First Honorable Mention, 1915
Motto: "Too late on earth may be too soon in hell!"
Rapid as have been the changes in aeronautics during the past few years, the art is now, particularly, in a state of flux. In the great theaters of European war the experience of years is being compressed into days. Here and there, where the curtain is lifted, we see battlefields dominated by Taubes and Farmans in a maze of bursting shrapnel, and huge dim shapes of Zeppelins, lurking by night over unlighted cities. There are signs of great developments, of great enterprises on foot. Owing not only to the rapid changes, but also to the quick droppings of the veil, it is extremely difficult to systematize these snapshot teachings of recent aviation. Yet our need of studying it " with prayer and fasting," and of making headway in our overhead defence has never been more pressing. The alarm has been sounded for army and navy: but we are in danger of finding ourselves, when the trying hour comes, in a bomb-proof without a top.
Let us remember, too, that " A stern chase is a long chase."
This question of " closing up " in aeronautics is of vital importance to the United States. Our reliance has been on a powerful navy to keep an enemy from overwhelming our brave and efficient, yet ludicrously small, army. But if the enemy have undisputed command of a parallel route to our coasts, the navy fails in its purpose and the Monroe Doctrine becomes archaic. Moreover, since we so severely limit our military budgets, we must seize, more eagerly than other nations, inexpensive weapons of great and known efficacy, like the submarine, the destroyer, and the airship. And if one aeroplane can be hurriedly built, it takes years to establish home plants, build a fleet, and train a personnel.
II. TYPES OF AIRCRAFT1
Before discussing the air fleet and its uses, we must give a few preliminary definitions and a clear idea of the types considered.
Kites and Balloons.—These may be dismissed with a few words. The kite is no longer important as a military asset. Most of the military nations have given it respectful attention, and but for the arrival of the aeroplane might have awarded it high honors. It has been used for dragging explosives over fortifications, and (with marked success) for photographing an enemy's works. The Germans employed a military balloon kite, with the ordinary characteristics, except that it was inflated with hydrogen, had greater lifting power, and would stay aloft without wind. The cellular and the tetrahedral forms developed in the United States have given excellent results. Experiments from the U. S. S. Pennsylvania showed that a kite can support, several hundred feet above the ship, an officer whose spotting signals are easily read. It can lift the observer to a height of 1500 to 2000 feet,
1 Acknowledgment must be made to numerous articles in current books, magazines, and papers, that have been used in the preparation of this paper. Special mention may be made of White and Harper's "The Aeroplane in War"; " The Curtiss Aviation Book"; the chapter on Aeronautics in " Brassey's " Naval Annual, 1914; articles by Captain Chambers in the U. S. NAVAL INSTITUTE PROCEEDINGS, 1913; various articles in service magazines by Major H. Bannerman-Phillips of the British Army; "Aircraft in War," by Col. F. H. Sykes of the British Army (Quarterly Review); "L'Aviation Militaire en 1912," by Lieutenant Albert Vallet of the French Army; "Aircraft in Naval Warfare," by "Gitchie Gumee " (United Service Magazine); "Principles of Naval Aeronautics," by Late Naval Constructor Pietzker of the German Navy (translation in the U. S. NAVAL INSTITUTE PROCEEDINGS) ; and "Present Status of Airships in Europe," by Assistant Naval Constructor Hunsaker, Instructor in Aeronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Journal Franklin Institute).
whence fire may be directed by telephone. It is not vulnerable, compared with other aircraft, and can be readily transported or replaced; but, unfortunately, it can only be used in winds of 20 to 40 miles per hour, and is of course not mobile in the sense applying to other aircraft.
The (captive) balloon is still in vogue for fire control and for military observation—the Germans used it at Antwerp. The wandering type also is good for the training of aeroplane pilots and observers in " airmanship." The Russian lookouts reported a Japanese balloon in the Sea of Japan shortly before their ill-fated meeting with Togo. But for the purposes of this article, the balloon must be classed with the fine old square-rigged ship.
In his annual report, General Scriven, Chief of the Army Signal Corps, gives it these few words of doubtful praise:
The captive balloon, too, has its uses, but they are limited. Observation from captive balloons, which must necessarily be sent up some distance in the rear, is a poor substitute for the direct overhead reconnaissance obtainable from aeroplanes or dirigibles.
Of modern aircraft, we must deal with three principal types: Aeroplanes, seaplanes or hydro-aeroplanes, and airships or dirigibles. The British term seaplane is much neater than our " hydroaeroplane " or "hydroplane," though the word " dirigible" is more specific than their " airship." Where the meaning is clear, aeroplane will be used as a generic term including both "landplanes "and seaplanes. Dirigibles, as noted below, are subdivided into three classes.
Aeroplanes.—These divide, of course, into biplanes or monoplanes; and into "one-place " or " two-place," according to whether the pilot is alone or carries company--an (armed) observer or mechanic. Three- and four-place machines are not unknown, and Grahame-White has a "char-a-banc " for nine passengers. The Russian Sikorsky has eclipsed all rivals by building huge aeroplanes with seats for 18. His Ilva Murametz has a covered-in fuselage measuring 65 feet from nose to tail, with a small cabin for two pilots, a larger one for passengers, a small sleeping apartment, and a very small lavatory. No buffet is yet reported. Each compartment is lighted by electricity and heated by the engine exhaust. This machine, which is made of wood, is slow compared to the small fry; it may be taken as the last word in size for some years to come. As to speed, good military machines range between 60 and 90 miles per hour; a few make over 100 miles, and the record is said to be 124. A run of 6 hours at 75 miles per hour is good, but not unusual, and continuous flights of 8 to 12 hours excite no wonderment. The record has crawled up to 25 hours. Machines can climb 400 to 500 feet per minute, rising not so fast as dirigibles, but higher—up to 20,000 feet. For military purposes many are armored; since anti-aircraft guns reach to 5000 feet, while detailed observation is difficult above 2500 feet. For fighting, the aeroplane has an automatic rifle, a few small "bombs," arrows, and, at best, a small rapid-fire or machine gun. French biplanes have been equipped with a lighting system for night work; the use of searchlights by night-fliers has been reported. Small wireless installations have been common, and various devices for signaling.
The standard German monoplane, the sky-blue Taube, is modeled from the leaf of the Zanonia tree, which, from its shape, is wind-driven for miles. The Taube is made of steel; and, though easily controlled, is slower than many British and French machines. As the pilot cannot see behind or below, it is bad for bomb-dropping or defence from an overtaking foe. Many Taubes have been overtaken and brought down by airmen on the other side. The standard German biplane—the Arrow—is also of steel, and though faster than the Taubes, is slower than the best British biplanes, some of which cover more than a hundred miles per hour.
In seaplanes the British seem to lead, both as to quality and numbers. It is asserted that their Sopwith machines won in a canter in an open competition at Monaco. The German requirements for this type are:
(a) Must be two-place machines.
(b) Must carry fuel for four hours.
(c) Normal speed of at least 62 m. p. h.
(d) Must be able to alight on a rough sea, with a wind of 15 m. p. h., and remain there, with motor stopped, for one hour.
(e) Must be able to start flight from a rough sea, in wind or calm.
(f) Must fly for at least three consecutive hours.
With other conditions as to seating and facilities for observation.
We have as yet no American machine that satisfactorily meets conditions (d) and (e) ; but our own experience has demonstrated that the aeroplane can make flights from and back to the deck of a ship (witness Ely's beautiful flight to and from the Pennsylvania) ; and that the seaplane can alight, in smooth water, near a ship, and be readily hoisted aboard. " Brassey suggests that future seaplanes may be fitted with water propellers; and even that the air propellers may be used to turn these, converting the seaplane into a wind-driven boat independent of fuel.
Reference should be made to the " stabilizer," a recent gyroscopic device for relieving the aeroplane pilot of the task of constantly adjusting the balance of the machine. Arrangement can readily be made for throwing it out of gear in tight places where human control is essential. In a test abroad, Mr. Sperry (son of the inventor) is reported to have stood up in a "stabilized " machine with both hands in air while the mechanic actually climbed out to the tail. The machine after trembling a little continued its straight and peaceful flight.
Dirigibles.—The dirigible is defined as " a self-propelled airship in which the lifting force is given by a gas-filled envelope beneath which cars are suspended for the accommodation of the power plant and passengers "—or, more concisely, as " an animated gas bag." It may carry several rapid-fire or machine guns (in the car, or even on top of the envelope for overhead protection), a crew of 10 to 20 officers and men, various articles of equipment, and a ton or more of high-explosive "bombs." Its average cruising range may be taken as moo miles, (say 25 hours at 40 miles per hour), but this radius is extending towards 2000 miles and more. This makes it, as compared with the aeroplane, a long-range instrument. The following data gives an idea of a large, modern, German Zeppelin:
Displacement in tons 30
Length in feet 550
Diameter in feet 61
Speed in in. p. h 50
The volume of gas in such a ship is about 800,000 cubic feet.
A later Zeppelin is designed for a speed of 62 miles per hour. The very latest make 65 miles, almost keeping pace with a good aeroplane.
The equipment of a large dirigible ,includes guns, radio set, bombs," bomb-releasing device, searchlight, photographic apparatus, barometer, compass, fire extinguisher, medical box, and various instruments for the management of the ship. A camera--
described as a "miniature cinematograph has been devised for use, with aircraft. It relieves the Observer of the strain of constant record-making, leaving his eye free, for " high places," and may be adjusted, at pleasure, for a continuous record, or for snapshots at regular intervals.
Dirigibles, are divided into three important classes: Rigids (Zeppelins), non-rigids, and semi-rigids. The rigid, has a supporting framework of aluminum, -wood, or steel, and (important and characteristic) can be subdivided into cells--small gas-bag units within the, large envelope. This construction, like the watertight compartment system with ships, makes for safety in battle, since a shot may pierce one cell (or several) without deflating the balloon. The rigid is therefore the only "battle airship." The largest and fastest ships are of this type they are frequently spoken of as Zeppelins, though other makes, such as the Speiss or Schiitte-Lan, are important.
The non-rigid type has neither ribs nor keel, but is held in shape by gas pressure from within. Since this pressure maintains the form, the cellular division cannot be used, and a rent in any part deflates (and wrecks) the ship. An effort is making towards subdividing non-rigids ; but, though that is the latest tendency, none can yet, risk shell fire (as to rifle fire only, balloons have been riddled without coming down).The non-rigid is therefore analogous to the scout on the seas useful for reconnaissance and other auxiliary wOrk, vulnerable as a gas tank if reached by hostile fire.
The semi-rigid is a compromise, sharing some advantages and some disadvantages of both battleship and scout. It has a rigid keel, within which (in the Forlanini type) the car is built. It has less head-resistance and dead-weight to carry than the rigid; but is less safe than the other types, and, with its cumbrous keel, is harder to transport than the easily deflated non-rigid. (For more detailed comparisons, see below).
Zeppelin frames are made chiefly.of aluminum. They consist of longitudinals and of transverse partitions that divide the frame into sections, in each of which is a balloonette, a separate unit containing: gas. These :balloonettes are made of gold-beaters' skin, which is impervious to gas. The outer envelope is of water-proof linen. There are three cars close under the envelope to lessen head resistance. The ship is fitted with fins to give stability, and with horizontal and vertical rudders. A funnel through the center leads to the upper platform on which the " sky-scraping" gun is mounted. There is water ballast, which can be immediately and safely spilled.
The non-rigid and semi-rigid envelopes cannot be made of gold-beaters' skin, which is too weak, and require some rubberized fabric from which the loss of gas is about i per cent a day. The non-rigid can be readily deflated and packed for shipment.
The nature of a non-cellular (non- or semi-rigid) dirigible was well illustrated in Italy when the aviator of a Farman biplane engaged in battle practice against a Korting dirigible. In one of his mock attacks he apparently misgauged the distance: for instead of just clearing the dirigible, he rammed it. The result was an immense rent in the airship's side, a sudden outpouring of gas, a burst of flame, and a fiery orb hurtling to the ground. The crew were illcd, and also the aviators on the aeroplane. Various devices have been used to diminish this danger double envelopes, strips of fabric inside to be sucked into holes and stop the flow, etc. On the other hand, an explosive grapnel trailer has been suggested, which, dragged by piano wire from an aeroplane, will rip the envelope, explode, and destroy the dirigible. Non-rigids are exposed to destruction by bombs dropped from aeroplanes overhead. True; the dirigible can ascend faster; but it is usually slower, and the danger from a squadron of aeroplanes attacking at different heights from various directions will be great. Indeed Jayne says in his " Fighting Airships " (1913):
A single aeroplane should be able to disable or destroy without very great difficulty the finest dirigible yet built (supposing it able to find the airship in the vastness of the air).
