Recently, a runaway Army surveillance blimp from Maryland flew for hours, while fighter jets chased it down. The blimp eventually made its way to Pennsylvania, causing blackouts along the way as it dragged a cable that struck power lines.
The 240 foot helium filled blimp was eventually taken down in two pieces near the small town of Muncy PA, which is located about 80 miles north of Harrisburg, PA. No injuries were reported.
The blimp was filled with important defense technology, including sensitive radar equipment. It escaped from the Aberdeen proving group, drifting northward and reaching an altitude of about 16,000 feet. The blimp traveled about 150 miles during a three and a half hour period.
Because of fears that the blimp would bring danger to air traffic, the military sent two F-16 fighter jets to track it. However, they never had to shoot the blimp down because it eventually deflated on its own. Military experts have said that they are not sure what caused the blimp to deflate, and they also don’t know how the blimp escaped in the first place.
Residents who saw the blimp say that it dangled a cable that took out power lines. Some people mistook the incident for a school experiment gone wrong. They were particularly concerned that people were going to be injured and that houses would have received damage. Fortunately, no people were harmed and no homes were damaged.
As a result of the incident, 27,000 in two counties experienced power outages. Electricity was restored in just a few hours. Bloomsburg University had to cancel classes because of the power outages. Additionally, a police station in Bloomsburg, PA also lost power.
The blimp is known as a Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS). It is used to detect enemy missiles and aircrafts. JLENS have been used by the United States in the Middle East in order to provide radar surveillance.
Usually these blimps are tethered to the ground, though incidents of runaway blimps have occurred in Afghanistan. Military experts say that an escaped blimp is rare because they are held to the ground with a very durable synthetic fiber that can withstand storms of up to 115 mph.