Fly og luftskibe i 1914

Fly og luftskibe i 1914


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Jeg havde ikke mere end cirka tre ugers træning i nærheden af ​​Albacete. Det var i begyndelsen af ​​november 1936, da vi fik at vide, at vi skulle til Madrid. Vi blev taget ned i lastbiler til Albacete, satte tog på der og gik op til fronten med den franske bataljon. Vi så ikke rigtig noget af Madrid med det samme, vi ankom der i løbet af natten. Vi gik faktisk i aktion den 6. eller 7. november 1936. Da vi kom ud, var det let, og vi marcherede gennem gaderne. Folk samledes og troede først, at vi var russere, men de indså hurtigt, at det var vi ikke. Der var en enorm modtagelse, fordi ordet gik rundt. Mens vi stod ud af togene og dannede os, samlede folkemængden sig og jublede os. Vi forstod ikke umiddelbart, hvor alvorlig den militære situation var, og hvor tæt på Madrid fascisterne var kommet. Vi blev ført ind i University City, det var det første møde.


The Tondren Raid: History 's First Aircraft Carrier Air Raid

På det tidspunkt blev det usandsynlige raid hyldet som en stor succes og modtaget omtale i New York Times.

Her er hvad du skal huske: Royal Navy skubbede sin teknologi så langt, som den kunne gå i Tondern -razziaen, og sendte dens krigere til grænsen for deres rækkevidde fra et skib, de ikke var i stand til at lande tilbage på for at angribe et stort mål med små bomber.

For næsten et århundrede siden under første verdenskrig iværksatte Royal Navy det første luftangreb fra et hangarskib nogensinde med mål mod en zeppelinbase i Tondern. Efter at have tabt en kumulativ bombelastning, der næsten ikke oversteg vægten af ​​en enkelt femhundrede pund bombe, der blev båret af en typisk jager fra Anden Verdenskrig, fortsatte flådestrejeflyene alle sammen i havet eller blev tvunget til at lande på neutralt område.

Dette angreb udgjorde faktisk en enorm succes - og er fortsat et milepæl i søfartens historie.

For at være klar, skibslanserede vandflyvninger gik forud for deres luftfartsselskabs-lancerede modstykker i kamp. Japanerne tog initiativet ved at indsætte skibslanserede Farman-vandfly mod tyske skibe ud for Qingdao i 1914. Royal Navy fulgte snart i december med et skibslanseret vandflyangreb på en tysk flybase nær Cuxhaven. Selvom det var yderst nyttigt til at spionere på fjendtlige skibsbevægelser og jagtubåde, kunne vandflyvemaskiner imidlertid ikke affyres eller genoprettes meget hurtigt - de skal løftes i vandet med kran - og deres ydeevne blev kompromitteret af deres underslungede pontoner.

Den amerikanske luftfartspioner Eugene Ely havde bevist, at det var muligt at flyve et fly på et skib, da han startede og landede på en platform bygget oven på slagskibet USS Pennsylvania mens den sad ved kajen. Dette blev kun opnået med store vanskeligheder - og Pennsylvania ikke engang havde bevæget sig. Under første verdenskrig udarbejdede flåder lanceringsplatforme, der kunne sende konventionelle krigere fra toppen af ​​tårne ​​fra tunge krydsere eller slagskibe. Men hvert skib kunne kun bære et par fly, og disse skulle grøfte til søs efter at være blevet lanceret.

Royal Navy var begejstret for sølanserede fly, blandt andet fordi det havde et zeppelinproblem. De gigantiske tyske luftskibe, der typisk var seks hundrede fod lange - to fodboldbaner ryg mod ryg - blev bredt anvendt til at spionere på Royal Navy -skibe og lejlighedsvis forsøge at bombe dem. Vandflyvere, der blev sendt for at jage dem ned, kunne ofte ikke flyve højt nok til at skyde dem ned. I 1916 sejlede Royal Navy i et forsøg på at fjerne problemet ved dets kilde op for Tysklands kyst og indsatte elleve vandfly til at spejde og ødelægge en af ​​zeppelinbaserne. De opdagede den nøjagtige placering nær Tondern, der ligger i nutidens Danmark, men undlod at påføre den store skader.

Da det skete, var Royal Navy næsten færdig med at bygge den sidste af sine tyve tusinde tons slagkrydsere i Courageous-klassen-en skibstype, den ikke længere virkelig ønskede. Disse var beregnet til at være "store lette krydsere": skibe så hurtige som lette krydsere, men med kanoner fra et slagskib. Courageous-klassen tog konceptet til det ekstreme ved at montere to enorme atten-tommer kanoner så kraftige, at de simpelthen affyrede dem, sprængte nitter ud af skibets skrog. Høj hastighed blev opnået ved at ofre rustningsbeskyttelse under mantraet om at "hastighed var rustning."

Battlecruisers skulle jage mindre skibe, der ikke havde ildkraften til at kæmpe tilbage. Giv dog en flåde et to hundrede meter langt skib med store kanoner, og det vil sende dem til at kæmpe mod andre fartøjer af samme størrelse. I slaget ved Jylland anklagede britiske kampcruisere den tyske højhavsflåde - og mistede tre af deres antal til titanisk ammunitionseksplosion i kanontårnene. Ikke længere begejstret for de let pansrede hovedskibe, besluttede britiske flådeplanlæggere at konvertere de sidste af de nye Courageous-klasse skibe til et hangarskib. Dette blev opnået ved at udskifte det forreste tårn med en lille hangar, der havde et 160 fods flyvedæk på toppen.

Det Rasende’Sopwith Pup -krigere kunne starte fra dette korte flyverdæk - men ikke lande på det. For at afhjælpe denne mangel, i vinteren 1917–18 RasendeDet bageste kanontårn blev erstattet med et andet flyvningsdæk på tre hundrede fod. Royal Navy havde udtænkt en metode, hvor en hvalp, der fløj ind i en hård modvind, faktisk næsten kunne matche hastighed med Rasende da den sejlede med en maksimal hastighed! (Ja, første verdenskrigs fly var meget langsomme.) Pup’en ville nærme sig parallelt med luftfartsselskabet og derefter glide sidelæns mod dækket, hvor ventende flyvebesætning ville springe op og krog arrestere kabler til læderremme under flyet og bringe den ned til dæk.

Hvis dette lyder ekstremt farligt og upålideligt. . . det var. Eskadronkommandør Edwin Dunning var den første pilot, der trak en landing ud på dækket af Rasende—Indeed, den første landing nogensinde på et skib i bevægelse. Han døde dog, da hans hvalp vendte af dækket, mens han forsøgte sin tredje landing. En del af problemet var den høje overbygning midt på Rasende'S dæk skabte utålelig turbulens for nærliggende fly. Af de efterfølgende elleve landingsforsøg lykkedes det kun tre.

Royal Navy konkluderede, at den havde en god platform til opsendelse af kampfly - men ikke at genoprette dem. Den nye plan var, at piloterne slog deres fly til søs, hvor eskorterende destroyere kunne genoprette både flyet og piloten. Hvis alt fungerede perfekt - og ofte gjorde det ikke - kunne marinekæmperen genoprettes intakt og dens stofhud udskiftes. I modsætning til nutidens mange millioner jetfly var fly fra 1. verdenskrig relativt billige at fremstille og betragtes som brugbare. Brugen af ​​"engangskæmpere" fortsatte endda ind i anden verdenskrig i form af CAM -skibe, der kunne skyde orkanjagere op i himlen for at beskytte atlantiske konvojer mod luftangreb - uden nogen forventning om at finde et sikkert sted at lande.

I 1918 havde Royal Navy et nyt fly specielt designet til Rasende: 2F.1 Ship’s Camel. Disse var en variant af den meget manøvredygtige Sopwith Camel, den ikoniske britiske jagerfly fra 1. verdenskrig. For at sætte tingene i perspektiv, havde kamelens præstationsspecifikationer, der kan sammenlignes med din nutidige bil, med en topfart på 113 miles i timen og en maksimal rækkevidde på tre hundrede miles.

Den navaliserede 2F.1 havde kortere vinger, en sammenklappelig hale til lettere opbevaring på dækket og kroge, så skibsmonterede kraner let kunne fiske dem ud af vandet efter grøftning. Selv landingsudstyret var designet til at blive skubbet til sikrere vandlandinger. 2F.1 havde en ny Bentley BR1 -motor og byttede den ene af de to synkroniserede Vickers -maskingeværer, der skød gennem propellen for en overvinget Lewis -pistol, menes at være mere praktisk til at angribe zeppeliner nedenfra. Derudover kunne den bære firs til hundrede pund bomber - omtrent lig med vægten til en enkelt tung artilleri.

