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On a crisp winter's day, a tethered blimp almost as big as a football field slowly rises into the blue Maryland sky, casting its radar eye over greater Washington and well beyond.Not everyone is happy with the bulbous unmarked white helium-filled blimp with a tumor-like radome on its belly, tied to earth by a single Kevlar-like cable barely more than 2.5 centimeters thick.Nearly a decade in development, only two JLENS blimps are operational – the one now flying, and another that is to go aloft nearby in a matter of months, but which is currently folded up in a shipping container "like a burrito," as one soldier put it.Each blimp can stay aloft up to 30 days at a time, tethered to a dark green mobile mooring station, coming down to earth only for maintenance – like a fresh shot of compressed helium – or extreme weather.On its website, it calls JLENS a relative bargain, at a time when President Barack Obama has asked Congress for $585 billion for defense in his 2016 budget.Rice contends, however, that one never knows what fresh new threat might be lurking over the horizon.
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