[There was a video here]

We lost a hero yesterday. He didn’t talk much, nor did he work very hard. He was criticized from all directions. He was cold. He kept to himself. But before he died in rural Pennsylvania, he tasted freedom. R.I.P. Blimp. Here’s a video of your death.

Americans owe the fallen blimp a debt of gratitude. Most wasteful military spending is hidden from civilian eyes. We don’t see fleets of unneeded F-35s screaming overhead, and our anti-Soviet submarines hide underwater. The JLENS Escape of 2015 is an exception—it forced a hulking, nearly 300-foot long symbol of Pentagon delusion into our vision. Roughly $2.7 billion in squandered American tax dollars aimlessly floated from Aberdeen, Maryland, to Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, where it gradually sank and collapsed into the Earth after destroying enough power lines to leave roughly 20,000 people without electricity. The unnecessary robot blimp designed to detect and thwart imaginary attacks against the American homeland ended up causing a mass blackout and self-destructing.

Before the JLENS blimp and its one-and-a-half miles of steel tethers came to a halt, a videographer from SECV8, a subsidiary of Service Electric Cablevision, recorded its death throes:

The big fancy balloon takes a surprisingly long time to descend. In this way, and this way alone, JLENS was performing as designed: Raytheon, the JLENS manufacturer, boasted that it could stay afloat for 30 days at a time, and that even if it “had more holes than a hunk of swiss cheese, it would take a long time for the helium to leak out and it would simply settle to the ground over several days.”

Of course, Raytheon also said that “the chance of [an untethering] happening is very small because the tether is made of Vectran and has withstood storms in excess of 100 knots.” But the Vectran didn’t work, nor did really any other part of the bogglingly expensive defense program, as a Los Angeles Times investigation concluded:

The Pentagon testing office’s 2012 report gave JLENS low marks, including for its ability to find and track a target — and to distinguish friendly aircraft from real threats.

The report also cited “software stability” problems affecting the all-important fire-control radar.

The deficiencies emerged during tests conducted at a range in Utah, about 80 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.

The report said JLENS had remained airborne and functional for an average of just 21 hours per launch.

It rated the system’s overall reliability as “poor.”

Big, expensive, dumb, and broken. Goodbye, blimp!

Contact the author at biddle@gawker.com.
Public PGP key
PGP fingerprint: E93A 40D1 FA38 4B2B 1477 C855 3DEA F030 F340 E2C7