Det Rasende bar også Sop med 1½ Strutter angrebsfly, men disse var hovedsageligt forbeholdt observationsmissioner, som var meget efterspurgte.

Det Rasende nu båret dygtige luftfartøjsbaserede jagerfly og kunne mønstre syv erfarne piloter, der var uddannet til at betjene dem-men hvordan var det at bruge dem? Da zeppelinbasen i Tondern var den eneste inden for rækkevidde, virkede det som et passende mål.

Imidlertid mislykkedes det første raidforsøg sent i juni 1918, da hård vind gjorde det umuligt at starte flyet. Det Rasende og dets ledsagere blev tvunget til at afbryde missionen for ikke at risikere opdagelse.

Det Rasende tog afsted igen tre uger senere den 17. juli, eskorteret af en eskadrille hver af krydsere og slagskibe, samt en eskortskærm af destroyere. Planen med Operation F7 var at sejle styrken op til tolv miles ud for den tyske kyst. Derfra ville kamelerne tage af sted i to bølger og bruge det danske Lyngvig Fyrtårn som navigationshjælp, mens de fløj langs kysten mod zeppelinlagrene i Tondern, som de ville angribe med to 50 pund Cooper-bomber. Skulle de imidlertid støde på luftbårne zeppeliner på missionen, skulle de prioritere at angribe dem, selvom det betød at droppe bomberne og opgive det nødvendige brændstof for at komme hjem igen. Det britiske militær var villigt til at gå for store omkostninger for at ødelægge de højtflyvende luftskibe!

Igen den Rasende stødte på kraftig vind, da den ankom til affyringspunktet den 18. juli, men de stilnede tidligt om morgenen den 19. juli. Kl. 3 begyndte transportøren at lancere 2F.1 -krigere, en proces der tog tyve minutter. Umiddelbart udviklede kamel af kaptajn T. K. Thyne motorproblemer. Han droppede sit fly og blev reddet, men hans fly blev ved et uheld kørt over af destroyeren, der blev sendt for at afhente det!

Det tog den første bølge på tre kameler i halvanden time flyvetid at krydse de 80 kilometer til Tondern og lokalisere flyvebasen. Af basens tre hangarer kunne to mindre, kaldet "Toni" og "Tobias", hver rumme en enkelt zeppelin, men begge var tomme den morgen. Der var imidlertid to zeppeliner -L54 og L60-inde på den massive bøjle på 740 x 130 fod, der hedder "Toska."

Kaptajn W. F. Dickson ledede angrebet, selvom hans bomber angiveligt savnede. Hans vingemænd havde større succes-de små bomber gennemborede Toska-megahangaren og satte zeppelinens overbygning i brand.


Rekognoscering

Den første rolle, som fly opfyldte i de tidlige dage af krigen, var rekognoscering. Fly ville flyve over slagmarken og bestemme fjendens bevægelser og position. Disse rekognosceringsflyvninger formede flere af de kritiske tidlige kampe under første verdenskrig.

Et tysk fly i slaget ved Tannenberg opdagede, at russiske tropper samledes til et modangreb og rapporterede bevægelserne tilbage til general Hindenberg. Hindenberg mente, at rekognoseringsrapporten vandt ham kampen og kommenterede:

Rekognoscering undergravede også tyske angrebsplaner. Ved det første slag ved Marne opdagede allierede rekognoseringsfly et hul i de tyske linjer, som de derefter kunne udnytte, splitte den tyske styrke og køre dem tilbage.

Handley-side to-motoret bombefly under flyvning over olietanke. Handley Page -bombeflyets maksimale hastighed toppede med cirka 97 miles i timen. Kredit: U.S. Air Force / Commons.


Tyske luftskibe i den store krig 1914-18

I august 1914 var syv luftskibe til rådighed for den tyske hær fire blev indsat i Vesten og tre i øst. Tre af dem, der blev tildelt i Vesten, forsøgte at bombe franske militære mål i dagslys, de blev alle ødelagt, og det var umiddelbart indlysende, at luftskibe ikke kunne udføre nogen rolle i dagslys.

De tre luftskibe i øst gennemførte deres første mission den 28. august 1914 - et bombeangreb mod banegården i Mlawa. Men fjendens handling tvang en ned og besætningen blev taget til fange. Hærens luftskibe var også i aktion i syd under den rumænske kampagne i efteråret 1916, da de gennemførte flere strategiske razziaer mod Bukarest og Ploesti -området.

Natten til 31. januar-1. februar 1916 raidede LZ 55 (LZ 85) på havnen ved Salonika med 6.000 kg bomber, og kamploggen demonstrerer den overraskelse, der kan blive påvirket af et angreb fra luften. Det giver også en idé om den udholdenhed, der var nødvendig for at udføre en operation af denne art på en sortie, der varede 18 timer.

Besætningen så Salonika, men syd for byen, stadig over havet, var en tæt skybank. Skibet stoppede syd for Salonika for at observere havnen og skibene ved kajerne, og der blev opdaget nogle mørkede dampskibe og skibe med lys sat i bugten. LZ 85 tog mod to sandsynlige transportfartøjer og derefter til havnemolerne med deres ammunitionslager. Nogle bomber på 60 kg blev rettet mod skibene, og der var et hit tæt på styrbord side af et stort fartøj. Det var umuligt at sige, om nogen af ​​de ubelyste skibe blev beskadiget i angrebet. De fleste af GP [generelle formål] bomber blev frigivet over havnen og jernbaneinstallationer. To af dem detonerede i spidsen for en muldvarp og yderligere seks i den indre havn, og andre ramte butikkerne, forårsagede enorme eksplosioner og muligvis satte ammunition i brand.

Zeppelin bombe på 60 kg. Richard Reynolds, IWM 2015.

Den sidste bombe var ansvarlig for en hurtigt spredende brand. I alt blev fjorten små bomber smidt på militærlagre nordvest for byen. Kun meget få kanoner formåede at engagere luftskibet, fordi dets udseende kom som en overraskelse for styrkerne i Salonika. Derefter forlod skibet Salonika -området og vendte tilbage på samme måde, som det var kommet ...

Ved et genbesøg senere samme år blev LZ 55 (LZ 85) imidlertid slået ned af jordbrand, og hæren begyndte at trække håndværket tilbage fra teatret. Derefter, med den sidste LZ 71 (LZ 101), der forlod i september 1917. Nogle flyvninger blev fløjet mod de franske byer Nancy og Poperinghe i april 1915, men en ændring i luftkrigens karakter kom i maj, da første af de nye forbedrede skibe, LZ 38, nåede operationel status. Efter en ændring i den tyske regeringspolitik og i overensstemmelse med den strategiske vision for Peter Strasser, chefen for søværnets luftskibe, sluttede hærens fartøjer deres maritime kolleger i en strategisk kampagne. Denne operation og lignende som den blev udført i 1915 var de første eksempler på strategisk bombning i det 20. århundrede. Hæren havde imidlertid ikke helt opgivet tanken om at bruge luftskibe i en taktisk rolle, som vist for kampene om Verdun. Fire skibe blev sendt for at støtte jordangrebet den 21. februar 1916, selvom kun to fartøjer overlevede.

Luftskibe i Reichskriegsmarine - marine luftskibe

Man havde forestillet sig, at kystbasernes rolle ved Nordsøen og deres komplement af luftskibe skulle centrere sig om rekognoscering, og i løbet af den store krig blev der udført omkring 220 sådanne missioner. I betragtning af High Seas Fleets afvisning af at involvere sig i flådehandlinger mod den britiske storflåde (bortset fra mindre engagementer som Dogger Bank og det store flådeengagement i Jylland i 1916) var disse missioner imidlertid ikke altid primære taktisk eller strategisk betydning, på trods af nytten af ​​de indsamlede data. De forbedrede fartøjer, der blev taget i brug i 1915, typerne 'M2' og 'P', tillod imidlertid en anden strategi at overveje: den strategiske bombning af Storbritannien.

‘P’ klasse Zeppelin.

Den strategiske kampagne

Natten den 19.-20. Januar 1915 indledte et indslag i det 20. århundredes krigsførelse, der skulle blive alt for kendt: strategisk luftangreb. Sondringen mellem taktisk og strategisk krigsførelse er undertiden utydelig - hovedsagelig ligger den i formålet med angrebet. Taktiske angreb foretages med den hensigt at besejre et lokaliseret område, hvorimod strategiske angreb har til formål at besejre stater ved hjælp af en detaljeret plan, som typisk forsøger at besejre fjenden via politiske, militære og sociale midler og benægtelse af mad, råvarer og leverancer til industrien. Dem, der går ind for at føre strategisk krigsførelse, undgår således Clausewitz 'maksimum, der går ind for nødvendigheden af ​​at besejre en fjendes væbnede styrker, før sejren kan opnås. Denne filosofi var baseret på 18. århundredes erfaring - før indførelsen af ​​luftkrigsførelse stod fjendens væbnede styrker normalt i vejen for at føre krig mod infrastruktur og befolkning. I 1914 kunne fjendtlige styrker for første gang omgås uden behov for at besejre dem eller sætte dem på plads, og en stats civilbefolkning og infrastruktur kunne blive angrebet direkte. En anden linje med engagement eller 'front' - 'Hjemmefronten', som den senere blev kendt - var blevet introduceret til krigsførelse.

