It was flying low enough to read the words "US NAVY" from the ground, when at 9:20 a.m. June 11 onlookers had the unusual chance to spot a military blimp overhead in Toms River.
A Public Affairs employee at the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst confirmed that the MZ-3A airship which is moored at US Naval Air Station disbursed early this morning out of Lakehurst and was flying within focal range.
The passed overhead against the backdrop of cloudy gray skies and 70-degree temperatures.
According to the Navy Times, the MZ-3A is the Navy’s scientific test platform for surveillance cameras, radars and other sensors, and won’t be deployed outside the United States. But it’s very significant as a return to an older technology, and there have been two years of testing “to prove LTA [lighter-than-air] has a place in our military construct,” said Cmdr. Jay Steingold, the commanding officer of Scientific Development Squadron One, in the Navy Times.
The airship is a modified A-170 built by the American Blimp Corp., capable of flying at up to 10,000 feet and cruising at around 50 mph. The Navy began the project in 2006 “to use it as a flying laboratory. The airship is a good platform because it’s very stable, and easy to take things on and off,” Huett said. “A lot of times you want to go slow.”
"The US Navy Blimp also known as Airship MZ-3A carries 9 passengers and the pilot", said Doug Abbott, Spokesman for Navy Airship Program and Naval Warfare Center of Aircraft Division . It only requires a small amount of fuel which ultimately keeps the airship in flight for up to 14 hours. Keep your eyes to the sky because according to Abbott, the airship will be making daily flights around Ocean County as army pilots are being trained in preparation for their own airship which will be used for intelligence purposes and surveillance. The airships will be moored at both Aberdeen Proving Grounds and Lakehurst Naval Air Station.