JLENS operates 24/7 for 30 days at a time, and sees the entire spectrum of threats: cruise missiles, aircraft, boats, vehicles and even people planting roadside mines. During development, the system shot down cruise missiles at the Utah Test and Firing Range, and last June it tracked swarming speedboats on the Great Salt Lake. JLENS’ range of 340 miles gives an admiral in the Gulf long minutes instead of seconds to see, analyze and defeat missiles and swarming boats before they reach his flagship. Combine JLENS with a B-2 bomber, and that admiral also has 200 SDB-II homing bombs that can hit speedboats, day or night.
During the $2 billion development program, Congress steadfastly supported JLENS as an essential defense system despite Army delays. JLENS was to be tested in CENTCOM, near the Strait of Hormuz. Congress appropriated money, but the Army dithered. If the Army had acted, JLENS would be there today, watching the Gulf and looking deep inside Iran. But instead, the Army announced the final JLENS field test would be at Maryland’s Aberdeen Proving Grounds, and would not be completed until 2014.
Even JLENS cannot cover Hormuz from Maryland. Regardless, Congress must come to the rescue again and reprogram $30 million (money already appropriated) to get JLENS tested, produced and sent to defend our troops in hot spots around the world. With speedy implementation, tests can be completed this year — if Congress will refuse to be slow-rolled by the Army.
Congress could start by asking the Army to deliver test plans instead of holding feel-good town hall meetings with the grateful citizens of Aberdeen.
Chet Nagle is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, a former CIA agent and the author of Iran Covenant.