fled zeppelin

Fear Not, America: That Renegade Army Blimp Is Down

Military Blimp Loose Over Pennsylvania
Photo: U.S. Air Force/Tiffany DeNault via Getty Images

A military surveillance blimp that came unmoored and went drifting over Pennsylvania Wednesday afternoon is back on the ground and secure, according to the Associated Press.

The renagade surveillance blimp was one of a pair that watch over the East Coast for incoming cruise missiles. But the 243-foot-long, helium-inflated aerostat broke free of its tether earlier today.

A runaway blimp prompted the important national-security question: Just who surveils the surveillance blimps?

According to the Baltimore Sun, the answer is F-16 fighter jets. Authorities told the paper that two such jets were dispatched from the Air National Guard base in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and monitored the free-floating blimp as it drifted toward Wilmington, Pennsylvania. 

The aircraft — properly known as the JLENS (Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System) aerostat — cruised at an altitude of 16,000 feet while trailing the 6,700 feet of cable that once anchored it to the ground. That enormous leash knocked down power lines all over Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, WBAL-TV reports. Bob Reese, a state police spokesman in Montoursville, told the AP that the blimp had caused 18,000 power outages statewide.

However, officials told NBC News that the blimp never presented an “imminent threat to any populated areas.” But it did present an imminent opportunity for lots of Twitter jokes. 

Fear Not, America: That Renegade Blimp Is Down