Fighter jets tracking runaway Defense Department balloon over Pa.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015
JLENS balloon
A JLENS balloon is seen during a media preview, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, in Middle River, Md.
wpvi-AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

LANCASTER, Pa. -- Action News has learned that several federal agencies are tracking an unmanned Defense Department balloon that is on the loose.

NORAD says at 12:20 p.m. Wednesday the balloon, known as a Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS), broke free from its mooring station in Aberdeen, Maryland.

The balloon is described at 37 meters in diameter and apparently looks like a blimp. A large cord is hanging from the balloon.

The balloon travelled through the Lancaster area and was last reported to be in the skies over Lebanon County.

Two F-16 Fighter jets from Atlantic City Air National Guard Base are monitoring the balloon, which NORAD says is holding at approximately 16,000 feet.

FAA officials were working with the military to ensure air traffic safety in the area, and has referred all questions to NORAD.

NORAD released a statement on the incident, in which they explained the JLENS program. The statement reads in part:

Stay with Action News and as more information becomes available.