The winds this afternoon were more potent to the US military than expected. One of the two JLENS blimps flying over Aberdeen Proving Ground broke free at 11:54 AM with cable more than a mile long trailing behind. It has been tracked by NORAD and fighter jets riding the strong winds into Pennsylvania at an altitude of 16,000 Ft. The blimp was carrying 6,700 ft of cable.

UPDATE: The JLENS Blimp was caught in power lines around Bloomsburg, PA. The mile long cable took out power lines.

BlimpThe Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Netted Sensor System (JLENS) is a new generation of first line defense for our nation. When I first wrote about this program last December, it was intended to fly in good weather. Gregg Plapas captured one of the first images (seen here) in flight late December 2014. It is unclear if it was flying off the tether or knocked free from grounding today. Being helium filled, it lifted quickly beyond the low cloud deck in today’s storm. Tracking it with the fast winds has been the primary issue.

With an intended altitude of 10,000 Ft they were part of a civil defense to monitor the East Coast of missiles or other adversaries with a view of 340 miles in all directions. The strong winds in today’s storm have been from the southeast, averaging 15 to 25 mph, but aloft they are much stronger.

Where in PA Did It Go?

Winds at 12 Noon: 

These were the winds at 80 metes (250 feet ) above the ground. They were generally from the east southeast. But, the blimp travelled much higher and encountered faster winds with a chance in direction


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Winds Aloft: About 5,000 Ft

At the 850mb level, winds increased well over 45 mph and changed direction from the south. With this in mind, there is a goo chance the blimp passed over York or Lancaster Counties. At this point, it would be a good bet the mid afternoon location was near the Poconos, well out of the Mid Atlantic.


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JLENS Highlights:

  • Size: 80 yards long
  • Hight: Can fly up to 2 miles altitude
  • Duration: Can stay aloft (filled with helium) up to one month at a time.
  • Coverage Area: New York to North Carolina and west to Ohio, 340 miles in all directions.
  • Cost: $2.8 million so far. Congress has approved $43.3 million in spending.
  • A second balloon will launch four miles away in the spring.
  • The program originally called for up to 16 balloons, but the two over Maryland are the entire program.

See more about the JLENS mission in Maryland


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