Why weren't zeppelins/airships used on a large scale during the war?

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DerGiLLster
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Why weren't zeppelins/airships used on a large scale during the war?

Post by DerGiLLster » 12 Jun 2019 01:30

Okay, this may sound like a dumb question, so I need someone to explain this to me.

Why didn't Germany utilize Zeppelins as part of it's logistics during the war. It's not to deal with front line service. I know the obvious shortcomings of that. It'd be easy meat for fighters. I'm talking of some behind the lines like 40-50 miles. I figure that would be safe. The LZ 129 Hindenburg had a load of 224,000 pounds or 112 tons at its max. It could carry this figure a few hundred miles, enough for being close to the front lines of Russia.

Is there something I don't realize when asking this? I know that of the 2 zeppelins Germany had pre-war, one was destroyed in an infamous accident, which needs no introduction, the LZ 129. The other was scrapped in April 1940, LZ 130, for aircraft parts. Were there any resource constraints on the Zeppelin to begin with when transporting goods near the front? I don't believe steel was an issue at all. 150 tons of steel was needed to build a zeppelin. A regular locomotive needed 2/3 of that demand to be built.

Was gasoline an issue? 4 Daimler Benz engines were used to power the ship. That fuel was equal to a few Ju 52s. Was hydrogen an issue? Any industrialized nation could produce hydrogen in a large supply, so I know Germany it wasn't a hurdle. Both zeppelins of Germany used around 70 tons of hydrogen. How often did hydrogen need to be refilled in the zeppelin? Any zeppelin historians know of the technicalities facing these machines and their flight?

On another note, why couldn't the United States utilize zeppelins/airships for transporting goods to Britain? Resources of no issue to the US. The airships could carry supplies many times faster than ships could, and were basically immune to interception, as obviously U-Boats could do no good, and no German plane would have the range to go east of Britain. The cargo would be much more limited (10 vs. 10,000 tons), but the higher speed and easier construction costs would make transporting goods much safer. I see the US having the industrial capacity to build a couple thousand airships to transport goods to Britain, without the need for transport ships and escorts, further reducing steel use for transporting goods. British fighters could escort such airships once they were few hundred miles away from Britain.

So why weren't airships put into use serving the field of logistics? What prevented them from delivering supplies?

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Re: Why weren't zeppelins/airships used on a large scale during the war?

Post by pugsville » 12 Jun 2019 09:56

because 100 tons is just insignificant in large scale operations with millions of tons to be moved, railways and conventional ships were much more efficient.

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Re: Why weren't zeppelins/airships used on a large scale during the war?

Post by Sheldrake » 12 Jun 2019 10:21

Blimps were used extensively by the USN as anti submarine aircraft. The long endurance of Blimps and their ability to hover were far more important than load carrying.

Hydrogen filled airships fell out of favour after the Hindenberg. The USA was the only commercial source of Helium. A German request for helium for was turned down resulting in the scrapping of the replacement for the Graf Zeppelin.

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Re: Why weren't zeppelins/airships used on a large scale during the war?

Post by OpanaPointer » 12 Jun 2019 11:33

Yeah, helicopter functions with long endurance, blimps were a terror for U-boots.
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Re: Why weren't zeppelins/airships used on a large scale during the war?

Post by Kingfish » 12 Jun 2019 11:44

DerGiLLster wrote:
12 Jun 2019 01:30
Why didn't Germany utilize Zeppelins as part of it's logistics during the war. It's not to deal with front line service. I know the obvious shortcomings of that. It'd be easy meat for fighters. I'm talking of some behind the lines like 40-50 miles. I figure that would be safe.
40-50 miles behind the FLOT is still easy meat for fighters.

You would need to be several hundred miles back, and at which point there is little to no gain in using them as described.
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Re: Why weren't zeppelins/airships used on a large scale during the war?

Post by DerGiLLster » 13 Jun 2019 00:21

pugsville wrote:
12 Jun 2019 09:56
because 100 tons is just insignificant in large scale operations with millions of tons to be moved, railways and conventional ships were much more efficient.
The steel needed to make 2 airships would be 3 locomotives in term of steel. The US made thousands of locomotives sending a good portion to the Soviet Union. The US barely dipped half of its industry for war. It seems very well within the terms of the US industrial capacity to make a couple thousand airships to lift goods near the rate that ships did. Alongside the speed.

Kingfish wrote:
12 Jun 2019 11:44
40-50 miles behind the FLOT is still easy meat for fighters.

