JLENS into the Gulf?


2012-08-09 by Ed Timperlake

We’ve previously written in this space on the merits of Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, thankfully better known by its less cumbersome acronym JLENS. The dual-radar system of twin aerostats tethered 10,000 or more feet above the battle space combines surveillance radar to ID air, land and sea-based threats with fire control radar that integrates an array of missile defense assets, from AEGIS Class warships to Patriot missile batteries and drones.

Congress has approved funding for the next round of in-theater testing and the Army has the cash in hand to proceed.

There may be a glitch, in the swirling confusion of current Congressional budgeting a redirection of approved JLENS funding to some other program.

The good news is that Congress is in recess so they’re not in a position to defund the planned JLENS test.

The bad news is that the Strait of Hormuz is seeing one of the biggest military build-ups in recent memory, a situation that cries out for JLENS defense.

The Iranian News Agency is freshly promoting Tehran’s promise to block the Strait and prevent “a single drop of oil,” from passing through that strategic Persian Gulf gateway. The Islamic regime is backing up those words with a combination of asset deployment, accelerated missile testing and naval maneuvers. Add to that the possibility of more than 5,000 anti-ship mines and we’re looking at a significant and lethal response.

Meanwhile, war planners in Washington are deploying their own hardware and personnel, including fresh attack aircraft, a contingent of undersea SeaFox drones, and additional minesweepers to counter the growing Iranian threat.

Immediately adding JLENS to that potential caldron of conflict would provide a high-ground defense system capable of providing around-the-clock surveillance and 360-degree engagement for 30 days at a time.

This is not some pork-barrel earmark designed to keep a Congressman’s constituency happy. This is a working system that can play a major role in confronting the asymmetrical warfare promised by Iran should a shooting war break out in the Strait. Cooler heads are, for now, prevailing in the Gulf. But with that many assets in such close proximity, all patrolling a confined waterway, the risk of a miscue could have global consequences.

If we were contemplating some pie-in-the-sky threat or war gaming a potential risk, that would be one thing.

But Iran is plusing-up in the Strait of Hormuz at a rapid clip and we can’t afford to be caught unprepared.