The Pentagon had spent $2.7 billion developing a system of giant radar-equipped blimps which was supposed to provide an early warning in case of an attack against the US.
The system, known as JLENS, was meant to provide warnings in case the US had ever been attacked with cruise missiles, drones or other low-flying weapons, a report by Tribune News Service says.
However, after nearly two decades of disappointment and delay, the JLENS – Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System- proved to be a fiasco on April 15.
On that day, a Florida postal worker flew a single-seat, rotary-wing aircraft into the heart of Washington, which was intended to be spotted by JLENS, but 61-year-old Douglas Hughes flew undetected through 30 miles of highly restricted airspace before landing on the West Lawn of the US Capitol.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, at a congressional hearing soon afterward, criticized the US for its inability to detect “a dude in a gyrocopter 100 feet in the air” who was able to successfully carry out such an audacious stunt.
“Whose job is it to detect him?” Chaffetz asked.
JLENS was supposed to perform the task, but it was “not operational” that day, as the head of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, Adm. William E. Gortney, told Chaffetz.
JLENS is a clear example of what Pentagon specialists describe as a “zombie” program: costly, ineffectual and seemingly impossible to kill.
According to The Los Angeles Times, JLENS had difficulty tracking flying objects and distinguishing friendly aircraft from threatening ones in tests.
Also, a 2012 report done by the Pentagon’s Operational Test and Evaluation office revealed the system to be in four “critical performance areas,” rating its reliability as “poor.”
The revelation came as some figures show an 8 percent increase in the base military budget in 2015.
The base budget includes $126.5 billion for the Army, $137 billion for the Navy, $24 billion for the Marine Corps, and $152.9 billion for the Air Force.
The other $94.0 billion would fund other wide programs of the US military.
Some $177.5 billion would be for modernization programs, including about $11 billion for the Joint Strike Fighter.