Have ye been wondering how a 61-year old postal carrier managed to land his flying bicycle on the Capitol lawn?
Police arrested Douglas Hughes after he steered his tiny gyrocopter onto the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol after flying right up the National Mall through the ultra-restricted airspace. He took off from Gettysburg which is more than an hour away from the no-fly zone over Washington. Apparently no one knew he was there until he landed.
Mr. Hughes had told the world he would do it by way of his website dedicated to this act of civil disobedience. He aimed to deliver 535 letters personally by “air mail” to members of Congress. “The unending chase for money I believe threatens to steal our democracy itself,” Hughes wrote to the Tampa Bay Times. “I’m demanding reform and declaring a voter’s rebellion.”
The quotes from those parts of the government assigned to protect us tell us the real story, though.
“Oh, he flew under the radar.”
“Oh, our long guns would have shot him out of the sky had he gotten any closer.”
Let’s think about that.
He got within a few hundred feet of Congress. Long guns like the M107 can shoot a couple thousand yards.
How much closer did they want him?
And it turns out Mr. Hughes didn’t fly under the radar. There wasn’t any radar.
The Army’s “Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System” is designed specifically to catch flying bicycles. This JLENS “aerostat radar system” will someday track boats, ground vehicles, cruise missiles, and manned and unmanned aircraft like gyrocopters. The system has two tethered helium/air mix blimps, armored mooring stations, radars, and a processing station designed to communicate with anti-missile and other ground and airborne systems. It was to have been deployed over the Capitol. It has a catchy name, anyway.
Sadly it isn’t out of “testing” yet.
Huh. They pointed this program at the Capitol about September 12, 2001, coming up 14 years ago but it started in back in 1996 which is darned near two decades now. A three-year exercise for one of the only two JLENS orbits is slated to begin sometime this year at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Contingent upon federal funding, of course.
You might recall that we decided to go to the Moon and do the other things on September 12, 1962. And Neil Armstrong took that small step on July 20, 1969, not quite half of 14 years later.
It gets worse.
We already had a Tethered Aerostat Radar System up and running in December, 1980 at Cudjoe Key, Florida.
And it ain’t even rocket science.
See that tethered Air Force Tethered Aerostat Radar System (the one that looks sooooooooo much like “JLENS”) was capable of detecting low flying objects and to track boats, ground vehicles, cruise missiles, and manned and unmanned aircraft like gyrocopters. Its primary mission has been to watch over counter-drug operations. Just having the blimp present used to deterred crime in the nations southernmost border. It has also proved a huge help to the US Coast Guard with drug interdiction through the years.
“Used to” because, after more than 30 years of service, all the TARS sites including Fat Albert were deflated due to cuts to the federal defense budget. And so the Army could develop JLENS.
But now we have 20 years and $2.78 billions in testing of “JLENS.”
Just another reason to wonder how good this government is at doing the other things they say they excel at.
“Change we can believe in”
“Failure we can count on.”