This view may not 'take account of the latest anti-aircraft weapons of dirigibles, especially the gun mounted on top of the envelope: but even Zeppelins will have to look alive unless they give hostile aeroplanes the slip. At present, it seems practicable to do this.
Summing up the 'advantages and disadvantages of the dirigible as contrasted with the aeroplane:
Advantages.—The dirigible is superior in range and power.
(1) It can make long flights over seas or across hostile territory.
(2) It can carry from one to eight tons of explosives, and drop "bombs" or great power and weighing as much as 1300 pounds, while the aeroplane can only carry four or five projectiles weighing 80 to 90 pounds each.
(3) It can hover for observation or for bomb-throwing, while the aeroplane must keep in rapid motion.
(4) It can sail slowly over the terrain examined, giving opportunity for leisurely observation.
(5) It affords a stable gun platform.
(6) It can have an adequate wireless installation, with relatively long range; and can receive as well as send messages (by means of a sound-proof booth): The noisy aeroplane cannot receive, though mufflers may be fitted in future. The wireless affords quick communication that aeroplanes often lack.
(7) If the dirigible's motors break down it is still a balloon.
(8) Finally, and highly important, it can work at night, with relative immunity from hostile fire, while the aeroplane can fly safely only by day. Some progress has been made in night aeroplane flying with the aid of a small searchlight or of illuminated landing places: but such attempts are hazardous. Only recently a well-known British aviator was killed, after a midnight patrol flight over London, through mistaking his distance to the ground.
Disadvantages.—The dirigible is costly and vulnerable.
(1) It costs from 20 10 35 times as much as the aeroplane.
(2) It presents a much larger target and is far more easily destroyed by shell fire or by hostile aircraft than the aeroplane.
(3) Hence, by day, it must travel higher, with corresponding difficulties of observation. If the enemy are beneath, safety does not lie below 5000 feet.
(4) It requires large and expensive sheds that must cover the field of operations and cannot be improvised (non-rigids can moor temporarily to a mast). It has a bad habit of outgrowing these sheds.
(5) There is grave danger of injury in leaving and entering these sheds, especially if a cross wind be blowing. Germany has met this difficulty by installing revolving sheds (very expensive).
(6) It must have better weather for maneuvering.
(7) It is less speedy than the aeroplane, and cannot always escape the " destroyer" of the air.
(8) It is less readily transportable by sea or rail. This applies chiefly to the rigids and semi-rigids, but even a non-rigid requires a gas plant at the end of its journey.
(9) It requires a supply not only of gasoline, but also of gas, which must be constantly renewed (less applicable to the rigid). There are losses through leakage, for ascent (due to escape through relief valves), and for descent.
The logistic relation between a Zeppelin and an aeroplane is somewhat analogous • to that between a steamer and a " windjammer."
In the present European war the aeroplane has so far (December 15, 1914) been much the more useful. But dirigibles—" the fleet in being "—have been held in reserve, and the world is waiting.
If we should enter the lists with the dirigible, the question of type will be vital. Should we put our faith chiefly in Zeppelins like Germany, or in non-rigids, like Great Britain and France?
A detailed coniparison of these types Will be found below.
III. APPLICATION OF TYPES TO NAVAL WARFARE
Having now some idea of the types to be considered, we must look into their application to war on the sea.
It is beyond question that the paramount duty of bOth dirigibles and aeroplanes, in which their usefulness is proved, is reconnaissance.
Reconnaissance.—In his annual report, the chief signal officer of the army says:
. . . . Whatever may be the conclusions drawn as to the use of aircraft for offensive purposes in warfare, and as to the importance of the dirigible, there can be no doubt of the value of the aeroplane in rapid and longrange reconnaissance work, and of its power to secure, and to transmit by radio, visual signals, or direct flight information of importance to armies in the field. So true is this that it seems probable the aeroplane and, to some smaller degree, all aircraft have altered, not the principles of strategy, which are immutable, but the theory and application of grand tactics. It now appears that the actual game of war is played openly, with cards on the table . . . .
This passage is here quoted once again, not only for its happy and impressive phrasing, but also because it applies with equal force to naval; warfare.
For long-distance oversea scouting, the dirigible (rather than the aeroplane) will be essential in future wars ; the aeroplane's high usefulness will be for shorter flights. It is safe to say that in a few :years, the radius of dirigibles, now over 1000 miles, will be doubled or trebled; and it is far, from unlikely that means of fueling at sea (from floating ships), and of towing (non- and semi-rigids at least) from the masts of parent craft or other vessels will be developed. And in good weather, heading into the wind, it should not be difficult to pump fuel from ship to airship.
The reconnaissance referred to would include a patrol of the home. coast, search of the enemy's coast (both in conjunction with aeroplanes), and observation of his mobilization movements. Secret service: men might march with the unemployed. The dirigible could work out the long search problems—find ships lost to cable and radio on the broad ocean, hunt out the enemy in his secret harbor and bases. A combination of supply ships and dirigibles would make the logistics Of scouting as simple as those df a pleasure trip.
It has been demonstrated with 'German thoroughness that aircraft will supplement, not replace, cavalry similarly at sea, far from displacing scouts and cruisers, they will serve as a valuable adjunct. The cruiser can keep the sea in weather much too stormy for aircraft, and will be needed at all times for " mothering " seaplanes or dirigibles. Moreover, it may be able to chase and destroy hostile vessels discovered from the air, and to drive off enemy scouts, where the offensive power of aircraft would be insufficient. Scouts must not be sent to the "bone yard "—but fewer will be needed.
Seaplanes and dirigibles—which pertain particularly to the navy—will greatly extend the scouting line (touched on further below). At 3000 feet the airship has a vision of 6o miles; and under ideal conditions, from sufficient height, even 100 miles.
Wireless communication from these craft at a range of 350 miles is " an accomplished fact." With scouting lines and radio chains in air, we may be able to trail and report an enemy from the other side of the ocean; while aircraft closely 'attending a fleet, can give five to nine hours warning of an approaching foe.
In this latter Case the seaplane will be at its best. True, it cannot make independent oversee flights with its smaller radius (hardly over 200 miles each way), and cannot extend its range, like a Mother Cary's chicken, by resting on the waves: but relays of seaplanes constantly in air during daytime can extend the vision of the scouts they base on by some 60 to 100 miles each way, provided wind and sea are moderate. Cruisers, also, venturing beyond their supporting ships can depend on seaplanes for a warning of bigger ships in the offing.
We should particularly emphasize the importance of scouting, by both seaplanes and dirigibles, from advanced bases. This might mean Much to us in. the Caribbean, or from out Pacific islands. - Fortified aircraft bases in the Caroline or Marshall Islands may some day be useful to Japan. Quien sabe?
As to Screening Hostile aircraft will make this almost impossible, Unless we have such a mastery of the air that they will not venture near the fleet. Of course, a screen of guns will still be useful to repel torpedo craft and the like but "the cards will be on the table" it will be almost impossible to make air "mastery " complete, or to prevent Stray aeroplanes from slipping in for a look.
Spotting.—On land, the next great and proved usefulness of aeroplanes has been in spotting (dirigible S are too costly and vulnerable for this use). Though something of this was suspected before, it has taken a war between first-class powers to drive the fact home. We now have to realize that, on land at least, forces without the aeroplane fighting forces with it would be blown to pieces both artillery and small-arm fire.
At sea, until masts are shot away; we have a portable substitute for hills and trees—hence we have less need for the spotting seaplane but masts are shot away; and even before this, when the target is distant the seaplane over it will aid in getting a primary range. We begin to realize that a first " lucky salvo " almost decides the day. In the recent battle in the South Pacific, the German ships quickly had the Monmouth and Good Hope in flames because they got the range first. The, reason for this, it appears, was that the British ships were silhouetted against the sunset sky, while their enemies were almost in darkness. A few circling aircraft might have given a range before twilight, or (with luminous signals) have controlled the fire after the target ships and the splashes of British guns were dim. It is thus important to note that at times, when, owing to darkness or glare, spotting is difficult from the ships, it may be easily managed from an aeroplane; and that at all times, error in range can be more exactly determined in this way. Though this use has not yet been tried out in naval warfare, we may confidently expect to hear from it. After the range is found, the control of fire may better be handled from the tops, since communication with aeroplanes might not be reliable: but in the later desperate stages of battle, unharmed machines and people on high might be invaluable. (For the offensive from aeroplanes in these later stages, see below.)
Even now, at 8000 yards would not the humble, handy kite, if properly understood, be a fine adjunct to the more vulnerable mast?
As we see in the papers, land-fire is controlled from aeroplanes by various devices—jets of smoke, smoke-trailing projectiles dropped over a hidden target as a signal for taking the range, cards giving information dropped over the firing battery, etc. At sea, the use of brief radio signals from small aeroplane sets will doubtless be developed; but visual signals can certainly be used.
The extended battle ranges that will follow the use of 4-and 15-inch guns on battleships will make the demand for aeroplanes even greater than it is now. It is certain that future programs of the great nations will include a large provision for spotting as well as for scouting aircraft.
Offensive Uses.—At sea, offensive aerial warfare is not open to an objection strongly urged on shore—that of being inhumane. All men-o'-war and man-o'-war's men are fairprey for an enemy, and stray bombs fall harmlessly into the ocean.
On an enemy's coast, dirigibles and other aircraft lend themselves particularly to raids,. in which the quantity of destruction may be limited, but the quality high. The destruction of a wireless plant or of a dreadnought on the ways may add greatly to the pleasure of a crossing.
The weapons of the dirigible are: Several rapid-fire or machine guns, including one on the top platform for overhead fire; automatic rifles; and bombs. The German Victoria Luise, for example, is said to have hooks for 12 projectiles weighing 600 kilos each. They hang inside the envelope and drop through removable shutters. The overhead gun is reached through the usual funnel. The latest Zeppelins, it is rumored, will carry from 30 to 40 "torpedoes " as powerful as those of a 42-centimeter siege gun, and will drop them from a cage suspended 500 yards below the airship.
The aeroplane's weapons are: Revolver, automatic rifle, four or five small projectiles weighing 80 to 90 pounds each. Of course, unusually large machines may carry a ton or more of projectiles, and some aeroplanes have mounted a small gun, which can be fired without unduly disturbing the equilibrium. As noted above, arrows, or "fleches," are also used (against personnel).
Moreover, "It is probable that the size and power of aeroplanes will be enormously increased in the future."2 Even from ordinary present types, according to expert testimony before the House Military Committee, as much as 500 pounds of high explosive could be dropped without causing an upset (the dropping of a 50-pound projectile was not noticeable). Big machines like Sikorsky's will carry several tons of projectiles, the explosive power of which will be no mean factor in a battle. In naval warfare, we must constantly remember, both men and machinery are much more concentrated than on land. No captain would really enjoy having a large battling aeroplane overhead.
As to the use of small arms, there are frequent accounts—some imaginative, no doubt—of thrilling fights in the air, and wounded aviators driven to the ground. The British claim an "individual ascendancy " in these contests against the Germans. Apparently their fast biplanes are handier than the Taubes.
All told, though aeroplanes are as yet too useful for reconnaissance to be risked wantonly for any kind of fighting, the time is rapidly coming when large increases in the aerial fleet will permit this offensive use. There is every reason to expect a development like that of the underwater torpedo.
" Heavy, heavy, hangs over thy head!”—the forfeit may be "blood and iron."
The effectiveness of aircraft projectiles is a dangerous question, with explosive tendencies. No two experts agree. On the one hand, it is urged that there are too many unknown quantities—wind, speed, etc.: that it is hard to put a machine over a given spot and harder still to tell when it is there; that it is impossible
2 Annual Report of the Chief Signal Officer of the Army.
to judge by the eye, and that no instrument can be devised to show just when to let go; that gun-fire will force aircraft so high that the target will be a speck and so on, at great length.
