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Runaway US Military Blimp Back on Ground

FILE - U.S. Air Force Col. William Pitts stands in front of an unmanned blimp, part of a missile defense system, during a media preview in Middle River, Md., near the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Dec. 17, 2014.

A large, unmanned U.S. military blimp that broke loose from its tether Wednesday and floated over Pennsylvania for several hours is back on the ground after deflating.

The aircraft landed in a wooded area near a small town north of the state capital, Harrisburg. There were no reports of injuries or serious damage, but about 30,000 people lost electricity as the blimp's long mooring cables snapped power lines while it drifted.

Two F-16 fighter jets trailed the blimp during its unplanned flight, but there were never any plans to shoot it down.

The blimp broke away from its mooring at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in northern Maryland on Wednesday afternoon and drifted north into central Pennsylvania. It caused excitement in small farming towns, with people taking pictures and telephoning police.

The unmanned blimp was the same kind used to provide surveillance against missiles and other airborne objects in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters the blimps have broken loose before in Afghanistan. It is unclear how Wednesday's incident happened, but Carter said bad weather might have been involved.

Officials also were uncertain what caused it to deflate.

A second blimp at Aberdeen used for fire control will be grounded until an investigation is complete.

VOA's Pentagon Correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report.