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The Navy Thought These 'Balloons' Could Become Flying Aircraft Carriers

Warfare History Network
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Warfare History Network

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That didn't work out.

The Navy Thought These 'Balloons' Could Become Flying Aircraft Carriers

It is sometimes difficult to understand just how immature aviation was in the 1920s and 1930s. Everything about flying was new. Planes sported two sets of canvas-covered wings, had limited navigational ability, and had significantly less ocean-going range than a traditional destroyer. After their debut in World War I, planes held promise as instruments of war, but air tactics were still being refined and the planes themselves were unreliable, evolving, and still unproven. They may have been safe enough to carry mail, but not paying passengers—to say nothing of soldiers. The Air Force did not even have its own branch of the service until 1947.

Nevertheless, after World War I there was a strong feeling among certain members of the United States military that rigid-framed airships, or dirigibles, had a great deal of potential as instruments of war. Anything seemed possible during the quickly changing period of aviation. Between 1923 and 1933, the U.S. Navy’s Lighter Than Air (LTA) program produced four such dirigibles. At the time, they were the largest, most expensive aircraft ever built and were spectacular to behold. And though the dirigible seems in retrospect like something of a white elephant, for its time the LTA program was daring, imaginative, and highly innovative.

The Dirigible Craze

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