The usual answer is equally full of words. The answer that can be given is: the thing has been frequently done.
Statement of Mr. Riley E. Scott before the House Committee on Military Affairs (August 16, 1913).
The Chairman. You were at one time in the army?
Mr. Scott. Yes, sir.
The Chairman. Did you do any duty as an aviator while in the army?
Mr. Scott, No, sir; I took up aviation afterwards. I have made. a special study of the aeroplane as an offensive weapon.
The Chairman. We would like to hear what your experience has been.
Mr. Scott. About 1908, when Mr. Wright was making his first flights, I came to the conclusion that the aeroplane would eventually become very important as an offensive weapon. The fact that you can get over an object to be destroyed and that you can see it from an aeroplane better than in any other way caused me to come to the conclusion, with proper application of scientific principles, that bombs or explosives could be dropped accurately, and I took up that study specially.
In 1911 a gentleman in 'France offered a prize for dropping dummy bombs on a target. The prize was 15o,00o francs—half of that was available in 1912 and the other half in 1913. I already had an apparatus designed which, through the courtesy of Gen. Allen, I was able to test at College Park. I took the apparatus over to France and was fortunate enough to will the whole series of prizes. The heights from which the projectiles were dropped were 200 Meters (about 656 feet) and 800 meters (about half a mile). Fifteen projectiles were dropped on each flight, the time being 50 minutes. The winning machine was able to place 12 out of the 15 projectiles within a radius of to meters—that is 33 feet, which would be a little over twice the size of this room-12 out of 15 each weighing 25 pounds.
The second test was at 800 meters—we realty flew at 850, over half a mile, and 12 out of 15 projectiles were placed within a. radius of go meters, 120 feet square, which is a very small portion of the side of this building.
The various tests made—the meet lasted from. March until September and included hundreds of flights—and the accuracy attained, convinced me that projectiles could be dropped with a great deal of accuracy on, any target from, say, a height of a mile, from moo to 1500 meters, a mile, or a mile and a -quarter. I have been studying considerably the application of such a device, which I believe to be sufficiently accurate at the present time, and I firmly believe that the aeroplane will become a very important destructive weapon, much more so than we realize at the present time. It could be used, among other things, in a siege against a besieged place. There is always some key point like there was at Port Arthur and Adrianople, against which troops are fighting sometimes for days and weeks—against the strongest point—without any appreciable effect. In such a case, if 1 were the commanding officer, I would send up as many aeroplanes as were available, 20 or 30, each one carrying 500 pounds of high explosive, and rain that high explosive. on this important point that they were trying to attack, and just as soon as that was completed, then rush in the troop S and storm the fortifications or the strong point, and I
believe it would be effective.
The Marine Rundschlau (December, 1913) states that Herr Friedensburg, using a simple trap-releasing Contrivance; from a height of 1312 ,feet, dropped bombs one yard; and 13 yards, from a target ship; and on land hit the target exactly from a height of 1640 feet.
We have very similar testimony from French and British sources, which it would be tiresome to quote.
It may be argued that practice under 'fire from blank cartridges is quite different from the real. thing in 'war. Let us remember, however, that for war results:
(a) We do not need 12 out of 15 hits-one will do.
(b) Aerial target practice is the most difficult known.
(c) Many machines are armored.
(d) Aviators as a rule are bold, take chances, and fly low if the risk be justified. A dreadnought is worth the price of several machines.
(e) Some men are as cool under fire as at drill—vide cushing when he sank the Albemarle, in the blast of an 8-inch gun.
(f) British aviators have recently made hits under heavy fire.
However, a nation may be as cool in the face of statistics as aviators are under fire. Though sentiment among service fliers tends towards the possibilities of offensive work, there is a conservative view that demands attention:
It may later be shown that aerial offensive flights, especially in conjunction with sea operations may prove important; but it is useless to prophesy, and I believe the only safe conclusion at this time regarding the value of aerial offensive is the verdict " not proven.”3
It is comforting to think that money is not being thrown away on bubbles; but it would be disconcerting if the bubble, in bursting, turned out to be a bomb.
Successful dropping, we are told, depends upon the following factors: Speed over the ground, height, rate of wind, relative
3 Report of the Chief Signal Officer of the Army.
direction of wind, drift of machine, and resistance of the air. Of these, height, direction of wind, and rate of wind (knowing the rated speed of the machine) can be measured with some accuracy. An aviator provided with barometer, compass, anemometer, and reference card with tables, who knows the speed of his machine and estimates or measures his inclination to the horizontal, ought with practice to adjust his " director " and release his projectile with good chance of hitting a large target like a fort or a battleship. It may be that with long practice he will achieve good results without instruments, from moderate heights. Close-to he might well hit a Zeppelin or a submarine. The "kick" from the effects of an explosive dropped from heights of 1000 feet or less has been referred to as a menace: but at the instant of release the ship soars upward and the machine travels faster, so that this danger has not resulted in reported casualties.
An instrument has been devised, but not adopted by the British government, to which it was offered, that partly eliminates one source of error by giving the projectile a reverse velocity exactly equal to the ahead velocity of the machine, so that, instead of dropping before the overhead position is reached, the aviator can drop at (or almost at) this vertical position.
Added speed to the projectile would diminish errors. From a French biplane at Bisley a Lewis machine gun hit a 30-foot target 11 out of 14 times at a height of 500 feet. Colonel Jackson, in the Journal of the Royal United Service Institution, says:
Bomb dropping will soon give place to bomb shooting.
Let us now take up the different uses of bombs more in detail, realizing that this phase of aerial warfare is still a matter for speculation, and that we must make out a case strong enough to warrant expenditure and experiment. Some of our ablest non-fliers see few offensive possibilities for aircraft. In the present writer's opinion—influenced by the practice of the leading air powers—the airship bomb and its accompanying devices will be developed just as were the telescopic sight and the 42-centimeter siege gun. Can we afford to neglect it singly even as a Military possibility?
(1) Use of Projectiles against Forts, Canals, Public Buildings; Oil Tanks, Sheds, etc.
As yet, in the present war, the full power of Zeppelins against military and other public works has not been tested. Where siege artillery is at hand, the dirigible is not needed. Its effectiveness may be better shown (as already said) by raids across hostile territory or across channels commanded by the enemy. Those against Antwerp merely suggest what might have happened with more ships and greater skill (both of which are inevitable), later in this War or in the next war. A bomb on, instead of near, the Royal Palace at Antwerp would have opened eyes to the powers of the dirigible—might have resulted in a clamorous search for our lone ship of ancient model. It is easy to imagine that the bomb that beheaded an old woman might have exploded a magazine. This much was demonstrated: that projectiles can be dropped, with some degree of accuracy, even at night from a ship under fire, and will produce large explosive results.
It is evident, however, that the Germans are withholding their Zeppelins, and have not yet put them to the test. They flatly deny the French claim that seven dirigibles have been destroyed, and still have (admittedly) more than any other nation. It is unreasonable to suspect that so logical and enterprising a people as the Germans have discarded one of their pet instruments almost without a trial. Though the French also have dirigibles, the completion of their rigids had been much delayed, and at the outbreak of the war they had (with one exception) only scouting ships; while the British airship strength lay chiefly in "futures." Thus we cannot yet (December 15, 1914) judge by results in war.
Although bomb dropping pertains more to the dirigible, The Allies have three times shown that the offensive power of aeroplanes must not be despised.
On September 23, 1914, a squadron of five British machines flew well over 100 miles into German territory and dropped bombs on Dusseldorf and Cologne. At Dfisseldorf they damaged a Zeppelin shed and its airship, and a machine shop nearby. They were not expected and were not damaged by the few shots fired at them.
A second raid was made by three machines, over the same cities, on October 8. One aviator descended to 500 feet and dropped two bombs on the Zeppelin shed at Dusseldorf. Though received with heavy fire from anti-aircraft guns and rifles, he hit the shed (it is officially reported) and blew up one airship, possibly two. A bullet passed through his cap, another cut one of his twin elevator control wires: but he escaped, as did his companions.
On November 21, three (or four) aeroplanes appeared over Friedrichshafen. Having been sighted at various points along the Swiss-German frontier, they were warmly received.
Immediately the aeroplanes were sighted over Lake Constance a storm of shrapnel and other shots burst around them from guns and mitrail-leuses at Friedrichshafen, and from gun boats of the German laice flotilla. Guns at Constance, Meerburg, and Immenstaad also joined in the bombardment. One machine was hit several times, and the aviator was obliged to plane down in spiral curves, with his motor shut off. The aeroplane itself was not greatly damaged, but the pilot was taken to the hospital with severe wounds on the head.4
Accounts differ as to the height of the aviators and the damage done: but it is clear that they dipped to about 1200 feet and escaped destruction, though the enemy had been ready and waiting. The First Lord of the British Admiralty reported to Parliament that a shed had been hit and badly damaged the Germans deny this! In the raid The Allies pierced 125 miles into German territory.
The German aeroplane raids over Paris and over Belgian cities may be dismissed as of no military importance.
In view of what has already been done, the present writer cannot doubt that aircraft bombs are a grave menace to particular structures.
Let us hear Mr. Riley Scott again. His remarks are said to have made a deep impression on the Military Committee:
My particular hobby, the thing I have been studying about particularly, is the destruction of the Panama Canal. It has cost an immense amount of money. It is a lock canal, and there has been a great deal of discussion as to whether certain parts will hold up In war the object of the foreign nation is to destroy our greatest strategic point, which would be the Panama Canal, and they would put all their force against the Canal. For some reason our fleet is not there, it has been defeated or it is protecting some other part of the coast—any way, they go there. No matter how strongly the Canal is fortified, they do not come within range of the guns; they cruise out 20 or 30 miles. The distance to Gatun Dam or to the locks would be probably half an hour's fly. They send out their aeroplanes loaded with high explosives, say 20 or 30 of them, as many as they can send, hoping that some of them will get back; but in warfare we take
4 New York Times.
chances, and if they destroyed the Canal no doubt they would be willing to lose them all. They send them up and they are flying one after, another, placing 500 pounds of nitrogelatin first on the spillway and later up the Culebra Cut, causing slides. I think some of you gentlemen know the effect of an explosive on the earth, causing it to slide. I think the Canal would be put out of business, probably in one hour or two !tours, by an enemy with aeroplanes. That is, of course, my personal opinion. We do not know the effect of an explosive dropped from an aeroplane, because it has never been done except in a small way. I firmly believe when the experiments are carried on in that direction that it will be found to be very destructive.
Mr. Scott's testimony was supported by that of several army aviators. 'Captain. Mitchell, when asked,
Do you think in course of time that the military by experience will be able to, drop bombs with any accuracy?
Yes, sir; probably with great accuracy, but the effect would be the same as a high explosive shell. We do, not use that against personnel; we only use it against materiel—houses, buildings, etc. because the effect is local.
Lieutenant Arnold called attention to damage inflicted by bombs during the Balkan War.
Could not the ship that hovered over Antwerp by night have dropped the same bombs over the Canal by day? We must look forward to the time when the 'radius of European dirigibles, towed, " mothered," or unaided, will extend to American shore's: also remembering that Mexico is convenient, and could not now enforce her neutrality against an aggressive enemy of ours.
Had Great Britain waked up sooner to the need of first-class dirigibles (she is wide-awake now), she might have " doubled her sea-going fleet" by raiding and blocking the Kiel Canal. She might also have reached and greatly damaged the German dockyards. Would the Kaiser's War. Machine have turned, as if by the pressing of a button, had a timely Zeppelin bomb fallen on the War Office or amid the portfolios of the General Staff? System is largely dependent on charts; drawers, desks, and perishable records.
Let us admit, again, that in this discussion of bomb dropping we have discounted the future and ventured beyond sure ground. To some minds the whole matter seems fanciful. Yet there are mutterings from the sky: the danger must be at least disproved. If airships cannot rival batteries in hits per minute, they may reach vital spots denied to " Buy Berthas."
