Defense Spending

The Pentagon Can't Even Efficiently Waste Money on Blimps

Takes 17 years to spend $2.7 billion on idiotic failed program.


Your Tax Dollars at Work

Via the mixed-up files of Mr. Alan Vanneman comes this charming story of Pentagon waste, fraud, and abuse:

The Army is testing giant high-tech blimps east of Baltimore to assess their ability to provide an early warning if the national capital area were attacked with cruise missiles, drones or other low-flying weapons.

But after 17 years of research and $2.7 billion spent by the Pentagon, the system known as JLENS doesn't work as envisioned. The 240-foot-long, milk-white blimps, visible for miles around, have been hobbled by defective software, vulnerability to bad weather and poor reliability.

The Baltimore Sun reports that "Army leaders" tried to shoot the program down in 2010 only to be caught in crossfire with Raytheon, the contractor making the blimps, lobbyists, and go-along Congress critters. The Sun's evaluation of the program is scathing, obvious, and deeply sads-inducing:

A more serious problem, from the standpoint of Army leaders, was that even a fully functioning JLENS wouldn't be much use against the weapons that were killing and maiming U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan: crude rockets, artillery and improvised explosive devices.

JLENS was designed chiefly to defend against cruise missiles, which were not a threat in those battle zones. And the United States already had radar-equipped planes that could detect cruise missiles.

Ineffective, stupid, and irrelevant? Check, check, and…check.

The good news is that this blimp program has only cost U.S. taxpayers a relatively paltry $2.7 billion so far. All for a technology that was a running joke back when Capt. Parmenter, Sgt. O'Rourke, and Cpl. Agarn were fighting the Indian Wars on F Troop:

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  1. +1 cannon shot knocking over watch tower

  2. The Baltimore Sun reports that “Army leaders” tried to shoot the program down in 2010 only to be caught in crossfire with Raytheon…

    Oh the humanity.

  3. Uh, if you’ve seen View to a Kill you know how important blimps can be.

    1. +1 sexy sexy grace jones.

      1. You must really mean Flyboys.

        1. Jennifer Decker is no Ursula Andress (maybe I should have gone with The Blue Max?)

          1. Anything with James Mason in it works for me. He is probably in the top ten actors of all time. Bonus points for Anton Diffring.

            The Blue Max it is.

  4. It’s kind of interesting, because one of the most celebrated and loved (by the Army and Air Force, whose bases and camps they protect) platforms of recent years is an aerostat. It’s usually used for perimeter surveillance, and the guys in Afghanistan love that shit.

    Now an aerostat as a sensor platform is probably a good bit less complicated and expensive than a fully-mobile blimp, so maybe Lockheed got something right that Raytheon hasn’t yet.

    1. When I was at Bagram AF – we had a big radio tower looking thing with the sensor suite on it and it was called the JLENS tower – no balloons, blimps, aerostats, zeppelins or dirigibles.

      1. Different thing. I’m talking about PTDS, which is a tethered aerostat. Lockheed looks to have delivered something like 66 (probably more, since I saw a few after they had supposedly delivered the last of them to the Army).

        They’ve been used in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

        I heard little other than praise for them.

        1. Oh Hells yes. Anything that helps, man!

        2. They were simply awesome in Afghanistan, can’t say enough positive about them.

          1. Most, if not all, of those were made and shipped from Akron, Ohio, a place that has a very, very long history of lighter-than-air flight.

            Sadly, the location that made these is in the slow, agonizing process of closing.

            1. If they were not all made here, the design and integration was all done here. I was not privy to any of those actual operations, but got to see some of them while they were testing the sensors in the Goodyear Airdock (which is a massive, massive building dating from the Depression).

    2. Those are tethered, right? Like a WW2 barrage balloon?

      1. Tethered, yes.

    3. Yeah, they have one of those at Fort Huachuca keeping an eye on the border in southern Arizona. I’ve always thought it should be painted up like a Pepperidge Farms goldfish

    4. I loved the phalanx based anti-IDF system even better. B-r-r-r-r-a-a-a-a-ap!

      1. Oh yeah, C-RAMS was the name.

      2. Anti Israeli Defense Forces?

        1. Indirect fire

          1. Pretty effective too. Blew up a rocket right over my hooch one night and the concussion blew door open.


    *throws Nick out of blimp*

    1. When do we give Kraus a curb party?
      *kisses brass knuckles*

      1. Jesus! Wanna blow us all to shit, Sherlock?

    2. Nick doesn’t get the core concept.

    3. We need Luxury Airship Travel. New York to Paris (with stops in London), crewed by orphans, free monocle and your choice of top hat or mustache for each passenger.

