S.S. (Submarine Scout)
The 'Blimp' or 'S.S.' - v- type of coastal airship was evolved in response to the demand for a vessel which could be turned out quickly and in quantities. The year 1915 saw the first building of small S.S. airships, and they repaid their cost many times over. On the 28th of February 1915 Admiral Fisher sent for Commander E. A. D. Masterman and Wing Commander N. F. Usborne, and told them that he wanted some small, fairly fast airships to operate against the German submarines, and that he wanted them at once. There was no time for experiment or the elaboration of new designs; speed in production was essential, and speed could not be attained except by the adaptation of existing types and the use of standard parts. The navy was seen at its best when it has to rise to an unforeseen occasion ; within three weeks the first of the now famous S.S.'s was ready for service.
For the design of this airship it is as difficult to apportion credit among the small band of naval officers who had a hand in it as it is to divide the praise for the first flying machine between the brotherhood of the Wrights. The idea seems to have been struck out during a conversation in the mess at Farnborough at which there were present the late Wing Commander N. F. Usborne, Flight Lieutenant T. R. Cave-BrowneCave, and Mr. F. M. Green of the Royal Aircraft Factory. In the result the body, or fuselage, of a B.E. 2 c aeroplane was slung on to the envelope of a Willows airship, and the job was done.
The original model consisted of an aeroplane body with super-imposed more or less stream-lined envelope. This first S. S. ship was constructed by suspending a B.E. airplane, stripped of its wings and tail, under a suitable small envelope. The trials of the first ship were made in less than twenty days from the time the instructions to proceed were received. The first flights were so satisfactory that the Admiralty gave instructions that the production of those ships was to proceed at once. This was followed by S S. Zero, a vessel of 70,000 cubic feet capacity, with a blunt-nosed envelope 145 feet in length, and a main diameter of 29 feet. The longest flight of one of these vessels was just under 51 hours.
The S.S. class of airship differed very slightly from the original ship in certain respects which had been found desirable on the first trial. A few cars of the pusher type which generally resembled the nacelle of a Maurice Farman, were constructed by a private firm, but although they relieved the pilot of the propeller slip-stream, they did not prove as satisfactory as the older B.E. type. For the first 30 ships aeroplane bodies were used as cars, but later special cars far more suitable for patrol work were adopted. Engines of about 90 H.P. were used and a crew of three carried. Some 150 ships of the S.S. classes were built, but at the end of the war it had been decided to adopt a slightly larger ship with twin engines and a crew of five as being more suitable for the longer patrols which became necessary.
The success of this airship was as great as its design was simple. It fairly fulfilled the main requirements-to remain aloft for eight hours in all ordinary kinds of weather, with a speed of from forty to fifty miles an hour, and carrying a load which should include a wireless telegraphy installation for the purposes of report and a hundred and sixty pounds' weight of bombs for more immediate use. The first twenty-five of these ships to be produced were fitted with the 70 horse-power Renault engine.
With a speed of between 35 and 40 miles an hour, the 'Blimp' had a cruising capacity of about ten hours; it was fitted with wireless set, camera, machine-gun, and bombs, and for submarine spotting and patrol work generally it proved invaluable, though owing to low engine power and comparatively small size, its uses were restricted to reasonably fair weather.
Variations and improvements of the design followed in steady succession, providing greater endurance, and more comfortable cars for the crew. In 1917 the S. S. Twin made its appearance, its length was 164 feet, main diameter about 32 feet, cubic capacity 100,000 feet, the car carried a crew of three, and this class of airship has been found so eminently satisfactory that no more of the pn vious S. S. models will be built. The motive power is supplied by twin engines, two 75 h.p. Hawks.
By the time the last year of the War came, Britain led the world in the design of non-rigid and semi-rigid dirigibles. The ' S.S.' or 'Blimp' had been improved to a speed of 50 miles an hour, carrying a crew of three, and one of them had reached a height of 10,000 feet.
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