DANGEROUS SITUATION: Power Outages Reported in Bloomsbury, PA Area as F16's Scramble to Chase $1.1B DoD Blimp that Broke Free from Tether... Mile Long Tether Dragging...
BREAKING NEWS: A JLENS blimp that has been tethered at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland has broken free Wednesday and is being tracked by two fighter jets traveling over Pennsylvania at 16,000 feet, a NORAD spokesman said.
JLENS is short for Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor. The craft looks like a blimp, but the tether technically means it is an aerostat. The craft is the size of a football field and cost about $180 million each.
The Baltimore Sun reported that the helium-filled blimp detached at about 11:54 a.m. and was pulling about 6,700 feet of cable. The paper reported that the military is working with the FAA to maintain air safety. The Air Force said two F-16 fighter jets from Atlantic City are monitoring the blimp.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf's office issued a statement saying it is aware of the situation and has been in contact with various departments and the state's emergency management agency.
"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," the statement read.
The system featured two, unmanned aerostats, tethered to concrete pads 4 miles apart. They were intended to float at an altitude of about 10,000 feet, about one-third as high as a commercial airliner's cruising altitude.
One balloon was designed to continuously scan in a circle from upstate New York to North Carolina's Outer Banks, and as far west as central Ohio.
The other was meant to carry precision radar to help the military on the ground to pinpoint targets. The craft can stay in the air for up to a month at a time and has a high-definition 360-degree radar capable of monitoring 340 miles in any direction.
A storm near the JLENS program's test facility Elizabeth City, N.C., in 2010 caused a civilian balloon to broke loose from its mooring and destroy a grounded JLENS blimp.
The aerostats did not carry weapons, military officials said in 2014.
By: CBS 21 Web Staff ABERDEEN, Md. -- An unmanned military defense balloon has broken loose from a military base in northern Maryland, and is moving to the north, which would place it over south-central Pennsylvania. According to Aberdeen Proving Ground officials, the blimp-like object is an unmanned aerostat carrying the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) which broke loose from its tether at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. The object was last seen floating northeast at about 30 miles per hour, officials said, and was just across the Pennsylvania border north of Baltimore. NORAD has launched F-16s to monitor the aerostat. The balloon is as long as a football field. "Anyone who sees the aerostat is advised to contact 911 immediately; people are warned to keep a safe distance from the airship and tether as contact with them may present significant danger," the APG official wrote in a release. The balloon is equipped with a device to slowly deflate the aerostat, but the device is not working, officials said. Photo courtesy: Department of Defense and WBFF-TV