Notorious U.S. Army blimp program may be suspended indefinitely

The U.S. Army grounded its high-tech blimp surveillance program after one broke free of its tethers and crashed in October this year, and now the entire program may be canceled due to lack of funding.

Military blimp breaks loose, drifts across two states

The federal budget finalized by Congress this year cut $30 million of funding from the blimp surveillance program, providing only $10.5 million, CBS News' Chip Reid reports.

President Obama had requested $40.5 million.

The blimps operate under what is called the JLENS program which was launched in 1998. They are equipped with radar and scan the sky for incoming missiles and drones to assist missile defense systems with targeting.

But the effectiveness of the program has been questioned.

In 2013, a Pentagon report found that the project was "not meeting program reliability growth goals."

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In October, a tethered U.S. Army blimp belonging to the JLENS program, which uses radar to target drones and cruise missiles for air-defense systems, broke free and drifted across two states before crash landing in rural Pennsylvania. The JLENS program has since come under fire by pundits and government officials, and the grounded blimps may never fly again. CBSNews.com

Earlier this year, a January operational exercise was delayed until August because of technical problems, and the growing price tag of the program, which reached $2.7 billion, was thrust into the spotlight after the crash in October.

Fighter jets scramble as Army blimp floats away

That crash, which included an uncontrolled drift across two states, left the program open to ridicule on Twitter. Everyone from Sen. John McCain to Edward Snowden chimed in with their remarks.

Then, the JLENS program became a punch line for presidential candidates.

"What we had was something the government made - basically a bag of gas - that cut loose, destroyed everything in its path, left thousands of people powerless, but they couldn't get rid of it because we had too much money invested in it. So, we had to keep it. That is our government today. We saw it in a blimp," GOP candidate Mike Huckabee said during one debate this year.

As the budget cuts take effect, an investigation hopes to shed light on why the tethered blimp broke free, but the reason may not matter -- the U.S. Army may have to end the expensive program altogether.