Maryland delegation's support for surveillance blimp program: deflated - Technical.ly Baltimore

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Mar. 14, 2016 1:45 pm

Maryland delegation’s support for surveillance blimp program: deflated

Once supporters, Mikulski and Ruppersberger now oppose continuing JLENS.

The JLENS aerostat in happier times.

(Photo courtesy of Raytheon)

When we last checked in with the surveillance blimp program known as JLENS, it was grounded after one of the twins ran away from home above Aberdeen Proving Ground.

But after all of the pieces were picked up from a field in Pennsylvania, the military sector in charge of operating the enemy aircraft detection system still wants the blimps to fly above Baltimore. The formal move to relaunch the aircraft came in the form of a $27.2 million appropriation request in Congress month.

According to Defense News, Admiral Bill Gortney of NORAD told the U.S. Senate’s Armed Services Committee that the Raytheon-developed blimp — which, OK, is technically called an aerostat — is needed to protect us against Russian cruise missiles. In Syria, Gortney said, Russia is staging cruise missiles for no other reason than “messaging us” that they could launch a cruise missile at the U.S.

However, this did not sway Maryland’s elected officials.

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Baltimore), who is known for his defense advocacy, said he is not supporting the request.

“The JLENS failure — caused by human error, procedural issues and design flaws — jeopardized the safety of my constituents. I can’t, in good conscience, support its continuation in such a highly-populated area,” he said in a statement.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who has also supported JLENS in the past, is also over it.

“The Defense Department spent $3 billion on this program. That’s an awful lot for a balloon that they can’t shut off,” her statement said. “We should get a lot more for our national security for $3 billion.”

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Stephen Babcock

Stephen Babcock is Market Editor for Technical.ly Baltimore and Technical.ly DC. A graduate of Northeastern University, he moved to Baltimore following stints in New Orleans and Rio Arriba County, New Mexico. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Baltimore Fishbowl, NOLA Defender, NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune and the Rio Grande Sun.

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