Military Review

Airships against the fleet

Airships against the fleetWith the entry of Russia into the First World War, measures were taken to build its air defense. Special attention was paid to the protection of ports on the Black and Baltic seas from air strikes by zeppelins - large rigid-type German airships.

8 is considered to be December 1914 of the year when the air defense of Russia was formed, when the air defense system of Petrograd was created to prevent the flights of the enemy's aerial vehicles to the capital, Petrograd, and the emperor’s residence in Tsarskoe Selo. But every time researchers find more and more new documents that enrich the centenary history Russian air defense.


On the eve of World War I, the combat capabilities of airships by military experts were so highly rated that some of them even meant by air fleet - “The third element of state defense means” are exclusively controlled balloons.

With this approach to the air fleet, the zeppelinic Germany was dominant over the rest of Europe. Indeed, the L-1914 zeppelin enrolled in the fleet lists at the beginning of 3 of the year with a shell of 225 000 cube volume. m (length - 158 m, diameter - 14,9 m) lifted the payload with mass of 9,2 t, and three engines of the Maybach system with a total power of 600 hp allowed him to reach speeds up to 80 km / h. The maximum altitude was 2000 m, range - 2000 km. None of the aircraft then did not possess such characteristics in aggregate.

If the possibility of zeppelins attacking Revel and Kronstadt was considered as a real threat already in 1913, then Sevastopol was considered inaccessible for such attacks even after the start of the war. Indeed, zeppelins were located exclusively in Germany, and the Balkan states were either hostile to the central powers (Serbia and Montenegro), or held neutral (Greece, Bulgaria, Romania). All the few airships of Austria-Hungary died or were disarmed before the outbreak of war. The only Turkish airship of the Parseval system, even if it were in good condition, had a small radius of action.

However, by the end of 1915 in the then-owned Hungary of Transylvania in the city of St. Andras, the Germans had created an airship base with a portable boathouse. From here, zeppelins flew to bomb the Greek port of Thessaloniki, where in late October, an Anglo-French landing force landed on 1915. The entry of Bulgaria on the side of the Tripartite Union 11 in November 1915 of the year (the dates of all events are given in a new style, for events in Russia the date in old style is additionally in brackets) allowed the Germans to build another hangar for zeppelins in Yamboli town located in 80 km to the west from the Black Sea port of Burgas. From here, German airships could threaten not only the Allied troops in the Dardanelles, but also the Russian ports of the Black Sea.

The Black Sea Fleet began preparations for repelling possible attacks by enemy airplanes during enemy operations off the coast. This is evidenced by the order of Admiral Andrei Avgustovich Abergard, Commander of the Black Sea Naval Forces of 10 of September (28 of August) of 1914 of the year, No. 696, which “to combat enemy aircraft” was ordered to “on all ships with guns and machine guns , rifle batches were formed according to the number of available rifles and machine guns. ” It was supposed to train "shooting parties" by shooting at "boxed snakes".

However, the shooting of rifles and machine guns seemed then a sufficient measure to fight only with airplanes, but not with zeppelins. 8 September (24 February) 1916, Chief of Staff of the Sevastopol Fortress, Major General of the General Staff Fedor Petrovich Rerberg, presented the commandant of the fortress to the artillery general Arkady Nikolayevich Ananin with a “top secret” note on the fight against the Zeppelins. It said: “According to secret intelligence data, last fall, the Germans brought zeppelin to Constantinople.

The purpose of the action of this zeppelin could be the allied fleet or the positions of allies on the Gallipoli peninsula, and now no one can vouch for the fact that the aforementioned air ship will not receive the task of bombing the Black Sea Fleet while it was stationed in Sevastopol.

With the accession of Bulgaria to our enemies, the distance that the zeppelin needs to fly in both directions decreases by 120 miles, which increases the possibility of such an attack.

If until now there was no such attack, it does not mean that there will be none, and if operations in the Caucasus and the advancement of our troops along the Trabzon coast require more active actions by the Black Sea Fleet, such an attack may become very likely. ”

F.P. Rerberg, referring to the experience of unpunished raids by zeppelins on Paris and London, which had several lines of anti-aircraft batteries and the possibility of a telegraph warning, which was not in Sevastopol, offered to meet zeppelins with attacks by detachments of aircraft, despite the fact that the group maneuvers of pilots of airplanes and hydroplanes at that time did not teach.

