WASHINGTON — After breaking free from its mooring station and taking a destructive trip through the skies of Pennsylvania in October, Congress is cutting funding for the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) by $30 million in its fiscal 2016 defense spending bill released Wednesday.
The cut leaves just $10.5 million in the account that funds JLENS. According to the bill, the cut was made due to a "test schedule delay."
The Raytheon-made JLENS system consists of both a fire-control system aerostat and a surveillance aerostat, and was undergoing a three-year operational exercise at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
Now JLENS' fate is squarely in question after one of its two aerostats broke away and traveled across Pennsylvania causing several large power outages by hitting power lines with its long tether. It's theorized the JLENS aerostat's auto-deflation device did not work correctly, which would have brought the blimp down quickly in the event it became detached from its mooring.
The second aerostat that is part of the system at Aberdeen is grounded pending the results of the investigation. A second JLENS system is in storage.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.