Giant Military Blimp Breaks Free
The 243 foot long military surveillance blimp JLENS, broke free of its mooring at Aberdeen Proving Ground this morning and has returned to Earth after a four-hour, 160-mile trip.
NORAD spokesman Michael Kucharek said it was on the ground near Moreland Township, Pa. and had slowly been loosing helium as it drifted to the ground but not before it snapped power lines causing some power outages.
The blimp is tethered to the ground by a thick, 10,000-foot cable that can transmit data. The aerostat is designed to stay aloft in winds of up to 70 knots, and remain in the air even if its skin is pierced. Raytheon says the cable is unlikely to break.
Pennsylvania State Police say they have not received any reports of injuries.
The aerostat, part of an over-the-horizon surveillance system being tested, detached from its mooring in Edgewood at about 11:54 a.m. Two F-16 fighter jets from the Air National Guard base in Atlantic City, observed while NORAD worked with the FAA to ensure air traffic safety. It was trailing 6,700 feet of cable. The public was warned to call 911 and told to stay clear of the blimp and its tether line as they presented significant danger. 20,000 customers were without power in the area.
VIDEO 1: Amateur video of the drifting JLENS VIDEO 2: Raytheon video of how it works