To fight the zeppelins, he thought to organize a watch aviation detachments, each of which should consist of three groups: two groups of demonstration and distraction of the crew's attention, operating in the same plane with the airship (six vehicles) and in the upper hemisphere (five vehicles), and a group for the destruction of the zeppelin.

Considering the shooting on the airship with machine guns as a “palliative that cannot achieve the goal,” FP Rerberg offered to supply them only with airplanes of demonstration groups, while the destruction group strikes it from above with incendiary bombs, as they are safer for ships standing on the Sevastopol roadstead. The bombs, the number 20 – 30 on each airplane, were supposed to be dropped onto the airship manually.

The author of the note proposed an alarm system and pointed out the need for maneuvers to work out the interaction, in which a plane would play the role of a zeppelin in a certain way, and the bombs would be replaced with glass cartridges with paint. F.P. Rerberg also sketched a sketch of an incendiary bomb: “In front of the projectile there is a steel needle piercing into the shell of the zeppelin, with splinters that prevent the stuck projectile from breaking loose; the slope of the splinters is calculated taking into account the translational and rotational movement of the projectile. The projectile does not light up when the needle is struck, but only when the entire needle is thrust and the drummer’s washer hits the surface. This was done so that the projectile would not give a fire when falling on the decks of ships, tiled roofs, concrete cellars. The shell has a drummer washer below, a drummer-igniter and a combustible composition, giving two jets of flame on the sides of the needle. In the upper part of the projectile there is a bursting charge that explodes the projectile as it passes 1000 meters - so that the projectile cannot fall to the ground as a whole. ”

The note was handed over to the recall to the Chief of the Aviation of the Black Sea Fleet, Senior Lieutenant Ivan Ivanovich Stakhovsky, who sharply criticized it, which caused puzzled litters with the red pencil of the officers of the fleet commander. Stakhovsky believed that: “1. The practice of working at the fronts has established that at one end zeppelin has not covered more than 200 versts so far, which is why a raid on Sevastopol is hardly possible.

2. Assuming the possibility of a raid, it must be assumed that it will be made at night, when not only maneuvering several groups of vehicles is impossible, but it will be very difficult to find a zeppelin from the air.

3. Zeppelins usually go at high altitude, in most cases for vehicles heavier than air inaccessible.

4. The speeds of the zeppelin and the height pick-up apparatus are almost equal.

5. On the subject of repelling the attack of zeppelins by the British, according to available information, a special type of apparatus was developed with a balloon raising the apparatus to 3000 meters. At this height, the device is separated from the cylinder. "

He further noted that the allies, apart from batteries and seaplanes, have a large number of land airplanes with high flight characteristics, but despite all this, the zeppelins continue to carry out their raids with impunity. Then a categorical statement followed: “On the basis of the above, I believe that repelling the attack of zeppelin, if any, will follow, our land and sea air forces are absolutely impossible, and that in this case the artillery should mainly rely on its forces. Hydro, on the other hand, could be very useful to her by adjusting her shooting at a zeppelin using radio.

However, I once again point out that there are very few likelihoods on the zeppelins, but that the German hydro will appear at dawn over Sevastopol almost certainly, and that we have sufficient means to deal with them, which must be fully utilized. measure. "

Although the proposed project suffered significant shortcomings, to which, first of all, a large number of airplanes distracted from the fleet's daily combat activities should be attributed, in the recall of Senior Lieutenant I.I. Stakhovsky shows a desire to save the sea pilots from the additional loads associated with the seemingly unlikely threat. The consequence of this was an inadequate assessment of the capabilities of the zeppelin: some of their characteristics were overstated (elevation) to emphasize the impossibility of using Russian flying boats against them, while others (flight range) were underestimated, which created a deceptive impression of the safety of Sevastopol.

