." (http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/the-usas-raid-program-small-aerostats-big-surveillance-time-02779/)

    If you google harder than I did, you'll find more information about aerostats.

    However, if you'd like to be a worrier consider the following:

    • Aircraft landing at Washington Nation, Dulles and Andrews (home of Air Force One).
    • Ubiquitous surveillance of civilians
  • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @11:17AM (#42808541) Homepage

    First off, 1984 started off as a book, so it'd really be a book-turned-reality, but it's not even that.

    The scary part of 1984 isn't the surveillance. That's just the most visible aspect that everyone talks about. The villain of the story is the government that fears its people so much that it resorts to mind control as a means of keeping peace. Mind control is a tricky thing, though, so extreme scarcity and enforced conformity are used to rein in any dissent. Surveillance is just a tool the government uses to look for that dissent.

    The book hints at the possibility that the world is actually not at war, but the ongoing conflicts are actually staged to justify the artificial scarcity. Even Goldstein's underground rebellion may be a hoax perpetrated by the government to expose any rebellious tendencies. Those that are caught are tortured to break their minds, stripping away conscious thought and logic until assertions can be made without resistance. That's when the victim knows that there really is no viable escape, no higher purpose, and not even any nobility in life or death.

    Every title in 1984 is ironic. The Ministry of Plenty restricts supplies, the Ministry of Love tortures, the Ministry of Peace plans the wars, the Ministry of Truth distributes lies... and Big Brother is not a loving familial support, but rather an oppressive embodiment of an anti-social Socialist government.

    The fully-converted mindless drones of Ingsoc merely survive, not because they are being watched by Big Brother, but because there is no other choice. The constant surveillance is just a symbol of the government's constant presence. Whether that constant presence is a good or bad thing is a separate issue, which Orwell later recognized openly as peaceful post-WWII societal changes eased his wartime fears.

  • Re:Brilliant! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Shoten ( 260439 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @11:40AM (#42808799)

    First of all, as stated by another...DUH, it's full of helium. Helium is a noble gas, and does not burn. But even if it were filled with hydrogen, AND you hit it with an incendiary round of some sort, I doubt very much that anything would be on fire by the time it landed, from that high up. If you look at the footage of the Hindenburg, you can see that it didn't take terribly long for the hydrogen to burn itself out...now imagine that airship starting its burn 2 miles up instead of less than 100 feet up, and guess how bad the flames would be by the time it landed?

    Second of all, fired upon by whom, exactly, and using what? The stats operate at 10,000 feet...that's close to 2 miles. That's further away than any but the very best snipers in the world can shoot, and even then they require exotic hardware like a .50 caliber rifle (of a few types) or the Chey-Tac Intervention system...and they're shooting horizontally, instead of straight up. There's no way to judge crosswinds...which will be of multiple speeds in the intervening distance. And if you shoot from an angle, instead of straight up (because let's face it, the anchor for the stat won't exactly be something you can walk up to...or anywhere near it, and keep in mind how people will come running once they hear the deafening report of a high-power rifle) then the range gets even worse. You're not going to sneak up on it with a plane, obviously, and if you fired at it with a MANPADS (if you can even find one with that range...most cannot hit something that far away) you will miss because it doesn't have a significant heat signature. And if you are a bad guy and have one of the better MANPADS available to you while you're walking around in Washington, DC...why are you shooting at a blimp?

  • by darkmeridian ( 119044 ) <william,chuang&gmail,com> on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @11:56AM (#42809019) Homepage

    Soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan, which has bumpy terrain and bad weather, have always wanted "eyes in the sky" that would give them a heads up on enemy attacks. The bad terrain stops the soldiers from seeing too far away because the bad guys hide in the hills. The bad weather is alternately freezing or too hot, so fixed wing aircraft such as the Predator crash and can't stay overhead constantly. A blimp could just sit there with their sensors spying away, and if you can make the tether long enough, the blimp would be outside the range of enemy fire.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @01:13PM (#42810069)

    Every title in 1984 is ironic. The Ministry of Plenty restricts supplies, the Ministry of Love tortures, the Ministry of Peace plans the wars, the Ministry of Truth distributes lies... and Big Brother is not a loving familial support, but rather an oppressive embodiment of an anti-social Socialist government.

    I agree with everything except calling that a socialist government, it's fascist [wikipedia.org].

    Fascism (pron.: /fæzm/) is a form of radical authoritarian nationalism. Fascists seek to unify their nation through a totalitarian state that seeks the mass mobilization of the national community through discipline, indoctrination, and physical training. Fascism utilizes a vanguard party to initiate a revolution to organize the nation upon fascist principles. Fascism views direct action including political violence and war, as a means to achieve national rejuvenation, spirit and vitality.

    Fascism recognizes the occurrence of class conflict, and advocates a resolution to end the division of classes within a nation and secure national solidarity. However fascism publicly favours proletarian culture due to its association of proletarian culture with economic production and claims that the proletariat as producers must have a dominant role in the nation.[9] It rejects standard bourgeois culture that it associates with unfit sedentary lifestyle, individualism, plutocracy, and the bourgeoisie's economic exploitation of the nation's proletariat, that fascism views as inconsistent with virile nationhood. Fascism claims that cultural nationalization of society emancipates the nation's proletariat, and promotes the assimilation of all classes into a proletarian nation.

  • by smugfunt ( 8972 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @04:22PM (#42812793)

    because socialism (as he saw it) was something he feared

    Orwell was a socialist:

    "Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it." -- George Orwell [wikipedia.org]

  • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @04:30PM (#42812901)

    Mod Parent up. The man writing under the pen name of George Orwell was a socialist. He was also a freedom kind of guy and today would be classified among europe's mainstream parties that believe in social democracy.

    The book Animal Farm is a analogy to what he experienced working with Stalin's agents in the Spanish Revolution. He was cautioning that Stalin's brand of communism wasn't socialism, it was totalitarianism dressed of as socialism. His experience in Spain convinced him that Stalin and his form of communism was pure evil and he wrote two very famous books (under the pen name George Orwell) to warn the world about what Stalin was and where he would lead us. He also spent quite a bit of time trying to implement social democracy in England under his real name.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.