A blimp might not be the most stealthy of warfare equipment, but it is what’s coming to the nation’s capital to act as a defense watchdog.

The Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) developed by Raytheon will provide extensive, long-term surveillance in a trial where it will watch over the Washington, D.C. area.

ratheon blimp

JLENS completed a testing phase that brings it closer to being used by soldiers. (Image: Raytheon)

The JLENS recently completed a set of complex scenarios by the U.S. Army and also proved in an endurance test it could run constantly for 20 days, according to Raytheon’s announcement about its early user testing.

“Completing EUT proved both the maturity of JLENS and that our soldiers are ready to employ this system wherever and whenever their nation needs them,” Dean Barten, the U.S. Army’s JLENS product manager, said in a statement. “With EUT under our belts we are well on our way to deploying the system to Aberdeen Proving Ground for an operational evaluation, and ultimately, putting JLENS in the hands of the warfighter.”

Raytheon’s JLENS program director Doug Burgess described these tests as “when the training wheels come off” for the blimp, giving soldiers a chance to use the system “the same way they would fight.”

The Aberdeen Proving Ground is a military facility located just outside of Baltimore in Maryland.

raytheon blimp

Soldiers testing JLENS. (Photo: Raytheon)

JLENS is billed as having a persistent over-the-horizon sensor system, using radars mounted on aerostats to monitor threats. The blimp gives commanders the knowledge they need to defend against threats, which can include missiles, drones and surface vehicles.

ratheon blimp

JLNES (Image: Ratheon)

Here’s how the system works:

JLENS consists of an integrated surveillance and fire-control radar on two tethered, 74-meter aerostats, which fly at altitudes of 10,000 feet above sea level and remain aloft and operational for 30 days.

  • One aerostat carries a 360-degree surveillance radar, while the other carries a fire-control radar.
  • The integrated radar system can detect and target threats up to 550 km (340 statute miles) away.

Raytheon describes JLENS, which is designed to provide 30-day, 24/7 coverage, as affordable compared to other fixed-wing surveillance aircraft that require more manpower, maintenance and fuel, costing between 500 to 700 percent more to run.

Watch Raytheon’s video feature about JLENS:

This story has been updated.

(H/T: Popular Science)