Despite the fact that the information on the delivery of zeppelin to Constantinople at the time of the writing of the note turned out to be false, after only six months, the command of the Black Sea Fleet had to make sure that the estimates of the chief of staff of the Sevastopol fortress were correct.


21 June 1916, the airship "SL-10" arrived in Yamboli. It was a hard-type airship of the Schutte-Lanz system, developed by Johann Heinrich Karl Schutte, a professor at the Higher Technical School in Danzig, and built at the engineering plant of Karl Lanz in Mannheim. The size of the SL-10 shell was 38 800 cube. m (length - 174 m, diameter - 20,1 m). 960 hp machine installation allowed the SL-10 to reach speeds of up to 90 km / h.

Airships of this type had a number of advantages in comparison with zeppelin. Their shell had a more aerodynamically more perfect form (the experience of the shipbuilding engineer affected). The gas bag service corridor was inserted into the shell. Handlebars and stabilizers had a simple form and were located in the extremities of the hull of the airship. To reduce the impact on the case, the propellers were fastened to it not rigidly, but through a flexible connection. Gas safety valves were located at the bottom of the casing (gas released by them was then discharged to the top), which eliminated the danger of formation of detonating gas in the casing.

Gradually, with a big delay, these innovations were introduced on the zeppelin. For the frame of the airship, Schutte chose wood, and only a few frames were made of duralumin tubes. The wooden frame provided the airship with greater strength than duralumin, but gave rise to a number of problems (durability, sensitivity to weathering, etc.). It was the wooden frame that caused the refusal of the German fleet to adopt airships of this type.

Due to the short summer nights and the strengthening of the Thessaloniki anti-aircraft defense, raids were stopped on him, and SL-10 reoriented to work with the German-Turkish forces on the Black Sea. In early July, after the death of two hydroplanes as a result of accidents, only three cars remained at the disposal of the German command, which was not enough even to conduct aerial reconnaissance in front of the Bosphorus. Therefore, on the basis of an agreement between Vice-Admiral Wilhelm Sushon, the commander of the German-Turkish fleet and the commander of SL-10, Captain von Wobezer, the Army airship attracted long-range reconnaissance for maritime forces and short-range reconnaissance providing navigation steamers coal miners. The use of the “SL-10” was of great importance for the fleet, since the hydro-aerodrome in Varna, which turned into the main base of German submarines on the Black Sea, remained subordinated to the Mackensen army.

On July 2, the airship commander SL-12.30 received a telegram from Istanbul in which it was reported that the submarine (UB-10) took a position near Sevastopol, and both the cruisers (Geben and Breslau) took to sea . The airship was ordered to conduct reconnaissance over the sea and, upon detection of enemy ships, immediately report a radio message on Osmaniye (a powerful radio station near Istanbul). The desirability of an attack by Russian warships in Sevastopol and the sending of messages about them as soon as they were identified was also indicated.

In 14.00, the SL-10 rose at temperature 30 ± and strong gusts of wind, one of which snatched the ends that held the ship from the hands of the launch team. It was not possible to transmit the radiogram when crossing the coastline near Burgas due to the failure of the radio transmitter transformer. Shortly before turning along the coastline to Varna, the oil pump in the aft engine nacelle refused, and the machinists began to supply the oil to the motors with a hand pump. Soon the nose motor failed, which could not be fixed. "SL-10" went along the coastline at an altitude of 1200 m and in 16.00 at the latitude of Varna headed for the northeast in the direction of Sevastopol.

On the airship, 19.00 received a radio weather report from Istanbul that gave no reason for concern. Now "SL-10" went at an altitude of 1800 m. In 22.00, a weather forecast was received, warning of a strong south-westerly wind. At this time, "SL-10" was located on the southern coast of the Crimea at an altitude of 2850 m. In view of the problems with the engines, the commander refused to continue the flight in an approaching storm and headed for Bosphorus at 22.30. July 3 in 01.00 with the remaining unnoticed "SL-10" discovered the lights of the searchlights of the Russian squadron. In 02.15, the reckoning showed that “SL-10” is located at Cape Igneada, in 100 km north-west of the entrance to the Bosphorus. "SL-10" headed for Burgas and arrived at Yambol near 08.00.