      1. I would love to ride in a Zeppelin… Like a flying cruise ship.

  6. You have to expect that applying 75 year old technologies would cost billions of dollars.

    [Barrage balloons] proved to be mildly effective against the V-1 flying bomb, which usually flew at 2,000 feet (600 m) or lower but had wire-cutters on its wings to counter balloons. 231 V-1s are officially claimed to have been destroyed by balloons.

    Emphasis added.

  7. The Army is testing giant high-tech blimps east of Baltimore to assess their ability to provide an early warning if the national capital area were attacked with cruise missiles, drones or other low-flying weapons.

    This would be for those high-tech cruise missiles, drones or other low-flying weapon travelling at like 8 or 10 miles-per-hour, or by “early warning” do they mean “According to our latest estimates and the best of our knowledge there’s an incoming hostile and you’ve got about 20 seconds to find somep…” “BOOOM!”

    1. Nah, with sufficient height, those suckers can see something like a cruise missile with enough time to do something about it. Of course, that probably assumes we have PAC-3s on the White House lawn, because unless you want an F-16 to try to pick off an cruise missile (certainly possible, but not recommended), you need something halfway decent to kill the fucker.

  8. JLENS is horribly over-priced and is completely ineffective in preventing IEDs, but the concept itself is not bad.

    A high altitude blimp can act as permanent sattelite coverage. The fact that Raytheon and the Army fucked up the execution of the concept, doesn’t make it stupid and irrelevant. It’s the fact that this system doesn’t work that makes it that.

    As an aside, there is another one of these albatrosses flying over FT Huachuca, where I think it may be supporting border security, as well as testing.

    1. That’s probably TARS, an older variant of Lockheed’s PTDS.

      1. Really kind of the same thing… As the article states, this has been in development for 17 years. The real difference is in the quality/complexity of the radar and electronics. I believe the Huachuca one was used in the development of JLENS.

        1. Hmm…I do know that TARS is down along the border in several places.

          There are a ton of areas marked off on military sectional charts of southern AZ, NM, NV, and CA that indicate tethered lighter-than-air stuff.

  9. A). A,program,Clinton,started and Obama continued costs $2.7B. The program was to,study blimps.

    B) The EPA just spent $92M in one year on furniture.

    C) Benghazi Select Committee has spent $4.7M on oversight, most of which has been in pursuit of previously-undisclosed emails by former SoS and her staff, who are also stonewalling FOIA requests for official DoS correspondence.

    Guess which one the left complains like crazy about because it’s a waste of money?

    1. Some twit was here this morning whining about the waste of money investigating that lying hag.

  10. On a positive note, and in other “antiquated technology” news, at least they only spent 1/25th what the California train is supposed to cost.

    1. Continue the program for another 350 years and it would equal the annual waste and fraud in SS/Medicare/Medicaid.

      1. Sorry, miscalc. It’s 850 years.

  11. Bah. They were just doing this to make sure they had the jump on Ron Paul, in case he was up to anything.

  12. “The good news is that this blimp program has only cost U.S. taxpayers a relatively paltry $2.7 billion so far.”

    Hey, bug deal. Did you ever eat at French Laundry?

  13. Airship Regatta and Fancy Hat Party!….._color.jpg

  14. This happens throughout the DOD, and gov’t on a daily basis.

    Oh, but only “top men” are able to provide defense, and magical socialism makes it effective and efficient.

    I mean look, forget about the 2.7 billion, and the fact that folks are unable to remove their funding from such a corrupt and abusive institution……cause if you tried doing that, they’d use violence against you for failing to pay the extortion rate.

    Just remember that by ignoring history, we can argue all day that there would be chaos without those “top men” running the defense department. Such corrupt people would never start a war, or waste money. For their magical socialism brings with it great efficiency.

    With the private production of defense, companies would be held accountable for their actions. Folks could choose to not do business with a corrupt company and can reward good economic actors. But this all would be chaos.

    Cause somehow……if I have $10, and I waste 6 of it, leaving only $4 to spend, that is more efficient that having $10 and being held accountable for that money going to the project. Yay magical socialism!!!! Free market….bah……chaos!!!!!

    1. Leftie Top Men don’t do Defense, that’s all evil rethuglicans and kkkorporations and defense is bad m’kay.

      Leftie govt programs are all about good intentions, not blowing shit up.

    2. Actually, defense might be an actual instance of market failure. Remember Carthage?

  15. The Army is testing giant high-tech blimps east of Baltimore to assess their ability to provide an early warning if the national capital area were attacked with cruise missiles, drones or other low-flying weapons.

    Like boulders launched from siege engines.

    1. Or rocks thrown by children.

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