Dirigiblestroy (from the French word dirigeable - controlled) are aircraft lighter than air. They are a combination of a balloon with a propeller (usually a screw drive with an internal combustion engine or an electric motor), as well as an attitude control system (the so-called rudders), thanks to which the airships can move in any direction regardless of the direction of wind currents. Airships have a streamlined elongated body that is filled with lift gas (hydrogen or helium), which is responsible for creating aerostatic lift.
The 20th century was the century of aviation. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, airships still played a role in the development of Siberia, but later they were finally ousted from the sky by aircraft. At the very beginning of airship construction in Russia, local engineers and designers correctly identified the role of aeronautics. Proceeding from this, they were not going to build expensive and huge combat airships, which more and more often entertained the inhabitants with grandiose conflagrations in the sky. In Russia, it was believed that airships should have a soft, at least semi-rigid design and cost as little as possible. In Russia, airships were assigned a purely peaceful role, for example, they could be engaged in the delivery of goods to remote settlements.
Interest in aeronautics in Soviet Russia manifested itself back in 1920, and research was carried out only for peaceful purposes. After conducting an audit of the preserved pre-revolutionary property even before the end of the Civil War, the enthusiasts discovered that the shell of the soft airship "Astra" is in the best condition - it was decided to restore it and rename it "Red Star". In 1923, under the Society of Friends of the Air Fleet, a special "Air Center" was created, whose tasks were to promote the development of airship building in Soviet Russia. Later, the organization became a section of the Osoaviakhim of the USSR - in the fall of 1924, the construction of a small soft airship "Moscow chemist-rubber worker" was completed here. On August 29, 1930, another soft airship, Komsomolskaya Pravda, took off.
Domestic airship builders had two options. The first, proposed by Tupolev in 1928, was to calmly, without haste, go from small structures to giants like the Zeppelin. The second is the winning alternative - to actively use foreign specialists. In this way, the USSR could skip the "extra" stages. At first, the Soviets decided to look for specialists in rigid airships, and almost reached an agreement with the Zeppelin firm. But the price did not suit - against the background of industrialization, the SNK released currency very sparingly. In January 1931, the All-Union Day of the Airship took place (although it would be more accurate to call it a month), and soon the Central Council of Osoaviakhim announced the need to build a squadron of airships named after V.I.Lenin - a collection of donations began. Many experts believed that the future belonged to aeronautics; balloons were quite capable of solving problems that aircraft could not, for various reasons, solve. It was decided to focus on semi-rigid ships, which had not a solid, but only a partial frame passing along the lower part of the ship.
Squadron imeni V.I.Lenin was to consist of the air giants "Lenin", "Stalin", "Old Bolshevik", "Pravda", "Klim Voroshilov", "Osoaviakhim" and "Kolkhoznik". However, the work proceeded slowly, sometimes handicraft, which could not suit the management. The meager forces of specialists were constantly being transferred from one "shock" facility to another to eliminate the "breakthroughs" that arose here and there; there was a shortage of tools, equipment and materials, and a qualified workforce. It was during this period - December 7, 1931 - that the Dirizhablestroy plant was created, allocating 25 million rubles and obliging to complete the construction of the Lenin airship squadron as soon as possible. Pavel Purmal was appointed head of the plant.
In 1924, a state monopoly on helium was introduced. And two years later, members of the expedition of the Geological Committee A. Cherepennikov and M. Vorobyov discovered gas outlets in the Ukhta river basin. The government bodies of the USSR paid increased attention to this problem, since helium at that time acquired strategic importance in connection with the sharp expansion of its use in the military field - airship building and underwater work. In 1931, a commission of the Politburo of the CPSU (b) with the participation of Stalin discussed the development of the North, including those related to the search for helium gases. A year later, a meeting on helium was held at the USSR State Planning Committee under the chairmanship of V. Kuibyshev. At the same time, practical steps were taken to search for helium deposits.
The leadership of the Civil Air Fleet believed that among the domestic specialists there was still no one who could carry out the technical leadership of the creation of airships at a high scientific level. Initially, they tended to use the experience of the leading powers in this area - the United States or Germany. But then the choice was stopped on Italian specialists, of which the most famous at that time was Umberto Nobile - general, engineer, airship builder, aeronaut, explorer of the Arctic.