(2) Incendiary Attacks on Cities
London is the "heart of England." Its destruction could not be made light of as a military trifle. With a sufficient fleet of airships an enemy could set fire to London, with incendiary bombs, in 20 places at once—and then 20 more! Hence the anti-aircraft
guns on high buildings; the searchlights about the darkened city; the screened lights of Buckingham Palace; the drawn curtains of railway cars; the nightly aeroplane patrol.
The danger of German Zeppelin raids on London was known, the alarm sounded by high military authority, even before the war. With their 20 or 30 Zeppelins, still more with a great fleet of aeroplanes from a base sufficiently near, the enemy could not only destroy individual public buildings, but also could start "a conflagration that no fire department could cope with" could "Set the Thames on fire!" The idea of doing this is said to be a real obsession with the German people. Perhaps their rulers prefer starting the blaze with the British fleet.
(3) Attacks on Fleets—at Anchor, in Bases, under Fire in Action As yet there is no record of a warship destroyed by aerial bombs, though a Mexican aviator missed a Federal gun boat by only a few feet. Since the earliest days of the airship, men have wrangled over this point.
We have seen what Mr. Scott did from a height of 2600 feet. At this height an aeroplane would be under fire, though not an easy mark. From a mile (5280 feet), Mr. Scott thinks he could make" 50 per cent of hits." At this height, it is said, an aeroplane is practically invisible, so that the aviator's nerves would not prevent good practice. Considering the immense size of a dreadnought and its limited defence as compared with that of the Zeppelin shed at Dusseldorf (see before), we are forced to the conclusion that a squadron of skilled aviators, if persistent, could make hits without the exposure incident to a torpedo attack. Still more could hits be made from the hovering Zeppelin.
Now we come to the real difficulty: Would these hits be effective? Unfortunately the tender part of a ship is under water, and the airship cannot throw curves. Some contend that a projectile, bursting on the upper deck, would not pierce the protective deck or !each the vitals of the ship. Probable injury to the personnel has been spoken of as small, and to the guns (curved, for a glancing blow) as negligible.
But can we consider with equanimity having a 500- or 1000- pound nitrogelatin bomb from a big aeroplane—or the still huger projectile from a Zeppelin—explode fairly on the deck of the Pennsylvania Would not guns be dismounted, turrets, conning towers wrecked, decks set on fire?
It seems to the present writer that not enough attention has been paid to the effects of such a disaster in the latter stages of an engagement when, it may be fairly said, aerial guns would be abandoned; and aeroplanes, even dirigibles, could fly low. What a chance for a decisive hit, or the coup de grace to a stubborn foe!
Suppose, moreover, we turn the trick of putting one shot through another's hole. Impossible? Not at all. We need only suspend from our releasing device two projectiles, one hanging from the other, with say, 50 fathoms of chain between. The first goes crashing through the upper deck, the second follows in its wake an instant later, and explodes in a magazine or among the boilers. If experience shows that one, in bursting, detonates the other, let the first be solid or fused for time. Of course, experiment alone could indicate whether such ideas have value.
Another plan conceived is to drop an actual torpedo, breaking its fall by a parachute, so that it will strike the water close-to and near the target ship. In place of a water tripper, an underbody device would be supplied to operate the engine at the instant of impact on water. It has also been proposed to fire long-range torpedoes from a car close to the water beyond the zone of effective gun-fire.
These problems of the air, all so new to us, overtax a sea-going imagination. Let the inventive spirits that have given us the gyroscopic compass or the torsion meter devote themselves to the solution, and find a way—along the lilies suggested, or along some other. If the Germans can (as reported) suspend a cage 500 to 1000 yards below a dirigible, could they not, unseen in the darkness, lower an automobile torpedo into the water near a ship at anchor?
It has been noted that the glow from the funnels of a ship with steam up would make a target for night work, even if the ship itself were screened.
There, is a widespread belief that the heart of the Hun is fixed on raiding that terrible "fleet in being" that is winning a silent victory for The Allies, It remains to be seen whether the " high sea fleet," with its submarines, will be joined in the attempt by the assembled Zeppelins.
(4) Aircraft and Commerce
In the conditions predicted for the near future, aircraft should be able to pick up hostile commerce, with great facility; and having found unarmed merchantmen, to capture or destroy them with equal ease. This has not been tested (so far as we know) in the present war, there have been too many other calls. As range and numbers of aeroplanes increase, we may expect to hear of this new kind of "piracy," corresponding to, the attack on merchant ships by submarines (which has already begun).
In both cases it will be impossible to save the passengers and crew, except by letting them take to their boats and with the aeroplane there will be the added difficulty of establishing communication.
But scruples will not cause the neglect of any such means of harming an enemy. In practice, aircraft might better prey on commerce in conjunction with scouts and cruisers.
The protection of merchantmen (and of other convoys) will be another duty of aeroplanes and dirigibles. By warning the convoy of hostile ships drawing near, and by summoning the patrol when necessary, they can greatly aid friendly shipping, neutral colliers in friendly .service, transports, and other helpless craft. They will also; of course, attack the enemy's fighting aircraft.
THE TACTICS OF THE AIR
Since aircraft are as .yet too valuable and too much needed in reconnaissance and spotting to be readily used elsewhere, we may expect that a belligerent will, if possible, use guns rather than his own aeroplanes to destroy the enemy's. Just as, on water, pitched battles. between torpedo flotillas will be rare so long as opposing battleships can be reached, so in air, suicidal melees will be avoided. Of course, the " mastery of the air" and the " individual ascendancy " are of great importance, and there will be (as there have been) many individual running fights between aviators. Machines will chase enemy machines crossing their lines or dropping bombs from beyond the reach of guns. But aeroplane squadrons are still small, and battles are mostly "single machine actions."
The offensive against dirigibles will, on the contrary, be a highly important function of aeroplanes. A non-rigid (or even a Zeppelin) attacked by a squadron of winged fliers will be hard pressed. Her machine guns will have heavy weather accounting for a number of "torpedo aircraft" dashing in simultaneously from different directions, especially from overhead. Though the airship can climb faster, some aeroplanes may well be higher at the start, and from a safe height may drop bombs on the huge bag of potential flames below. The fighting aeroplane will carry a gun of its own, and will be a far more difficult mark than its bulky antagonist—also with the advantage of speed. There will be no escaping these mosquitoes. In desperate fights, ramming by aeroplanes will be resorted to, with fatal results to both sides unless, some device like the explosive trailer (already referred to be substituted. "Brassey" points out that even a trailing tail of barbed wire could rip a non-rigid to pieces. An aeroplane in position to ram might increase its own chances by passing just over and dropping (or shooting) a projectile with certain effect. Some form of aerial " spar torpedo " or envelope-cutter at close quarters will probably be tried. Against the less vulnerable Zeppelin, incendiary bombs will be effective. To lessen this danger; it has been proposed to have a non-inflammable gas (like the exhaust from the engines) fill the " ring space " between envelope and balloonettes. The necessity of carrying low pressures in this type greatly reduces the menace from rents and holes.
A defensive screen of aeroplanes will, it seems clear, attend a dirigible to head off most of the attacking aeroplanes, leaving only a few nimble craft for the dirigible's guns.
We thus conclude that when aerial tactics crystallize, groups of aeroplanes will attack dirigibles screened by friendly groups: But the best course for the dirigible is to lose itself in space: to avoid the aeroplane's Zone by day, and to prowl by night, when hunting an airship, will be like “looking in a dark room for a black cat that is not there."
Though aeroplanes have been grouped into "flights" or "squadrons" the first United States squadron has eight aeroplanes—there seems so far to be no tactical unit for aircraft. The following " strategical " unit is proposed in "Jane's Fighting Airships, 1913 ":
(a) Offensive dirigibles with bombs.
(b) Mother dirigibles for aeroplanes.
(c) A number of war aeroplanes especially for lighting other aeroplanes or attacking dirigibles.
(d) A few swift one-man aeroplanes for eyes.
It is impossible in the elementary state of air tactics to say what force will correspond to the tactical division or squadron at sea. So far, where machines have flown together, their action seems to have been individual.
Similarly, battle formations, analogous to "line," "column," etc., are very much "in the air." A hemispherical formation would seem appropriate for attacking dirigibles, the maneuver being to "cap" the airship and attack from all directions. Perhaps a "V" in three dimensions would be better! The characteristic feature of such formations is, of course, that they will not be in one horizontal plane, like the sea. We must defer further discussion of these until the aerial game-board has been put in commission. The fundamental principles of torpedo-boat warfare should apply.5
(5) Aircraft in Relation to Submarine and Torpedo-boat Warfare
An important function of aircraft will be to guide submarines and destroyers to their prey.
Defensively, they will warn friendly ships of the presence of such craft. In action they may give warning of an imminent torpedo attack.
On scouting and patrol duty they will be invaluable (through their greater radius of action) in permitting ship's crews, racked by watching, to rest. Their outer line of scouting will be a great comfort in torpedo water. They will also aid destroyers and submarines by eliminating certain hours of search.
In smooth water the aviators can detect a submarine when submerged—even "40 or 50 feet beneath the surface "—just as our airmen at Vera Cruz found sunken obstructions that had long eluded other search. When looking for these boats or their peri-
5 The " weather gauge" will be the overhead position but the direction of the wind will vitally affect speed.
scopes, aircraft will be able to fly low, having nothing to fear. After finding a submarine, they will drop mines on it from a convenient height, unless the boat porpoises and unmasks an aerial gun. At present, the contest between the two foes of the battleship seems a one-sided affair.
(6) Other Uses
Among various other uses of aircraft may be mentioned:
(a) Carrying messages.
Under certain circumstances—as when the enemy are "jamming" the radio—seaplanes or other aircraft may render invaluable service by carrying messages.
(b) Transporting passengers.
Not only may they carry an admiral's messenger or aide, but they may transport the commander-in-chief himself from one scene of operations to another not too distant. The future Commodore Perry may change flagships in this manner. In fact the seaplane may settle the much-vexed question as to the proper post of the commander-in-chief in action !—a suggestion advanced with all due modesty and diffidence.
(c) Protection from mines.
Not only will the aviator have a good chance of sighting the hostile mine-layer at work: he will also discover submerged mines already laid, and perhaps, "Brassey" thinks, may explode those sighted by dropping bombs near them.
(d) With expeditions ashore.
In inaccessible regions, scouting seaplanes may greatly lessen the dangers of landing parties and expeditions inland. by unmasking batteries and large bodies of troops concealed from the naval force. With a seaplane to warn of Mataafa's massed warriors, the Samoan disaster might have been averted. In early Philippine days, aircraft would have been Invaluable. Their use with large marine detachments pertains rather to army warfare.
Reference is made elsewhere to the cooperation of dirigibles and parent ships and to the transportation of seaplanes on battleships and scouts.
The surprise of the European War (to the man up a tree) has been the immense part played by aeroplanes. So far their role has been reconnaissance and fire control: but it is inevitable that air armaments will grow; and with this growth will assume the various duties touched on here, as well as others. Let those who laugh at the long-range offensive by aeroplanes and dirigibles remember how fine it was io years ago to Work mo miles by radio. In 1807 the steamboat was knoWn as " Fulton's Folly."
IV. PROTECTION AGAINST AIRCRAFT
To complete the discussion of what aircraft can do, we must see what can be done against them.
We have noted that the attack of hostile aeroplanes, still more of dirigibles, may be driven off by aeroplanes. But "it is not sufficient to depend on aircraft to deal with hostile aircraft "—nor is it economical. If we can destroy the enemy's eyes without losing our own, so much the better.
This brings us to the aerial gun, with which future battleships must be equipped. It may well happen that no friendly aircraft will be available against attack, and guns will be the only reliance.
Such guns would be portable, with mounts on the forecastle, on the superstructure, on turrets, or in the cage mast tops: preferably in various places, the necessary condition being a clear view for high-angle fire. Some must be in easy reach for quick work, with ammunition, in war times, always at hand. The following would be among the characteristics for a "cloud chaser“:6
(a) Should have a caliber of about 2 inches.
(b) Should be capable of 80° to 90° elevation, and a train of 45° each way ( from a fixed platform it is not. safe to fire vertically upwards).
(c) Should be rapid-firing guns, with fixed ammunition and high muzzle velocity.
(d) Should have automatic sights, so that the gun-pointer, seated, could follow at all angles of elevation.
