MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- U.S. 4th Fleet is hosting the Naval Air Warfare Center's MZ-3A Airship in the Mayport area through April 5.
The airship will be operating out of Fernandina Airfield and conduct training in the area.
Rear Adm. Sinclair M. Harris, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/Commander, U.S. 4th Fleet discussed how the airship could be utilized in the 4th Fleet AOR.
"Transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) utilize an array of tactics, low observable and high speed vessels, masked communication signatures and sophisticated coordination to smuggle illicit cargo into the U.S. every year. One way to enhance detection efforts against illicit trafficking within our area of operations is to utilize long-endurance platforms with the ability to use a multitude of sensors. Lighter-Than-Air (LTA) technologies have the potential to meet these operational needs," Harris said.
The 4th Fleet Commander went on to discuss not only the operational benefits of the blimp but also the cost benefit.
"In the current fiscal environment, 4th Fleet is looking towards innovative, cost effective solutions that can address the capability gaps caused by budget cuts. One potential solution is the use of LTA technologies. These platforms have a large payload capacity to accommodate a variety of equipment and can be aloft on patrol for long durations," Harris said.
The airship is stationed at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. and is assigned to the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Military Support Division Scientific Development Squadron ONE (VXS-1). The airship is operated by a contracted civilian crew. In July 2010, the airship deployed to Gulf Shores, Ala. to assist in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill recovery operation.
COMUSNAVSO/C4F supports USSOUTHCOM joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.
For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy, or www.twitter.com/usnavy .
For more news from U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. 4th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/cusns/ .