Den første strategiske luftovertrædelse i historien begyndte noget uhensigtsmæssigt natten til den 19.-20. Januar 1915: to søskibs luftskibe, LZ 24 (L 3) og LZ 27 (L 4), omgåede slagmarkerne i det nordlige Frankrig og krydsede ind i Storbritannien over Norfolk. De fortsatte med at smide bomber på områder, der var oplyst, formodede korrekt, at de repræsenterede befolkningscentre. L 3 ramte Great Yarmouth og L 4 en række østangliske landsbyer. Deres optælling for natten var fire døde og 16 sårede.

Om morgenen den 19. januar 1915 startede to tyske Zeppelin -luftskibe, L3 og L4, fra Fuhlsbüttel i Tyskland. Begge luftskibe bar 30 timers brændstof, 8 bomber og 25 brændbare enheder.

Yderligere angreb i de følgende måneder var hovedsageligt, men ikke udelukkende, rettet mod mål i det sydlige England, især London. London-razziaen fandt sted natten til 31. maj-1. juni, hvor syv mennesker blev dræbt og kun 30 såret. Disse angreb og lignende mod Frankrig, såsom det den 31. januar 1916, da LZ 47 (LZ 77) angreb Paris med 2.000 kg ammunition, var imod stort set uforsvarlige mål. Efter at have givet besked om deres hensigter kunne denne situation imidlertid ikke forventes at fortsætte, og den korte periode med mørke i sommertiden betød, at luftskibets største aktiv, dets usynlighed, kunne blive kompromitteret. Følgelig blev driften stort set suspenderet i løbet af sommeren 1915, idet planen var at genoptage dem med større vægt og effektivitet givet de forbedrede maskiner i rørledningen i løbet af efteråret samme år.

Repressalier

At briterne ville træffe gengældelsesforanstaltninger blev tydeligt i april 1915, da kaptajn Lanoe G. Hawker, fra Royal Flying Corps med base i Abeele i Belgien, og fløj en BE2c bevæbnet med et par bomber og håndgranater, angreb og ødelagde luftskibets skur kl. Gontrode, inden for hvilken, og også ødelagt, var LZ38 (LZ38). Det var et dristigt angreb og fremhævede, hvor sårbare luftskibene var, når de var på jorden.

At de kunne være lige så sårbare under visse betingelser, mens luftbåren grafisk blev demonstreret den 6.-7. Juni 1915, da Lt. R.A.J. Warneford Vc, fra RNAS fløj mod Ostend på sin første natflyvning nogensinde. Hans mission, der efterlignede den tidligere indsats mod Gontrode, var at bombe Zeppelin -skurene ved Evere. Undervejs opdagede han LZ37 (LZ37) i skyerne. Warneford manøvrerede sit fly over fartøjet og frigav sine bomber, hvoraf en eller flere ramte noget fast. Under alle omstændigheder var der en stor eksplosion, som antændte gassen, og L37 (L37) faldt nedad i flammer. Dette var første gang, et luftskib var blevet ødelagt af et fly, mens det var flyvet.

R.A.J. Warneford, V.C. står foran en Maurice Farman Shorthorn.

Mål London

Strategiske angreb med større styrke blev genoptaget i september 1915, og herunder er uddrag af kamprapporterne om LZ 44 (LZ 74), som angreb London natten til den 7.-8. September 1915 under razziaen, hvor over 4.800 kg bomber ramte. London, Middlesborough og Norwich, hvilket gør det til det tungeste angreb rettet mod Storbritannien under Første Verdenskrig.

Zeppelin Raid -plak, Farringdon 61, London, England.

'Afgang 19.27 om aftenen ... LZ 74 krydsede den britiske kyst nord for Themsen nær Foulness Island. Kun få lys var synlige på jorden og kun en bleg glød i retning af London City, når de nærmede sig i cirka 3.200 meters højde. Alle forstæder, som luftskibet passerede over, blev fuldstændig mørklægte. Efter vindens retning og under hensyntagen til de kendte positioner for britisk forsvar, skulle ordren angribe London fra nord, da LZ 74 nåede Brentwood-Woolford. I mellemtiden blev de første søgelys bemærket ... '

Beretningen fortæller, hvordan chefen for et andet luftskib på sortien senere, SL II, senere nævnte, at da skibet nåede London, cirka ti minutter før LZ 74, var kun få søgelys i aktion. Flyets forskudte ankomst havde givet forsvaret mulighed for at mobilisere. Loggen af ​​LZ 24 (L 3), som også var på razziaen, bekræfter dette:

»Navigationen fra Kings Lynn til London var ligetil, fordi landskabet var helt mørkt, og de fleste byer stadig var oplyste. London var stadig meget stærkt oplyst ... Orientering over hele hovedstaden var meget let, fordi Regent's Park var placeret præcist, og byens centrum var oplyst som i fredstid ... besætningen begyndte at smide bomber nær High Holborn i en højde af omkring 2.500m '.

Zeppelin Thermite Incendiary Bomb.

På trods af at de var camoufleret, kunne banestationerne identificeres ved de spor, der førte til dem, som var ekstremt vanskelige at skjule. En af disse, der blev identificeret som 'Leyton -banegården', dannede det første mål, selvom det kun blev bombet for at reducere luftskibets flyvevægt, inden det gik over på havnene, 'hovedmålet'. Der blev det anslået, at bomber faldt på Surrey Commercial og muligvis West India Docks samt Bethnal Green Station. Den tilsyneladende skade og reaktionen fremkaldt blev også registreret:

Store brande var synlige fra himlen. Mellem 12.54 og 01.50 blev luftskibet inddraget af flere batterier, men uden held. En af de mange brandskaller, der kunne genkendes ved deres hvide røgstier, passerede LZ 74 inden for få meter, inden den eksploderede cirka 400 m over skibet. Begge kanoner, der stod oven på Zeppelin -skroget, tog dækning, fordi nogle af skallerne var så tæt på.

Efter at have tabt sin bombelast LZ 74 gik vi derefter tilbage og forlod England 'nær River Crouch' og udnyttede skydække til at beskytte det mod jordbrand. Rapporten indrømmer, at 'der ikke var nogen mulighed for, at kommandanten og hans mænd kunne bestemme skibets faktiske position'. Hvilket er tydeligt af den noget primitive luftfartstilstand på det tidspunkt. Ikke desto mindre fik besætningen deres lejer efter at have krydset kanalen og 'landede ved Namur omkring klokken 10.10', hvor den eneste skade var 'to slag' på strukturen og en motor, der mislykkedes gennem 'mekanisk defekt'.

Året 1916 oplevede en større indsats for at 'tvinge England på knæ' via krig fra luften. Dette var især tilfældet, da de første af "R" -klassens luftskibe, i daglig tale kendt af briterne som "Super Zeppelin", tog til himlen med idriftsættelse af LZ 62 (L 30) og hendes indledning til aktiv tjeneste i slutningen af Kan. Seksten af ​​disse fartøjer skulle stå færdige inden krigens slutning, og de skulle udgøre en vigtig del af den strategiske offensiv, dog med faldende chance for succes, da briterne begyndte at imødegå angrebene.

Udviklingen af ​​fly, der var teknologisk avanceret nok til at nå den højde, som luftskibe opererede i, var ikke i sig selv nok til at gøre zeppelinerne sårbare. Flyene måtte også udstyres med en ammunition, der kunne udnytte brændbare gasers brændbare egenskaber. Hver tromle eller bælte af maskingeværammunition havde en kombination af ammunition: eksplosive runder blev kombineret med brandkugler. De eksplosive kugler ville skabe huller i skroget og gasskaller, mens brændende runder ville antænde den udslipende gas. Dette var vellykket og blev grafisk demonstreret ved den spektakulære ødelæggelse af SL 11, som var slem nok, men værre var at følge, da 'Super Zeppelins' LZ 72 (L 31), LZ 74 (L 32) og LZ 78 (L 34) blev ødelagt ved lignende metoder gennem september-november 1916.

Brandkugler blev opfundet af New Zealander John Pomeroy. Richard Reynolds IWM London 2015. Brændende kugler. Richard Reynolds IWM London 2015.

