Runaway Military Blimp Knocks Out Power to Thousands of Homes on 160-Mile Journey
A military balloon that came untethered at a Maryland military base knocked out power to thousands of Pennsylvania homes before it was ultimately secured.
A trail of sightings of the unmanned aircraft, which is shaped like a blimp and is being used by the Pentagon for classified research, started in Maryland on Wednesday and followed a path through Lancaster County-- an agricultural region perhaps best known for its large Amish population.
The helium-filled blimp, which is part of an increasingly criticized $2.7 billion federal program, no doubt appeared in stark contrast to the horsedrawn carriages that are so common in the area.
The blimp became unthethered around noon on Wednesday.
By just after 3 p.m., NORAD had confirmed to WBALTV that the aircraft had been lassoed to the ground after traveling 160 miles.
Before the blimp went down in the town of Bloomsburg, the 6,700 feet of tether it was dragging along behind it managed to down power lines, knocking out power to surrounding buildings, reports WGAL.
Local power provider PPL blamed some 20,000 outtages on the blimp.
As part of the response, F-16 fighter jets were hastily sent out from New Jersey National Guard to track the blimp.
On Wednesday night, Mike Huckabee even brought up the blimp during the GOP debate.
He said: "It's a perfect example of government. Basically a bag of gas that cuts loose, destroys everything in its path, leaves thousands of people powerless. But they couldn't get rid of it because we had too much money invested in it. So we had to keep it."
Just last month, the blimps--which float over Maryland and are designed to protect American airspace from missile or other airborne attack as part of a program 17 years in the making--were labeled as a "failure" in a Baltimore Sun report.
"After 17 years of research and $2.7 billion spent by the Pentagon, the system known as JLENS doesn't work as envisioned. The 240-foot-long, milk-white blimps, visible for miles around, have been hobbled by defective software, vulnerability to bad weather and poor reliability," reads the report.