UPDATE: 1:44 p.m. EDT -- The runaway U.S. military blimp in Pennsylvania has lost altitude and is low to the ground, hitting power lines, CNN reported. The issue has reportedly caused power outages, and the military is urging citizens to stay clear of the blimp.



Original Story:

A military surveillance blimp got loose Wednesday in Maryland and drifted into Pennsylvania as fighter jets scrambled to monitor the unmanned aircraft, authorities said. The 243-foot-long, helium-filled blimp became untethered from its mooring at the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground shortly before noon, the Baltimore Sun reported.

The military blimp passed Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and was floating toward the northeast at 15,000 feet with approximately 6,700 feet of cable trailing below. Residents in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, were posting on social media they had spotted the pilotless vessel. Meanwhile, a Twitter account claiming to be the blimp itself tweeted: “Peace out losers” and “I’m going to be so grounded after this.” Authorities warned anyone who sees the pilotless vessel to keep a safe distance and dial 911.

The blimp, known as an aerostat, is a Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS, which is used to detect fire on incoming cruise missiles and other threats around Washington, D.C. North American Aerospace Defense Command spokesman Michael Kucharek told the Baltimore Sun the military is working with other agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration, “to address the safe recovery of the aerostat.”

The JLENS is part of more than a decade of Pentagon research costing $2.7 billion. But some Baltimore residents have called the military blimps looming above the city skyline a waste of taxpayer dollars.  “This is a completely expensive white elephant,” Michael Greenberger, University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security, told Baltimore news station WJZ in September. “Unless I [see] evidence [to] the contrary, it seems like a total failure.”

A 2012 report by the Pentagon apparently faulted the JLENS in “critical” performance areas, rated its reliability as “poor” and said software hiccups have “weakened” its ability to communicate with the nation’s air defense networks -- its chief purpose.