Army Blimp Breaks Loose, Drifts for Hours Over Pennsylvania

29 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Army blimp breaks loose, drifts over Pennsylvania.

A high-tech US military blimp designed to detect a missile attack came loose and wreaked havoc as it floated from Maryland into Pennsylvania while dragging more than a mile of cable and knocking out power to thousands. WASHINGTON: A massive US surveillance blimp broke loose from its mooring Wednesday, sparking power outages as it drifted around Pennsylvania dragging a 6,600-foot (2011m) cable before eventually easing down to Earth, officials said. The U.S. military scrambled two armed F-16 fighter jets to keep watch as the massive blimp traveled into civilian airspace after coming untethered from its base at Aberdeen Proving Ground, a US Army facility 40 miles (65 km) northeast of Baltimore.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said the huge balloon-like structure finally landed in Montour County in Pennsylvania, at around 4pm (2000 GMT). The bulbous, 240-foot helium-filled blimp finally came down in a wooded hollow near Muncy, a small town about 80 miles north of Harrisburg, as people gawked in wonder and disbelief at the big, white, slow-moving craft.

John Thomas, a spokesman for Columbia County emergency management agency, said there were no reports of injuries but had no more details about the landing. JLENS blimps carry powerful radars that can monitor an area about the size of Texas for airborne threats including unmanned aircraft, cruise missiles and other objects. Edward Snowden – the former National Security Agency whistleblower who in 2013 revealed a worldwide US surveillance program harvesting the data of average citizens – couldn’t resist making sport about the snafu. “Apparent second confirmation that mass surveillance leads to unauthorised travel,” tweeted Snowden – who in exile appears to delight in poking fun at US foibles and failings, embracing the role of America’s gadfly. Civil liberties activists worried the aircraft could be used for domestic surveillance, something the Pentagon strongly denies, saying the blimp cannot see people and has no cameras aboard. He said there was an auto-deflate device aboard, but it was not deliberately activated, and it is unclear why the craft went limp. “I honestly was worried that there were people in it that would be injured.

A neighbor down the road is thinking it knocked down a tree branch and power pole by his house that could’ve potentially destroyed his house,” Hartkorn said. Wendy Schafer’s first thought upon seeing the blimp near her job at a spa and salon in Bloomsburg was that a nearby school was conducting an experiment. “I had no idea what it was. Together the pair make up an “orbit,” with the ground crew of one aerostat assigned to 24/7 surveillance and the other tasked with directing air defense missiles to intercept a cruise missile in mid-flight. We lost power at work, so I looked outside and saw the blimp,” Schafer said. “My first thought was Vo-Tech was doing something at the school until my friends tagged on Facebook about the blimp. It was crazy.” About 27,000 customers in two counties were left without power, according to electric utility PPL, and Bloomsburg University canceled classes because of the outage.

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