Efter at LZ 76 (L 33) var tabt for luftfartøjsartilleri (AAA) i september, indså den tyske overkommando, at luftskibe muligvis ikke kunne fungere i deres tildelte roller uden forbedring af ydeevnen. Mange år senere i 1934 afslørede feltmarskal Paul von Hindenburg, at von Zeppelin selv havde betroet ham i 1916, at efter hans mening var luftskibet forældet, og fremtiden tilhørte fly.

I slutningen af ​​1916 var seks luftskibe gået tabt i angreb på Storbritannien på grund af fjendens handling, og hæren ankom separat til samme konklusion som von Zeppelin. På trods af dette fortsatte angreb hele vinteren 1916-17, og Strasser forblev overbevist om, at det var et værdigt forsøg. Han forsøgte også at finde måder at forbedre luftskibenes levedygtighed til at føre sin kampagne.

Vraget af LZ 76 (L 33).

Den eneste mulige forbedring, der kunne foretages for luftskibe, for at de kunne undgå ødelæggelse af jagerfly var at øge deres operationelle højde. Som Strasser udtrykte det, 'Stor højde er det bedste forsvar mod fly, og en stærkt forøget angrebshøjde er så nødvendig for yderligere luftskibsoperationer mod England, at alle resulterende ulemper, herunder en reduktion i hastighed, må accepteres'.

Hastighedsreduktionen opstod, fordi højden i en given luftskibsstørrelse kun kan afvejes mod vægt, og det blev besluttet at fjerne en motor fra både LZ 80 (L 39) og dermed straks spare omkring 1.750 kg. I begyndelsen af ​​februar nåede disse fartøjer en højde på over 5.000 m. Den første af typen, der skulle fremstilles, snarere end forlænget, var LZ 91 (L 42), som blev testet i flyvninger den 28. februar og opnåede en højde på omkring 6.000 m. Af åbenlyse grunde kendt af briterne som 'højdeklatrere' og af deres modstandere betegnet 'S' -type, dannede disse fartøjer den strategiske slagstyrke, Strasser havde forudset, indtil krigens sidste år blev' R' -typen ændret i eftertid at give dem lignende egenskaber.

På trods af at ‘Højdeklatrerne’ kunne operere uden for rækkevidde af fly og AAA -ild, var de ikke en stor succes, simpelthen på grund af de hidtil ukendte vanskeligheder ved at operere i sådanne højder. Hverken mennesker eller maskiner fungerer ordentligt i sådanne kolde, iltfattige miljøer og problemerne med at forudsige vejret så langt over jorden sammen med den øgede skrøbelighed af de lettere rammer gjorde den høje vind, der findes i sub-stratosfæren, farlig. Navigation blev også mere problematisk end før.

Det første angreb på England ved hjælp af luftskibe i store højder, LZ 79 (L 41), LZ 80 (L 35), LZ 86 (L 39), LZ 88 (L 40) og LZ 91 (L 42), fandt sted om natten den 16.-17. marts 1917. Det var ikke en stor succes, og et skib gik tabt, hovedsageligt på grund af vejrets virkninger. Efter ineffektivt at have smidt seks bomber på Kent blev L 39 drevet ud af kurs af stærk vind og led derefter tilsyneladende motorfejl. Luftskibet drev over Frankrig i reduceret højde og blev ramt af AAA, hvilket fik det til at styrte i flammer nær Compiègne. På trods af at bomberne faldt på det sydlige England næsten ikke havde forårsaget skade, gav luftskibenes højde dem en vis usårbarhed, der vedrørte briterne, hvis forsvar syntes at have været 'vertikalt flankeret'.

Britisk propaganda-postkort, med titlen -The End of the 'Baby-Killer-.

Yderligere razziaer med højde til beskyttelse fandt sted den 23.-24. Maj og den 16.-17. Juni, sidstnævnte razzia forårsagede alvorlig skade, da bomber ramte (helt tilfældigt), dog LZ 95 (L 48), en af ​​de nyere 'U' type fartøjer, gik tabt efter at have smidt bomber i det åbne land og reduceret højden fra omkring 5.500m til 4.000m, en højde hvor fly kunne operere. En britisk jagerfly klatrede til inden for 150 m og afladede en tromle af luftskib ammunition i den nederste hæk på L 48, og skibet faldt brændende til jorden, selvom utroligt nok overlevede tre besætningsmedlemmer.

På trods af dette tab fortsatte angrebene med angreb udført natten til 21.-22. August og 24.-25. September af henholdsvis otte og ni luftskibe. Ingen af ​​disse gav store resultater, hvor de fleste bomber faldt i det åbne land. Intensiteten af ​​angrebene blev intensiveret med et 11 skibstogt natten til den 19.-20. Oktober, men dette skulle ende med en katastrofe med tabet af fem skibe, LZ 93 (L 44), LZ 85 (L 45). LZ 96 (L 49), LZ 89 (L 50) og LZ 101 (L 55) gennem virkningen af ​​det dårlige vejr i ekstreme højder. Det så ud til, at luftskibene ved at overvinde deres første store tekniske vanskelighed, brintens brændbarhed og den britiske evne til at udnytte det var faldet i stykker af det andet, deres manglende evne til at fungere mod kraftig vind på grund af skrøbeligheden i deres design. Dette andet problem blev delvist overvundet ved introduktionen af ​​motorer, der kunne opretholde et anstændigt output i højden, selvom selv disse i LZ 105 (L 58) ikke forhindrede fartøjet i at afbryde en mission om at bombe Storbritannien den 12.-13. December på grund af kraftig vind.

Londons Air Defense System Map 1918.

Det første strategiske angreb i 1918 på Storbritannien var den 12.-13. Marts ved hjælp af fem af de seneste luftskibe. LZ 99 (L 54), LZ 100 (L53), LZ 106 (L 61), LZ 107 (L 62) og LZ 110 (L 63). Angrebet blev gjort ineffektivt af vejret - ikke vind ved denne lejlighed, men snarere tyk sky, der skjulte jorden. Et andet femskibs raid den 12.-13. April var bemærkelsesværdigt for luftskibsskytterne, der ramte et fly, der jagtede deres skib LZ 107 (L 62) og tvang det til at bryde af og lande. Dette vellykkede eksempel på defensivt skud menes at have været unikt, men et eksperiment, der kunne have givet en større defensiv kapacitet, havde fundet sted den 26. januar. Luftskibet LZ 80 (L 35) tog fart med en Albatross D.III jager ophængt under den, som med succes blev faldet fra en højde på cirka 1.200 m og fløj sikkert væk. Begrundelsen bag dette eksperiment er klar nok, men projektet blev ikke undersøgt nærmere.

Luftskibet som kampvåben var ved at blive forældet, selvom den utrættelige fortaler for både våbenet og dets strategiske brug, Peter Strasser, fortsatte med at benægte dette, og den 5.-6. August ledte han selv et femskibs raid for at bombe London. Strassers 'flagskib' for denne operation var LZ 112 (L 70), den første 'X' type, der havde nået en højde på omkring 7.000 m under test, mens de fire andre skibe, LZ 100 (L 53), LZ 103 ( L 56), LZ 110 (L 63) og LZ 111 (L 65), havde 6.000 m lofter. However, the defenders now deployed the two-seater De Havilland DH-4 aeroplane, which had a ceiling greater than 6,000m.

de Havilland DH-4.

In any event and for unknown reasons, three of the airships, L 53, L 65, and L 70, chose to approach the British coast at heights of some 5,000m, where they were intercepted by three of the aeroplanes. The report of one pilot, Maj. E. Cadbury, graphically described what happened: ‘The [explosive bullets were] seen to blow a great hole in the fabric and a fire started which quickly ran along the entire length of the Zeppelin. The Zeppelin raised her bows as if in an effort to escape, then plunged seaward, a blazing mass. The airship was completely consumed in approximately 45 seconds.

The downed airship was L 70, and there were no survivors. Strasser had perished in Imperial Germany’s newest airship on what was to be the last strategic raid of the war. L 70 was not the last airship to fall victim to British fighters, however, on 11 August, while carrying out reconnaissance work over the North Sea, LZ 100 (L 53)was successfully intercepted by a Sopwith Camel launched from a lighter towed behind a destroyer. Despite operating at near maximum altitude (taking the aeroplane an hour to climb anywhere near it), the airship was ignited by gunfire from some 100 metres below, and plunged into the sea.

The airship as a weapon of war had clearly been neutralized, and in any event the defeat of German arms of all kinds was acknowledged within three months by the signing of the armistice. Nevertheless, high altitude strategic bombing had arrived.