15 July “SL-10” appeared in the sky over Istanbul, after which the 16 lasted a flight to the port of Zonguldak on the southern coast of the Black Sea to protect Turkish coal transports and search for Russian minefields.


July 27 "SL-10" flew out of Yamboli to bombard Sevastopol. The Russian command was warned of the impending raid of the airship on Sevastopol. In addition to the maximum bomb load on board, the fuel supply for the 24 hour flight was taken, as well as due to the hot weather, the optimum supply of ballast water. Seven crew members were left on the ground, and only 10 people, including the commander, set off on a flight to the SL-16. Start and start of the flight proceeded normally. On July 28 between 04.00 and 05.00, the airship requested Osmaniye to reclaim it. Having completed the definition of the bearing, "SL-10" confirmed its reception and transmitted a conditional code for the absence of messages ("nn").

On the same day, in the afternoon, due to the lack of radiograms that were to be transmitted every two hours from the airship, seaplanes were sent from Varna in search of "SL-10". However, neither they, nor the planes that had climbed from Zonguldak and Sinop, nor the special intelligence officer who had approached Sevastopol at 100 km, could find the missing airship. The Bulgarian radio operator reported about the allegedly accepted radiogram from “SL-10”, in which they spoke about the fight with the headwind in 30 m / s (108 km / h) and tornado.

Only 13 in August at the entrance to the European coast of Bosphorus nailed the damaged petrol tank of the airship, and on September 3 near Varna, near the battery of 240-mm guns, threw the body of mechanic Dahl from SL-10. The circumstances of the death of "SL-10" remain unknown until now, but most likely, the airship was killed due to difficult meteorological conditions.

On August 2, a zeppelin “LZ-10” (formerly “LZ-101”) arrived in Yambol instead of the dead airship SL-71. The commander of the fleet and the commander of the airship agreed that, due to the small study of upper-air conditions in the Black Sea region, zeppelin will be used more cautiously. The only wish was to use test flights of “LZ-101” for reconnaissance of Russian blocking forces and for determining the positions of Russian mines before the Bosporus.

Zeppelins until the very end of the war were based on Yamboli. From here, the airships flew out to bomb the cities of Romania and the ports of the Mediterranean, but none of them tried to attack Sevastopol anymore.

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  1. bionik
    bionik 16 October 2016 07: 01
    The era of airships ended in the late 30s. In the USSR, in 1931, the organization "Airship" was created. To build airships in the USSR, the Italian designer Umberto Nobile was invited together with a group of Italian specialists. The work was carried out until 1940 and was mothballed until 1956. (During the war, nevertheless, some work was carried out on the preparation of obstacle balloons, as well as modifications of existing aeronautical equipment, including soft airships)
    1. Simpsonian
      Simpsonian 17 October 2016 10: 44
      Back in 1965, semi-rigid airships prevailed in US PLO and AWACS over aircraft, the last airship station closed there in 1977.
  2. midshipman
    midshipman 16 October 2016 09: 37
    An extremely interesting and informative article. I am preparing for publication an article on the role of airships in protecting Leningrad during the Second World War. Then two regiments of this type of air defense troops reduced the effectiveness of low-altitude night bombing by fascist aircraft of Leningrad. I have the honor.
    1. bionik
      bionik 16 October 2016 10: 01
      Quote: midshipman
      the role of airships in protecting Leningrad during the Second World War.

      Maybe a barrage balloon? Although, in other matters, lay out the honor. But our "sworn friends-partners" widely used airships in World War II.Panorama of a convoy in the Atlantic, accompanied by an airship in the summer of 1943. This is a blimp airship (blimp is a semi-soft airship system in which the gondola is attached to the shell).
      1. bionik
        bionik 16 October 2016 10: 04
        American battleship Missouri (USS Missouri (BB-63) anchored in the Gulf of Paria during a test voyage to Trinidad.
  3. parusnik
    parusnik 16 October 2016 10: 09
    Pretty interesting, thank you ...
  4. Cat
    Cat 16 October 2016 10: 32
    It would be interesting to read about our airships and balloons of the First World War.