back to article DEFCON 1 to DEFCON GONE: One of NORAD's spy blimps goes missing

A US government surveillance airship broke free of its moorings and headed to Pennsylvania, carrying its load of very sensitive and super-secret hardware. The blimp is part of Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS), which is a radar and surveillance system designed to spot vehicles, …

  1. Someone Else Silver badge
    Coat

    Technically the aircraft isn't a blimp, which is defined as a balloon without an internal framework. The correct terminology is an aerostat, but blimp is a much more fun word to say and thus tends to get affixed to any floating gasbag.

    Ergo, Rush Limbaugh == blimp

    1. Fatman Silver badge
      Flame

      RE: Ergo....

      <quote>Ergo, Rush Limbaugh == blimp flaming Nazi gasbag</quote>

      FTFY!!!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Drone shotgun guy time

    Where's that drone shotgun guy when you need him?

    Hopefully the blimp floats over his backyard and we get to see a new chapter start in that story... :D

    1. Peter Simpson 1
      Happy

      Re: Drone shotgun guy time

      Gotta deflate it first.

      Deflating football shaped objects is a specialty of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots!

      (as a bonus, you'll be able to reuse it, unlike the shotgun solution)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Drone shotgun guy time

      The cops did use shotguns on it:

      http://arstechnica.co.uk/information-technology/2015/10/runaway-jlens-balloon-shot-100-times-by-pennsylvania-police/

      Guess they thought it was black. o_O

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. DougS Silver badge

    Tracked by F16s?

    Seems a bit of overkill, couldn't they have sent a couple drones after it? Or the slowest speed training aircraft they had available? The F16s would have to do a lot of circling since this blimp is probably traveling at a fraction of their stall speed.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Tracked by F16s?

      Their contingency plan was to shoot it down, slower training planes unlikely to be armed. Besides that, the F16s probably have fancier systems for detecting and tracking aircraft.

    2. Joe User
      Trollface

      Re: Tracked by F16s?

      There's never a Sopwith Camel around when you need one....

      1. x 7

        Re: Tracked by F16s?

        calling Thunderbird 6............

    3. Old Handle

      Re: Tracked by F16s?

      Also, since it's full of super secret equipment, presumably they wanted to defend it at the same time. Whether they would have actually been prepared to shoot/bomb anyone who got near the crash site is anybody's guess, but a couple of F16s are good for intimidation value if nothing else.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tether

    If it was 10000 feet up and carried away 7700' of tether, I wonder where the other 2300' landed. I'd hate to get slapped in the forehead with that while out for a stroll... assuming it's made of something fairly substantial like a zipline.

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Tether

      I suspect the tether snapped at that 2300' mark

    2. JCitizen
      Alert

      Re: Tether

      I heard it was 1 inch and either 1 quarter or 3 quarters of an inch in diameter. Either way, it is going to hurt if it slaps you upside of the head!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Tether

        Yeah. According to @Mongo's link below: "The 7,000-pound airships are anchored to the ground by high-strength, 1-1/8-inch-thick Kevlar tethers, which also hold wiring for electricity". A tad more substantial than a zipline. Ouch.

        And @bob mon (below) says the blimp end of the tether took out power lines. This is one of the most entertaining comment sections I've seen in a long time... and it just keeps getting better.

        Heard on the morning news that the state police blasted the blimp with shotguns once it came down, to deflate it before it could blow away again. Inspired by the Ohio Drone Hunter no doubt...

  6. John Arthur
    FAIL

    "US military's cruise missile detection literally hardware floated away"

    Transpose "literally" and "hardware"?

  7. Bluto Nash
    Big Brother

    "...people are warned to keep a safe distance from the airship and tether as contact with them may present significant danger." Of lead poisoning if you get caught.

  8. Bluto Nash
    Big Brother

    No touchy!

    "...people are warned to keep a safe distance from the airship and tether as contact with them may present significant danger." Of lead poisoning if you get caught.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No touchy!

      Or static.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It ain't even lost

    F16 fighters are following it as it passes over DC. They could take it down any time they feel like it.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: It ain't even lost

      The F-16's were holding fire and waiting for a Spad to scramble to take it out. Or maybe it managed to cross the big pond then a Sopwith Camel.

