TO RESIDENTS OF MARYLAND, catching an occasional glimpse of a huge white blimp floating in the sky is not unusual. For more than a decade, the military has used the state as a proving ground for new airships destined for Afghanistan or Iraq. But less known is that the test flights have sometimes served a more secretive purpose involving National Security Agency surveillance.

Back in 2004, a division of the NSA called the National Tactical Integration Office fitted a 62-foot diameter airship called the Hover Hammer with an eavesdropping device, according to a classified document published Monday by The Intercept. The agency launched the three-engine airship at an airfield near Solomons Island, Maryland. And from there, the blimp was able to vacuum up “international shipping data emanating from the Long Island, New York area,” the document says. The spy equipment on the airship was called Digital Receiver Technology — a proprietary system manufactured by a Maryland-based company of the same name — which can intercept wireless communications, including cellphone calls.

With the exception of a few military websites that refer to the Hover Hammer as an “antenna mounting platform,” there is little information in the public domain about it. The classified NSA document describes the airship as a “helium-filled sphere inside another sphere, constructed of Spectra, the same material used to make bullet-proof vests. … It ‘hovers’ above small arms fire, has a negligible [infrared] signature, and radar can’t detect it.” The agency added in the document that it planned to conduct more tests with the Hover Hammer, and said it wanted to develop a larger version of the blimp that would be capable of flying at altitudes of 68,000 feet for up to six months at a time. “More experiments, including the use of onboard imagery sensors, are being conducted,” it said.

The NSA declined to comment for this story.

8 Comments - what are your thoughts?

  • Ramon1710 . says:

    No, that’s not an NSA blimp. That’s Al Gore in a white suit.

  • Dennis says:

    I wonder if anyone has shot at it yet?

  • Pete says:

    Bush did it!!! Bush did it!! Bush did it!! Bush di

    1. bobnstuff says:

      Yes in deed you should give Bush credit for this. It’s a great tool for keeping an eye on things. It’s good to see twenty first tech blend in with nineteenth century tech. The rebuild of our military started under Bush and was carried on by Obama. The Virginia class sub came out for the Bush years as well as the drones. The F-35 program also got it’s starts back then. Give Bush and Obama credit for working on up dating our military. As much as Trump talks about building a strong military there are no new programs coming out of the White House just expanding on the base that Bush and Obama created.

      1. bert shaw says:

        You dumb-azz libs just seem to get more and more STUPID every day. OBOZZO did nothing for the U.S.Military but tear it down and weaken it

        1. bobnstuff says:

          Lets see. New war ships. new aircraft, drones, and the are even working on replacing the Hummer. I guess bring the military into the twenty first century is nothing. We have the newest navy on earth and more fire power then any other country. We have the strongest military and out spend the next four countries combined. Now tell me about our weak military.

          1. Lorraine Boyer says:

            My view on this is we have the weapons but the people who make decisions were thrown out of the military when they didn’t agree with Obummer. The people being forced into being accepted in the Obummer experiment……Many people left or never went into the service because of the Obummer, screw over the military attitude. I don’t know where you get your info but ever see the photos of all the Navy ships that are in dry dock, stored since they can’t be made seaworthy due to cut backs in funding? I know for a fact two carriers were late being refitted. All the jet fighters that don’t fly? I doubt you are fully aware of the military decline.

          2. bobnstuff says:

            Obama down sized the management in the military, it was very top heavy. To many officers for the type of military we have today. Like it or not Obama kept troops out of harms way, the body bags stopped coming home. The man power cuts started under Bush if you go back and check the numbers. I do a lot of reading from a very wide area and the reason those ships are in dry dock is because we don’t need them. We have twenty aircraft carriers, that more then every other country combined. We use three, that still gives us two more then either Russia or China. The ones we are using are new where China bought an old one and Russia’s has to have a tug go where ever it goes because it’s a left over from the cold war. We also have been building a new Sub Fleet, the Virginia class. This is a true state of the art sub. It’s also being build with the knowledge that tech keeps getting better so they can quickly up grade them. This is one very nice Sub. I know some of the people who designed this Sub as well as most of the drive units in our Navy. By 2022 we will have 50 of these subs. It only take 113 people to run one of these subs, Number 15 went into service last year. The f-35 is just coming on line and is running late but not because of anything Obama did. The Pentagon is holding back on spending on the old equipment since it will be mothballed as some as the new stuff arrives. Even with the delay we still have four times as many planes as anyone else. We have a total of 13,762 aircraft to Russia’s 3,794 and China’s 2,955. Combined they are half as strong. The cut backs in the military came in a large part thanks to cuts in funding ant that my friend is Congress. They are the ones who have cut the funds and in fact not given Obama the money he asked for.

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