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Report: JLENS Airship Not Meeting Expectations

But Program Has Powerful Friends In Washington

An investigation conducted by a news organization has found that the Army's JLENS program has failed to meet expectations after 17 years and an investment of nearly $3 billion.

The Baltimore Sun reports that, according to an investigation by Tribune Media, the 240-foot-long white tethered blimp has failed to effectively track targets and distinguish threats from friendly aircraft. Tribune Media reports that in a review of reports generated by the U.S. GAO and the Pentagon Operational Test and Evaluation Office, the JLENS' performance was rated as "poor" in 2012, citing issues if four "critical performance areas."

The Baltimore Sun reports that the JLENS, which is designed to track low-flying aircraft, did not detect Douglas Hughes, who flew a gyrocopter through the area monitored by the JLENS and eventually landed on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

He got through, according to the Army, because software issues kept a second JLENS aircraft of the ground, and data from the aircraft has "not been integrated into the NORAD air defense network," according to Maj. Beth R. Smith.

According to the report, the Army tried to end the program in 2010, but prime contractor Raytheon and other supporters managed to salvage funding for the technology. The system was defended by Marine Corps Gen. James E. "Hoss" Cartwright, who was at the time the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Cartwright later joined the Raytheon board, and the paper reports that according to the SEC, he was paid more than $282,000 in cash and stock.

The Army says that JLENS is currently in a "testing and system checkout phase."

(Image from file)



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