U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said today that an older airship fitted with high-tech equipment gives the Navy a cost-effective means of tracking submarines, drug smugglers and other "bad guys."
The lawmaker's comments came at the conclusion of an hour-long flight aboard the Navy's lighter-than-air blimp, an MZ-3A. The Navy's is testing the modified 178-foot long blimp near Naval Station Mayport before moving it to South Florida for further testing.
"I don't have any concerns about using a blimp," Nelson said, standing beside the airship at Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport. "I have concerns about bad guys.
"This is a relatively inexpensive and fuel-efficient way for the Navy to get this high-tech equipment up in the air and working to track bad guys," Nelson said. "Military jets burn more fuel just on the runway than this blimp does during an entire flight.
Nelson is a senior member of the Senate's Armed Services Committee, which oversees the Pentagon and defense spending. The MZ-3A program reportedly was in danger of a shutdown in 2012 when a key research contract ran out. But the Navy has since picked up new clients.