By Rick Ritter

ABERDEEN, Md. (WJZ) — A recovery team from Aberdeen is at the site where a surveillance blimp crash-landed following a tense several hours on the loose.

Rick Ritter has more.

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It’s been a chaotic day for United States officials tracking the blimp—even using F-16 fighter jets, as they were worried about air traffic safety.

Everyone’s wondering the same question: how exactly this happened.

After a three hour chase, not much is left of the military blimp that drifted more than 100 miles away from Maryland. The chaotic scene escalated around noon Wednesday, when one of the JLENS blimps somehow detached itself from its mooring at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Mike Lepke spotted it just minutes later.

“It was like the white blimp of death. It was right over top of me; it looked like you could reach out and touch the white blimp,” Lepke said.

The blimp—designed to detect missiles and aircraft—was dragging a steel tether line that was more than a mile long, knocking out power for thousands along the way.

“It did hit a transformer in the distance and did light up the sky, something like the 4th of July in Baltimore,” he said.

Twitter erupted with photos and two F-16 fighter jets tracked the blimp while it floated north through Pennsylvania before deflating and landing near Williamsport.

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In Harford County, many communities worried if one of the 240-foot blimps would ever get loose, but the United States Army was never concerned.

“There’s a one in a million chance of the tether breaking,” an official said.

“We have responsibility of keeping our citizens safe and that’s my number one priority,” said County Executive Barry Glassman.

Glassman says they will follow up with the Army.

“We’ll meet with the Army to determine if we need to alter our plans,” he said.

But for now, the focus is trying to determine how part of a $2 billion military defense system managed to break loose.

“I don’t know if there’s a human failure or equipment failure during the manufacturing process,” he said.

The United States Army has a forensics team on the ground investigating. There’s no word on if weather played a role in this.

Officials say that commercial flights along the East Coast were re-routed due to the blimp getting loose.

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Some critics have called the defense system a waste of money. Experts have said it will be hard for Congress to continue to support the system after 17 years of research and more than $2.5 billion spent on it.

Rick Ritter