WASHINGTON, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- A JLENS aerostat belonging to the U.S. military has broken loose from its moorings at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland and is drifting 16,000 feet in the air above Pennsylvania.from the Dagger
The Air Force deployed two F-16s to track the aircraft, which broke free around 12:20 p.m. local time. Officials from the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, announced they are working with the FAA and other partners to safely recover the aircraft.
The Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS, aerostat is part of a $2.8 billion Defense Department program to counter enemy drones and cruise missiles that may threaten the East Coast of the United States. Pentagon officials have stated the system is currently in a three-year testing phase to gauge its effectiveness, despite concerns raised from privacy advocates.
NORAD launched the surveillance craft over Wasington, D.C., in December 2014. The aerostat is tethered, and carried by a 242-foot balloon. The Raytheon-built aircraft is capable of monitoring objects up to 340 miles away in any direction.
UPDATE FROM North American Aerospace Defense Command
The Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) surveillance system aerostat is on the ground. It is mostly deflated and located in the vicinity of Moreland Township, Pennsylvania. Local authorities are securing the area and there is a military recovery team enroute.
The tail section is completely deflated and is being secured. An emergency operations center has been established in Pennsylvania; the crash sites are being assessed and recovery efforts are ongoing.
NORAD would like to note the tremendous cooperation we received from the Pennsylvania State Police, the Pennsylvania National Guard in securing the site along with the Pennsylvania Emergency Operations Center in responding to this incident.
JLENS is a supporting program of the Army and Joint Integrated Air and Missile Defense, providing persistent, over-the-horizon radar surveillance and fire control quality data on Army and Joint Networks. 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. A JLENS system consists of two aerostats: a fire control radar system and a wide-area surveillance radar system. Each radar system employs a separate 74-meter (243 feet long) tethered aerostat, a mobile mooring station, radar and communications payloads, a processing station, and associated ground support equipment. The JLENS aerostat will fly at an altitude of up to 10,000 feet above sea level.