The military lost control of a giant, unmanned surveillance blimp

28 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Army Blimp Goes Out of Control, Menacing Towns and Thrilling America.

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.

Army blimp went out of control Wednesday, flying 160 miles before crashing in Pennsylvania and exposing yet another embarrassing setback for a program that cost nearly $8 billion to get in the sky. Details were sketchy, but a statement from the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado said the blimp detached from its station at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, at about 12:20 p.m. The JLENS blimp came off its tether around 11:54 a.m. in Edgewood, Maryland and was being monitored by two F-16 fighters while it flew over Pennsylvania.

Boardwalks have been rebuilt, sea walls erected, bays cleared of debris and thousands of homes restored three years after Superstorm Sandy pummeled coasts of New Jersey and New York. Officials say the dragging tether attached to the blimp was hitting power lines near Bloomsburg, Pa, where residents use social media to report sightings. “NORAD officials are working closely with the FAA to ensure air traffic safety, as well as with our other interagency partners to address the safe recovery of the aerostat,” officials said in a statement. That’s where it went AWOL on Wednesday, snapping a more than one-inch thick cable and hitting the skies on a joy ride over the farm fields and towns of eastern Pennsylvania. It’s hard to hide when you’re a blimp, and at nearly the size of a football field, this one has attracted attention and Tweets and two fighter jets.

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. We are closely monitoring the situation, and we will work with the appropriate authorities to respond to any resource requests and assist in any way possible.” (TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries.

This type aircraft have been used for surveillance by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, and privacy advocates raised concerns about about similar tech being tried out domestically. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, in brief remarks to reporters Wednesday, suggested “bad weather” was a factor in the loss of the JLENS but would not say how it could be retrieved. From its vantage point, they could cast a vast radar net from Raleigh, N.C., to Boston and out to Lake Erie, with the goal of detecting cruise missiles or enemy aircraft so they could be intercepted before reaching the capital. Neither the federal government nor the states keep reliable statistics on how many damaged homes and businesses are still vacant or in need of repair.

It is part of a surveillance system designed to detect cruise missiles, rockets, drones and other weapons that could be used to attack key targets in the United States. Robert Bales murdered 16 civilians in Kandahar in March 2012, an aerostat above his base captured video of him returning from the slaughter in the early-morning darkness with a rifle in his hand and a shawl over his shoulders.

Many homes along the coast have been elevated to get them out of harm’s way for the next big storm, but many more have simply been rebuilt as they were, leaving owners vulnerable to both future storm surges and rising insurance premiums. Defense contractor Raytheon in 2013 touted an exercise in which it outfitted the aerostats planned for deployment in suburban Baltimore with one of the company’s most powerful high-altitude surveillance systems, capable of spotting individual people and vehicles from a distance of many miles. The Army told The Post in 2014 that it has “no current plans” to mount such cameras or infrared sensors on the aerostats or to share information with federal, state or local law enforcement, but it declined to rule out either possibility.

The aerostats have a radar capable of detecting airborne objects from up to 340 miles away and vehicles on the surface from up to 140 miles away — as far south as Richmond, as far west as Cumberland, Md., and as far north as Staten Island. Once a surveillance technology is put up, it’s very tempting for law enforcement or the military to use it for reasons they did not originally disclose.” Technologies developed for battlefields — weapons, vehicles, communications systems — long have flowed homeward as overseas conflicts have ended. Even a rifle shot through an aerostat will not bring it down, because the pressure of the helium inside nearly matches the pressure of the air outside, preventing rapid deflation. The Defense Department spent nearly $7 billion on 15 different lighter-than-air systems between 2007 and 2012, with several suffering from technical problems, delays and unexpectedly high costs, the Government Accountability Office found in an October 2012 report.

They were among the first tangible signs of recovery; shore towns made rebuilding the walkways a priority to show residents things were getting back to normal. (A storm-wrecked boardwalk in Seaside Heights, where the MTV show “Jersey Shore” was filmed, was rebuilt twice; part of it caught fire in 2013). The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently put the district on its list of most endangered historic places in the country because of the ambition of the redevelopment plans.

Many billions of dollars are now being spent to protect critical infrastructure from future storms, including electrical utilities and water and sewage treatment plants. In Sea Bright, New Jersey, repairs are being made to a damaged oceanfront rock sea wall, but other hard-hit communities’ storm protection plans remain on the drawing board. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has given New York City hospitals more than $2.7 billion to restore their campuses and do things like build new floodwalls and relocate emergency generators.

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