      1. Peter Stone

        Re: It ain't even lost

        @Mark 85, Re Spads & Camels, Does anyone still manufacture Buckingham Ammunition?

        1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

          Re: It ain't even lost

          Buckingham ammunition probably would not be effective, the gas is probably helium.

  10. MrT

    Paging Reed Richards...

    ...blimp now secure thanks to the (very) long arm of the law.

  11. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge
  12. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Skynet self-boot defeated then.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    According to the LA Times it's porkalicious

    Their article from just a month ago: http://graphics.latimes.com/missile-defense-jlens/

    After 17 years and $2.7 billion it consistently fails to work, even before this destructive romp (the tether took out some big power lines). However when the Army tried to kill it back in 2010:

    Raytheon mobilized its congressional lobbyists. Within the Pentagon, Marine Corps Gen. James E. “Hoss” Cartwright, then vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, came to JLENS’ defense, arguing that it held promise for enhancing the nation’s air defenses.

    At Cartwright’s urging, money was found in 2011 for a trial run of the technology — officially, an “operational exercise” — in the skies above Washington, D.C.

    Cartwright retired the same year — and joined Raytheon’s board of directors five months later. As of the end of 2014, Raytheon had paid him more than $828,000 in cash and stock for serving as a director, Securities and Exchange Commission records show.

    Sometimes it's impressive that the west has a brass-enough neck to go sermonising upon corruption to the likes of Greece.

    1. James O'Shea Silver badge

      Re: According to the LA Times it's porkalicious

      Given that the Army really didn't want it... I wonder if someone kinda sorta accidentally didn't quite tie everything down properly and then waited for the breeze to strengthen?

    2. skeptical i
      Devil

      Re: According to the LA Times it's porkalicious

      Speaking of porkaliciousness, how's the F-35 coming along?

      Billions, starving children, priorities, yadda, yadda, yadda.

    3. DropBear Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: According to the LA Times it's porkalicious

      "Sometimes it's impressive that the west has a brass-enough neck to go sermonising upon corruption to the likes of Greece."

      Well yes, they keep it where it belongs - in the lofty realm of People Who Matter; after all it would be an outrage for each and every petty serf - barely above hoi-polloi - to enjoy the same privilege...

  14. bob, mon!
    Meh

    We're POWERLESS to stop it!

    Well, powerless, anyway... its trailing tether took out power lines throughout Columbia County before grounding in a field over in Montour County. No work for me this afternoon! And no webserver, or utilities, or ... you get the idea.

  15. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Go

    Provides a template for LOHAN??

    Maybe get LOHAN blessed by DoD as a potential sub-orbital missile launch platform and all potential hazards to air traffic and property on the ground will be forgiven? The Air Force will even throw in a couple F-16s as chase planes and you can launch from White Sands instead of Spaceport America!!

    Might make some serious coin out of the DoD procurement budget for demonstrating a working prototype!!

  16. David Roberts Silver badge

    The picture....

    ......looks a bit {cough} masculine, doesn't it.

    Henceforth I shall be referred to as "hung like a blimp" (although Advertising Standards may not agree).

    Instead of just "looks like a blimp".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The picture....

      ... with a 7700 foot tether. :D

      1. Hero Protagonist

        Re: The picture....

        ...7700 foot catheter you mean?

  17. skeptical i
    Paris Hilton

    ONE tether line?

    There was not a second back-up tether line used? Seems like an odd oversight given the cost of the damn thing.

    1. Alistair Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: ONE tether line?

      This one was a congressional pork project, therefore there was no oversight.

  18. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    WTF?

    It was an "accident"

    After reading the specifications, the mission, and what it looks like. Yeah, accident.

  19. x 7

    I'd hate to be the colonel in charge of this project

  20. Velv Silver badge
    Gimp

    Austen Powers

    Please tell me Mike Myers is making another Austin Powers movie and they set it free for the euphemism scene.

  21. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
    Alien

    Fortunately...

    ...it didn't land anywhere near Roswell.

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