Every time we drive north on 95 from Baltimore, we see some aerostats (tethered blimps}.
It’s all a part of the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) and today, a tether broke:
The U.S. military has two giant, unmanned surveillance blimps it uses to watch the East Coast from a base in Maryland. And one of them escaped its tethers Wednesday and floated aimlessly over Pennsylvania, downing power lines and cutting off electricity for tens of thousands of residents.
The incident started shortly after noon, when the blimp became detached from its anchor, NORAD said. Two F-16 fighter jets were scrambled to ensure it didn’t collide with other aircraft. By late afternoon, the dirigible had come down to the ground near Moreland Township in Pennsylvania — after drifting more than 100 miles — but not before leaving a trail of damage in its wake.
It was unclear how the aerostat got loose and how it came down, said John Cornelio, a spokesman for NORAD. He added it was possible that the aerostat’s helium could have run out.
The blimp wreaked plenty of havoc. Frederick Hunsinger, the public safety director for Columbia County, Pa., said in an interview that the blimp’s heavy tether dragged for 20 miles across his county. There were no injuries within county borders, but the damage caused 35,000 to lose electricity, he said. Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania canceled classes as a result; 911 phone lines were overwhelmed.
Known as the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS, the blimp is technically an aerostat — a term for a lighter-than-air craft that is tethered to the ground. The $2.7 billion program is on a three-year test run to see whether it can help detect cruise missiles or enemy aircraft from 10,000 feet above ground.
The JLENS program “continues to drain money from taxpayers even though it serves no strategic purpose,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said. “This incident is just another example of the problems inherent in an ill-conceived network of floating blimps that don’t provide any advantage over aircraft we’ve already bought.”
I am sure that the 35,000 people who lost power would agree with Representative Speier.
It does see to be yet another DoD program where they are procuring without a meaningful need.
*What can I say? The juxtaposition of penis humor and alliteration are comedy gold., and yes, it is one of the reasons that I made this post..