(e) Should have a rapid (automatic) fuse setter.
(f) Should fire a shell that would offer little air resistance, and will " break up small " (to avoid injuring friends).
It has also been suggested that a certain danger zone should be selected, the arcs of which will be covered by the various antiaircraft guns—so that aircraft crossing it will probably be hit.
Several types of anti-aircraft shell have been devised. One
6 See "Duncan Commended Essay," 1914 (Journal of the Royal Artillery, October).
has in its base a. mass, of -incendiary, material which leaves a trail of smoke useful for spotting, and a sensitive fuse that will burst upon impact. with a wire or even with the envelope of a dirigible. Another, of the high-explosive shrapnel type, combines the advantages of the shell and of -shrapnel by having a head which is itself a high-explosive shell. There is a considerable interval between the bursting of the shrapnel body and that of the explosive head, with two chances of piercing an envelope. Either part would ignite the gas of a dirigible.7
The great stumbling block to the successful attack of aircraft by artillery is the difficulty of distinguishing friend from foe.8
At sea this difficulty may be lessened by the descent of hostile craft for good practice with a relatively small target—say, at present, to 1200 to 2500 feet (taking some chances), at which distance, with known characteristics and recognition signals, a friend would be recognized.
Searchlights would be used, as on shore and in case of ships coasting or at anchor, radio communication would be established with lookout stations on hills or high structures. Lookouts might also be stationed by the guns aloft. At night, underway, lights would be screened if attack were threatened, and the give-away searchlight would not be used for searching. Absolute quiet would be important, for the whirring of unmuffled engines can be heard a long way; while, on the other hand, in still weather, talking below is audible on a dirigible (with engines stopped) 4000 feet up.
It is a safe guess that transports, submarines, and other vessels, will carry high-angle fire guns. Every ship will need a large and convenient supply of rifles to use against low-fliers with projectiles, though the use of armored aeroplanes and cars, and possibly of hanging cars will render rifles of doubtful utility.
Small holes will not wreck a Zeppelin or even a Parseval but a number will send it back to its base.
Overhead wire netting, it has been suggested, will protect ships (and magazines ashore) from the effect of explosive projectiles.
Where practicable, two nets, sufficiently separated, would be better, if not unduly troublesome. H. B. M. S. Iron Duke is said to be "specially protected from aerial attack."
7 Sec Scientific American, December 5, 1914, pp. 453 and 480.
8 ” Duncan " Essay, ante.
Finally, as to the effectiveness of the "torpedo defence" of a dirigible:
The Zeppelins, the Schiltte-Lanz, the latest Astra-Torres, Lebaudy, Clement-Bayard, Parscval, and other types have armored carriages and carry guns. The carriages are so placed that expert gunners can shoot in every direction except straight up, and this direction is taken care of by gunners on top of the gas bag, who reach this position by a ladder that goes through an opening from bottom to top of the gas bag. What a dirigible can do to a slow aeroplane can be judged from the results of experimental shooting at moving targets gonducted in the last 18 months. In an experiment with the army Zeppelin Z-5, just before the war, the following maneuvers took place:
A box 30 feet long, 15 feet high, and 18 feet wide was suspended from a balloon at a height of woo meters (3280 feet).
The wind was strong and moved the box, so the difficulty of hitting it was little less than hitting an aeroplane. The dirigible circled around the balloon, and fired at 4000 feet distance, first 50 cartridges with a machine gun, then with a cannon. The balloon was then pulled down and they found that almost all the bullets had struck. The balloon was sent back to an altitude of 1200 feet, the dirigible went up to a height of 2200 feet and fired 15 cannon shots from a distance of 6000 feet. Two-thirds of the shots were effective, three striking the black spots which represented the pilot and motor. The maneuver was repeated at a distance of 7000 feet with the same results.9
V. SPECIAL APPLICATIONS OF AIRCRAFT TO OUR OWN NAVAL WARFARE
Following the above discussion of the aerial arm and its application to naval warfare in general, we may consider some special applications to our own case.
In the Atlantic we must expect (in case of war) long oversea expeditions directed at our own coasts, the Caribbean, or the Panama Canal. Foreknowledge of the direction of movement, strength, exact location of our enemies, will affect our strategy profoundly. Heretofore we have had to expect news of hostile sailings west, northwest, or south, followed by impenetrable silence and mystery, with an enemy lost on the ocean. All sorts of combinations might be taking place while our few scouts were groping; or forces last heard of together might be stealing upon us at different points. All our plans for scouting, radio chains, steaming to meet the foe in midocean, have been liable to miscarriage from lack of information.
9 Flying, December, 1914: "The War in the Air."
Distant reconnaissance will reverse all this.
We have reason to believe that the dirigible with its mother ship, or the scout plus its seaplanes, or the armored seaplane-bearing cruiser, will disclose the distant movements of any enemy, unless his aircraft drive ours home. Particularly will we need the dirigible. Experience alone will tell how long flights it may undertake in the face of possible bad weather. The fate of the German L-2, wrecked in a gale at sea, is fresh in our minds. The Germans, who have developed the dirigible, have so far been more interested in flights across the North Sea than across the broad Atlantic. But we must remember that, except in the hurricane season, a southern route, with fair weather or favoring trades, would be open to aircraft and it is fair to suppose that, in the natural course of evolution, dirigibles will be able to keep going in all weathers, or at least to hold their own, or to run away from the widest northern storms. But speculation aside, it is an established fact that dirigibles can make flights in excess of 500 miles and return, that would be of great importance in scouting operations based on our eastern coast or a point in the Caribbean.
As to the seaplane based on a ship, we may speak with equal confidence. It has been: demonstrated that a scout cruiser with a seaplane on each side covers vastly more ocean than a cruiser alone. Some figures are given below. In a gale of wind the machine can remain snugly aboard, and the scout-seaplane combination can remain out as long as logistics permit.
In connection with scouting by aircraft, we must give due weight, not only to their range of vision, but also to their speed—varying from 35 miles an hour for slow dirigibles to 100 miles or more for fast aeroplanes. As compared with a ship, this increases the amount of water covered during a given period of scouting in the ratio of from 2 to 8.
Let us fix attention for a moment on a case that has been suggested—that of a hostile oversea expedition advancing against us, while numerous neutral colliers are bringing coal for the enemy's use at a base to be seized by his advanced force.
He might choose as the safest plan that of letting these colliers slip across, one by one, following divergent routes—believing that if they come in a body or in groups we have sufficient available forces to capture them.
Under present conditions, his chances of success would be excellent. Our few scouts and cruisers—eliminating those needed to scout for his main body—would pick up a few unlucky units, involving some loss to the enemy: but would be too few to discover all or the majority of the colliers. Enough would arrive if he has provided a margin—to ensure the success of his plan.
Now if we had a few dirigibles and, say, 50 seaplanes transported on scouts or cruisers, we could, without neglecting his main body, so curry the ocean that hardly a collier would escape. A scout Cruising alone would cover, against single ships, a front of about 20 miles. If the same scout had 'constantly by day, on each side, a seaplane about 6o miles away (so that any intervening ship would be visible from 3000 feet up the scout, with its attendants would cover a daytime front of 2 x (2 x 60), or 240 miles—instead of 20! This would involve the use of, say, five planes—two on each side, relieving each other, and one in reserve. We could outfit to scouts in this manner with a total frontage of 2400 miles! Allowing liberally for haze, etc., we could surely count on 1200 miles, enough to cover all probable cases.
Meanwhile the dirigibles would be tracking his main body.
A collier, once picked up, could be captured by the mother ship. Otherwise a seaplane with projectiles could force the crew into their boats (as' submarines have done), and sink the ship. Presumably they would avoid this, if practicable, from motives of humanity and of policy.
Any study of operations in the Atlantic clearly shows that one of our big problems will be to find and intercept convoys; whether of supplies or of troops. Aircraft will solve it for us. Before risking his troops, the enemy would need command of air as well as sea; for a transport would lie helpless against a persistent fighting dirigible.
As said before, we cannot pass on the war-test of the dirigible until we see what the Germans are waiting to do.
We may also need aircraft defensively to aid in convoying our own troops to advanced bases In this' case they would have to drive off many enemy aircraft and, if possible, to sink or drive away their cruisers. They could summon aid for threatened transports, or warn these as to danger zones to be avoided.
The mastery of the air will be vital to us in connection with convoys.
We have seen what may happen to the Panama Canal. An enterprising foe will surely attack it. Our best defence against aircraft will be our own, permanently based (like the submarines) on the Isthmus. Moreover;the presence of the submarine pilot will make our mobile defence effective against his dreadnoughts.
In the Pacific our use of aircraft will be much the same, but more defensive. We Shall need protection for our chain of bases and for convoys to them at present, the only power that might threaten us in that ocean is relatively weak in aircraft, but not weaker than we are. We need strong aeroplane stations at San Diego; San Francisco, Seattle; and at Honolulu, Guam, and Manila. For the long stretches between, we must have scouting dirigibles. Japan, it maybe noted, has one Parseval, and another ordered.
VI. TIIE PRESENT POSITION OF AERONAUTICS ABROAD
Colonel Sykes of the British Army, in April, 1914, wrote:
In the European campaign of tomorrow, aerial supremacy Will probably prove to be the dominant factor. That supremacy will be gained in peace. The term "aerial supremacy " is not, as is inferred by large sections of the press and by the man in the street, synonymous with numerical superiority in aircraft. The fact that military aviation means a combination of organization, training, and materiel, is often overlooked.10
As this passage indicates, aeronautics are not regarded lightly abroad. Though as yet they have been developed as accessory to the army and the navy, no man can say that in ten years we may not speak of the army, navy and air fleet as coordinate branches of the fighting establishment. Already in the army we sometimes hear of the aviation corps as a fourth arm of that branch.
Since the war bean in Europe, we have been in darkness as to changes in aircraft and organization. We know that great changes have taken place but without exact sources of information, we must base our detailed statements as to foreign air fleets on records up to 1914. Since then we only know, in general, that the great powers involved have lost some ships have doubtless built others, and are developing aeronautics by leaps and bounds.
"Brassey" sums up' aeronautical progress in 1913 somewhat as follows:
(a) Steady by all important countries.
(b) Most noteworthy advances made by Germany, which is now in the front rank with aeroplanes as well as dirigibles.
10 The Quarterly Review: "Aircraft in War.”
(c) Great Britain still leading in seaplanes.
(d) Efforts making to secure less vulnerable non-rigids by subdividing.11
(e) Growing anxiety to get airships to sea.
As to the order of the air powers, France and Germany lead, with the latest indications favoring Germany; Russia was next, then Italy, then Great Britain (which by this time may claim a higher place), with Austria sixth. Belgium, Servia, and other nations follow—and somewhere at the other end, the United States marches with Mexico, China, and Dahomey! Germany not only leads in dirigibles, but also has a large number of aeroplanes. Undoubtedly her organization is thorough in aeronautics as in everything else. The papers have been full of German machines; sometimes scouting, sometimes over cities, always like buzzards, over a battlefield. Russia is the " dark Pegasus" of the air. We know that her air power is big and mysterious, and that her aeroplanes are the largest made. She has taken an advanced position in closing " her air" to foreign fliers. France made a strong bid for aerial supremacy, hoping thus to neutralize Germany's military superiority, but is now closely rivaled by other nations. Great Britain's air-fleet, though numerically small, seems to be excellent in personnel and organization. We have noted her claims to aerial ascendancy. The cables are warm with reports of slow Taubes brought to the ground by British biplanes. Be this as it may, the undoubted usefulness of British aviators in this war is especially interesting to us, because three years ago great Britain was almost as far behind in the air game as we are now.
Sir John French said in one of his earlier reports:
One of the features of the campaign on our side has been the success of the Royal Flying Corps. In regard to the collection of information it is impossible either to award too much praise to our aviators for the way they have carried out their duties, or to overestimate the value of the intelligence collected, more especially during the recent advance.
Before considering our own assets and needs, we may take a more detailed view of European progress. With the kaleidoscopic changes of war, exact figures would be useless as well as impossible. The objective is a general idea of the efforts making by each of the major powers. The numbers given are conservative, and probably too small for present strength.12
11 Some are divided into three compartments, with steel bulkheads to localize damage.
12 The figures below are based chiefly upon those in the 1914 “Brassey" modified by recent statements in the Scientific American. They refer to the months just preceding the war. See later estimates beyond.