The airship N-1, or "Norway" developed by him, by 1926 was the most advanced airship of the semi-rigid system with a well-streamlined hull, with a comfortable glazed nacelle and three reliable German Maybach engines. It was on it on 11 May 1928 that Nobile reached the North Pole, after which he headed to Alaska. Unfortunately, his next expedition on a similar airship "Italia" ended in disaster: on May 25, 1928, in difficult weather conditions, the airship froze, began to descend sharply and fell on the ice - seven people died, although most of the aeronauts were saved by the Soviet icebreaker "Krasin". removing them from the ice floe.
On December 7, 1931, 90 years ago, by order of the head of the All-Union Association of the Civil Air Fleet (VO GVF) on the territory of modern Dolgoprudny, the airship complex was created, which received an airship plant, a training and experimental squadron, an aeronautical group of free balloons and a hydrogen plant. The organization was supposed to combine the efforts of various groups of specialists working in this area, as well as to start the deployment of work on the design and construction of Soviet airships. Also, the task was to conduct scientific research on aeronautics and improve the methods of operating airships.
Assessing the situation, at the beginning of 1932, Nobile entered into an agreement with the leadership of the VO Civil Air Fleet, taking on the responsibility for the technical management of the design and construction of several semi-rigid airships in the Soviet Union. He soon arrived in the USSR with a small group of Italian engineers and skilled workers. Under the leadership of Nobile, design work was carried out at the Dirigiblestroi, production was organized and a large boathouse was built.
Paying tribute to Nobile's contribution to the development of Soviet airship building, we note that our own prominent specialists have also grown up in our country. One of them was Professor Nikolai Fomin, who played an important role in the design and construction of new devices, equipping them with radio equipment, developing new shells with a nitrogen layer that would protect them from ignition. Fomin also improved technological processes to reduce the cost of production of casings, developed methods of strengthening them in order to prevent deformation at high speeds.
In the parade over Red Square on November 7, 1932, all four airships available in the USSR marched in the wake column: V-1, V-2 Smolny, V-3 Krasnaya Zvezda, and V-4 Komsomolskaya Pravda. At the beginning of the next year, the first Soviet semi-rigid airship "USSR V-5" was ready. It was relatively small in size, and its volume was only 2,340 cubic meters. m - this was due to the fact that the V-5 was conceived for practical acquaintance of Soviet designers with the Italian semi-rigid system, as well as identifying the difficulties that our specialists could encounter in the production of a larger airship. In addition, the B-5 planned to train balloonists and ground personnel.
Already at the end of February 1933, the first in the USSR semi-rigid airship V-5 was ready. On April 27, 1933, he took to the air for the first time. This airship was relatively small in size, its volume was only 2,340 cubic meters. meters. This was due to the fact that the USSR V-5 was conceived as a semi-rigid airship, intended for practical acquaintance of Soviet designers with the Italian semi-rigid system, as well as identifying the difficulties that the USSR could face in the production of a larger airship. In addition, training for ground personnel and pilots was planned on the B-5. In May 1933, after passing a series of state acceptance tests, which were considered successful, the B-5 was accepted into the civilian air fleet. In 1933, he made more than a hundred flights, which proved that this airship possesses a set of good stability characteristics, as well as controllability over the entire range of met weather conditions. The experience gained during its construction and operation became the basis for the construction of the largest airship in the USSR, the V-6 "Osoaviakhim". Balloon shop. Folding the shell of the airship. 1935 The pinnacle of Soviet airship construction was apparently the USSR-V-6. Eighteen thousand "cubes" of hydrogen, original design; in the front part, a passenger cabin was suspended, capable of accommodating a flight person, and in the back - in a triangle - three small motor gondolas.
The future flagship of the Squadron imeni V.I.Lenin - the airship "USSR V-6 Osoaviakhim" - made its first flight on November 5, 1934, the aircraft was controlled by the famous Italian himself, the flight duration was 1 hour 45 minutes. The passenger capacity of the aircraft was 20 people, the payload was 8,500 kg, the maximum speed was 113 km / h, the flight range with full load reached 2 thousand km. It set a world record for a flight duration of 130 hours and 27 minutes. All this made it possible to consider the V-6 as the first Soviet airship, which was at the level of the best foreign ones and could carry out important national economic tasks. With its commissioning, it was planned to open long-distance passenger air lines.
