Army Surveillance Blimp on the Loose Over Pennsylvania, Chased by Fighter Jets

A JLENS blimp at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in February.

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

World’s Wildest Police Videos was one thing, but there’s nothing better than a good old-fashioned blimp chase.

At about noon Wednesday, a surveillance blimp from the Army’s Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS, became untethered at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland and started drifting. The helium-filled blimp is now apparently over Pennsylvania.

The Baltimore Sun reports that two F-16 fighter jets from an Air National Guard base in New Jersey are supervising the situation in the air as the blimp floats at about 16,000 feet. The North American Aeropsace Defense Command and the Federal Aviation Administration are both involved in managing the situation. The JLENS program has been criticized by privacy advocates, though perhaps tether integrity should have been the first concern.

CNN reports that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and other state officials are “closely monitoring” the blimp sitch. A statement said, “The Governor’s Office is in communication with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the Pennsylvania State Police, the National Guard, and the appropriate authorities with the federal government.”

How many government agencies does it take to recover a marauding danger blimp?

Update, Oct. 28, 3:15 p.m.: The blimp has a 6,700 foot cable trailing off of it, which is apparently now taking down power lines and causing outages in Pennsylvania. The blimp’s manufacturer, Raytheon, says in promotional material for JLENS that, “there are a number of procedures and systems in place which are designed to bring the aerostat down in a safe manner.” OK, let’s see ‘em.