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Pentagon confirms Army blimp was shot down

Pentagon confirms Army blimp was shot down
© USAGAPG

The massive Army blimp that broke free from its mooring and drifted from Maryland to Pennsylvania is "actually still deflating," a Pentagon spokesman said Thursday. 

"I am not able to give you the mechanics of exactly how they're deflating it," said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis.   

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The blimp traveled almost 200 miles north at 30 miles per hour, reaching an altitude of 16,000 feet before it lost altitude and speed, landing in northeastern Pennsylvania. 

Another Pentagon spokesman confirmed reports that the 240-foot blimp was shot down, but did not know how close to the ground the blimp was when it happened.

It is not clear who shot down the blimp.

The blimp, formally known as an aerostat, was part of a three-year research project for the JLENS program, which stands for Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System. 

The system consists of two aerostats: one that provides broad surveillance, and the other that provides more specific surveillance. The blimp that provides more specific surveillance is the one that broke free. 

The blimps were both flying at about 6,800 feet, and were tethered to the ground at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., when one of the cables broke near the base.  

The blimp then drifted along with the about 6,800-foot long cable hanging down. It snapped power lines and left tens of thousands of residents in central Pennsylvania without power. 

The Pentagon is working with local communities and residents to gather an assessment of how much damage was caused, and how much it will cost to repair it. 

As for the blimp itself, Pentagon officials say it's too early to know how much damage it suffered, and how much it will cost to repair. 

"The primary wreckage is in Muncy, Pennsylvania in the vicinity of Eagle Road and Muncy Exchange Road," Davis said.  

Davis said one rough estimate was $235 million for each blimp. 

The blimp came down in the woods, about a 10-minute walk from a main road, he said. State police have secured the crash site, Davis said.  

In addition, a JLENS recovery team has arrived at the crash site, and is working closely with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard to coordinate recovery. 

A nearby armory is housing the recovery team and sensitive items and components from the aerostat. 

Davis said the Army is investigating why the blimp broke free, and said there is no indication of any foul play. 

For now, the other blimp has been grounded until investigators determine the cause of the cable break. 

The program, manufactured by Raytheon, was started back in 2005, but was downsized in 2012.