The airship broke all the deadlines, being a whole year and a half late and overspending the budget by 3.5 times. The weak organization, randomness of plans, the tendency to take on many projects at once and the small capabilities of the department did not even allow the B-6 to be put on the Moscow-Sverdlovsk cargo-passenger line, about which there was a lot of talk. This, however, is not surprising - in order to make the airship profitable, it was required to set a price 22.5 times higher than the cost of a plane ticket.
The leadership of "Dirizhablestroy" did not doubt that the V-6 would be glorified as the discoverer of the Arctic, that it would be able to visit the North Pole, for which they began the construction of a metal quay mast and a slipway in one of the bays of Spitsbergen; and in Dolgoprudny, a gas plant was put into operation for refueling airships, and a starting team of 200-300 people began to be formed. At the same time, during 1937, preparations were underway for the opening of the airship line Moscow - Sverdlovsk. In January of the following year, the B-6 began to prepare for a repetition of the world record in a straight line on the Moscow - Novosibirsk - Moscow route. However, extraordinary circumstances nevertheless sent an airship to the Arctic: urgent help was required to the polar explorers of our first drifting station under the leadership of Ivan Papanin.
The polar station "North Pole-1" was a unique project among the world's Arctic expeditions, a matter of prestige. The SP-1 station began operating on May 21, 1937. It was assumed that the drift of the ice floe would last at least a year, but after seven months a huge snow-white field rushed into the waters of the Greenland Sea, then it began to quickly divide and crumble into small ice floes. The ice floe with polar explorers began to drift south along the coast of Greenland, where sooner or later it would inevitably be torn to pieces. The event turned out to be unexpected - it was planned that SP-1 would operate until spring, but it was necessary to act now. The polar explorers ended up on a wreck 50 m long and 30 m wide. Icebreakers and submarines were sent to help them in the disaster area. The V-6 crew appealed to the head of the Main Directorate of the Civil Air Fleet Vasily Molokov with a petition for the airship to participate in the rescue operation and received the go-ahead.
The aeronautics understood the uniqueness of the chance and wrote a letter to Stalin asking him to allow them to save the Papanin people. On the third of February they received permission. But the initiative is punishable - it was required to fly out in a maximum of two days. This meant that the entire crew, led by the commander, had to spend two sleepless nights preparing the airship for an emergency flight. It was necessary to plot a route, get and load Arctic equipment, solve a lot of organizational issues, such as setting up a hydrogen refueling point in Murmansk. The case fell under the special control of the NKVD, which sharply increased the effectiveness of the preparation - the Chekists deftly juggled trains, rare supplies, urgently drove a submarine and a destroyer into the sea - they were to become repeaters for communication with the airship.
But they had to hurry - the flight was scheduled for February 5, 1938. On the day of the launch, due to bad weather, it was only in the evening that the airship was removed from the boathouse, during the night it reached Cherepovets. Considering the growing snowstorm, it was decided to move along the railway. Not much hydrogen was delivered to Murmansk. It was released to compensate for the diminishing weight of the airship as a result of the development of fuel. Climb the B-6 higher - it would have to bleed more to reduce the overpressure. And this was not worth doing - when refueling, there might not be enough gas for the journey to the polar explorers. Therefore, B-6 tried to go low. This, coupled with the weather, inexperience and fatigue of the crew, destroyed the ship On the approach to Kandalaksha in the polar night, bad weather and the lack of accurate maps of the terrain, the crew lost their bearings, after a while the airship flew into Mount Neblo and crashed. Of the 19 crew members, 13 were killed, including both commanders: Nikolai Gudovantsev and Ivan Pankov.
This tragedy had a negative impact on the fate of domestic aeronautics and many people who dedicated their lives to it. For example, during the construction of the USSR V-6, the young engineer Mikhail Kulik was appointed the responsible assembler, then the chief engineer of the Aeronautics Directorate of the Civil Air Fleet and took part in test flights. After the disaster, he was arrested. However, in 1939, the specialist was released. By this time, the plant had already been redesigned. Kulik worked at the Research Institute of the Civil Air Fleet, during the war years he was a senior engineer of the division for field repairs, and later rose to the deputy minister of civil aviation.