The Switch to Bomber Aircraft ↑

In the early hours of 3 September 1916 the first airship shot down over British soil (a Schütte-Lanz, SL.11) crashed in flames in Hertfordshire while attempting to attack London. Within a month the new bullets were responsible for destroying two more intent on bombing the capital, while anti-aircraft guns forced down another. Although the Naval Airship Division retained its faith in airships, only nine raids reached Britain in the last two years of the war. The army, however, abandoned airships and turned to bomber aircraft, which now presented the main threat to London.

The first daylight raid on the capital by Gotha bombers took place on 13 June 1917. It caused 162 deaths and 426 injuries, the most by any single air raid on Britain. Mounting Gotha losses through the summer, however, forced a switch to night bombing in September 1917. Between June 1917 and May 1918 Gotha bombers – joined by the massive R-type Staaken “Giants” (Riesenflugzeug) – attacked London on seventeen occasions and also bombed many south-eastern coastal towns. The last aeroplane raid of the war – aimed at London – occurred on the night of 19/20 May 1918. Zeppelins made one final, futile attack against Britain on the night of 5/6 August.


Lighter Than Air

A senior aeronautics curator at the National Air and Space Museum, Tom Crouch has written extensively about the Wright brothers and other pioneers of flight. His newest book, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009, $35), is a thoroughly researched and engagingly written history of buoyant flight from the balloonists of the 18th century to the military airship crews of World War II. The following excerpt is from a chapter titled “The Fabulous Silvery Fishes: The History of Rigid and Non-Rigid Airships, 1914�.”

They were ships in the sky, and to watch one of the great craft pass majestically overhead was an emotional experience never to be forgotten. That was certainly the case for young John McCormick, an eight-year-old Iowa boy who stood with his grandmother as Graf Zeppelin flew directly over the family farm in the summer of 1929. The great dirigible was so low, he recalled six decades later, that they could see “every crease and contour from nose to fins…so low that we could see, or imagined we could see, people waving at us from the slanted windows of its passenger gondola.” Grandmother and grandson stood entranced. “Slowly, slowly the ship moved over us, beyond us, and at last was gone.”

Four-year-old David Lewis was on a Sunday outing in the family Dodge in 1935, when his mother suddenly exclaimed, “There’s a Zeppelin!” “Its engines,” he recalled, “hummed with a sound that reverberates in my memory seventy years later.” As an adult, Lewis wondered if that misty memory had been only a dream, until he saw a photo of the craft he had seen that day, and it all came flooding back. “The sound…echoing as the dirigible disappeared in the west, reaches out to me across the gulf of time that separates me from the child, yet connects me to a life-altering experience.”

So it was for Anne Chotzinoff Grossman, of Ridgefield, Connecticut, who encountered the Hindenburg in the fall of 1936. The shy first-grader was waiting for the bell that would end recess, when the shadow of the airship passed across the schoolyard. With her older brother Blair and his friends leading the way, she set off in pursuit. “We ran across fields and brooks and over stone walls, trying to keep the airship in sight.” Finally admitting defeat, “we made our way back to school, very late and very dirty, to face angry teachers.” She was ordered to the blackboard to write one hundred times, “I will not chase the Hindenburg”—a pretty tall order for a six-year-old.

Hugo Eckener, who guided the Zeppelin Company and its airships through the vagaries of politics and weather for four decades, understood the emotional experience evoked by the sight of a rigid airship cruising through the sky. “The mass of the mighty airship hull, which seemed matched by its lightness and grace,” he noted, “never failed to make a strong impression on people’s minds. It was…a fabulous silvery fish. Floating quietly in the ocean of air and captivating the eye…. And this fairy-like apparition, which seemed to melt into the silvery-blue background of the sky, when it appeared far away, lighted by the sun, seemed to be coming from another world and to be returned there like a dream.”


Airships.net

The world’s first passenger airline, DELAG (Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-Aktiengesellschaft, or German Airship Transportation Corporation Ltd) was established on November 16, 1909, as an offshoot of the Zeppelin Company. The company provided passenger air service until 1935, when its operations were taken over by the newly-formed Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei.

While many of the early flights were sightseeing tours, the DELAG airship Bodensee began scheduled service between Berlin and southern Germany in 1919. The flight from Berlin to Friedrichshafen took 4-9 hours, compared to 18-24 hours by rail. Bodensee made 103 flights and carried almost 2,500 passengers, 11,000 lbs of mail, and 6,600 lbs of cargo.

DELAG offered the world’s first transatlantic passenger airline service, using LZ-127 Graf Zeppelin to make regular, scheduled flights between Germany and South America beginning in 1931. Graf Zeppelin crossed the South Atlantic 136 times before being retired after the Hindenburg disaster in 1937.

DELAG also employed the world’s first flight attendant, Heinrich Kubis.

The Origins of DELAG

DELAG’s goal was to commercialize zeppelin travel by providing passenger air service, and to purchase airships built by the Zeppelin Company at a time when support by the military was still uncertain. DELAG was created under the leadership of Zeppelin Company executive Alfred Colsman, who was was married to the daughter of aluminum manufacturer Carl Berg, who supplied aluminum for Count Zeppelin’s airships.

Alfred Colsman (far left) and Count Zeppelin (center, in white yachting cap)

DELAG Before World War I

Between 1910 and the outbreak of World War I in 1914, DELAG zeppelins carried over 34,000 passengers on over 1,500 flights, without a single injury. The majority of the passengers were given free flights to publicize the zeppelin industry (especially members of German royalty, military officers, aristocrats, government officials, and business leaders), but DELAG also carried 10,197 paying passengers before having to cease operations with the beginning of the war.

Passengers aboard a luxurious DELAG zeppelin

DELAG used hangars and landing fields at Frankfurt, Oos (Baden-Baden), Dusseldorf, Lepizig, Postdam, Hamburg, Dresden, Gotha, and elsewhere in Germany (click links for photos), and sold tickets in cooperation with the Hamburg-Amerika steamship line as ticket agent.

DELAG was not able to fulfill its goal of providing regularly scheduled intercity passenger service before 1914, but its pre-war zeppelins introduced thousands of people to air travel.

DELAG After World War I

The revolutionary design of the airship LZ-120 Bodensee, introduced in 1919, finally allowed DELAG to compete with the railways and offer daily passenger service between Friedrichshafen and Berlin. Beginning August 24, 1919, Bodensee flew northbound to Berlin on odd days of the month, and returned south to Friedrichshafen on even days the flights included a stop at Munich until October 4, 1919.

DELAG acquired a second ship from the Zeppelin Company in 1920 LZ-121 Nordstern was intended to provide international passenger service between Friedrichshafen, Berlin, and Stockholm, but had not yet gone into service when DELAG was forced to cease operations by the Military Inter-Allied Commission of Control estalished under the Treaty of Versailles. DELAG’s two airships were transferred to the Allies as war reparations: LZ-120 Bodensee was given to Italy, and LZ-121 Nordstern was given to France.

DELAG Airships

LZ-7 Deutschland

Deutschland has the distinction of making the first commercial flight of the first commercial aircraft in history, but it was a flight which ended in a crash.

Mahogany paneled passenger cabin of LZ-7

LZ-7 departed Dusseldorf on its seventh flight, on June 28, 1910, with Zeppelin Company director Alfred Colsman and a full complement of 23 passengers, mainly journalists covering the flight, enjoying the view from its carpeted, mahogany-paneled, mother-of-pearl-inlayed passenger cabin.

Before long, due to a combination of engine trouble, weather, and the relative inexperience of the ship’s military pilot, LZ-7 crashed into the Teutoburger Forest and was destroyed. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries.

Passenger cabin of LZ-7 (with thanks to Andreas Horn)

Wreckage of LZ-7 at its crash site in the Teutoburger Forest

LZ-8 Deutschland II

LZ-8 was launched March 30, 1911, intended to replace the wrecked LZ-7.

Unfortunately, LZ-8, also named Deutschland, had a similarly short career. On May 16, 1911, with Hugo Eckener in command of an airship for the first time, LZ-8 had barely left its hangar when it was pulled from its handling crew by a gust of wind and smashed against the roof of the hangar the passengers and crew were able to escape without injury by climbing down a long fire ladder, but the ship was a total loss.

Wreck of LZ-8 Deutschland II

It has often been said that the almost predictable wreck of LZ-8 — the day’s gusty wind conditions made the flight ill-advised from the start — contributed to Hugo Eckener’s intense caution in the future, and his determination never again to sacrifice safety to pressure from passengers, the public, or any other source.

LZ-10 Schwaben

Schwaben was launched June 26, 1911, and entered passenger service the next month, on July 16, 1911. Frequently commanded by Hugo Eckener, LZ-10 made over 200 flights and carried over 4,300 passengers, mostly on local flights from the hangar at Oos (Baden-Baden), but also from Dusseldorf, Potsdam, and Frankfurt, and occasionally from other cities.

Schwaben was destroyed by a fire and hydrogen explosion at Dusseldorf on June 28, 1912.

