Military blimp goes AWOL for a joy ride up the East Coast

29 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Blimp on the loose – U.S. fighter jets track wayward surveillance system.

A military surveillance blimp worth more than $1 billion crash-landed in central Pennsylvania on Wednesday just hours after it broke loose from its tether in Maryland. The unmanned aircraft, one of two JLENS, or Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor Systems that have been surveying the East Coast, came detached around noon while hovering at an altitude of 16,000 feet, according to the Baltimore Sun. “It knocked out the power. State police in Columbia County, Pennsylvania, confirmed they had been getting 911 calls about blimp sightings, but they could not provide additional details.

A pair of F-16 fighter jets from the New Jersey National Guard base in Atlantic City were said to be flying alongside the 243-foot-long, helium-filled blimp and were monitoring its flight path, authorities said. The North American Aeropsace Defense Command had also been working with the Federal Aviation Administration “to ensure air traffic safety,” a spokesman said. The local electric utility, PPL, reported about 20,000 customers without power in the area, although it was unclear how many could be attributed to the blimp. While the system is meant to detect suspicious activity in the air near Washington DC and New York City, the system failed to identify a Florida mailman who flew a gyrocopter onto Capitol Hill earlier this year.

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