Simultaneously with the V-6, the USSR built the V-7 airship named "Chelyuskinets"; its volume was 9,500 cubic meters. meters. It made its first flight in 1934. In 1935, a similar airship was built, which received the designation V-7bis, and the next year the USSR V-8 with a volume of 10,000 cubic meters. meters. In addition, Dirigiblestroi worked on a project of a semi-rigid airship with impressive parameters - a volume of 55,000 cubic meters. meters, length - 152 m, diameter - 29 m, cruising speed - 100 km / h, range - up to 7,000 km. In addition, the plans included the production of 2 high-altitude semi-rigid airships with volumes of 29,000 and 100,000 cubic meters. meters respectively. However, after the V-8 in the USSR, not a single semi-rigid airship was built.
It seemed that all possible misfortunes lay in wait for the brave conquerors of the air element: fires due to lightning (V-4, V-5 and V-7 "Chelyuskinets" burned down), hurricanes, squalls, and other disasters. So, the new "USSR V-10" lifted into the air from the parking lot on August 6, 1938 also suffered a catastrophe: due to overheating of hydrogen, the shell burst, seven aeronauts led by commander Yevgeny Oppman (one of the creators of aeronautical detachments in the Red Army) died.
After the death of Yevgeny Maximilianovich, only his students remained in the Aeronautics Directorate - young guys who did not have the experience, the enormous authority that he had. Of course, they could not actively oppose random people and skillful apparatchiks, who substantiated the need to liquidate the "Airship". According to the authors, the B-10 disaster and the death of an experienced and reputable instructor pilot became one of the important subjective reasons for the curtailment of airship building in the USSR.
Of course, similar flight accidents happened to airships not only in the Soviet Union. On May 6, 1937, one of the most advanced and comfortable vehicles, the Hindenburg, built in Germany, when landing in the American city of Manchester Township (New Jersey) suddenly collapsed to the ground, burning to ashes in just 34 seconds. 36 people were killed. At the same time, the airships lost the competition with airplanes - the latter turned out to be faster, more reliable, and safer. The result was that in 1939 the leadership of Dirizhablestroy was ordered to completely change the subject of work, instructing to master the production of the BB-1 bomber, later called the Su-2.
New devices were no longer built, but, despite this, domestic airships made a feasible contribution to the victory in the war. In total, over the years of the Great Patriotic War, Soviet airships performed more than 1.5 thousand flights. Airships were used to deliver various cargoes and provide hydrogen to airborne balloons, for training paratroopers.
A heated discussion on the resumption of the construction of airships took place, for example, in 1964 at a joint meeting of scientific and technical councils of the ministries of the aviation industry and civil aviation. Then it was considered inexpedient to revive them. However, there were circumstances when the help of airships was invaluable.
In the fall of 1986, for round-the-clock work during the construction of the Shelter at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, it was required to illuminate the site at night, despite the fact that the exploded reactor has a height of 70 m. Airplanes and helicopters were not suitable for this purpose, since their stay over the object is limited. The task was carried out by the personnel of the Volsk aeronautical test center of the Air Force and specialists of the DKBA (Dolgoprudnensky KB - the successor of the "Dirizhablestroy") using a tethered balloon.
Today, airship building enthusiasts associate new projects primarily with the possibility of relatively quick development of hard-to-reach regions of the Far East and the Far North. Vladimir Mordashov, a leading specialist at the Kurchatov Institute, believes that a modern airship should be "atomic, of course. It will be a huge - up to 300 m in diameter -" lentil "filled with helium, with a nuclear power plant of 200-450 thousand kW. It should have a cargo platform descending on cables, which will make it unnecessary to land on the ground during loading and unloading. The potential carrying capacity of such a disc-airship is up to 2 thousand tons, a cruising speed of 150-250 km / h with a flight ceiling of up to 10 thousand meters and practically unlimited autonomy. The diskette will be able to lift 5-12 times more cargo than the largest aircraft. "
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