F-16s scramble to track loose Army blimp

A military surveillance blimp broke loose from its post at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in eastern Maryland late Wednesday morning and has already drifted more than 100 miles northwest into Pennsylvania.

Two F-16 fighter jets have been deployed to monitor the blimp and ensure air traffic safety. The 243-foot-long, helium-filled blimp came untethered shortly after noon, quickly ascending to 16,000 feet and moving uncontrollably through over New England.

"We can get it to descend and then we'll recover it and put it back up again," Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters Wednesday afternoon. "This happens in bad weather, we had experience with aerostats of that kind in Afghanistan, so it does happen, but it is an important capability."

The blimp is known as a Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS, and is used for surveillance. The military refers to it as an aerostat because it is supposed to be tethered, and says it "enables protection from a wide variety of threats to include manned and unmanned aircraft, cruise missiles, and surface moving targets like swarming boats and tanks."

The North American Aerospace Defense Command said it is closely tracking the blimp's movements.

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