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Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor (JLENS)

JLENS Program Developments

In January 1996, the Army was directed by the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to take the lead in establishing an Aerostat Joint Project Office (Army, Navy, and Air Force). The (then) U.S. Army Space and Strategic Defense Command was formally tasked to stand up the Aerostat Joint Project Office in Huntsville, Ala. The Navy and the Air Force were directed to provide full-time deputy program managers and share in providing other services support to the program. The JLENS Project Office initiated concept studies and related risk reduction efforts following approval of the JLENS acquisition strategy. The concept studies phase of the program was completed on Aug. 1, 1997. A request for proposal for one JLENS sensors demonstration system was released in late June 1997.

On 30 January 1998, the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) awarded a big contract for the JLENS system to Raytheon Company in Huntsville, AL. The JLENS demonstration program has three primary objectives: mitigation of the risk associated with the execution of the program; design, development, procurement, fabrication, integration, test, demonstration, and maintenance of a system which meets the performance specification; and development of an operational "leave behind" system for user evaluation and for use in the event of a contingency deployment. Total program value, including options for system development/demonstration and operation and sustainment is approximately $300 million. Raytheon's efforts on the JLENS program will be conducted in Raytheon facilities in Massachusetts, California, Florida, and Virginia. Major subcontractors are TRW, TCOM, L.P., Mercury Computer, and Hewlett Packard.

Using an aerostat provided by the Air Force, the JLENS Project Office participated in the 1996 Roving Sands Demonstration and provided an over-the-horizon air picture to interested participants for the duration of the exercise. A connection to the Multi-Link Translator and Display System local area network allowed JLENS to inject tactical data information link-J messages into the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System, or JTIDS, network. JLENS transmitted the full air picture, including a number of targets that had not been reported before because the surface-based sensors did not have the capability to send track messages over a JTIDS network to Patriot, THAAD, AEGIS and SHORAD. A German Patriot unit reported killing a cruise missile with JLENS' track number, demonstrating cueing by the JLENS. The exercise also allowed the JPO to identify and evaluate battle management/command, control, and intelligence interface requirements; provide training and hands-on experience for JLENS launch, recovery, and ground station operations; and establish a test bed for follow-on testing and program risk reduction efforts. The Roving Sands Exercise demonstrated that from its highest altitude of 15,000 feet above ground level, the JLENS sensor can locate and track targets, providing the battlefield commander with early warning of air and ground threats previously hidden from view.

JLENS proved its operational utility in the joint arena in the All Service Combat Identification and Evaluation Team '99, or ASCIET '99, exercise. A 15 m aerostat was deployed with a Cooperative Engagement Capability, or CEC, relay on a mobile mooring station. This relay allowed the Army's Patriot air defense system and the Navy's Aegis weapon system to exchange radar data, share a Single Integrated Air Picture, or SIAP, and conduct simulated engagements for the first time in an operational environment. JLENS also demonstrated at ASCIET the high operational availability potential for elevated CEC and JTIDS relays, and the JLENS Prototype Processing Station's capability to process, correlate and display a SIAP from multiple sensor sources.

In mid-1999 the JLENS team participating in the US Army's Roving Sands Exercise is conducted tests aimed at extending the system's flight time in poor weather. Roving Sands '99 will showed JLENS current capability as a blue force player, participating under the sponsorship of the US Army's 32d Air and Missile Defense Command. Building on ASCIET successes, JLENS merged air tracks from multiple elevated aerostat based radars with tracks obtained from JTIDS and Tactical Information Broadcast Service. JLENS air tracks were reported to exercise players over JTIDS. JLENS relay work from ASCIET was expanded to include the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System and the Enhanced Position Location Reporting System to support the overall exercise. During the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration portion of Roving Sands, the JLENS objective capability was demonstrated using simulated surveillance track data processed and transmitted over the JTIDS network to the other blue force players.

The aerostat used by the JLENS Project Office in the exercise at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., is 233 feet long; is filled with 590,000 cubic feet of non-explosive, non-flammable helium; and has a hull volume two and a half times the volume of the largest advertising blimps flying today. Aerostats differ from blimps in that blimps are powered while aerostats are tethered or anchored to the ground. The tether also supplies electrical power to the aerostat.

