French Blimps operated by the USN

French Blimps operated by the USN

Records concerning the history of French airships in US Navy service are fragmentary. A number of airships of various classes were operated by the USN during WW I from the French Naval Base at Paimboeuf, which was also designated a US Navy Air Station from 1 March 1918 onward. It appears that a total of at least 13 French manufactured airships were operated by the USN from Paimboeuf, six were eventually shipped to the US, and one was returned to France before the armistice. The Navy operated or ordered four Astra-Torres type airships, one T-2, the "Captain Caussin) two CM types, and three or four VZ types

Astra-Torres blimps

The Astra-Torres airship was 223 feet and length a diamer of 47.4 feet and was powered by two engines. The USN operated AT-1, AT-13 and AT-17. AT-18 was ordered but cancelled. Missions were flown by the first two during the war and included training, convoy patrol, mine spotting and anti-submarine operations. There is no record of flights in the US by the three AT airships which were shipped to the US after the armistice. AT-1 was stricken from Naval records in July 1920 at the Naval Aircraft Factory, The AT-13 stricken in October 1920 at Hampton Roads, and the AT-17 was transferred to the US Army at Langley Field in October 1919.

Chalais-Meudon (French State Airship Factory)

The Chalais-Meudon blimps were considered excellent. The US Navy purchased the CM-5 which was completed after the armistice. The CM airhips were 262.5 feet long, 45.7 feet in diameter and were powered by two 230 hp Salmson engines. The CM-5 was shipped to Akron, where it was offered for sale. There is no record of the USN operating the CM-5. One engine car from the CM-5 is in the New England Air Museum at Windsor Locks, Connecticut.The US Navy also operated a T-2 type Chalais-Meudon airship Capitaine Caussin. The Capitaine Caussin was operated for training at Paimboeuf, and Guipavas. It was shipped to Hampton Roads, but not erected or flown after arriving there.

Vedette Zodiac

The Zodiac Group built the VZ-7 and VZ-13. Both were operated at NAS Paimboeuf before the armistice and flew combat missions. They were shipped first to Norfolk, and then Coco Solo where they were scrapped in October 1919. Zodiac VZ-3 was operated by the USN at Paimboeuf during 1918, but was returned to the French in September of that year. The Zodiac ZDUS-1 and ZDUS-2 were ordered by the Navy and shipped to the US. They were both apparently transferred to the Army, and one, the ZDUS-1 was operated by the Army at langely, and the name was changed to ZD-1. The ZD-1 was rebuilt as the RN-1 at Scott Field in in 1923. A new 340,00 cubic foot envelope was provided and the two 250 hp Renault engines were replaced by Liberty engines.


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