Army blimp went on a rampage due to lack of batteries

Among other reasons.

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Mariella Moon
February 16, 2016 7:25 AM
In this article: armby, blimps, culture, jlens, politics
Army blimp went on a rampage due to lack of batteries

The Pentagon is done looking into what caused the Army's JLENS blimp to drift away and demolish power lines in its path in 2015. While investigators refused to make the full report public, Los Angeles Times has seen the overview and summary they provided to congress staff members. According to the reports, the agency determined what led to the blimp's disastrous rampage, including the fact that its automatic deflator didn't work because it had no backup power source.

The JLENS or Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System program is comprised of two tethered blimps with radars that can track aircraft and missiles. An 18-inch-long device called pitot tube that measures the blimps' air pressure apparently started the unfortunate sequence of events in October 2015. One of the blimps failed to start up its fans in response to atmospheric changes, because its pitot tube was malfunctioning and couldn't effectively do its job. Due to the drop in air pressure, the blimp turned perpendicular to the wind -- it remained that way until its 8-inch-thick Kevlar tethers were torn apart.

Now, here's what's frustrating. The blimp wouldn't have damaged Pennsylvania's power lines if only the Army installed its batteries. Its tethers also held its electric wiring, but it was supposed to have a backup power source for its automatic deflation system. The blimp would have fallen to the ground two miles from where it was tied down if only the device worked. LA Times says the military asked Congress for $27 million to get the JLENS project back up. It remains to be seen whether the government will agree, considering the project had been performing poorly before it was suspended.

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