Missile-Tracking Aerostat Conducts First Test Flight

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WASHINGTON — Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems of Tewksbury, Mass., said Aug. 25 that it had conducted the first test flight of a large aerostat it is building for the U.S. Army to detect and track cruise missiles.

The 74-meter helium-filled blimp that will be the basis for the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Sensor (JLENS) System was filled with helium in Elizabeth City, N.C., and flown to a height of 900 meters, Raytheon said in an Aug. 25 press release. Raytheon is currently working under a $1.4 billion contract to deliver two full JLENS systems, each of which includes two of the aerostats, a surveillance radar, a fire control radar, mobile mooring stations and communications packages.

In December, the first aerostat will be transported to the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground,
Utah
, to be mated with its surveillance radar. The second aerostat and its fire control radar will be mated at Dugway next May, and the two platforms will be integrated as a system and begin limited testing in September 2010.