Rogue military blimp ‘grounded itself’ after drifting over Pa. [updated]

     (Image: Raytheon)

    (Image: Raytheon)

    The chief spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command says a military blimp that broke loose in Maryland and drifted over Pennsylvania “grounded itself,” but the military does not know why it deflated as its descended.

    Spokesman Navy Capt. Scott Miller said officials did not deliberately deflate the blimp.

    He said it was tethered to a mooring station at an altitude of about 6,600 feet when it broke free. It is not known how it detached from its mooring, but an investigation is underway.

    Miller says two armed Air Force F-16 fighter jets from the Atlantic City Air National Guard Base in New Jersey tracked the runaway blimp as it drifted north from Aberdeen Proving Ground. He says there was never any intention of shooting down the blimp.

    Pennsylvania state police say a military blimp that broke loose in Maryland and drifted over Pennsylvania is on the ground and secure.

    Bob Reese, a state police spokesman in Montoursville, said it came down in the area of Muncy, near Williamsport.

    The blimp caused about 18,000 power outages. Columbia County chief clerk Gail Kipp says the blimp dragged its tether line, which took out power lines and caused widespread outages.

    The unmanned Army surveillance blimp broke loose from its ground tether at a military base and drifted over central Pennsylvania as fighter jets tracked it. The aircraft is known as a Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System and can be used as part of a missile defense system.

    It’s not clear how the blimp came loose.

    Details were sketchy, but a statement from the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado says the blimp detached from its station at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, about 12:20 p.m.

    Officially known as an aerostat, the tethered airship traveled toward northeast at 16,000 feet and pulling an approximately 6,700-foot steel chain. 

    According to New York Metro Weather, “[a]tmospheric dynamics and synoptic lift will make it difficult to track the blimp, but it should generally move northeast this afternoon.”

    Two F-16 fighter jets from the Atlantic City Air National Guard Base in New Jersey were monitoring the craft, which was spotted below the cloud line near Bloomsburg shortly before 3 p.m. 

    FAA officials are working with the military to ensure air traffic safety in the area.

    According to the Raytheon, the blimp manufacturer, the 242-foot long aircraft protects Washington, D.C. by monitoring a range as wide as Texas. 

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    The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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