Runaway Blimp

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A rogue military blimp wreaked havoc upon Pennsylvania’s power lines before finally being grounded Wednesday.

The surveillance dirigible, JLENS by Raytheon, measures over 240 feet, and is part of a Pentagon program that has been rife with problems. For starters, the program has taken over two decades to deploy, the $2.7 billion it cost was meant to fund 32 blimps—but only two have been successfully launched, the devices are unable to distinguish between “friendly” and “threatening” flying objects in tests and even in-house tests proved the dirigibles have “low system reliability.”

Then a few days ago, a JLENS blimp mysteriously broke loose from tethers supposedly meant to withstand strong storm conditions, and drifted from proving grounds in Aberdeen, Maryland to Montour County, Pennsylvania, trailing 6,700 feet of tether still attached. Thankfully, power lines appear to be the only casualty involved in the incident.

Critics of the Helium-filled spy balloons have dubbed the JLENS a “zombie Program”: expensive, inefficient and hard to kill. United States Army officials attempted to kill the program back in 2010, but then Marine Corps General James Cartwright — vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff at the time—argued in favor of JLENS, and money was miraculously found to fund a trial run of the devices. Cartwright then retired his position in the military, joined on to Raytheon’s board of directors for $828,000 in cash and stocks.

And so the JLENS program limps on, aided by cronyism and crooked officials, sucking up taxpayer dollars.


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