British Airships 1905-30 (New Vanguard, Volume 155)

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Although the first Armstrong Whitworth SS type appeared in July , the first of the production models did not follow until May The envelope capacity of the AW type was 70,cu. This photo shows an early version with four stabilizing planes. Ltd and Armstrong Whitworth Ltd. Those present were invited to submit designs for a new non-rigid airship; it was to be designed for submarine detection work, be capable of an air speed of 40 to 50mph, with an endurance of up to eight hours while carrying a crew of two.

The design was also required to be simple to facilitate rapid production, for the Admiralty wanted these new airships in the air within weeks. Although the lift produced was too low, the principle proved sound and production went ahead with an envelope of greater capacity. The new rubberized fabric envelope received coatings of aluminium dope and varnish, giving a metallic look common to all subsequent British airships.

It had a capacity of 60,cu. Inside were two ballonets, each with a capacity of 6,cu. There were four stabilizing planes fitted to the envelope, two fixed horizontally with elevators and two fitted radially below with rudders. Later models replaced the two lower planes with a single plane fitted centrally. The 24ft long BE2c fuselage was fitted with a 75hp Renault engine driving a four-bladed propeller, which produced a speed of 50mph.

However, in the official handbook published by the Admiralty in the name Submarine Scout is given.

Balloon-Busting Aces of World War 1

The Maurice Farman based SS type. Crews tended to prefer flying this version as they sat out of the propeller slipstream. This shows an early version of the MF type with four stabilizing planes. Armament consisted of eight 16lb and two 65lb bombs. With a greater capacity envelope 70,cu. This proved a more reliable method of delivering petrol to the engine than the integral tanks in the BE2c but increased drag, reducing top speed to 45mph.

This type appears to have used three stabilizing planes. Although their original design failed to get approval, Airships Ltd were contracted as one of the manufacturers of the new SS type airships and used Maurice Farman aircraft fuselages. Envelopes of either 60, or 70,cu. The engine, an 82hp Renault, drove a four-bladed propeller. Petrol was contained in a single 64gal tank positioned in front of the engine. Crews tended to prefer flying this type as they sat out of the propeller slipstream and were generally a little more comfortable, although top speed reached only 40mph.

Of the 49 SS type airships built during the war, 14 were sold overseas to the Italian and French governments. Coastal C Class Having rushed the SS class airships into service, the RNAS then turned its attention to developing an airship with increased endurance for extended patrols. The prototype was created using the envelope from HMA No. Some later models replaced the rear engine with a hp Renault and the forward engine with a hp Berliet or Green.

The first two Coastal airships entered naval service in January Although the RNAS had great hopes for the Coastal Class, until their crews gained operating experience they proved unstable in flight and slow to respond to the rudders and elevators.

However, they did see more than their fair share of action and clocked up many hours of service. The envelope was ft 6in. There were four internal ballonets, two in each of the lower envelope lobes, each with a capacity of 2,cu. At a top speed of 52mph the Coastal Class airships had an endurance of 11 hours, doubling to 22 hours when patrolling at half speed.

The coxswain, who operated the rudder, occupied the forward cockpit, while the captain, who sat behind him, controlled the twin elevators. Two petrol tanks, each carrying gal, were positioned in the car by the engines, but with the Renault engine fitted, the rear tank was moved to a position mounted on struts above the engineer. Later, C Class airships carried their fuel tanks in slings attached to the envelope. Armament consisted of either four lb or two lb bombs or depth charges, in addition to two Lewis guns, one fixed on the car and the other attached to a wooden frame laced to the top of the envelope, accessed via a tube running up through the envelope.

Of the 32 C Class airships, the last completed in December , five served overseas, four purchased by Russia and one by France. Again, existing equipment was utilised to create this new type, an Astra-Torres trilobe envelope of ,cu. This resulted in the Coastal Class 1 , a most useful airship, although the arrangements for the crew were cramped and uncomfortable. Over 30 Coastals were built in but production then ended. The envelope, again of trilobe design, was, at ,cu. Throughout this period work, commenced in , continued on a rigid airship, HMA No. Although it had a gas capacity of ,cu.

Although 20 were ordered, only ten were produced following the introduction of the SS Twin in In the meantime the RNAS developed an interim design at short notice.

