Naval airships and hook-on aircraft

Discussion in 'Between the wars 1918-1939' started by zoomar, Jan 22, 2013.

  1. zoomar

    zoomar Member

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    below is a link to another site in which I presented a lengthy "alternate history" of airplane-carrying US Naval airships in the interwar years and their employment in the ASW role into WW2. Some might find it interesting.

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  2. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    Your link goes to a log in page.

    The British also carried out such experiments using Sopwith Camels aboard the rigid No.23 during the war and later de Havilland D.H.53 Hummingbirds and Gloster Grebes from R.33 post war. Unfortunately one of the successful launches of a Grebe was on R.33's last flight before it was scrapped.
     
  3. zoomar

    zoomar Member

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    Thanks for looking. Try this. Sorry. The Germans also experimented with an Albatros D-III in WW1, but the plane was never released by the airshi[ in flight.
    The Two US airships Akron and Macon were more than experiments, though, and as opposed to all previous experiments the aircraft carrying ability was part of their raison d'etre. My history is a "what if" the two ships avopided mishaps and the follow-on ZRCV design was built.


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  4. zoomar

    zoomar Member

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  5. meatloaf109

    meatloaf109 Well-Known Member

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    The real histories of the U.S.S. Macon and the U.S.S. Akron are interesting on their own. The Curtiss F9F Sparrowhawks were a fine little aircraft, and the aviators that flew them are in a catagory by themselves!
     
  6. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    #6 nuuumannn, Jan 26, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2013
    Very true; sadly, the loss of Akron bears the distinction of being the highest loss of personnel in an airship accident in history. A total of 73 people lost their lives.

    Although the lengthy diatribe raises some interesting scenarios, the idea of using rigid airships for maritime patrol purposes was flawed to begin with; the non-rigid proved a far superior maritime patrol asset. In their favour the rigids had only a larger payload, a longer range and a larger number of eyes aboard for spotting; against them they were more expensive to build and maintain, unwieldy to handle and store on the ground, they were also manpower intensive, requiring up to four hundred people to walk a 500 ft airship in and out of its shed and position it for flight (that is until the mooring mast, even then, they still needed to be guided on the mast). Once in the air rigids were slower than non-rigids, easier to spot by enemy vessels, more difficult to manoeuvre into position to make attacks and less able to co-ordinate and make physical contact with surface assets because of their size - purposely modified vessels were needed like USS Patoka, whereas during WW1 an RNAS Submarine Scout Zero (SSZ) non-rigid landed on HMS Furious' after deck.

    Like the United States, Britain only used airships for maritime patrol. By far the most numerous single class of non-rigids was the SSZ Class, of which up to 70 were built. These were small, three man aircraft powered a single 75 hp Rolls Royce Hawk, which was the only engine exclusively designed for airship use and proved extremely reliable in service. The SSZs had a purpose built gondola with a boat hull, so they could alight on the water's surface. Their maximum speed was 53 mph and they could climb at 1,200 feet per minute.

    Until the advent of the Goodyear Zeppelin non-rigids, the best of the big non-rigids were the British North Sea Class, which had a crew of ten and a maximum speed of 57 mph. Their disposable load was 3.8 tons. 14 were completed.

    It was calculated that the biggest wartime British rigids in service, the 23X Class, of which two were built cost over twice as much to build as a North Sea, had just over twice the disposable load at 8.5 tons and were slower by two mph - a significant margin in airship terms! The sheds required to hold a rigid cost the same to build as it cost to construct a light cruiser.

    Operationally, only one rigid bears the distinction of taking part in the destruction of a submarine; 23X Class 'ship R.29 spotted UB-115 and dropped smoke flares and bombs, which forced the sub to submerge until a surface ship arrived to continue with depth chargine the sub. UB-115 was confirmed as destroyed. This method of attacking submarines was standard practise, since the airships could get to the scene of a submarine faster than a surface vessel.

    During the Great War, German Zeppelins proved useful as fleet reconnaissance aircraft, like Akron and Macon, but from late 1917 on, every capital warship in the Royal Navy was equipped with at least one single-seat scout for anti-zeppelin duties.

    Another factor against the rigid as a useful aircraft was the fact that technology to build and maintain them did not change much in nearly forty years between Count Zeppelin's LZ 1 of 1901 and the last rigids LZ 127 and LZ 130 (both named Graf Zeppelin), which were scrapped in 1940. Gas cells were still made of gold beater's skin (over 60 000 oxen were required to supply enough gold beater's skin to build a single rigid airship!) and the endoskeleton was still covered in hand woven irish linen or rubberised cotton. Within the same time period, heavier than aircraft went from wood and fabric gliders to the jet powered, all metal Heinkel He 178.

    The military rigid was doomed after WW1; of the five rigids constructed for the US Navy, four of them were lost in tragic accidents.
     
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