(WASHINGTON) — The military blimp that broke free from its tethering in Maryland has touched down in Pennsylvania after floating for hours and sending fighter jets scrambling to track it, authorities said.
No further details about how the blimp landed have been released, but NORAD spokesman Capt. Scott Miller confirmed that the blimp was on the ground in Montour County.
The blimp floated freely for roughly four hours, during which time fighter jets were scrambled to follow its movements, according to officials.
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A fire department in Maryland first reported that the Aberdeen Blimp became untethered just before noon Wednesday. It has passed Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and was flying towards the northeast at 15,000 feet, officials said.
“Emergency personnel are tracking the aerostat which is still aloft in [sic] moving toward Pennsylvania,” according to the Aberdeen Proving Ground, the U.S. Army facility.
The full name of the blimp — known as an aerostat — is a Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) and it is used to detect cruise missiles around Washington DC.
“It enables protection from a wide variety of threats to include manned and unmanned aircraft, cruise missiles, and surface moving targets like swarming boats and tanks,” said a statement from NORAD.
The balloon, which does not carry arms, is part of a system that is tethered at 10,000 feet in the air to detect threats.
Two F-16 fighter jets were scrambled to monitor the blimp.
About 18,000 electric customers near Bloomsburg, Penn. are out of power, according to PPL electric spokesman Joe Nixon. He told ABC News that while he can’t confirm that the blimp caused any of those outages, “there appears to be a connection” between the blimp’s route and the outages.
Witnesses have said that they saw a long cable trailing the blimp, and NORAD confirmed that it has “an unknown amount of mooring cable” trailing it.
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