Undeterred by the tragic fate of the Zeppelin L-1 and L-2 (one wrecked, the other burned in mid-air), the Germans at once ordered two Zeppelins and one Schiitte-Lanz of the largest size which are probably now in use. The army controls all the dirigibles referred to below, except the three large ones just referred to and five others privately owned.
To show what a dirigible can do, it is asserted that the private ship Victoria Luise made its 400th trip in November, 1913, after covering 29,430 miles, with 21 passengers on each trip.
The following summarizes the German strength at the time indicated:
(a) Rigid (Zeppelin, Schutte-Lanz) (the largest of 32 tons) 16
(b) Non-rigid (Parseval) 7
2. Sheds: Owing to difficulties in getting airships out and in with cross winds, German sheds are now being made of a revolving type. Many sheds have been erected at suitable points.
3. Seaplanes and Stations: Germany has about 50 seaplanes. Stations have been established at Putzig, Kiel, Wilhelmshaven, Heligoland; also at Kiaochau and in Southwest Africa.
4. Aeroplanes: Germany has at least 500 good military aeroplanes, perhaps 1000. Some are fitted with automatic stabilizers. She has standardized her monoplanes (Taubes) and her biplanes (Arrows), with corresponding interchangeability of parts and increase of efficiency.
Newspaper articles of doubtful reliability make the fleet of Zeppelins "intended for London" much more imposing, from 30 to 40 at present. Doubtless the number has been steadily increasing, in spite of the casualties claimed by The Allies. A recent dispatch13 a states that woo workmen are now busy at the Zeppelin factory on Lake Constance, and that ships are assembled at Friedrichshafen in three weeks. The King Zeppelin is said to have sailed away on November 5 with 50 enormous bombs; seven
13 Washington Post, December 13, 1914.
dreadnought rigids are said to have been launched in August, September, and October— "marine airships" with planes for landing on water. Of the " London Line " 12 are reported ready, with plans for 18 early next year.
The French were the pioneers. They fixed their hopes on the aeroplane, as (earlier) on the submarine. In numbers they became first, though their machines are said to be heterogeneous, with many unsuitable for war. Later, growing uneasy over Germany's
dirigibles, they built a large fleet of non-rigids. They also made plans for rigid ships, but fulfillment has been slow. Their Astra non-rigid of 38 tons deems to be the largest ship afloat.... They developed the non-rigid type while Germany was perfecting the Zeppelin. Some later Astra non-rigids are divided into 12 Compartments.
The Astra-Torres ships (of "ace of clubs" section) have "remarkable speed and elegance of design." In general, French dirigibles are smaller, less homogeneous, and much slower than the German.
(a) Rigid (Speiss) (of 20 tons) 1
(b) Non-rigid (Zodiac, Astra, Lebaudy, etc.) 14
(c) Semi-rigid 3
2. Sheds: 22 (of the old stationary type). Many are too small for use. Eight others projected.
3. Seaplanes and Stations: Their seaplanes are said to be chiefly of a converted type. Several stations on the Mediterranean, and "the hangar ship Foudre."
4. Aeroplanes: 500 to 1000 (or more) effective military machines. Diverse in type. A French airman (Garros) made a flight of over 500 miles across the Mediterranean at a rate of 62 m. p. h. Another Frenchman is said to have flown 650 miles.
The French organization is certainly good, and results in maneuvers have been gratifying. In his discussion of recent maneuvers, General Pau said to the aviators on his side:14
Je viens de vous feliciter tout individueilement, mais je vais vous remercier tous en corps des qualites et du devouement dont vous avez fait
14 Les Archives Militaires, Octobre-Decembre, 1913, p. 396.
preuve; et des services que vous nous avez rcndus, jc veux dire que vous avez rendus a l'armec dont j'etais le chef., Grace a vous, heure par licure, et des le matin, nous avons su ce que faisait l'ennemi. Vos reseignetnents ont ete nombreux, rapides; its ont ete micux encore, its ont ete exacts. Jiavouc quc je leS ai 'fait controle'r 'par la suite, out en m'en servant sur le moment.
His only criticism is that though he thus knew the enemy's movements, he often had no information as to whether his own orders had been executed. lie wants aviators to report on this also.
A discussion of Russia's air Beet is largely. guesswork. Her budgets have been next to those of Germany and France: her, air strength must be great. Newspaper reports ,of the war have contained few, items regarding her aircraft.
1. Dirigibles: The Astra XIII built in 1913, makes only 35 miles per hour, and is non-rigid. "Brassey" refers to 12 other small craft built, only six large enough for war use.
Three ships are building in Russia and two are ordered from France.
2. Sheds: Eight in European Russia (good sized), mostly double two at Vladivostock, two others projected.
3. Seaplanes and Stations: Russia has 24 or more Curtiss seaplanes, and a number of French. Sikorsky has made giant machines of this type with four 100 H. P. motors each. Army has no seaplanes.
4. Aeroplanes The big machines of Sikorsky are too slow for most military uses. Russia has a large number of aeroplanes authorities say 200 to 500; a matter of guesswork.
Italy had war experience with aeroplanes against Tripoli, and made great use Of aerial photography.
(a) Rigid: Three large ships (32 tons) said to be projected.
(1-0 Non-rigid: (Chiefly small.) One of these for naval use 9
(c) Semi-rigid One built (Forlanini), another building 1
Total built 10
2. Seaplanes and Stations: Development slow. Italy perhaps has 20 machines. Establishment of coast chain of 15 stations proposed.
3. Aeroplanes: Twenty-six squadrons of four monoplanes each.
Four squadrons of seven biplanes each.
Italy has over 200 naval and military pilots.
The war test shows high efficiency in a new organization. The enterprise of British aviators is noteworthy—witness air raids against Dusseldorf and Friedrichsha fen described elsewhere. Their seaplanes are "the best in the world "—not yet tried out in war. With dirigibles they are just beginning again, after a period of discouragement following the wreck of their first big rigid, the Mayfly, on her trial trip. (Contrast the dogged perseverance of the Germans after their disasters.)
(a) Rigids : None. A contract given the Vicker's Company for a large rigid of about 32 tons and speed of 50 m. p. h.
(b) Non-rigids: Seven in all—five very small, all turned over to the navy. Include a Parseval of 8.5 tons and an Astra of 7 tons with speed of 51.1 In. p. h. ("ace of clubs" section for strength).
Total built 7
Five modern ships ordered. Program calls for 15 by end of year. The newspapers report a company with capital of $1,000,000 formed to supply additional ships.
2. Sheds: No large sheds as yet; three small ones built for army; three large ones reported building.
3. Seaplanes and Stations: See "Aeroplanes." Stations at Calshot, Grain Island, Felixstowe, and Yarmouth. Others erecting and planned to complete a chain along the coast.
4. Aeroplanes: 109 aeroplanes and seaplanes on hand, 70 ordered.
The Naval Flying School has 50 of these.
1. Dirigibles: Five (small, very slow, semi-rigid and non-rigid).
2. Sheds: Two (small).
3. Seaplanes and Stations: Number unknown; two good types of seaplane made in Austria.
4. Aeroplanes: Number uncertain, probably 130 to 150.
Dirigibles: One (Parseval), another ordered.
Aeroplanes: About 20.
MINOR AIR POWERS
"Brassey" classifies as “minor air powers" (besides Japan), Turkey, Spain, and the United States. Various other states should be included in this category, some decidedly stronger than we are.
For a later estimate, necessarily doubtful at this time, the following is taken from the hearing of the Director of Aeronautics before the House Naval Committee, on or about December 1, 1914. The figures given include privately owned ships and machines, which would be commandeered in war.
To realize, in another way, what foreign governments have been doing, we may glance at their expenditures for aeronautics. The data given was compiled in August, 1913, by the U. S. Army Signal Corps.
Appropriations (for 1913)
Prior to the war, the German program for 1914-18 called for an expenditure of $12,100,000, of which $726,000 was to be immediately provided for by supplementary naval estimates. The plans included groups of airships and of aeroplanes for active service, a material reserve, the construction of double revolving sheds, barracks, etc., and the establishment of a central aeroplane station with six outside stations. The actual increase has, of course, been on an emergency scale.
The organization of aeronautics in Great Britain has given fine results, and may be 'consideted in connection with our own deferred but promising organization dealt with below.
The "Royal Flying Corps" has a naval and a military wing.
The former, in which we are chiefly interested, is administered (under the Fourth Sea Lord) by a " Director of the Air Department."
The Central Naval Office at Sheerness is under " The Inspecting Captain of Aircraft."
There is a Central Flying School (on Salisbury Plain), owned by the army and navy jointly, and a Naval Flying School at Eastchurch.
There is a Royal Aircraft Factory, and an Aeronautical Advisory Committee.
The Royal Flying Corps will be largely composed of officers and men who are not performing continuous service. Many of them will probably be naval and military officers performing duty with their ships or regiments, and many others will have joined on conditions of service resembling those of the special reserve of the army.14
The Central Flying School is for both branches of the service.
The training and study includes:
(a) Progressive flying.
(b) General principles of mechanics.
(c) Construction of aeroplanes and engines.
(e) Military aerial observation.
(g) Cross-country flights.
(j) Types of warships (all nations).
The Royal Aircraft Factory is a laboratory as well as a workshop. Its duties include: Higher training of mechanics; the reconstruction of aeroplanes; repair work; tests and experiments with British and foreign engines, and other experimental work.
14 Report of U. S. Military Attache, London, July 31, 1912.
Experimental and research work pertain also to the Aeronautical Advisory Committee. This committee, the factory, and the two wings are interlocking: an ideal interweaving of theory and practice.
A noteworthy, feature of the British system is the provision to encourage private manufacture and private aviation,16 and also to make England mechanically independent of other air powers in times of stress.
A certificate from the Royal Aero Club is a required qualification of navy and army fliers.
Noteworthy features of this organization are:
(1) The whole aerial establishment is placed under one corps, which may it any time become separate from, and coordinate with, the navy and the army.
(2) Meanwhile; the branches are administered by the navy and the army separately, but in close cooperation.
(3) In both navy and army, aeronautics are administered separately, not under any existing arm or corps. In the army these constitute the fourth arm.
(4) Theoretical and practical development are both looked out for and are closely interworked.
(5) Military and private (industrial) activities are coordinated, and the latter are encouraged in every way.
The French and German organizations are of course admirable; but, since England had the benefit of all their ideas (as we may, with hers and our own stirred in), it seems unnecessary to summarize them here.
To show what a good system can accomplish in two years (1911-13): Great Britain's air strength in 1911 was almost nil.
Though preparing for war across seas, she was completely outclassed on high by both Germany and France. Men like Grahame-White and Bannerman-Phillips were shouting from the housetops. Since then she has taken the following steps:17
16 The objects of this are not only to provide a reserve of flying men, to stimulate invention, and to keep alive public interest, but also to provide aerodromes, landing places, and sheds at convenient intervals throughout the country.—Report of U. S. Military Attaché, London, July 31, 1912.
17 See London Tintes, January 8, 1914: "Some Controverted Questions."
(1) Bought and tried every prominent domestic and foreign aeroplane.
(2) Organized the Advisory Committee referred to above.
(3) Organized the Royal Aircraft Factory.
(4) Invited the mechanics of the world to a military competition, and bought the best machines thus indicated?18
(5) Ordered sufficient machines from home makers to put British works on an industrial basis.
(6). Established the Central Flying School and encouraged private schools.
See what a "death-bed" repentance has accomplished and, as it happens, just on the eve of war. Britain's only bitter regret is that she threw up her hands and quit when the Mayfly fouled the wires, and was forced to make war without dirigibles.
Can any good American read these records of foreign achievement without asking uneasily:
"And what have we been doing?"
VII. THE PROGRESS OF AERONAUTICS IN THE UNITED STATES
In a long chapter on " British and Foreign Aircraft: Progress in 1913," "Brassey" devotes just ten words to the United States of America—the last-named of the " minor air powers."
