Raytheon pushes swarm boat weapon

Raytheon is the latest defense company to get in line to trumpet a missile or radar system’s capabilities in defeating the swarm boats the U.S. Navy has listed as major threats to their ships, especially in an attack from Iran.

Officials from Raytheon say they succesfully tested its Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) against naval swarm boats in June.

Raytheon tested the JLENS’ ability to target swarm boats in the Great Salt Lake. It tested the radar’s ability to track multiple fast and high speed vessels to potentially give a ship commander situational awareness of all threats he might face.

A JLENS system is made up of two aerostats that float up to 10,000 feet off the ground providing radar and communication capabilities to see over-the-horizon threats and communicate with a range of weapons systems.The Army has worked with Raytheon to develop JLENS to track and defeat aircraft and cruise missiles. Swarm boats had not previously been promoted as targets within the program.

JLENS has faced a rocky development program as prices for the system spiraled. The program has already faced a Nunn-McCurdy review because of increasing costs. Mark Rose, Raytheon’s JLENS program director, said the program is back on track and costs have been brought under control.

Inside the Army is also reporting a JLENS aerostat collided with a separate airship in 2011 in North Carolina. Both the JLENS aerostat and the Skyship 600 airship were destroyed in the accident, according to the report.

Development continues as Raytheon officials said the JLENS is expected to complete an operational test with a major command this year, Rose said. He did not know when or what command, but said it’s an important step toward fielding the JLENS for the Army.

21 Comments on "Raytheon pushes swarm boat weapon"

  1. Here is an idea (without regard for cost): Take two of these, replace the radar on one with a battery of a Phoenix-type missile (190+ km range), and string them across the second island chain in the Pacific. BAM–our very own mobile A2AD system.

  2. At only 10,000 foot altitude, an aerostat would be vulnerable to command guided, shoulder launched SAMs like the British Starstreak. Boats would have to be destroyed or deterred before they got within range.

  3. What's the average wave height/sea state on the Great Salt Lake? A real challenging test, was it?

  4. that is the largest nutsack I have ever seen….

  5. knotsec

  6. W. B. Cheney, III | September 12, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Reply

    Thats a big ass ballon to carry arround! Hook it up to a destroyer and you could fly it!
    If you want to fly a radar to protect against a high speed boat attack, why not use a drone?

  7. I think the military MIGHT have an unhealthy obsession with acronyms. They call it the JLENS – it should be the JLACMDENS or "jay-lack-em-denz". We've already had the M-ATV which is rightfully the MRAP-ATV. The first sign of a problem is denial. Jus'sayin…

  8. While I suppose a MANPAD could take this out at 10000 feet I doubt it could do it from over the horizon. And yes a Global Hawk could do something similar to this for a few hours. The point is that this thing is tethered in a location that gives you a persistent situational awareness for a large area while being well away from any likely action.

  9. I can see this as being usefull right up to the point where the helium runs out. At the moment the US does not treat what is effecitivly the worlds only bulk helium supply as a strategic asset rather than something to get rid of on the cheap in party balloons. Untill they sort that out this and lockheeds HALE-D / P-791 have a very short lifespan ahead of them.

  10. what a target, nope

  11. Too bad we can't ask this question to the crew of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald which sank in a Lake Superior storm on November 10, 1975. The vessel was over 700 feet long.

  12. I wonder if we could put a stabilized 20mm up there…

  13. The title calls this a weapon. I'd call it a sensor…

  14. These Ballons will last about 5 minutes. Then what?

  15. The part of the fighting where it gets shot down by the advanced air defense system is probably the worry.

  16. RAID — Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment is an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform. There are more than 100 RAID systems are deployed in Afghanistan.
    Electro-optic infrared, radar, flash and acoustic detectors elevated by tethered aerostats and on 100-ft. telescoping tower systems enable warfighters in forward operating bases to “see” and know what threats and other activities are taking place far beyond the perimeter. This persistent surveillance provides warfighters with significantly increased safety and security.
    You can see them on google earth just visit the
    Google Earth Community › Earth › Military ›

  17. I had a chance to work with one aerostat down in Honduras back in 1986, and it worked well for us. We had three modes on the system – an air mode, to look for aircraft, a moving target indicator mode, to look at vehicle movement, and two sea modes, one for calm seas and one for rougher seas. Our ground station had to switch off whenever we went to the sea modes as they could not read it at that time. I'm glad to see they have worked that bug out. These aerostats have seperate chambers for the helium so it is not one huge "balloon" but numerous smaller balloons encased within. It takes a LOT to bring one down, ask the U.S. NAVY about what it takes. They had to take one out that broke away from its tether off the coast of Florida.
    I tried to get a jiob working with these after I retired from the Army and everyone said they did not have the system, even the DEA that uses them for drug smuggling.

  18. I wonder if the Iranian air force can shoot these down? If so, then it is a huge waste of money. I would think attack helicopters providing cover for a carrier would do a better job than the hindenburg.

  19. While I'll make fun of a military project any day of the week – and regarding this one: Doesn't it look like it needs to wear a pair of briefs or something? I've never seen a more obviously male blimp in my life! ;) – but at the same time, I don't know why there are some cynical comments up above.

    An airborne surveillance system – like an E-3 or E-8, for example – are way the hell faster and more maneuverable than any blimp, BUT they would lack the extreme endurance that a blimp could provide. You can put one up there for weeks, and while it's possible to rotate through 2, 3, or 4 jet-based surveillance assets for the same period of time, how much fuel are you using to keep them up? A blimp can be put up, stay up for ungodly periods of time *AND* if it's an airborne radar system, it can warn ground controllers to launch aircraft in case some were coming to shoot it down. (Cont'd…)

  20. … cont'd:

    Now, I don't see an answer to a missile attack on one yet, so I'm not saying that the platform has zero flaws. That would be foolish. Rather, I'm saying it doesn't have to be deployed in a way that makes it vulnerable to everything.

    As long as it's effective as a surveillance platform and not expensive, I think aircraft such as these are a great idea. Now, obviously I'm only taking about the lighter-than-air aspect, not the "swarm defense" capability. I'm too ignorant about what that involves to comment on that. But I've always wondered why such platforms weren't, for example, acting as long-range surveilance for airbases, carriers, and missile defenses. You could combine these with E-2s, for example for carrier strike groups: Have the blimp based platform do the routine coverage and save the E-2s – and the fuel, plus the personnel – for more intense operations, for areas where additional coverage is needed, etc.

  21. This will compliment the prism program nicely

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