The wayward JLENS aerostat, which left a trail of power outages caused by the 6,000 feet of cable it dragged for over 160 miles on Wednesday, was hit by a barrage of shotgun fire to remove its remaining helium. Approximately 100 shotgun blasts were fired at the balloon by Pennsylvania State Police, according to US Army Captain Matthew Villa, an Army spokesperson, who said that firing on the balloon was the easiest way to remove the remaining helium gas in the grounded radar aerostat.
The Army still has not determined how the JLENS aerostat broke loose. But the military has labeled the incident as a Class A mishap, an aviation accident classification for events that took no human life but caused over $2 million in property damage or caused injury. Anyone who suffered property damage from the JLENS’ tether will have to file claims with the Army.
The incident throws yet another shadow on the JLENS program, which has thus far cost over $2 billion. Raytheon had been marketing the aerostats to the government for use in border monitoring and for the cruise missile detection mission it was being evaluated for by the North American Air Defense Command. While the radome and other electronics from the JLENS were recovered, it remains doubtful that the program will continue.