You would need to be several hundred miles back, and at which point there is little to no gain in using them as described.
That wouldn't be an issue for the US. They could have greater figher sweeps and more radar units along the frontline to detect any German fighters. The Luftwaffe was a shell of itself by D-Day. Even the Fighter Emergency program wouldn't save itself. No German artillery was ever going to be close to hitting airships, and if German jets are an issue, the US could introduce their own. They already were more reliable and better suited for combat and safety by D-Day, had more resources and engineers been poured into it.

Not so sure for Germany on the Eastern Front, but I think they could do it for 1941. The Soviet Air Force was practically dormant during 1941-42. Only case of Soviet fighters I know of behind the frontline were the Night Witches, but that was only at night. Zeppelin transport at day might help. Would need fighter escorts to make it better all around. I don't know of any Soviet aircraft the managed to attack behind the frontline in 1941. They were used to support attacking troops and distract the Luftwaffe.

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Re: Why weren't zeppelins/airships used on a large scale during the war?

Post by Ironmachine » 13 Jun 2019 07:18

DerGiLLster wrote:I don't know of any Soviet aircraft the managed to attack behind the frontline in 1941.
You may not know, but they did. For example (but not only), Soviet aircraft bombed Helsinki and Berlin several times in 1941.That's quite "behind the front", isn't it?

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Re: Why weren't zeppelins/airships used on a large scale during the war?

Post by Kingfish » 13 Jun 2019 09:27

DerGiLLster wrote:
13 Jun 2019 00:21
It seems very well within the terms of the US industrial capacity to make a couple thousand airships to lift goods near the rate that ships did.
Do you mean at a rate a single ship does?

A US liberty ship's GRT was ~7,000 tons. Using the figure of 10 tons/airship from your first post it would take 700 airships just to equal the lift of one liberty ship.
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Re: Why weren't zeppelins/airships used on a large scale during the war?

Post by pugsville » 13 Jun 2019 12:35

DerGiLLster wrote:
13 Jun 2019 00:21
The US made thousands of locomotives sending a good portion to the Soviet Union. The US barely dipped half of its industry for war. It seems very well within the terms of the US industrial capacity to make a couple thousand airships to lift goods near the rate that ships did. Alongside the speed.
Just massively under estimating the scale.

1943 the Allies had 18 million odd tons of shipping. That's 180,00 airships (at 100 tons a airship at 10 times the Hindenberg's lift capacity ) A few thousand isn't going to make much impact at all.
Hmm say crew of 5 that's what? 0.9 million people you going to recruit and train.

A convoy of 30 merchants require 2,100 airships. Spinning the industry , training the crews, finding out some way to load them en mass. Docking 30 ships at already existing infrastructure of docks, and known materials handling. "Docking' 2000 airships, that's a lot of space, new methods of materials handling. It's not somethings that going to work well without a lot of work.

Airships are NOT all weather all craft. Making large all weather hangers at major terminals would be a massive expense. To hold 10,000s of Airships it would be very expensive.

As the the Germans running thousands of airships with Hydrogen, it's a disasters waiting to happen, maybe 10 airships to a train in capacity terms, 2,000 airships leaving Germany for the eastern front every day. A few long range raider aircraft would cut them to ribbons.

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Re: Why weren't zeppelins/airships used on a large scale during the war?

Post by reedwh52 » 13 Jun 2019 14:41

There are several issues with airships.
First, and foremost, the concept of a 100 ton payload capacity airship does not appear to be feasible with existing technologies. The hydrogen filled Graf Zeppelin/Hindenburg (the largest airships built) had payloads of 22 tons. This would be significantly reduced by changing to helium which a) weighed more and b) provided less lift.

In the link below, the example of the USN Airship Los Angeles is quite interesting. The useful lift of the ship with helium was reduced by 40% from the hydrogen levels. Note that useful lift is not payload. The required fuel, crew, ballast, etc take up most of that amount.
:
LZ-126 / ZR-3 Los Angeles LZ-126 (hydrogen) ZR-3 (helium)
Gross lift 179,266 lbs 153,000 lbs
Empty weight 77,836 lbs 90,400 lbs
Useful lift 101,430 lbs 63,100 lbs
https://www.airships.net/helium-hydrogen-airships/

Using this ratio, a helium inflated Hindenburg class payload would reduce to approximately 14 tons meaning that approximately 570 airships would be required to replace one liberty ship.
Two, the cargo capacity would be further limited by volume and stowage issues.

Three, the safety record in peacetime of helium filled airships was unimpressive. Of the four USN rigid airships accepted by the USN, three were lost to structural failures or weather.

