An enormous military blimp tore free of its tethers on Wednesday, October 28. It was spotted earlier floating over the middle of Pennsylvania, according to the Associated Press. It appears to have gone to ground and it seems to have knocked out power to more than 20,000 people in the area.
No one knows how the 243-foot-long blimp got free, but a statement from the North American Aerospace Defence Command in Colorado said the blimp detached from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, at around 12:20 p.m. ET. It was also trailing almost 7,000 feet of tether.
“My understanding is, from having seen these break loose in Afghanistan on a number of occasions, we could get it to descend and then we’ll recover it and put it back up,” Defence Secretary Ash Carter said in a brief exchange with reporters at the Pentagon. “This happens in bad weather.”
This video seems to show the blimp hovering near the ground. The poster says the blimp landed near his school, the Columbia-Montour Area Vocational-Technical School:
Local news reporter Donna Hamilton confirmed the blimp went down around 3:30pm:
Several people reported sightings of the blimp over Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania:
According to a Facebook post from local news station SECV8, the blimp has caused power outages in the Bloomsberg area:
The blimp was set up in Maryland last year in order to monitor and protect the mid Atlantic, according to Motherboard. The blimp could see over 300 miles in every direction in order to spot any incoming enemy planes. According to the Los Angeles Times, the blimp project has cost more than $US2.7 billion dollars and hasn’t been successful.
The program’s critics include those who think the blimp and its twin pose a privacy concern and others who think the blimps could be weaponised. The military says the blimps are made to detect dangerous weapons, not carry them, and that they don’t have the capability to track individuals.
The blimp and its twin were in the first year of a three-year test exercise at the Aberdeen Proving Ground.
The blimps, technically a part of a program called the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defence Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS, were supposed to be detecting and monitoring land-based vehicles from Richmond, Virginia to Cumberland, Maryland, all the way to Staten Island, New York, according to The Washington Post.
The blimps are kept aloft with “non-flammable helium,” and can stay in flight even after multiple punctures. While it was still aloft, the military sent two F-16 military fighter jets to track the blimp, according to the Associated Press.
Here’s a time-lapse of the blimp being blown up, which shows its huge size:
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