LZ-11 Viktoria Luise

LZ-11 first flew on February 14, 1912, and was named after Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia, the only daughter of Kaiser Wilhem II.

The ship made local sightseeing flights, mostly from Frankfurt, but also from Postdam, Oos (Baden-Baden), and a few other cities. LZ-11 made almost 500 flights, carrying almost 10,000 passengers.

LZ-11 Viktoria Luise at Oos (Baden-Baden)

Passenger cabin of LZ-11 Viktoria Luise

Viktoria Luise was transferred to the German Army at the beginning of World War I and used as a training ship for the military.

Relative sizes of LZ-11 Viktoria Luise, LZ-120 Bodensee, LZ-127 Graf Zeppelin. and LZ-129 Hindenburg

LZ-13 Hansa

Hansa made the first international flight by a DELAG ship, traveling from Hamburg to Copenhagen and back on September 19, 1912. Hansa’s first flight was on July 12, 1912, and it carried over 8,200 people on almost 400 flights, mostly from Hamburg and Postdam, but on occassion from other cities such as Leipzig, Gotha, and Berlin. Hansa was last based in Dresden until the outbreak of World War I, when it too was transferred to the Army as a training ship.

Passenger cabin of LZ-13 Hansa

LZ-17 Sachsen

LZ-17 made its first flight on May 13, 1913. Sachsen was the first ship commanded by Ernst Lehmann, who received his airship training in the ship from Hugo Eckener.

During 1913, Sachsen was used mainly for local sightseeing flights at Oos (Baden-Baden) and Leipzig, with occasional flights from Hamburg, Dresden, and other cities.

In 1914 the ship made most of its flights from Hamburg, with additional flights from Potsdam and Leipzig.

Sachsen proved to be an extraordinarily successful ship for DELAG, and carried 9,836 passengers on 419 flights in civilian service.

Sachsen with the zeppelin hangar at Leipzig

With the outbreak of war in August, 1914, Sachsen was transferred to the Army as a training ship, still under the command of Ernst Lehmann, and the leader of the German Navy’s airship service, Peter Strasser, received his training from Eckener and Lehmann aboard Sachsen. Sachsen was later modified to incorporate bomb racks and machine guns and made numerous bombing attacks on targets in Belgium, France, and England. The ship was dismantled in 1916.

LZ-120 Bodensee

The first civilian zeppelin built after the war, LZ-120 was primarily designed to provide fast air transportation between Friedrichshafen and Berlin. Construction was completed within six months, and the ship, named Bodensee, made its first flight on August 20, 1919.

Wind tunnel testing of design for LZ-120 Bodensee

Bodensee’s highly advanced and aerodynamically-determined teardrop shape (which differed greatly from the thin, pencil-like shape of most previous zeppelins) was a great leap forward in zeppelin design, due primarily to the engineering theories of designer Paul Jaray. With its revolutionary design and four 245 hp Maybach MB.IVa engines, LZ-120 Bodensee could reach a speed of 82 MPH.

LZ-120’s shape provided less drag, increased speed, and greater aerodynamic lift, and became the basic model from which LZ-126 Los Angeles, LZ-127 Graf Zeppelin, and LZ-129 Hindenburg were adapted.

LZ-120 Bodensee passenger cabin

A relatively short, small ship, Bodensee carried 706,000 cubic feet of hydrogen (later increased to 796,300 during a refit).

Bodensee traveled the 370 miles between Friedrichshafen and Berlin in 4-9 hours, compared to the 18-24 hours it took by rail. With washrooms and a small kitchen for light meals, Bodensee could carry up to 26 passengers in comfort as well as speed. In the three months after the ship’s launch, LZ-120 made 103 flights (almost all of them between Friedrichshafen and Berlin) and carried almost 2,500 passengers, 11,000 lbs of mail, and 6,600 lbs of cargo.

LZ-120 was taken from DELAG by the Military Inter-Allied Commission of Control and delivered to Italy on July 3, 1921, where it was renamed Esperia.

LZ-121 Nordstern

LZ-121 was built to provide the first international passenger zeppelin service, with plans for scheduled flights between Friedrichshafen, Berlin, and Stockholm. LZ-121 was completed in 1920 and christened Nordstern, but the ship was taken from DELAG by the Military Inter-Allied Commission and delivered to France on June 13, 1921, and renamed Méditerranée.


Timeline of Major Events in Airship History

June 4, 1783 – The Montgolfier brothers successfully demonstrate a hot air balloon flight in Versailles France that carried a sheep, a duck, and a rooster to an estimated height of over 5,000 feet.

September 24, 1852 – Henri Giffard flew the first dirigible (steerable balloon) using a steam injector engine of his invention. The flight took him from Paris to Trappers France.

June 1, 1863 – Dr. Solomon Andrews flew his “Aereon” over Perth Amboy, New Jersey in the United States using what he called gravitation to propel and steer the airship. The airship’s surface angle combined with increasing or decreasing its buoyancy allowed air to pass over the surface and propel the airship in the direction that was desired, somewhat like a sailboat is propelled.

July 2, 1900 – Count Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin of Germany flies his first rigid airship, the LZ 1, over Lake Constance near Friedrichshafen in Germany.

October 19, 1901 – Alberto Santos Dumont of Brazil won the Deutsch de la Meurthe Prize from flying his airship # 6 from Parc Saint Cloud in Paris to the Eiffel tower and back in roughly 30 minutes.

November 16, 1909 – DELAG (Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-Aktiengesellschaft or German Airship Travel Corporation) is founded and becomes the world’s first airline service. The “Deutchland” zeppelin began commercial flights on June 19th, 1910. Prior to the outbreak of World War I DELAG managed to carry 34,028 passengers on 1,588 commercial flights over 172,535 kilometers in 3,176 hours of flight.

August 24, 1914 – As the result of a zeppelin raid during World War I the port city of Antwerp in Belgium became the first city to be bombed from the air.

August 20, 1919 – The LZ 120 Bodensee took its maiden flight and was the first active passenger zeppelin built by the Zeppelin Airship Company following World War I.

May 12, 1926 – The Italian semi-rigid airship “Norge” became the first aircraft to reach the North Pole.

September 18, 1928 – The LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin made its first flight.

August 8, 1929 to August 29, 1929 – The Graf Zeppelin circumnavigated the Earth with Dr. Hugo Eckener in command.

October 19, 1929 – First flight of the British zeppelin the R101.

December 16, 1929 – First flight of the British rigid airship the R100.

May 18, 1930 – The Graf Zeppelin flew from Europe to Recife Brazil to establish the world’s first trans-Atlantic air passenger service which began regular flights in the following year.

September 23, 1931 – First flight of the United States’ flying aircraft carrier the rigid airship Akron.

April 21, 1933 – First flight of the United States’ flying aircraft carrier the rigid airship Macon.

March 4, 1936 – The Hindenburg Zeppelin takes its first test flight. Originally designed for use with Helium, the Hindenburg could initially sleep 50 passengers, but this was raised to 72 for the 1937 flying season since Hydrogen was being used.

May 6, 1937 – The Hindenburg explodes over its landing field in Lakehurst New Jersey killing 35 of the 97 people on board and one member of the ground crew.

March 1940 – Hermann Goering orders the dismantling of the last remaining zeppelins, the Graf Zeppelins LZ 127 and LZ 130 whose scrap will be used for the German war effort.

December 7, 1941 – The United States is attacked by Japan and thus enters World War II. During the war hundreds of blimps were used successfully for anti-submarine operations. Not a single allied ship was lost that was being watched over by navy blimps.

September 18, 1997 – The Zeppelin Company revives its airship construction operations and flies its first Zeppelin NT (new technology) semi-rigid airship on its first flight.


Atomic Airships

For the first half of the 20th century, atomic-powered airships were the stuff of science fiction, floating across the pages of pulp magazines that envisioned a future when nuclear energy would be harnessed for the good of all mankind. It wasn’t until President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1953 “Atoms for Peace” address at the United Nations, however, that the idea received serious attention. Ike’s UN speech was meant to promote peaceful uses of atomic energy for agriculture, medicine and electricity generation, but the U.S. Navy’s Bureau of Naval Weapons also took note. The result would be the first military study for an atomic-powered airship.

Written in 1954 by F.W. Locke Jr., that study investigated the feasibility of using nuclear power in an airborne early-warning (AEW) airship to guard against a Soviet first strike. Locke foresaw a rigid airship powered by twin T56 gas turbine engines specially modified for nuclear propulsion. Capable of 115 mph, the airship would be approximately 25 percent faster than previous dirigibles, enabling it to remain on station even in bad weather. Locke proposed a 2-millioncubic-foot helium capacity for his airship, with a large outer envelope containing a long-range, high-resolution radar array.