Four, there was a very limited building capacity for rigid airships in the world. The US completed it's last rigid airship in 1933 (with assistance from German engineers); the British in 1929. There were not a plethora of building sites available.
Four, Germany did not have the capacity to produce large numbers of rigid airships without sacrificing other projects such as fighter and attack aircraft. They also had no real source of helium.

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Re: Why weren't zeppelins/airships used on a large scale during the war?

Post by DerGiLLster » 14 Jun 2019 05:50

Ironmachine wrote:
13 Jun 2019 07:18
DerGiLLster wrote:snip
You may not know, but they did. For example (but not only), Soviet aircraft bombed Helsinki and Berlin several times in 1941.That's quite "behind the front", isn't it?
I did look this up and I did find there were 8 raids on Berlin during the whole of 1941. Again, just quick research, so correct me if I am wrong. It appears these happened only out of suprise. In the case of airships, there would have to be greater heights of security and awareness, so to protect them, making interception less likely. But these are the germans, they find a way to screw up.
Kingfish wrote:
13 Jun 2019 09:27
DerGiLLster wrote:
13 Jun 2019 00:21
snip
Do you mean at a rate a single ship does?

A US liberty ship's GRT was ~7,000 tons. Using the figure of 10 tons/airship from your first post it would take 700 airships just to equal the lift of one liberty ship.
A liberty makes roughly 12-13 mph. The German zeppelins could make more than six times that speed. Since we are talking about American application of logistics, American airships could use cyclone engines which were lighter and had twice as much horsepower. That could make such American airships go 7-8 times as fast. So in this case, it would be less than 100 airships to equal the USS Liberty.

Plus unloading cargo on land is faster and easier than at a harbor.
pugsville wrote:
13 Jun 2019 12:35
DerGiLLster wrote:
13 Jun 2019 00:21
snip
Just massively under estimating the scale.

1943 the Allies had 18 million odd tons of shipping. That's 180,00 airships (at 100 tons a airship at 10 times the Hindenberg's lift capacity ) A few thousand isn't going to make much impact at all.
Hmm say crew of 5 that's what? 0.9 million people you going to recruit and train.
I think I should note that an airship is faster. The zeppelin can more than 6 trips to equal the time a typical cargo ship can. An American airship(which leat's be honest, America was superior when it came to any logistics in the field) can make 7-8 times, with cyclone engines powering their airships. So it wouldn't be 180,000 thousand. It would be around 25,000.

So instead of 900,000 to train is would be around 130,000 to train. Around five percent of what the USAF was in March 1944(basing off of Wikipedia.)

Also where are you getting the 10 ton figure? I haven't seen anywhere that being the figure for it. I have googled many times the 'cargo capacity','payload capacity'
, 'zepelin cargo capacity' and have gotten nothing.

I am using what wikipedia is basing off of "useful lift" which seems explanatory for how much it is. It appears the Zeppelin could lift 100 tons. The M Class zeppelins at the beginning of World War One, in August 1914, could lift 20,100 pounds or 10 tons. So it seems unlikely that in the 20 years after, its payload hasn't changed.
A convoy of 30 merchants require 2,100 airships. Spinning the industry , training the crews, finding out some way to load them en mass. Docking 30 ships at already existing infrastructure of docks, and known materials handling. "Docking' 2000 airships, that's a lot of space, new methods of materials handling. It's not somethings that going to work well without a lot of work.

Airships are NOT all weather all craft. Making large all weather hangers at major terminals would be a massive expense. To hold 10,000s of Airships it would be very expensive.

As the the Germans running thousands of airships with Hydrogen, it's a disasters waiting to happen, maybe 10 airships to a train in capacity terms, 2,000 airships leaving Germany for the eastern front every day. A few long range raider aircraft would cut them to ribbons.
The Americans could build air bases in England and North Africa. Much more easier to construct than artificial harbors, docks and harbors in general. America could absolutely increase their construction and steel industry to build such airships.

Not all weather aircraft? Why. I haven't come across this before. That would be sad to hear if the weather over the Atlantic prevented airships from going. Do you know of any historic meteorology reports from the war? I would like to know of the bad storms and their effects. Well what about the summer? Almost no storms at all.

Yeah, the Germans I a not feeling confident, but at the same time, it's hard for me to take the Soviet Air Force seriously in 1941. They lost 20,000+ aicraft and were not prepared at all. Some zeppelins would be lost Fuel could be deducted from bombing raids on cities in Barbarossa in 1941 and put more into fighters sweeping and scouting any Soviet aircraft they witness. Artillery bombardment was almost always more effective anyway.

Was anything else I missed? If so sorry, just trying to figure out how the ends meat.

