Research Pays Dividends for Homeland Defense
As the JLENS radar blimp readies to deploy to the United States' National Capital Region, Raytheon is conducting research and development that will enable the system to better protect Washington D.C and a large swath of the East Coast from cruise missiles and drones.
“JLENS’ radar will pull in a massive amount of radar data, and because the system has a range of up to 340 miles, it will be able to detect things that have never been seen before,” said Doug Burgess, Raytheon’s JLENS program director.
The company's engineers have developed software that automatically converts JLENS data into message formats that can easily feed into the National Capital Region Integrated Air Defense System, Burgess said.
The next step is developing a software package and user interface that refines the data down to only the information that is useful to the men and women charged with defending the region.
“Think of the internet, with its billions of web pages and terabytes of data. If you want to find out information about baseball, it’s pretty easy to get overwhelmed," said Ed Verryt, former deputy director for Raytheon’s JLENS program. "But what if you have a search engine that can take out all the data you don’t need and present you with a few web pages that are relevant to Red Sox fans? Then, all of a sudden, the information becomes very useful.”
The upgrade, Verryt explained, will act in a similar manner to a search engine. But instead of filtering baseball stats, the upgrade will filter radar data to show just the objects of interest.
JLENS, which is short for Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, is a system of two aerostats, or tethered airships, that float 10,000 feet in the air. The helium-filled aerostats, each nearly as long as a football field, carry powerful radars that can protect a territory roughly the size of Texas from airborne threats.
JLENS is scheduled to deploy to the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland later this year. There it will become a part of the National Capital Region’s Integrated Air Defense System -- along with the software that Burgess' team is developing,
“The Raytheon JLENS team knows how important it is that we get it right because the cruise missile threat to the homeland is real and growing,” Burgess said. “The men and women who protect us are counting on JLENS to provide a new and needed capability to protect much of the East Coast from a cruise missile, airplane or drone attack.”