The military blimp that loosed itself from its tethers in Maryland and floated away over the eastern seaboard, pursued by fighter jets, is now descending to the ground, authorities said.
"JLENS aerostat drifting northward & has descended near the ground," the North American Aerospace Defense Command tweeted. "Anyone seeing the aerostat notify law enforcement & remain clear."
A U.S. military blimp has broken free of its tethers and is on the loose—albeit slowly—above the eastern seaboard, local media reported Wednesday afternoon.
Fighter jets are tracking the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) aerostat, which was last seen drifting over central Pennsylvania. According to the Baltimore Sun:
[The] North American Aeropsace Defense Command is working with the Federal Aviation Administration "to ensure air traffic safety," a spokesman said. The blimp was drifting at an altitude of 16,000 feet.
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The 243-foot-long, helium-filled blimp detached from its mooring at the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Grounad at about 11:54 a.m., a spokeswoman for the Army installation said. It was trailing approximately 6,700 feet of cable.
The $2.7 billion JLENS program has been operated by the Pentagon for nearly two decades. The radar-equipped blimps were billed as an early warning system against cruise missiles, drones, and other weapons. But in an investigation published in September, the Los Angeles Times reported that JLENS ultimately amounted to nothing more than a costly, ineffective "zombie" program that's impossible to kill.
NORAD hopes it won't be impossible to catch.
The social media hashtag #MissingBlimp was tracking its movement:
A Twitter account for the blimp, which already existed, also offered some updates from the road, starting with the simple goodbye message, "Peace out losers."