So it is. The country of Langley, who lived too soon and was jeered to his grave;19 of the Wrights, who developed the aeroplane; and of Curtiss, who made it web-footed—is now among the last in the race. Having invented the biplane, we forced the Wrights to France for encouragement; having developed the seaplane, we yielded our birthright to England. Until the present year, the military dirigible was, to the American on the street, the fantastic product of a dreamer's brain. Rumor has it that we once owned a small non-rigid—but where is this destroyer of cities? Now we talk of building a dirigible—a ship of 75,000 cubic feet. Germany has Zeppelins of 950,000 cubic feet and over.
We cannot question the wisdom of small beginnings. But what a pity we are just beginning now!
18 The U. S. Army recently attempted a similar meet for domestic aviators; but, owing to lack of funds, the prizes offered—the purchase of the three best machines at prices little above cost—were inadequate; and the meet was abandoned for want of entries.
19 With a few minor changes, Professor Langley's own machine has recently been made to fly.
Our present strength is represented thus:
Aeroplanes (including seaplanes) 23
Nelson called bitterly for more frigates (eyes); our next war chief may wail in vain, needing aircraft.
To he without this adjunct is worse, analogously, than being without a telescope and the height from which to use it. The comparison between the fleet so provided and that without this essential aid is equivalent to the comparison between 'vision from near the water's edge and the wider visions obtained from the mast of a ship.
The relative blindness of our fleet to-day is due:
(a) To a lack of public interest in aviation, especially of the military kind.
Imagine, in America, popular subscriptions aggregating several millions!
(b) To a tardy service appreciation of its nature and importance.
How much time has our most progressive institution, the Navy War College, given to naval aeronautics?
(c) To a marked need of governmental support.
(d) To the backwardness of our aerial industries for want of fostering.
Aviation is waning as a circus attraction, and public interest in its military features has not yet awakened.
So far, in dealing with the past and the present, the writer may have seemed pessimistic. But for the future of American aviation there is a rainbow of promise. Both in the army and in the navy there are signs of quickening: already steps have been taken that may give us an efficient, if small, air fleet within a few years—but let us pray for the blessings of peace during the long remaining months of unreadiness I As others have said, our development must be healthy and not too hasty
"The heights of great men reached and kept; Were not attained by sudden flight," but it behooves us to lay on "all the traffic will bear" and not to lose a minute for want of fuel: in other words, to make liberal allotments; to detail officers as fast as machines can be got ready for them; to inspire in our manufacturers the confident feeling that they can sell as fast as they choose to make.
All of which depends on our national policy. But this much is certain: it is inconsistent to maintain "an adequate navy" without building up an airfleet. The question of "aerial policy" is discussed below.
Coming now to what has been done in the recent past:
(1) Army aviation has been organized and put on a firm basis. The section of aeronautics has been created under the signal corps, and plans formulated for steady growth (so far as concerns the use of aeroplanes) within that corps.
(2) As to naval aviation, with which we are particularly concerned, steps are taking towards carrying out the admirable plan of organization outlined by the Board of Aeronautics which reported to the Secretary about a year ago (see below).
As the efforts of the two branches have much in common, both will be touched on here.
Although our army and navy aviation have been contemporaneous, the army has taken the lead in a legalized organization. The act approved July 18, 1914, increased the signal corps by the addition of an aviation section, not to exceed 60 officers and 260 enlisted men. This addition was to be made by details (creating vacancies) from the line of the army. Provision was also made for increased pay, at rates varying from 25 per cent to 75 per cent, for officers under three classifications—aviation students, junior military aviators, and military aviators—and 50 per cent for enlisted men. The "death benefit" for officers and men killed in aviation was increased to one year's pay. Officers ranking below captain were made eligible for details of four years to the aviation section.20
So far,21 officers and 115 men have been detailed. A Signal Corps Aviation School has been established on North Island, San Diego, California; and, under the new act, has been enlarged and reorganized. There is a smaller school in the Philippines; and a station was established at Fort Kamehameha, in Hawaii, but no longer exists separately.
20 The War Department has invited unmarried officers below 30 to apply for this detail.
21 Referring to date of October 3, 1914.
From June, 1913, to February, 1914, an amount of flying quite unprecedented in the history of aviation in the United States was carried on at the Signal Corps Aviation School.22
The general policy is to have officers receive a preliminary training at civilian schools, before going to San Diego.
It is also planned to have at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas, where there is a large army post, an aeronautical center, for the collection of material, the study of aeronautics, experimental work, and flying with troops under service conditions. Other (divisional) centers are to be established when practicable.
The first aero squadron, consisting of 16 officers and 77 men, with eight aeroplanes, was organized at San Diego during September, 1914. The standard machine adopted is the tractor biplane.
Experiments have been performed in bomb-dropping with satisfactory results," and in observing submarine mines from a height; a demonstration was given of a parachute for aviators, which promises to be useful. The Philippine detachment has had practice with seaplanes.
As yet, both branches of the service are handicapped by the slow development of aeroplane manufacturing at home. Steps arc taking towards improvement in this, and at least one first-rate engine has been produced. Doubtless another effort will soon be made to arrange a competition that will drag American talent into the open. As late as February, 1914, the army had at San Diego, only five machines considered suitable for service. Though several have since been added, we are still in no condition to alarm France or Germany with their thousand machines each.
Plans have been formed to encourage aviation in the National Guard and to establish an aeronautical reserve—but these are mostly tentative.
Reference was made elsewhere to the fact that the army is waiting for other powers to develop the dirigible—a policy that is economical, but open to the objection that if, at any given time, war breaks out, we are lacking in material, men, and knowledge, for what may prove to be a valuable instrument of warfare.
22 Annual Report of Chief Signal Officer, U. S. Army.
It has been pointed out, that since manufacturers are even less interested in seaplanes than in aeroplanes, and civilian seaplanes fly on the smooth waters of the Lakes, the navy still has to solve the problem of building its owl seaplanes for rough weather. These will be needed for the fleet.
The following are the essential features of the plan proposed by the Board of Aeronautics:
PROPOSED PLAN FOR NAVAL AERONAUTICS23
The report of the Aeronautical Board (approved by the department) is well worth reading in full it inspires confidence in the outlook for our naval aeronautics. Of necessity, it must be only summarized here.
I. THE GUIDING POLICY
We must be superior in all articles of aerial equipment—in dirigibles as well as in aeroplanes.
Aerial service will be adequate if based upon efficient work for and with the fleet.
We must not waste effort by attempts at aerial coast defence, and must concentrate our efforts in one aeronautic station or center, which will be useful mainly for instruction and experimentation.
II. THE MAIN ELEMENTS
These are: (1) Aeroplanes, (2) dirigibles, (3) kites, (4) captive balloons.
(1) Aeroplanes should be used from both fighting ships and auxiliaries. Every battleship should carry them. Equipment, spares, etc., should be stowed on auxiliaries, some of which should be fitted to fly machines.
The development and use of aeroplanes should be guided by the following principles : the instruction of naval and of marine corps officers should proceed with machines of the same types, with a standard type of control. Pilots of either corps should be available for any service over land or water. In short, the principle of amalgamation should obtain.
Equipment for the fleet should include 50 aeroplanes, and for advanced base outfit, six aeroplanes, with accessories.
It is apparent that " aeroplane " as used in this report, includes "seaplane."
(2) Dirigibles must be developed gradually. We cannot immediately construct the largest, but must first train a personnel. But we should at once provide small and medium-sized ships for use with expeditionary forces (and for training).
Shelters are important, but we might at first content ourselves with a mooring mast. In bad weather deflation would be necessary.
23 Published in full in February number of Flying.
An auxiliary for dirigibles will be needed. At first, one on hand can be modified for this use.
(3) Balloons will certainly be useful for instruction, perhaps also with the fleet. At present we should experiment with one balloon for training, and get three small captive balloons for weather observations.
(4) Plans for kites should be furnished all flagships.
III. AERONAUTIC AND AVIATION CENTERS
The Pensacola Navy Yard is recommended for an aeronautic center owing to climatic and hydrographic conditions, situation, and the convenient facilities of the navy yard.
Additions to the plant should include two dirigibles for training, a floating shed, a hydrogen plant, a mooring mast, two small balloons, an observatory, facilities for storage of gasoline, a combination captive and free balloon for experimental purposes—and facilities for work, reading, and recreation.
The personnel of the center should include a commandant with two divisions under him: an aeronautic division for the work of instruction, an operative division for the plant. There should be various aides, warrant assistants, and a marine corps detachment distinct from the aviation personnel of that corps. Officers and men from the two corps (line and marine corps) should be in proportion to the relative numbers in the corps.
The aviation center should also be at Pensacola, on account of favoring climate, facility for cooperation between aeroplanes and dirigibles, economy with efficiency, and facility for cooperation with the fleet.
The center should have a sea section and a land section.
The sea section should have a ship, preferably of the Charleston class. She should experiment with methods of hoisting and of stowing aeroplanes, and should do experimental work in connection with dirigibles. This ship should be available, with its air personnel and fixtures, for use with the fleet on short notice. Besides the ordinary complement (for ships in reserve) it should have three experienced air pilots available also for ship duty.
The land section should have six hangars, facilities for aviation practice, motor tractors, boats, a tug lighter, and other necessary equipment.
IV. LABORATORY WORK
The board recommends that the Aeronautic Laboratory be located at the Washington Navy Yard, in connection with the Model Basin and in cooperation with the National Aeronautic Laboratory.
V. COURSE OF INSTRUCTION AND DUTY FOR STUDENTS AND AIR PILOTS
Instruction should include: practical work with machines; instruction and practice in flying.
Air pilots should be detailed for experimental work at the laboratory, and for advanced instruction in aeronautical engineering at colleges.
Graduate air pilots will constitute a reserve.
Aviation service should count as sea duty.
VI. SERVICE WITH THE FLEET
Air pilots should gradually be assigned to ships of the fleet.
VII. THE DEPARTMENT ORGANIZATION
In brief, the air department should not be established as a separate bureau, but should avail itself of the effective working powers of the present bureaus.
Under the office of the secretary (division of personnel) should be an office of naval aeronautics, at the head of which should be a director of naval aeronautics.
The relations of the director to the secretary and to the bureaus will be advisory and coordinating.
The personnel of his office will include an assistant director (preferably a flier), and other assistants, each representing a bureau. One of these shall be a flier.
All the above personnel of the office will constitute a standing Aeronautic Board.
VIII. ESTIMATE OF EXPENDITURES
To establish an adequate aeronautic service the board recommends an appropriation, as early as possible, of $1,297,700. Such a simple, clear and logical plan of development requires little discussion. The only doubt is, "Will it be carried out promptly ? " Let us remember that other nations will not be standing still while we are learning to walk.
Two doubts present themselves:
(1) Should not steps be taken towards cooperation between navy and army, as in Great Britain? These cannot be taken by either body acting alone; but it will clearly be a defect if, in a naval war, the army aviators are not available as a naval reserve, and vice versa. The lack of a "joint flying school," or its equivalent, seems to be the weakness of our dual organization.
(2) Should aeronautics be under a separate bureau in the Navy Department?
In the present writer's opinion the board has given the right answer, at least for the present. Their action is in line with that of the army, which has put the infant under the fostering care of the previously organized and technical signal corps.
But there are, distinctly, two sides to the question. Though at present a struggling corps can well avail itself of machinery already in operation, the "Child may be bigger than the Fi-er-man" before many years—and it may then be difficult to pull away from the foster parent. It might well be decided (some day) that the technical handling of all air machinery (balloons, fuselage, cars, equipment, and motors) calls for specialized treatment just like that of steam machinery. It is realized, in the aviation section of the signal corps, that the tail may soon wag the dog, and that separation may eventually result.
We must also look forward to the time when the air fleet may leave the army or the navy for a sphere of its own.
(3) No provision is made for an aircraft factory. As to seaplanes in particular, the Director of Aeronautics says "we must work out our own salvation." This being true, why in these days of navy yard shipbuilding and government armor plants, should the inevitable aircraft factory be delayed?
As to detailed comment: the naval plan resembles the army's in calling for an aeronautical center. Would it not be wise, however, to have branch establishments on the West Coast, and in each of the Island possessions? The lack of a "sub-center" at Mare Island is felt in more ways than one.
