A massive surveillance blimp is on the loose on the East Coast.
Two blimps loaded with powerful and sophisticated radar equipment, part of the $2.7 billion Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS), were moored 10,000 feet over Maryland's Aberdeen proving grounds until one of the giant blimps slipped the surly bonds of Earth on Wednesday afternoon, reportedly terrorizing the good people of Pennsylvania as it floated overhead.
The Sun reported that the blimp, part of a radar system intended to warn of attacks from a variety of threats — everything from missiles to bomb-packed land vehicles — is now itself under surveillance:
Two F-16 fighter jets from an Air National Guard base in Atlantic City, N.J., are monitoring the unmanned aircraft, and the North American Aeropsace Defense Command is working with the Federal Aviation Administration "to ensure air traffic safety," a spokesman said. The blimp was drifting at an altitude of 16,000 feet.
In a statement quoted by The Hill, NORAD said that they "are working closely with the FAA to ensure air traffic safety" while the 243-foot-long blimp is in the wind.
All reports indicate the military asks the public to keep away from the blimp and should call 911 if they see it. Weather conditions in the northeast could affect the blimp's path and trajectory, as could actions taken by the F-16 fighters keeping an eye out for it.
At the moment it's just an unfortunate and seemingly absurd military mishap, but let's hope such a huge object doesn't end up intruding into the crowded airways feeding airports in New York and Boston, because then the jets will have to take it down for sure.
We just want everyone to get home safely, even the wandering blimp.
WBAL's Kim Dacey reported on her Twitter feed that the blimp was down and surrounded by local authorities. It went to ground near Jerseytown, Pennsylvania. Several local power outages coincided with the blimp being spotted in the area, with over 20,000 residents in the dark at one point.
Photos by U.S. Army