Unlike airships, which use helium or hydrogen for lift, airplanes require far more power during takeoff than they do for cruising at altitude. One reason why Locke even considered building an airship is that it’s a more viable platform for nuclear propulsion than an airplane, given its low power requirement. Locke proposed a nuclear power plant that weighed only 40,000 pounds, well within an airship’s lift capacity.

As Locke saw it, the crews of nuclear-powered airships would be much less prone to fatigue because “noise and vibration should be almost entirely absent.” He also postulated that crewmen would have “the entire area forward of the cabin…for exercise.”

Given an atomic airship’s superior comfort and endurance, Locke believed it could easily patrol for 100 hours. While he admitted that airships were at a defensive disadvantage due to their high visibility and slow maneuvering, he stressed that this is less of a problem than it might seem. Fast-moving fighters can be called upon to defend airships, just as they are assigned to protect bombers. And by the 1950s there had already been proposals for airships that could carry fighter aircraft aloft. In fact, two “flying aircraft carriers,” the airships Akron og Macon, had been built in the early 1930s, though both came to grief in bad weather.

Locke’s report, the first serious examination of an atomic-powered airship, recommended further study. But its author suggested that many of the problems associated with such designs were solvable— and he wasn’t alone in that belief.

Aerospace illustrator and author Frank Tinsley had envisioned airships carrying nuclear missiles as early as 1948. In March 1956, he wrote and illustrated an article for Mechanix Illustrated recommending that the U.S. government build an atomic-powered dirigible to serve as Ike’s atoms-for-peace demonstrator.

Just over 1,000 feet long, with a helium capacity of 10 to 12 million cubic feet, Tinsley’s design was almost twice as big as Hindenburg, previously the world’s largest airship. Tinsley envisioned an atomic power plant with twin turbines, driving a huge four-bladed propeller in the stern. To assist with takeoffs and landings, ducted fans mounted on gimbals would move the airship up, down or sidewise. Tinsley also imagined a gallery encircling the engine room, where visitors could safely observe the atomic plant in use.

Rubber pontoons inflated with water could be deployed whenever the airship landed on a smooth lake surface. A helicopter landing pad built on an elevator would lift the chopper clear of the hull for takeoff, or lower it into an internal hangar where passengers could disembark. Tinsley even included an exhibition hall that could be detached and lowered to the ground, leaving the airship free to fly around, advertising the exhibit.

Tinsley’s airship was a fantasy, of course, but its inventor believed it could serve as the perfect ambassador for the peaceful use of atomic energy. “No man-made vehicle has ever presented [as] awe-inspiring a spectacle,” he wrote. Karl Arnstein, the Goodyear engineer who had designed the Navy’s Akron og Macon, called Tinsley’s airship proposal “an intriguing new approach.”

But the Eisenhower administration didn’t go for Tinsley’s idea, opting instead to build the first fission-powered merchant ship. NS Savannah was launched on July 21, 1959, at a cost of $46.9 million, more than half of which was spent on its reactor. High operating costs would eventually spell the ship’s doom, leading to its decommissioning in 1971.

In 1957 Edwin J. Kirschner published his book The Zeppelin in the Atomic Age, which promoted the use of atomic airships as aerial reconnaissance platforms for Eisenhower’s“Open Skies”disarmament proposal. Kirschner also proposed a fleet of nuclear-powered “minute men” airships that would not only identify a Soviet attack, but launch an immediate counteroffensive. Although he claimed Eisenhower’s staff was studying his proposals, nothing came of either idea.

In May 1959 Goodyear, the airship experts, finally stepped up to the plate. Assembling a group of aviation writers for a Washington, D.C., breakfast, Goodyear announced it had the ability to build a nonrigid, nuclear-powered airship by 1963. The company envisioned a 540- foot-long blimp that would hold 4.5 million cubic feet of gas and be capable of 90 mph. It was designed to carry a crew of 24 and operate at 10,000 feet, and its nuclear-powered turboprop engines were supposed to give it “unlimited range.”

The project was seen as feasible in part because of a new rubberized fabric that Goodyear had developed, capable of with standing radiation exposures of up to 100 million roentgens (an exposure of 500 roentgens in five hours is usually lethal to humans). Goodyear had built more than 260 airships, the majority of them nonrigid, and it was already producing the conventionally powered, 1.5-million-cubic-foot ZPG-3W blimp for the Navy’s AEW program. The company even had a nuclear power subsidiary with experience operating an atomic reactor.

Goodyear’s press release noted that given such ships’ inherent buoyancy, “a nuclear-powered airship could be fitted with a reactor with one-twentieth the power needed to sustain a nuclear-powered heavier than-air craft.” But the release also noted that the blimp’s “nuclear reactor would be shut down during takeoff and landing,” a nod to safety concerns.

Goodyear proposed building two types of nuclear-powered airships: one for cargo and one as an early-warning sentinel. Though the proposals were almost certainly fishing expeditions, both designs should be taken seriously. Goodyear had the experience to take on such a project, and the Navy had the money. They could easily have built either blimp.

In 1962 America’s most famous proponent for lighter-than-air (LTA) aviation, Vice Adm. Charles E. Rosendahl, was invited to testify at a House subcommittee hearing on Department of Defense appropriations. Though Rosendahl was actually there to lobby against the Navy’s elimination of his beloved LTA program, he managed to slip an endorsement for nuclear-powered airships into the Congressional Record. Rosendahl cited the former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Gordon Dean, saying, “One place where the atomic engine can come into its own is the…dirigible.” He also quoted a nuclear technologist at Northrop Aircraft, Jack E. Van Orden, who said nuclear-powered airships were“practical with today’s technology.” Not only did Rosendahl fail to generate funding for nuclear-powered airships, he also lost the battle to save his LTA program after nearly 50 years in operation. The Navy shut down the program in 1962.

Perhaps the most-publicized proposal for a nuclear-powered airship came from Francis Morse, a former Goodyear engineer who was an assistant professor of aeronautics at the University of Boston. His proposal would dominate the discussion for most of the 1960s, inspiring write-ups in New Scientist, Aviation Week & Space Technology og Tid magasin. Morse sought funds to build an atomic airship to promote the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. To that end, he and four undergraduates at BU’s College of Industrial Engineering unveiled a 10-foot scale model of their nuclear-powered dirigible.

According to Morse’s calculations, an airship 980 feet long, 176 feet in diameter and with a gross lift of 760,000 pounds needed a power plant generating only 6,000 hp for propulsion. Such a small power requirement meant the total weight of nuclear reactor, turbines and shielding would amount to no more than 120,000 pounds, a fraction of the airship’s gross lift. That meant Morse’s airship could carry a significantly larger payload than conventionally powered dirigibles, making it economically attractive.

Morse envisioned an airship frame made of high-strength, corrosion-resistant alloys such as titanium and aluminum an outer cover made from durable nylon and gas cells filled with helium. His design called for placing the bridge inside the hull, a first for an airship. An axial corridor connected the bridge in the nose to nuclear-powered engines near the stern.

Morse preferred using a scaled-down version of a Pratt & Whitney 200-megawatt (thermal) cycle nuclear reactor. A pressurized steel sphere 12 feet in diameter would encase the reactor, and protective shielding made from lead and a lightweight laminate would sufficiently reduce radiation levels so that the crew could work safely.

Morse admitted that radiation hazards presented a serious obstacle for the design of any atomic-powered aircraft, especially since a crash could“spread fissionable material with lamentable consequences.” But he believed that crashes were much less of a problem for lighter-than-air craft because an airship’s “intrinsic buoyancy reduced the inertial forces from an impact to a manageable level.”In other words, anything containing 17 helium gas cells was bound to crash softly.

That may seem like thin gruel for those on the ground—not to mention aircrews. But despite perceptions to the contrary, conventionally powered airships had far safer operating records than airplanes. Before the Hindenburg crash, for example, commercial airships carried more than 354,000 passengers on 114,700 flights over 4.4 million miles without a single fatality. Selvom Hindenburg’s last flight is remembered as the infamous exception, only 35 of the airship’s 97 passengers and crew died in that disaster, far fewer than many people believe. During that same era airplanes were death traps by comparison.

Morse proposed a cargo carrier and also a 400-passenger “flying hotel.” As he described it, “The transoceanic traveler…is confronted today with two choices. Either he must buckle himself [in]to an airline seat…resigned to seven hours of inactivity or he may avail himself of more spacious amenities aboard an ocean liner—and spend…a week at sea.” His third alternative, a nuclear-powered airship, would cut transatlantic travel to 40 hours and provide “luxury on par with the surface liner…all at the cost of a first class steamship ticket.” Of course, transatlantic ship travel was actually in the process of taking a nose dive at the time, though Morse didn’t know it.