The great advantage of Pensacola for an aeronautical center is that the plant is already there—shops, buildings, and slips, that it would take precious years to get elsewhere. As at San Antonio, aviators at this center can be in touch with the force they serve--in our case, the fleet. For instruction in flying, Pensacola is not so good as San Diego; air currents are more uncertain, thunderstorms and rainy days are more frequent. But the beach at Pensacola is convenient for seaplanes, and the opportunities for cooperation at the center outweigh all objections. Preliminary training elsewhere under ideal conditions may prove advantageous. Army aviators get this at civilian schools.
Laboratory work, as so far organized, does not seem to be adequate, compared with the plants abroad. It is indeed regrettable that the legalizing of an aero-dynamical laboratory (in which eminent scientists gave their services gratis) went out on a point of order in the House of Representatives. Doubtless the cooperation of the British Advisory Board with their Royal Aircraft Factory does much for the science of flying.
PLANS FOR THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE
The present plans of the aeronautical office, as outlined in the Hearing referred to above, include the following items:
(1) Provision for:
(a) 48 Aeroplanes.
(b) 1 Dirigible for use.
(c) 2 small dirigibles for training.
(d) 1 hydrogen set.
(e) 1 mooring mast.
(f) 1 kite balloon.
(g) Hangars at Pensacola.
(h) 3 picket boats.
(i) Gasoline storage, Pensacola.
(k) Aeroplane hangars, Pensacola.
(2) Negotiations with possible manufacturers of dirigibles.
(3) Inducements to manufacturers of aeroplanes and of dirigibles.
(4) Extra pay for enlisted men-35 per cent additional while on duty involving flying (50 per cent in the army).
(5) Increase of extra pay for qualified officers to 35 to 50 per cent (50 to 75 per cent in the army).
(6) Increase of "death benefit" to one year's pay (already allowed in the army).
(7) Authority for detail of an increased. number of officers and men to aviation duty—not exceeding 48 officers of the navy, 12 of the marine corps; 96 men, navy; 24, marine corps.
Although the army list was increased by the number of officers assigned to aviation duty, it is expressly provided in the proposed bill that there shall be no increase in the total number of officers in the navy.
The ultimate needs of the navy, as outlined, will include at least 400 pilots with 200 aeroplanes, at an estimated cost of $2,200,000. But:
The expenditures entailed would be very slight in comparison to the sums spent on those other types of national insurance, the army and navy.26
VIII. WHAT OUR POLICY SHOULD BE
We have seen what our position in war would be without an airfleet. As well fight without the radio. Only in the last month Germany, with her few available ships, won a victory in the South Pacific through better sources of information and quicker concentration.
26 “Aircraft in War."
lief ore going further, let us recall some conclusions reached in the preceding pages:
(1) It has been clearly shown in war that aircraft are invaluable for reconnaissance and for the preliminary control of gun-fire.
(2) The offensive use of aircraft, especially in numbers, must be considered a grave menace in war.
(3) Dirigibles are valuable for long-distance reconnaissance, and more effective than aeroplanes in offensive work. They are too vulnerable for "spotting."
(4) Offensively, aircraft will be used for raids with material and moral effect.
(5) Aeroplanes are invaluable for "spotting" and short-distance scouting.
(6) The size, range, and numbers of aircraft are constantly increasing.
(7) With increase of numbers aircraft will be diverted more and more to offensive and other uses.
(8) They are very important in connection with those latter-day instruments—submarines and mines.
(9) The leading foreign powers now have great airfleets.
(10) The United States is practically without an airfleet.
(11) Steps are taking towards the gradual building up of our air power.
Keeping the above facts in mind, what should our aerial policy be? Should we specialize in one of the principal types? Should we develop all? If we build dirigibles, shall we build rigids (like Germany) or non-rigids (like France and England)? What constitutes an adequate air fleet? And what should be our building program?
France began building aeroplanes only, and soon found that she must have dirigibles too. Germany began with dirigibles, and now has as many aeroplanes as France. England built aeroplanes an4 is now rushing dirigibles into air.
If we are to learn from the experience of those who know, there can be but one answer—both types are needed, and the dirigible without delay. Far better to be mistaken, in good company, than mistaken and helpless alone. If we had waited for an actual demonstration before building submarines, we should have commenced our building, or our plans for building, in 1914! Germany has "pulled the chestnuts out of the fire "—her aviators have passed through fire and storm; the Zeppelin and the Parseval are ready for us. Perhaps we have, by good luck, lost nothing so far: but every minute now wasted is a minute of danger. Our scouting in both oceans must cover long distances and demands the airship.
An adequate air fleet must be relative to the fleets of those who may fight us. Its size must be governed by the same policy that governs the navy's. In both cases we -must be able to meet any attack that can be delivered against us, since ultimately the two aerial fleets will clash. An invader's strength will, of course, depend on increase of range and the development of transportation facilities for aircraft. There will be some drop in potential in crossing the ocean, but in the Pacific, where we have islands to protect, we may have to suffer that drop ourselves. The policy clearly indicated is, thus:
Air strength superior, at the point of application, to that of the strongest opponent considered.
AN ADEQUATE AIR FLEET AND A BUILDING PROGRAM' •
When we come to expressing this policy in figures,-and formulating a program, we are brought up short against two facts-:
(1) While we Americans jealously compare our navy, ship by ship, with the navies of other first-class powers, we have been indifferent to the fact that the air navies of France and Germany outnumber ours in the proportion of about 60 to 1. Hence a really adequate building program, though moderate in expense compared with that of naval increase, would excite amazement and ridicule.
(2) If public sentiment were fully aroused, and Congress were ready to vote immense sums, adequate increase would still be impossible because we have not the plants to build aircraft rapidly or the personnel trained to man them.
As to naval aeronautic expansion, we are further limited because the army must expand at the same time.
Hence the problem is not strategic or tactical, but economic and industrial. It is not difficult to show, by diagrams, what force of aeroplanes would be necessary for service with the fleet—our first and foremost problem. It has been shown that:
"A fleet of battleships represents about three miles in length. With a radius of 300 miles around that battleship fleet, you have a circle of 1900 miles; and there should be one aeroplane to every 40 miles of the circumference of that circle for scouting work. That would require 50 aeroplanes for one fleet, with 5o in reserve, which is the least allowance that could be considered. That makes 100 in the fleet actually, and then another . . . . " (hundred in reserve would be needed).27
27 Hearing, of the Director of Aeronautics before House Naval Committee.
This, of course, makes no allowance for casualties in war; for wear and tear of machines; for the force necessary to combat hundreds of aeroplanes accompanying an enemy feet; for forces needed to escort our dirigibles or to attack the enemy's; for forces permanently stationed at bases and island possessions. The stint of all this carries us into the hundreds, or thousands; for we know it would take years to acquire such a force, and that our possible enemies, already averaging nearly a thousand machines each, will not stand still while we are catching up.
We must fix in our minds the idea that an aeroplane, in point of size and cog,. is Comparable rather to a steam launch than to a ship. The thought of woo launches would not stagger us; but we talk in whispers of 40 aeroplanes!
We may, then, with Captain Bristol, take 200 aeroplanes as an absolute minimum. With less than this we remain a " minor air power," or no air power at all. Further than this, we must form some estimate of the number that France or Germany, say, could bring to this side of the Atlantic in about five years from now, and make that number a desideratum for building—" build that number," we might like to say, but for reasons given above that seems impossible.
At present there is only one thing to lo : build just as many aeroplanes and dirigibles as our resources will permit. Appropriations must be liberal enough to make manufacturers certain that it will pay them to install the necessary machinery and to begin making aircraft.
For the present, the suggested program, 48 aeroplanes and one dirigible (exclusive of two baby dirigibles " for training), doubtless represents all that can be attempted; but at this rate, if maintained, we should catch up with France and Germany in some 28- years!
Since existing foreign dirigibles are not (at present) trans-Atlantic voyagers, our start with airships is more nearly even. We must at least be able to meet an enemy's transportable nonrigids, easily supplied with gas by the plants of auxiliaries or by cylinders of compressed hydrogen.
As soon as practicable we should formulate a program covering, like Germany's before the war, a period of four or five years. After getting under way, we could hardly build less (for naval use) than 100 aeroplanes and four dirigibles each year.
We now reach the question: should we build Zeppelins. Parsevals, or Forlaninis ?—rigids, non-rigids, or semi-rigids?
It would be useless, at this time, to go fully into the relative merits of these types. Among the characteristics of the Zeppelin may be mentioned:
(a) Greater size, speed, radius, carrying power.
(b) Correspondingly greater offensive power.
(c) Less (though great) vulnerability.
(d) Ability to travel far without loss of gas.
(e) Durability, owing to material of envelope.
(f) Low gas pressure, involving diminished loss from holes.
(g) High cost.
(h) Dependence upon expensive sheds
and among those of the Parseval :
(a) Convenient size—can be more easily handled by an inexperienced personnel.
(b) Can be moored to a mast in ordinary weather.
(c) Can be instantly deflated by means of a ripping seam.
(d) Late models can be subdivided, diminishing vulnerabilit .
(e) Can be easily taken apart and shipped.
(f) Envelope easily repaired or replaced.
(g) Is suitable for scouting and for mine-laying, etc., rather than for offensive work.
(h) Loses gas rapidly, owing to nature of envelope and high pressure, hence cannot make the longest flights.
(i) Is extremely vulnerable, and is not so well protected against attack.
The Forlanini has some of the advantages of the Zeppelin; but is vulnerable (non-cellular); particularly liable'to catch fire; and owing to its unwieldy keel, is non-portable. Since we must flutter before we can fly, We cannot build Zeppelins before learning to make and handle non-rigids. By that time the relative usefulness of the Zeppelin will be known. In the Atlantic, until its range is increased, we can rest easy if prepared to counter the hostile non-rigids that can come across "knocked down." But it is a safe guess that in five years we shall be calling loudly for " dreadnoughts of the air."
Supposing we adopted, for four years, the modest program referred to above, our yearly naval increase budget (omitting the cost of hangars, sheds, masts, gas-plants, motor tractors, etc.) would be:
100 aeroplanes (with spares, etc.) at $11,000 $1,100,000
4 dirigibles at, say, $250,000 1,000,000
or about one-fourth the cost of a battleship. Surely there is nothing revolutionary about this, even if we classify aircraft as "auxiliaries."
The problem of personnel is less difficult in view of the fact that a flier can be quickly trained and that our navy list is strong in the lower grades, where men of flying age abound. Judging from the mechanical ability and intelligence of our enlisted force, we. shall soon have qualified fliers from forward. But to utilize these officers or men, immediate changes in existing law are necessary. At present, even the number eligible for detail is limited. It is hard to see how provision can be made for hundreds of officer-aviators without a corresponding increase in the navy list, which is already too small for marine purposes. The natural desire to avoid crippling the sea-going fleet will inevitably retard development in materiel.
It is not apparent that any economy will be effected by an attempt to substitute civilian fliers. They "come high," and necessarily lack some qualifications for military service. Undoubtedly they should form a reserve, and an effort is making to enroll them for this purpose; but even so, their name is not legion. Steps have also been taken to organize an air service in the naval militia.
It will, it is hoped, be a function of the Naval War College to impress upon the service the strategical and tactical aspect of aeronautics. When these are more fully realized and studied in the navy, public sentiment will follow expert lead, and the air fleet will come into its own. Should not aircraft be injected into strategical and game-board problems?
IX. OUR OPPORTUNITY
We now have a glorious chance to utilize the teachings of the European war: while the nations at war are cutting each other's throats, to observe, prepare, and secure command of the air in the Western Atlantic. We can luckily avail ourselves of all their peace-time mistakes and war-time experiences, and, with a minimum of effort, get an air fleet of the latest kind—always supposing we are not interrupted. The present contest may finally result in a loss of belligerent personnel and materiel that will make the task of catching up correspondingly easy.
As to dirigibles, we are fortunate in another way: a first-class dirigible without its shed is helpless: and the sheds of Europe have become too small.
If, after training with a few non-rigids, we build only the largest air dreadnoughts, with revolving sheds to match, we can quickly rival those who have "borne the burden and heat of the day." Like Germany, we can standardize our aeroplanes; and, building only the best, may find ourselves, when Europe takes breath, among the Great Air Powers.