A radar-equipped United States Army blimp that broke free from its moorings at the Aberdeen Proving Ground yesterday set off a chase involving ground units and two F-16 warplanes.
The dangling mooring cable apparently knocked out power lines as the blimp drifted across residential areas at low level. Am certain there's a lesson or two here for the Republic of Singapore Air Force unit entrusted with aerostat operations.
Extracted from a Reuters report titled "Runaway U.S. military blimp wreaks havoc in Pennsylvania", dated 28 October 2015:
"A high-tech U.S. military blimp designed to detect a missile attack came loose on Wednesday and wreaked havoc as it floated from Maryland into Pennsylvania, dragging more than a mile of cable and knocking out power to thousands.
The U.S. military scrambled two armed F-16 fighter jets to keep watch as the massive blimp traveled into civilian airspace after coming untethered from its base at Aberdeen Proving Ground, a U.S. Army facility 40 miles northeast of Baltimore.
The blimp, part of a $2.8 billion Army program, landed in a rural, wooded area in Exchange, Pennsylvania, a community outside Bloomsburg, about 150 miles (240 km) north of the Aberdeen Proving Ground.
John Thomas, a spokesman for Columbia County emergency management agency, said there were no reports of injuries but had no more details about the landing.
Pennsylvania police and military officials guarded a wide safety perimeter around the blimp, which settled amid farmland in the remote area. Residents, including members of an Amish community, watched them work under steady rainfall.
The blimp's travels caused widespread damage, officials said. At one point, 30,000 Pennsylvania residents were without power, the governor's office said.
"The tether attached to the aircraft caused widespread power outages across Pennsylvania," said a statement from Governor Tom Wolf's office.
The blimp's travels were a sensation on social media, with hashtags like #Blimpflood and #Blimpmemes ranking among the top trending topics. At least two Twitter parody accounts sprung up, gaining nearly 2,000 followers in just under two hours.
The attention was unlikely to be welcomed by the Army, which calls the program the Joint Land-Attack Cruise Missile Elevated Netted Sensor System,or JLENS. The program was restructured after it overran cost estimates, the Government Accountability Office said in 2014.
The program is comprised of two blimps, each 242 feet long. The second blimp will be grounded until the military inspects it and finishes an investigation into the unmooring, said Navy Captain Scott Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. military's North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD.
The system itself is still in a testing phase. Manufacturer Raytheon Co's website says it would become part of the defenses that help protect the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area.