Runaway US military blimp protecting DC now over Pennsylvania

This Military 'Blimp' Is Loose on the East Coast
This Military 'Blimp' Is Loose on the East Coast

A high-tech U.S. military blimp designed to help detect a missile attack on the U.S. capital came loose from its moorings on Wednesday and floated over Pennsylvania, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said.

The JLENS blimp was trailing its 10,000-foot (3-km) cable, which CNN said was knocking out power lines in some areas as it drifted north from its home at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, a U.S. Army facility 40 miles (64 km) northeast of Baltimore in Maryland.

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"We are working closely with the FAA, we have been since the report of the first incident," NORAD spokesman Michael Kucharek told Reuters. "The FAA owns the airspace. We are working with them very closely to ensure the airspace safety."

Two F-16 fighter jets were monitoring the surveillance system as it hovered at about 16,000 feet (5,000 meters).

Kucharek told CNN the blimp was not designed to be released and it was not immediately clear how it became detached from its tether.

Kucharek told CNN that public safety was the primary concern as the blimp drifted and that recovering it was NORAD's secondary concern. He said there was no need to shoot it down.

"I think we're in a monitor situation at this point," he said. "It's deflating as we speak. It's releasing some of its helium."

Kucharek said the blimp is specifically meant to detect cruise missile attacks on the Washington, D.C., region and provides a 340-mile (547 km) over-the-horizon view of incoming air traffic.

The office of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf released a statement saying the state was monitoring the situation and discussing it with federal officials, state police and emergency officials and the National Guard.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Additional reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Bill Trottand Sandra Maler)

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Originally published