The $2.7billion program is slated to start in October and run for three years

The blimps will hover overArmy property in Maryland

Powerful radar allows them to spot objects 340 miles away

They will be able to track missiles from Boston to North Carolina as far inland as Lake Erie

Privacy advocates worry they will be fitted with cameras to track individual people’s movements

The Pentagon is set to begin testing controversial surveillance blimps over Maryland that can spot a person 340 miles away.

Built by defence firm Raytheon, the blimps will fly in pairs at 10,000 feet.

Raytheon boasts the project can offer ‘360 degree 24/7 surveillance for 30 days at a time’ – raising major privacy concerns over the project.

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The ‘JLENS’ blimp, built by Raytheon, which can spot objects 340 miles away using highly sensitive radio systems. The US Army is about to begin testing two of the craft over Maryland, sparking privacy fears.

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Raytheon’s blimps can ‘see’ for 340 miles (547km). They are moored to base stations and are designed to look for cruise missiles. Other uses for the Raytheon and Drone Aviation Corp blimps include helping during search and rescue missions, and coordinating people during an evacuation

Reports say the Army will launch two white blimps over Maryland that are tasked with detecting low-flying cruise missiles, but privacy advocates fear they will be outfitted with cameras that can monitor people.

The program will run for three years starting in October, and can detect missiles from Boston to North Carolina on the coast and as far inland as Lake Erie, according to the Washington Post.

Raytheon, which makes the craft, advertises them as useful for 24/7 surveillance.

‘What if there was an affordable way the U.S. and its allies could always “see” the threat, instead of having to hope they had a ship or airplane in the vicinity to detect the threat?,’ it says on its website.

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‘JLENS, an affordable elevated, persistent over-the-horizon sensor system uses a powerful integrated radar system to detect, track and target a variety of threats,’ Raytheon says.

Aerostats, as they are now called, are already used to protect American bases in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are outfitted with cameras and used to track insurgent and U.S. troop movements.

The dirigibles famously snared Army Staff Seargent Robert Bates slaughtering 16 civilians in Kandahar in March 2012.

Video showed Mr Bates returning to the base under what he thought was the cloak of early morning darkness. The footage showed him carrying the rifle used to carry out the mass murder.

The blimps are also used at the U.S. – Mexico border to try to catch illegal immigrants, CBS News noted.

The army has commissioned defense contractor Ratheon to provide the airships, which will hover at an altitude of about 10,000 feet over the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground, for the multi-year trial run. 

Written by Ryan Gorman
Read more at Daily Mail

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