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Re: Why weren't zeppelins/airships used on a large scale during the war?

Post by DerGiLLster » 14 Jun 2019 06:29

reedwh52 wrote:
13 Jun 2019 14:41
There are several issues with airships.
First, and foremost, the concept of a 100 ton payload capacity airship does not appear to be feasible with existing technologies. The hydrogen filled Graf Zeppelin/Hindenburg (the largest airships built) had payloads of 22 tons. This would be significantly reduced by changing to helium which a) weighed more and b) provided less lift.
Where are you getting 22 tons? I see close to 10 tons in your link. I am basing it off of useful lift if wikipedia is to be relied on. I don't see a reason why people would vandalize pages on airships. I don't want the US to use Helium since it is more expensive and not as good at lifting. The US can definitely work with hydrogen if they incorporate safety measures, as they always did.
In the link below, the example of the USN Airship Los Angeles is quite interesting. The useful lift of the ship with helium was reduced by 40% from the hydrogen levels. Note that useful lift is not payload. The required fuel, crew, ballast, etc take up most of that amount.
:
LZ-126 / ZR-3 Los Angeles LZ-126 (hydrogen) ZR-3 (helium)
Gross lift 179,266 lbs 153,000 lbs
Empty weight 77,836 lbs 90,400 lbs
Useful lift 101,430 lbs 63,100 lbs
https://www.airships.net/helium-hydrogen-airships/

Using this ratio, a helium inflated Hindenburg class payload would reduce to approximately 14 tons meaning that approximately 570 airships would be required to replace one liberty ship.
Two, the cargo capacity would be further limited by volume and stowage issues.
Doesn't your link say Helium lifting ability is to 88% of hydrogen? Sorry, I don't know much about airships, but how does the useful lift go from 50 tons to 30 if helium can accomplish 88% of the lift. I am very confused by this point. Also the Los Angeles was built in the early 20s. A US focused on researching and mass producing airship cargo in the late 30s/early 40s could definitely make a much more advanced version.

Huh, thanks for clarifying the confusion about useful lift. Thought it was strictly cargo. Was the power of the engines having anything to do with such lift at all? If so how much did the engines contribute to the payload capacity? Was this payload for the entire Atlantic trip? Do you know if such payloads could be increased for shorter durations? What happened if an airship had more payload than it was designed for? Guess I might ask since I am also talking about the Eastern front in 1941.

Also I should emphasize that the zeppelin can travel six times back and forth for the time it takes for the liberty ship to go back and forth once. With american emphasis on airships, you could easily see it being 7-8 times, due to more powerful and lighter engines they had, on top of being more fuel efficient.
Three, the safety record in peacetime of helium filled airships was unimpressive. Of the four USN rigid airships accepted by the USN, three were lost to structural failures or weather.

Four, there was a very limited building capacity for rigid airships in the world. The US completed it's last rigid airship in 1933 (with assistance from German engineers); the British in 1929. There were not a plethora of building sites available.
Four, Germany did not have the capacity to produce large numbers of rigid airships without sacrificing other projects such as fighter and attack aircraft. They also had no real source of helium.
I want the Americans/Germans to use hydrogen in this scenario and not helium. I am sorry if I did not specify that.

Do you know which ones were lost to weather structural failure? Structural failure is dependent on the competency of human engineering and piloting. Weather can only be assesed by flying in favorable conditions.

It should not be an issue for the US to make thousands of airships in their industrial capacity. They managed to make 100,000 brand spanking new tanks being modern and new designs, not their old designs in six years. Making airships should be no issue, due to the fact they were only at half their industrial capacity.

Yeah, I see problems already for Germany. They probably would have to cancel much of their tank and plane programs. Essentially focus on just mass producing designs made 1941 and before. Retooling factories to make for new designs does take away from logistics, and boy oh boy, did Panther tanks and above prove to hate logostics. But that's a thread for another day.

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Re: Why weren't zeppelins/airships used on a large scale during the war?

Post by Ironmachine » 14 Jun 2019 07:19

DerGiLLster wrote:I did look this up and I did find there were 8 raids on Berlin during the whole of 1941. Again, just quick research, so correct me if I am wrong. It appears these happened only out of suprise. In the case of airships, there would have to be greater heights of security and awareness, so to protect them, making interception less likely. But these are the germans, they find a way to screw up.
And raids on Königsberg, on Danzig, and 9 raids on Helsinki IIRC, several raids on Constanța, several attacks against King Carol I Bridge over the Danube... The Soviets could and did attack beyond the frontline in 1941 (and it seems the Germans had an exceptional capacity for surprise, if you think all that happened only out of surprise :))

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Re: Why weren't zeppelins/airships used on a large scale during the war?

