JLENS System

Product Type:

Missile Defense Radar System

Using Service (US):


Program Status:

Currently in Development,
Testing and Integration Phase

Prime Contractor:

Raytheon Company

The JLENS System

About the JLENS System:

The Joint Land attack cruise missile defense Elevated Netted Sensor (JLENS) system is a missile defense radar system (manufactured by Raytheon), which provides persistent Over-The-Horizon (OTH) surveillance. The primary mission of JLENS is to protect against anti-ship cruise missiles, aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, high-speed "swarming" boats, and mine laying ships. The system is a critical part of the U.S. Army's future Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) architecture.

JLENS will provide fire control data to surface-to-air missile systems such as THAAD, the Army's Patriot and the Navy's AEGIS BMD Combat System, thus increasing the capabilities of these systems by allowing them to engage targets below, outside or beyond the field of view of surface-based weapons. Additionally, JLENS provides fire control data to fighter aircraft allowing them to engage enemy threats from extended ranges. As a secondary role, JLENS detects and tracks surface moving targets.

A JLENS Orbit is comprised of two systems: a Fire Control Radar (FCR) system and a Surveillance Radar system. Each system is comprised of a 74-meter helium-filled, tethered aerostat, a Mobile Mooring Station (MMS), a Communications and Processing Group (CPG), and associated Ground Support Equipment (GSE). The JLENS aerostats are designed to fly at altitudes of up to 10,000 feet (3,000 m). JLENS can stay aloft for up to 30 days providing 24-hour radar coverage of the assigned area enabling the only elevated, persistent, long-range surveillance and fire control sensor capability.

JLENS is a very affordable and cost-efficient system. According to research conducted by the Army's JLENS product office, the cost of operating large fixed-wing surveillance aircraft is 5-7 times greater than the cost of operating JLENS. JLENS provides the same 24-hour coverage that it would take four or five fixed-wing surveillance aircraft (E-3 Sentry AWACS, E-8C JSTARS or E-2C/D Adv. Hawkeye) to provide.

The 74-meter aerostats are developed and produced by TCOM LP in Columbia, Maryland. Easily deployed (72 hours emplacement or displacement), the aerostats provide high-altitude continuous coverage for surveillance and communications to be quickly established and coordinated over long distances. The aerostat has a length of 74 meters and a hull volume of 19,000 cubic meters.

JLENS has for the past three years been based at the Utah Test and Training Range near Salt Lake City. The first flight demonstration was successfully conducted on August 25, 2009. In February 2011, Raytheon reported that JLENS had successfully demonstrated the ability to transmit from an elevated aerostat. In April 2011, JLENS has successfully demonstrated the ability to track targets of interest and, in July 2011, JLENS completed a successful endurance test. In June 2012, a series of tests demonstrated that JLENS is capable of detecting and tracking multiple high-speed "swarming" boats from hundreds of miles away. In September 2012, during a joint Army and Navy test, a JLENS fire-control radar acquired and tracked a surrogate anti-ship cruise missile target. The tracking information was passed to sailors via the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) sensor-netting system. The sailors then fired a Standard Missile SM-6 at the target. Initial SM-6 guidance used targeting information provided by the JLENS via CEC to the AEGIS BMD combat system until the missile's onboard radar was able to acquire and track the target.

A major test for JLENS is currently taking place at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, where the system participates in a long-term trial watching over Washington, D.C. for three years. The first JLENS aerostat joined the trial on December 27, 2014. The second aerostat is scheduled to go aloft in early 2015



Price/Unit Cost:


Total Cost - Life of Program (LoP):

The total procurement cost of the JLENS program is $0.00 billion (official DoD estimate) + $2.55 billion in research and development (RDT&E) funds, which means the total estimated program cost is $2.55 billion (numbers are aggregated annual funds spent over the life of the program and no price/inflation adjustment was made). This figure excludes military construction (MILCON) costs in support of the program in the amount of $40.9 million.


JLENS provides elevated persistent Over-The-Horizon (OTH) surveillance using its advanced sensor and networking technologies to provide 360-degree wide-area surveillance. The sectored precision tracking provides protection for U.S. forces, allies, and coalition forces, as well as critical geo-political assets primarily from cruise missiles, aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles; secondarily from tactical ballistic missiles and large caliber rockets in the boost-phase; and tertiary situational awareness of surface moving targets.

FY 2014 DoD Program:

Continues development and testing. RDT&E funds in the amount of $83.4 million have been allocated for JLENS development.

FY 2015 DoD Program:

Continues development and testing. RDT&E funds in the amount of $54.1 million have been allocated for JLENS development. These funds provide for the installation, checkout, and testing of the Fire Control Radar (FCR) at Aberdeen Proving Ground, new equipment training, execution of operations of the COCOM Exercise extended test program in support of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)/United States Northern Command (NORTHCOM), and government program management support of the COCOM Exercise.

For more information, click to see the FY 2015 Army JLENS RDT&E Budget.

Source: U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and Raytheon Company.

Specifications Armament DoD Spending FY2015 Budget

Last Update: January 5, 2015.

By Joakim Kasper Oestergaard Balle /// (jkasper@bga-aeroweb.com)

External Resources:

Raytheon's JLENS Site: Raytheon JLENS

TCOM LP: 74-Meter Aerostat

YouTube: JLENS | YouTube

Data Sheet: JLENS Infographic

Total JLENS Program Cost:

  $2.55 billion  ($0.00B procurement + $2.55B RDT&E)

JLENS U.S. Defense Budget Charts:

DoD Spending on the JLENS System in FY 2011, FY 2012, FY 2013, FY 2014 and FY 2015
DoD Purchases of JLENS System in FY 2011, FY 2012, FY 2013, FY 2014 and FY 2015
Defense Budget Data

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DoD Spending, Procurement and RDT&E: FY 2011/12/13 + Budget for FYs 2014 + 2015

DoD Defense Spending, Procurement, Modifications, Spares, and RDT&E for the JLENS System

Download Official U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Budget Data:


Specifications: JLENS

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Specifications | 74-Meter Aerostat

Primary Function: Aerostat (airship) provides 24-hour radar coverage for the JLENS System
Prime Contractor: Raytheon Company
The aerostats are developed and produced by TCOM LP (subcontractor)
Length: 243 ft (74 m)
Weight: 7,000 lbs (3,175 kg)
Volume: 19,000 cubic meters
Service Ceiling: 10,000 ft (3,048 m)
Endurance: 30 days
Wind Speeds: Max. Operational: 70 kts; Max. Survival: 100 kts
Communications: Multiple fiber optic links to ground facility

Defense Program

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