Navy Retires MZ-3A Blimp
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — The U.S. Navy is out of the lighter-than-air aircraft business again.
The service has retired its single MZ-3A blimp and has offered it up for auction, according to an announcement on the website of the General Services Administration. The blimp has been inactive since June 2016 when it was deflated, disassembled and stored at Joint Base Dix-McGuire-Lakehurst, N.J., a site of the Navy’s airship operations since before World War II.
The Navy acquired the MZ-3A, a modified A-170 commercial airship built by the American Blimp Corp., in 2006 as a platform for sensor evaluation. It has been operated intermittently, including for tests in Yuma, Ariz., and for the U.S. Fourth Fleet. In recent years, it was photographed with a large “towel rack” antenna array installed along the top of the blimp. The purpose of the array is not known.
The 178-foot-long MZ-3A last was operated by Scientific Development Squadron One (VXS-1) based at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. VXS-1 provides airborne research and development services for the Naval Research Laboratory.
The Navy operated rigid airships during the 1930s and non-rigid blimps during both world wars and after World War II for anti-submarine warfare and radar early warning. The last Navy-owned blimps prior to the MZ-3A were retired in 1959.