While the world was focused on just what excuse Yellen will come up with not to hike rates after 7 consecutive years of ZIRP, and how many new "mandates" the Fed would come up with to justify its now traditional lack of action, moments ago a far more unexpected development took place when a 243-foot blimp used by NORAD in its surveillance of the east coast has become untethered from its mooring in Maryland and it's now flying somewhere over Pennsylvania, according to NORAD spokesman Lt. Joe Mavrocki.
The airship broke free around 11:45 a.m. Wednesday and has approximately 6,700 feet of tether attached to it.
DefenseOne adds that the Air Force has scrambled two F-16s from the Atlantic City Air National Guard base to track the blimp, which officials say is holding at 16,000 feet.
The blimp, which is also known as a Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System aerostat or JLENS, broke free at 12:20 eastern time. “NORAD officials are working closely with the FAA to ensure air traffic safety, as well as with our other interagency partners to address the safe recovery of the aerostat,” NORAD said in a statement.
The aircraft is part of a Pentagon plan to create a net to hunt enemy drones and cruise missiles along the Eastern seaboard of the United States. The Pentagon has spent $2.55 billion on the program.
The helium-filled airship, or aerostat, is intended to provide early detection of cruise missiles over a large swath of the East Coast, from Norfolk, Virginia, to upstate New York, during a three-year test, according to military officials.
In other words, if any sworn U.S. enemies wish to launch an ICBM attack on the east coast, now is your chance.
According to WFMZ, there are reports of the blimp being over the area of Berks and Lancaster counties.
"People are warned to keep a safe distance from the airship and tether as contract with them may present significant danger," The Aberdeen Proving Ground said in a statement.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf issued the following statement: “The governor's office is in communication with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the Pennsylvania State Police, the National Guard, and the appropriate authorities with the federal government. We are closely monitoring the situation, and we will work with the appropriate authorities to respond to any resource requests and assist in any way possible."
Some more details on the program:
The much-maligned Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated netted Sensor System, or JLENS, is not technically a blimp because it it has no propulsion, rather it is a tethered aerostat. Similar but smaller aircraft have been used for overwatch surveillance to protect U.S. bases overseas for years, including in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The JLENS has been in testing since 2009. Raytheon, the manufacturer, has billed the JLENS program as a meant to detect missile and large drones via radar. Raytheon demonstrated that the X-band radar could pick up multiple ballistic missiles back in 2012. The JLENS’s ability to track other other objects like drones is much less clear.
Any readers who spot the blimp are kindly requested to call 911.
And here are updates on its current whereabouts: