British blimps operated by the USN


British blimps operated by the USN

During the First World War, the US Navy trained crews at British bases, and operated British designed and built blimps on combat patrols. The Navy purchased three types of British blimps. Operations were flown in a US SSZ and airships operated by the Royal Navy.

Z class

The US Navy purchased two SSZ type blimps, which were 142 ft long, convert|32|ft|m in diameter and had a volume of convert|70000|cuft|m3. They were propelled by a single convert|75|hp|abbr=on Rolls-Royce Hawk engine. A replacement SSZ-23 was acquired in November 1917 and first operated from Cranwell for training. It was then assigned patrol duties from Howden. These operations included at least 24 operational missions in the spring of 1918. Ensign Phillip Barnes received the Distinguished Flying Cross from King George V during one of those flights. The SSZ-23 then was transferred to Lowthorpe and completed another 24 operational flights by August, when it returned to Howden where it was destroyed in an accident. While preparing to mate the old SSZ-23 envelope to a spare control car, the US maintenance crew started a fire which burned the SSZ-23, SSZ-38, SSZ-54 as well as the wooden framed rigid airship R.31.A replacement airship, also designated SSZ-23 was acquired on 22 November 1917 and was eventually shipped to the United States and erected at Cape May in early February 1919. Served at Cape May until April of that year and was stricken from the Navy registry in June 1920.The SSZ-24 was assembled and tested by the Navy and Goodyear in March 1918. It was shipped to Hampton Roads. There are no records of any operations at Hampton Roads. The SSZ-24 may have been burned in the summer of 1918.

North Seas class

The US Navy purchased one North Seas class airship. Given the USN designation NS-1, it was in fact the NS-14 which was sold to the US in early November 1918 after flying 206 hours in British service. The NS-1 was shipped to Wingfoot Lake, and then Hampton Roads, but there is no record it was ever flown while owned by the US Navy. North Sea blimps were convert|260|ft|m long, had a diameter of convert|57|ft|m and a volume of convert|360000|cuft|m3. They had a top speed of convert|57|mi/h|km/h|abbr=on, an endurance of 24 hours and were powered by two convert|250|hp|abbr=on Rolls-Royce Eagle engines or two convert|240|hp|abbr=on Fiat engines.

T class

Records indicate that the US Navy purchased three SST (Sea Scout Twin) airships in 1919. English records show that the SST-9, SST-11 and SST-12 were transferred to the USN. The Navy designations were probably to be SST-1, 2, and 3. The three SSTs were transferred directly to the US Army and operated by that service between 1920 and the winter of 1923-24.SST class airships were convert|165|ft|m long, convert|35|ft|6|in|m in diameter and had a top speed of convert|57|mi/h|km/h|abbr=on. They were powered by either two engines, either convert|100|hp|abbr=on Sunbeams or convert|75|hp|abbr=on Rolls Royce Hawks.


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