The lowermost deck of Morse’s flying hotel contained staterooms, many with private baths. There was also a cocktail lounge, a 200-seat dining saloon, a cinema and a promenade deck “broader than on the Dronning Elizabeth. ” On the upper deck Morse’s airship boasted a “ballroom beneath the stars” with a transparent ceiling arching over a dance floor. Another interesting feature was an 18-seat shuttle plane, used to ferry passengers to and from the airship while it was en route. When not in use, the shuttle would be stowed in a hangar amidships.

Morse clearly had a flair for promotion. A photo taken sometime before the 1964 World’s Fair shows him standing next to a model of his airship, arms outstretched to indicate its size. Wearing eyeglasses that only an aerospace engineer could love and a suit right out of Mad Men, he looks like he’s stepped out of a Cold War filmstrip promoting “Future World.”

Morse’s atomic-powered airship design is still remembered today as something of an industry baseline. Though he considered his design technically feasible, he admitted, “The greatest problems…are not engineering or economic [but] questions of prejudice and persuasion.” What he was referring to, of course, were the Hindenburg, Macon, Akron and other airship disasters, which still haunted the public 30 years later. As a result, Morse’s proposal never got past the discussion stage despite the considerable media attention it received.

The BU professor was not alone in trying to sell the world on a nuclear airship during the Cold War years. In 1969 a proposal by Erich von Veress, a 69-year-old Austrian engineer, generated international attention. Veress called his airship the ALV-1, for Atom Luftschiff Veress, and it was even bigger than Morse’s and Tinsley’s behemoths—1,062 feet long with a helium gas volume of 14.4 million cubic feet. It had a projected gross lift of 1 million pounds, enabling it to carry 500 passengers, a crew of 100 and 100 tons of freight at speeds over 200 mph.

Veress tried to persuade several West German industrialists, research foundations and even the Bonn government to fund his atomic-powered airship. At one point, the Schlichting Shipyard in Lubeck, West Germany, went so far as to announce tentative plans to construct the $38 million dirigible. Veress even entered into preliminary discussions with General Electric to provide the reactor. But critics claimed Veress’ airship concentrated too much weight in its bow and tail (a problem with Morse’s design as well). Though this shouldn’t have been a show-stopper, the Austrian designer was unable to convince his detractors otherwise. He never ceased working on his airship design, even producing a series of beautifully drafted diagrams, but his dream never saw fruition.

Cold War rivalry drove much of the interest in nuclear-powered flight, especially during the late 1950s and early ’60s. An experimental American airplane, the Convair NB-36H, carried a nuclear reactor that operated in flight, though it did not propel the aircraft, and Russia’s Tupolev Tu-119 operated in similar fashion. Neither of those experiments resulted in a nuclear-powered airplane, but the concept of an atomic airship refused to die. Sometime in the late 1960s, the Russians also bellied up to the bar.

In 1973 the Bulgarian newspaper Trud reported that the Soviet Union had plans for a 943-foot-long nuclear-powered airship capable of carrying 1,800 passengers or 180 tons of freight at a cruising speed of 190 mph. The following year, the Associated Press published a photo showing an illustration of the Soviet dirigible.

Hvornår Jane’s Pocket Book 7 of Airship Development came out two years later, it identified the Soviet airship as the D-1, a scaled-down prototype of a larger ship, the D-4. Jane’s cited Soviet press reports stating that “test flights were…so successful that work has begun on a larger version of the craft.”No mention was made of the D series being nuclear powered, however, and Soviet press reports were famous for their exaggeration. An earlier report in Jane’s Freight Containers had suggested the D-1 was nuclear powered, but there are no indications the design ever made it off the drawing board.

The 1973 oil crisis may have lent further support to the design of nuclear-powered airships, but it wasn’t until 1983 that a seminal academic paper appeared on the subject, The Preliminary Design of a Very Large Pressure Airship for Civilian and Military Applications, by T.A. Bockrath, a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Los Angeles. With a helium gas volume of 250 million cubic feet and a gross lift of 15.4 million pounds, Bockrath’s design was theoretically capable of carrying a 5-million-pound payload at a cruising speed of 200 mph. His semirigid airship was by far the largest yet conceived. To support his mammoth ship, Bockrath proposed a central tube like a backbone running from nose to tail. His design foresaw a hull made from Kevlar 29, a strong but lightweight fabric commonly found in today’s bulletproof vests. Crew and cargo would travel in pressurized compartments hanging from the central tube, while compartments on the bottom hull would have an airlock for loading and unloading.

Bockrath imagined several uses for his ship, including as an intercontinental ballistic missile launch platform, a transport for intermodal containers, a troop and tank transporter, and a flying aircraft carrier. Based on Morse’s assumptions, Bockrath estimated his airship’s nuclear propulsion system would weigh in at 5 million pounds, or just 26 percent of its total weight of 19 million pounds.

Bockrath’s and Morse’s designs come up today whenever nuclear-powered airships are discussed. For example, a 1988 NASA paper that explored the use of a nuclear-powered airship/helicopter hybrid as a potential platform for stopping ozone depletion over Antarctica cites both works. But the last time anyone seriously looked at an atomic airship was 1999, when Aerostation, the journal of the Association of Balloon and Airship Constructors, devoted an entire issue to the subject. The editor claimed the attractions of atomic power are obvious, including: “immense endurance and range, fixed weight of power plant and fuel…[and] the prospect of operating extended periods without refueling.”

Though the past decade has seen a rebirth, if not exactly a resurgence, in dirigibles (Germany’s Zeppelin NT being one recent example), the nuclear-powered airship has failed to take shape as a viable alternative to conventionally powered LTAs. Despite the proposals put forth in the United States, Russia and Germany, none of the atomic airship designs ever got beyond the drawing board. But the fact that such plans were being seriously discussed at a time when atomic energy seemed a viable solution to many of the world’s problems shows that nuclear-powered airships came a lot closer to realization than many people realize.

Given today’s emphasis on green technology, the future may belong to another form of energy: solar power. Helios Airships, Solar Ship, Hybrid Air Vehicles and other companies have already developed designs for solar-powered and hybrid airships for military and civilian use—some of which have already flown. Perhaps this is how “atomic airships” will finally become a reality: by harnessing the limitless power of the sun’s nuclear fusion.

John J. Geoghegan writes frequently about unusual aviation and science topics. His forthcoming book Operation Storm, due from Crown in May 2013, is based on his article about Japan’s I-400 subs and their Seiran aircraft for the May 2008 issue of Aviation History. Yderligere læsning: The Zeppelin in the Atomic Age, by Edwin J. Kirschner.

Originally published in the January 2013 issue of Aviation History. For at abonnere, klik her.


Aircraft and Airships in 1914 - History

Zeppelins fill the skies of Philip Pullman’s epic trilogy of fantasy novels, His Dark Materials. The giant airships of his parallel universe carry the mail, transport soldiers into battle and explorers to the Arctic. What was once my local post office in Oxford is in Pullman’s fantasy – a zeppelin station where I could catch the evening airship to London.

When I put the books down the reality is rather disappointing. A handful of smaller airships can be found flying proudly across the United States on promotional tours for brands like Goodyear and Carnival Cruise Line. Last year, a blimp demeaned itself by setting two world records, including one for the fastest text on a touch screen mobile phone while water skiing behind a blimp. A few more are employed to fly well-heeled tourists on sight-seeing trips over the German countryside. Another can be found flying over the Amazon. And that’s about it.

The good news is that soon, the real world may finally drift closer to Pullman’s fantasy. In four to five years, all being well, one of the first production models of the enormous Airlander airship dubbed “the flying bum” will be the first airship to fly to the North Pole since 1928. The men and women on board the Airlander are tourists on an $80,000 (£62,165) luxury experience rather than explorers. Tickets are on sale today.

The Airlander won’t be alone in the skies either. About the same time, a vast new airship the shape of a blue whale, at 150m the length of an A380 and as high as a 12-storey building should rise up above its assembly plant, out of the heat and humidity of Jingmen, China. Its job: heavy lifting in some of the toughest places on Earth. The manufacturers have some Boeing-sized ambitions for this new age of the airship. They expect there to be about 150 of these airships floating around the world within 10 years.

In the history books, the crash of the Hindenburg in 1937 marked the end of the brief, glorious era of the airship – except it didn’t. The US Navy continued to use blimps for anti-submarine warfare during World War Two. The American Blimp Corporation manufactured airships for advertising. New, bigger, hi-tech airships were built by Zeppelin in Germany. Engineers and pilots have spent whole careers in an industry that wasn’t supposed to exist anymore.

The HAV design doesn't need a mooring mast and ground crew like traditional models (Credit: HAV)


Se videoen: Luftballon på Højbygård Flyveplads HLTV 1996


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