Norad has confirmed that one of the Aerostats from Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland went missing today.
It was reported that the blimp came loose from where it was tethered at around 11:54 a.m. and rose to 16,000 feet. It is currently being followed by two F-16 fighters while it is currently traveling over Pennsylvania.
The blimp is being used in a three year test to see whether the system can defend the U.S. east coast from attacks. The program was announced in December of last year and in intended to patrol the eastern seaboard from an altitude of up to 10,000 feet.
It is the first real-world deployment of the blimps, known as the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS). Each of the two airships are equipped with a different radar system.
The program will provide the military with long-term, uninterrupted defense capabilities equal to at least five early-warning aircraft. JLENS is also believed to be able to provide significantly more notice than is possible from standard early-warning planes.
JLENS is armed with a surveillance radar that can detect everything from boats to airplanes to drones, and even trucks and cars, and a fire-control radar that integrates with the military’s major missile systems.
On occasion, the blimps have been forced back to the ground due to bad weather, but this is the first time one has gone missing. Raytheon has stated that the tethers are made from Vectran, a high-strength fiber. This material has stood up to winds of up to 115 miles per hour.
An investigation will be conducted to find out how the Aerostat was removed from its tether.
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