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A new envelope, which followed the trilobe form, increased in length to ft in the first three models, was extended further to ft in later models, with a width of 49ft 3in. Both types had a capacity of ,cu. The introduction of six ballonets, three in each of the lower lobes, a large one positioned centrally and two smaller ones, one forward and one aft, led to improvements in control and stability.

By fitting the engines, initially a hp Renault at the rear and hp Berliet forward, on extended mounts, the improved car offered more room for the crew.


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Later models used a hp Fiat rear engine. The canvas covering of the car was replaced with plywood, and four Triplex glass portholes were fitted on either side in addition to a glass floor panel, all intended to improve observation. Other armament consisted of two lb and two lb bombs attached to frames on the car. North Sea NS Class Although the development of rigid airships had stalled, by it was underway again, but progress was slow. In the meantime work commenced on a class of non-rigids to tackle the problem of greatly extended patrols over the North Sea.

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This resulted in the North Sea Class. The first of this type, NS. The envelope again followed the trilobe form but was ft long with a diameter of 57ft. This gave a capacity of ,cu.

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There were four stabilizing planes, with elevators on the two horizontals and a rudder on the lower of the two vertical planes. Following the initial system of attaching the aluminium petrol tanks to the joints between the upper and lower lobes on the external surface of the envelope, a later development saw them relocated within the envelope. The original hp Rolls-Royce engines struggled with a complicated drive-shaft arrangement, but a change to two hp Fiat engines with direct drive to the propellers improved performance. In total 14 NS Class airships were completed, the last of these not entering service until March At a top speed of 57mph, the NS airships could remain in the air for 24 hours, but at lesser speeds patrols in excess of 48 hours were regularly undertaken.

This resulted in the introduction of the SS Pusher Class in early Following the success of the Maurice Farman type, the newly designed car followed the same principle, with a rear-mounted 75hp Rolls-Royce Hawk engine giving a top speed of 52mph. Later, hp Green engines were fitted as the new Hawk engine had not yet achieved the reliability it later enjoyed. The car itself, about 25ft in length, was rectangular with a slightly rounded nose and a single landing skid. The SSP utilized the 70,cu. Introduced in but not fully integrated until , the North Sea airships generally carried three Lewis guns, two firing through windows in the control car and one fitted to a gun position on the top of the envelope.

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Four or six lb bombs were also carried. Although numbered NS. Their design proved so successful that it led to the cancellation of the SSP Class. Like the SSP, the Zero also used the 70,cu. By fitting an aluminium front cowl to the wooden frame of the car and covering the rest of the framework with plywood and a top layer of doped fabric, the whole car was rendered watertight. A total of 77 of these highly versatile airships was built, some not completed until after the war, making it the most numerous British airship ever produced.

The engine, a 75hp Rolls-Royce Hawk, mounted on bearings above the surface of the car, drove a four-bladed pusher propeller. Having overcome initial problems, the Hawk was now a most efficient and reliable engine, the first British engine specifically designed for airships. Fuel was held in two aluminium tanks suspended in the same manner as on the SSP Class. Besides the Lewis gun, Zeros also carried a number of bombs, initially two 65lb bombs, but later four 65lb or two lb bombs, one mounted on each side of the car, or one of lb were carried.

Submarine Scout Twin SST Despite the successful introduction of the Zero, concerns remained over the vulnerability of single-engine airships to breakdown. Therefore experiments were carried out to develop a twin-engine model that could continue to function on one engine. It had a new envelope of ,cu. Overall length of the new envelope was ft, with a diameter of 35ft 6in.

The now usual arrangement of two external fuel tanks slung on the envelope continued. The open, tapered, angular car had space for a crew of four or five. Although SSTs were planned, the end of the war brought production to a halt with only 13 completed, numbered 1 to 14 there was no 13 for reasons of superstition. This was an Italian-built M Class, which had a ceiling of 15,ft and could carry up to half a ton bomb load — far more than any of the British non-rigids.

A British crew arrived in Italy in July to carry out trials before flying it to Britain. Designated SR. Overall length was ft, with a diameter of 55ft.

Though it was normally fitted with two hp Italia engines, for the long flight to England an extra hp SPA-6a engine was fitted above the enclosed car. After a fraught three-day journey from Rome, SR. Five days later the war ended.

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