JLENS was designated an Acquisition Category II program in March 1999. Long term acquisition requirements call for 12 complete systems at an estimated value of $1.6 billion.

The JLENS program deployed a 15 meter aerostat to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The aerostat carried an electro-optical/infrared package to support force protection activities to provide surveillance of individules who might be involved in planting Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). The Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment (RAID) program is an example of an LTA application for a current Army mission. It is a short-term initiative of the JLENS program. For the RAID effort, aerostats fitted with high-resolution day and night cameras providing surveillance capability are being deployed in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

JLENS was scheduled for demonstrations during Roving Sands 03, which was cancelled due to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In January 2005, the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor or JLENS Project Office transferred to the PEO Missiles and Space as part of the Cruise Missile Defense Systems Project Office, formerly the SHORAD Project Office. The JLENS Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment (RAID) Product Office (Provisional) transferred to PEO Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors in January 2006.

In April 2006, JLENS passed its system functional review-a major milestone that permitted the program to progress to the preliminary design phase.

A contract was signed with Raytheon, the material developer, in December 2006 to build two orbits. Waltham, Mass.-based Raytheon Co. was awarded a $1.4 billion contract from the Army in 2007 to design, build and test the aerostats. On 03 January 2007, Raytheon Company completed negotiations with the U.S. Army resulting in finalizing a contract modification for system development and demonstration of the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS). System testing was scheduled to begin in 2010 with program completion in 2012. Work on the program will be performed at Raytheon sites in Massachusetts, California, Texas and Maryland. Raytheon IDS will develop the fire control radar and processing station. TCOM, L.P., based in Maryland, will develop the aerostat and associated ground equipment.

In December 2008, JLENS successfully conducted a critical design review (CDR), representing a key milestone in the U.S. Army program. The CDR thoroughly assessed all aspects of the JLENS design maturity and confidence for the $1.4 billion system design and demonstration contract. With this milestone completed, the JLENS program transitioned into the fabrication, assembly, integration and test phase. In February 2009 Raytheon Company's JLENS successfully conducted a critical design review representing a key milestone in the U.S. Army program to provide cruise missile defense capability for our nation's warfighters. The review thoroughly assessed all aspects of the JLENS design maturity and confidence. The successful CDR represents a key milestone event for the $1.4 billion system design and demonstration contract.

In April 2009 the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System Product Office announced a major milestone in the design and manufacture of the JLENS System. The event centered on the helium inflation of the world's first 74 meter aerostat. Aerostat serial 0001 lifted off the ground for the first time March 9 at the TCOM manufacturing and flight test facilities in Elizabeth City, NC. TCOM is a subcontractor to Raytheon's Integrated Defense Systems Division which is the prime contractor for JLENS. The 74 meter long aerostat, anchored to the ground by a tether and connected to an 180,000 pound mobile mooring station, covers almost the length and width of a football field. It will be able to fly a 7,000 pound communications and radar payload up to 10,000 feet.

The aerostats were first flight-tested in Elizabeth City, N.C., in August 2009, but were limited to a height of 3,000 feet. It's the first time Raytheon put the sensors on an aerostat. The U.S. Army's Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Sensor System (JLENS) demonstrated its first flight recently during a ceremony in Elizabeth City, N.C. The JLENS first flight was held to prove the maturity and operability of the JLENS platform and marked the first time the aerostat was flown to an altitude of 3,000 feet.

The JLENS test sites are located at the Utah Test and Training Range, approximately 23 miles away from the U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground installation. In Utah tests in 2010, the dirigibles were expected to fly some 10,000 feet above the Air Force's Utah Test and Training Range, where air space is restricted up to 58,000 feet.

Scheduled for fielding in 2012, when the Army will begin replacing currently fielded Aerostats and Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment (RAID) towers, JLENS will provide a long-duration, wide-area cruise missile capability while also supplying the battlefield commander with situational awareness and elevated communications capabilities.

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Page last modified: 26-01-2012 16:04:37 ZULU