Post by pugsville » 14 Jun 2019 09:09

DerGiLLster wrote:
14 Jun 2019 05:50
A liberty makes roughly 12-13 mph. The German zeppelins could make more than six times that speed. Since we are talking about American application of logistics, American airships could use cyclone engines which were lighter and had twice as much horsepower. That could make such American airships go 7-8 times as fast. So in this case, it would be less than 100 airships to equal the USS Liberty.
Bigger more powerful engines more fuel consumption 58 tons of fuel was used by the Hindenburg. Faster may eat heavily into carrying capacity.

DerGiLLster wrote:
14 Jun 2019 05:50
Plus unloading cargo on land is faster and easier than at a harbor.
Not necessarily,. You got a large area were a 1,000 Hindenburg can moor easily, the land area required would be massive.

To get the same loaded capacity (and saying 100 tons is capacity which looks very generous) as 1 liberty ship that's 70 airships each considerably large than a liberty ship. so say 150 times the loading area. Take New York harbor and make it 150 times bigger, and now need it to be flat land. Just where are you going to find that?

and you have to get things UP to the airship. Deflating them was and inflating would require more infrastructure. More time.

All the ports exist , docks, cranes, railways. But for airships, your not using the same thins. Now yo have to build the infrastructure of a airship port, hangers, cranes, mooring posts, giant flat fields and build railways to them.


DerGiLLster wrote:
14 Jun 2019 05:50
I think I should note that an airship is faster. The zeppelin can more than 6 trips to equal the time a typical cargo ship can. An American airship(which leat's be honest, America was superior when it came to any logistics in the field) can make 7-8 times, with cyclone engines powering their airships. So it wouldn't be 180,000 thousand. It would be around 25,000.
no allowance for any loading and unloading time.
DerGiLLster wrote:
14 Jun 2019 05:50
So instead of 900,000 to train is would be around 130,000 to train. Around five percent of what the USAF was in March 1944(basing off of Wikipedia.)
only 300,000 technical aircrew pilots, navigators, bombardiers were trained during the war. training half the amount again is not trivial. even going by your figures. And that's not counting ground crew. Al those extra engines, it would be like operating another 25,000 flying fortresses (even going by your figures, and I'd claim loading, unloading, maintenance etc your going to need more a lot more.

DerGiLLster wrote:
14 Jun 2019 05:50
I am using what wikipedia is basing off of "useful lift" which seems explanatory for how much it is. It appears the Zeppelin could lift 100 tons. The M Class zeppelins at the beginning of World War One, in August 1914, could lift 20,100 pounds or 10 tons. So it seems unlikely that in the 20 years after, its payload hasn't changed.
The Physics of gas lift is not going to change. It's just a constant it;s hard to see teh airships been made massively lighter, already hi tech.
It's not an evolving technology.
And if Helium is used, it's going to much less.

https://medium.com/@Jernfrost/calculati ... df5cd7d147
https://www.airships.net/helium-hydrogen-airships/

DerGiLLster wrote:
14 Jun 2019 05:50
The Americans could build air bases in England and North Africa. Much more easier to construct than artificial harbors, docks and harbors in general. America could absolutely increase their construction and steel industry to build such airships.
the Ports mostly exist. They don;t have to be constructed. They have railways, trained workers, infrastructure. Building new airship ports and associated infrastructure is a cost of the scheme.
DerGiLLster wrote:
14 Jun 2019 05:50
Not all weather aircraft? Why. I haven't come across this before. That would be sad to hear if the weather over the Atlantic prevented airships from going. Do you know of any historic meteorology reports from the war? I would like to know of the bad storms and their effects. Well what about the summer? Almost no storms at all.
Storms do figure in quite a number of airship accidents. Hindenburg operated only a summer season on the Atlantic route.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airship_accidents

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Re: Why weren't zeppelins/airships used on a large scale during the war?

Post by pugsville » 14 Jun 2019 10:57

US and Blimps during ww2.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K-class_blimp
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M-class_blimp
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Navy_a ... rld_War_II

"From 1942–1944, airship military personnel grew from 430 to 12,400 and approximately 1,400 airship pilots and 3,000 support crew were formally trained in the military airship crew training programs. "

154 blimps required 12,400 personal , that's 80 per blimp and that's smaller than the proposed airships here. Works out 2 million personal for 25,000 airships at 80 per blimp (not only 1,400 were pilots and that's trained rather than operational strength, but even say half that' s still 700 pilots 1500 support crew

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