Pentagon to Launch Blimps to Guard Against Cruise Missiles - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

Pentagon to Launch Blimps to Guard Against Cruise Missiles

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The military plans to deploy blimp-like aircraft called 'Aerostats' over the skies of Maryland this fall. The Army says they're needed to protect the nation's capitol.

"There's a real concern that cruise missiles could fly at low level and fly very rapidly, launched by a ship, could actually threaten the capitol," says CBS News military analyst Col. Jeff McCausland.

One military officer tells CBS News, the prospect of a cruise missile launched at the nation's capitol is one the country's biggest threats. "As it stands today we have practically zero capability to detect it, much less defend against it."

From 10,000 feet in the air, the Areostats will have radar that reaches Boston from North Carolina. The technology is already in use overseas. Aerostats in Afghanistan include radar and cameras which monitor vehicles and people on the ground.

"That kind of tracking technology raises privacy concerns, and the military wants to test hardware they should not be testing out on the American public," says ACLU attorney David Rocah.

But the Pentagon insists the U.S. blimps won't include cameras. Vernon Herron, a Homeland Security analyst at the University of Maryland, says people should not worry. "The technology is not designed to collect data, it's just surveillance."

The military will begin testing the Aerostats in October. The blimps will be flown from the Aberdeen proving ground in Maryland. The tests are expected to last for the next three years.

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