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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:5, Insightful)

    by kannibal_klown ( 531544 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @09:58AM (#42807645)

    Yes, a giant ball of gas catching fire when fired upon and crashing into DC will sure help protect it.

    You do realize that they tend to use Helium now-a-days, right? And helium is fire retardant.

    I'd list a bunch of "Archer" quotes from one of my favorite episodes, but I'm too lazy to look them up.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:03AM (#42807691) Homepage

    1984 appears to be rocketing right along as movie-turned-reality. instead of addressing foreign policy mistakes we've taken to bubblewrapping and tripwiring the nation until americans stop worrying about it and learn to love the terror

    the good news i guess is DC is going to start looking a lot more like bladerunner, and if we're lucky it will mean eventually, just maybe, i can order chinese from a blimp chop suey shop like corbin dallas.
    although im not entirely looking forward to the Judge Dredd approach to criminal justice, i am admittedly kind of excited to see the voice-activated guns and flying motorcycles :)

  • by scotts13 ( 1371443 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:04AM (#42807701)

    They state as fact the blimps will be deployed, but they're still "trying to determine" how they can be integrated into the air defense system? Isn't that kinda backwards?

  • Threats.... (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:04AM (#42807703)

    If you weren't such douchebags to so many people of the planet... You wouldn't need to worry so hard about 'threats'...

    Not being an ass is even free.

  • by poofmeisterp ( 650750 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:08AM (#42807741) Journal

    Yeah, because the 9/11 attacks were all about not having radar visibility of the aircraft, uh huh. Sure.

    They were perfectly visible by radar.

    So this is a hidden agenda (technology that will not be mentioned by them) or a complete BS example of making Americans feel comfortable, like nothing will ever happen again because they're being watched out for.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:09AM (#42807751)


  • Re:Brilliant! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:25AM (#42807911)
    Yes what a wonderful use for the limited amount of Helium on this planet. Let's put it in baloons to protect ourselves from imaginary threats.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:27AM (#42807937)

    I'm sick and tired of elected officials thinking of themselves as a valuable commodity. They're just citizens. No better, no worse than the rest of us. They need to send a message to the "terrorists." This message should be something to the effect, "You can hurt me, kill me, do whatever you want, but know that there are plenty of other people in line to take my place."

    I really do believe that the current breed of politician would make the founders of the U.S.A. sick.

  • Re:Brilliant! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@gmai l . c om> on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:28AM (#42807951) Journal

    Helium is also in short supply and absolutely non-renewable, hydrogen would be a big improvement.

    But +1 for the hot air suggestion :-P

  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:29AM (#42807967) Homepage

    See, you're misunderstanding: The spending tons of money on useless counter-measures is big profits to the politically-connected seller who's just happened to provide appropriate amounts of graft to the government folks.

    The goal isn't (and generally has never been) to fix the problem, the goal is to maximize profits.

  • by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@gmai l . c om> on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:33AM (#42808011) Journal

    Judge Dredd is a real thing, but he's a semi-autonomous flying robot and he has a lot less respect for due process than the fictional character...

  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:56AM (#42808341)

    No, a conspiracy has to be something hidden, this is being done in public with everyone in full knowledge of the money being spent.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @11:05AM (#42808439)

    Former imagery analyst and UAV contractor here.

    While I'm not denying that these aerostats are capable of floating high resolution air-search radar, etc, their purpose over in the non-war combat zones of afghanistan and iraq where I lived for 2-3 years was to loft high resolution zoom optics with an EO/IR sensor payload in order to spot shooters and mortar teams within several miles of their ground stations. Essentially it was like having a full-time predator feed orbiting your base, which was really convenient for the aforementioned purposes.

    On smaller bases you would have a guyed lattice tower with a camera ball on top, on larger ones, you got an aerostat. The ground station equipment used to view and transport the video feeds was similar/identical to those used for smaller UAV systems.

    Again, it's possible these will be used for the stated purpose, but if they are, it'd be the first time I've seen it done. The most advanced surface to air missile systems do not use aerostats; take a look at the Russian S-300 (SA-10/20). It uses a ground-based air search radar and a ground-based target acquisition radar. Of course, this system is designed to be highly mobile, but the terrain around DC isnt so mountainous that a traditional early warning system wouldn't suffice. Even less so a target acquisition or illumination radar, as those two systems usually require LOS to the target. Unless terrorists have learned advanced terrain-following flight profiles and can manage to fly them in a fully fueled passenger aircraft (lol). The extreme precision radars that guide anti-mortar gun systems which can shoot a softball falling at terminal velocity out of the sky are still _ground based_

    Believe me, I have every confidence that Washington has managed to find a new lightweight high res radar system to waste money on.

    (hint) However, I also advise that it would eliminate a lot of the troublesome FAA and national-security related regulations barring UAV surveillance of the populace if this system is considered a ground-tethered conventional surveillance camera like the ones at wal-mart, rather than a high precision aerial sensor platform, y'know, like it actually is... (/hint)

  • Fringe (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WillgasM ( 1646719 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @11:48AM (#42808913) Homepage
    OMG! We're the other universe!
  • by Virtucon ( 127420 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @11:58AM (#42809049)

    I find this amusing because Reagan National Airport already has one of the most restrictive air traffic patterns in the country. I can see it now, take off to the North and then do a hard bank left to avoid the No Fly Zone and the Washington Monument, then a bank right to avoid the blimp. I can see commercial pilots now having to have simulator sessions to avoid tethered dirigible avoidance. Of course this means that airfare prices will increase by 50% to cover this training.

    What they're building are barrage balloons which have been used since before WWII. While mildly effective, I seriously doubt that a well heeled terrorist organization will have their own air force or cruise missiles. Maybe a rogue nation, such as the PRK perhaps but then again I'd think they'd know well in advance of that kind of attack. DC is less than 36 square miles and if all of our strategic national assets are there, then we're in deep S**T. There's lots of bureaucrats of course and Congress and their staff, but could we do without them for awhile? Yeah, I know that's wishful thinking. Does anybody in DC honestly think these Rube Goldberg devices will actually do anything or just be a giant, taxpayer funded, deficit increasing waste of money? Obviously not. []

    Balloons were sometimes more trouble than they were worth. In 1942 Canadian and American forces began joint operations to protect the sensitive locks and shipping channel at Sault Ste. Marie along their common border among the Great Lakes against possible air attack.[3] During severe storms in August and October 1942 some barrage balloons broke loose, and the trailing cables short-circuited power lines, causing serious disruption to mining and manufacturing. In particular, the metals production vital to the war effort was disrupted.

    I'm stocking up on Jiffy Pop now and waiting for the first set of severe thunderstorms to dislodge them and then have the F16s scramble to shoot them down. Some of the debris will be flammable and will land on the South East of DC, causing severe panic and riots. I just can't wait.

    As Patton said:

    “Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man.”

    Even if they are fronted by balloons.

  • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @01:42PM (#42810507) Homepage

    Personally, I'm inclined to agree, but for the sake of literary analysis, I'll use the term the author used. Orwell classifies Ingsoc as socialism, because socialism (as he saw it) was something he feared. Bearing in mind that he wrote in the 1940s, socialism (of the fascist Nazi ("National Socialist") kind) was very different from any modern socialist government.

    The simplistic point of socialism is to support the population through well-managed programs. Orwell's perversion of the concept is a government whose well-managed programs intentionally oppress the people. The tactics used to accomplish the oppression were indeed fascist.

The wages of sin are high but you get your money's worth.