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Lighter-than-air and hybrid airship concepts

Wyvern

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Would would the benefits be of an airship in the modern world?
 

Grey Havoc

The path not taken.
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Less fuel (or none, depending on the concept & role) required, for one thing.
 

Wka23

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it depends on what you want - persistence or speed and the weather window - similar to choppers according to one source.
 

nuuumannn

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Would would the benefits be of an airship in the modern world?
The benefits would be point-to-point outsize and heavy load lifting capacity, and whatever other fanciful idea the military might suggest; the downsides however are far more numerous. The biggest of these is cost. Airships are not cheap, especially when you have to build the infrastructure to operate them from scratch. They are incompatible with existing airfields because of their low forward speed and sheer size. They need space to manoeuvre close to the ground, therefore, no structures around the fields and so forth. They also need shelter, which means a big hangar; best not to leave one out in the open.

The next issue is the lifting gas and its supply, any airship home base is going to need a source of lifting gas. During the Great War, airship bases had their own hydrogen processing plant, as well as access to main trunk railways for materials. Included is a picture of an RNAS airship station in Britain (East Fortune, Scotland). You can see the size of the hangars, the biggest is 700 feet long, the smaller ones for non-rigids was 350 ft long. The wind breaks were designed to deflect the wind, obviously, but were found to create eddies which disrupted manoeuvring the ships on the ground. To manoeuvre a big rigid in and out of a hangar, or 'Shed' to use the parlance of the day took around 400 people, which meant airship stations had large numbers of personnel billeted at them. These days the number wouldn't need to be so large. To the bottom right can be seen the hydrogen processing plant - there were lines that took the gas directly into the hangars so the ships could be topped up in situ.

To support the main patrol stations, of which there were several along Britain's east coast, there were out-stations that had no shelter and minimal facilities, some had wireless equipment, others were little more than empty fields surrounded by trees.

Regarding lifting gas, the subsequent disuse of hydrogen often gets misconstrued. The British operated around 200 non-rigids during the Great War for maritime patrol, although not at the same time, but their number at their peak in mid to late 1918 was around half that. The number lost due to hydrogen mishaps was a mere handful (need to check the books for accurate figures, which include airships that disintegrated in flight), although one incident resulted in a fire that destroyed a hangar at Howden in Yorkshire, nonetheless, the biggest issue with hydrogen was safety measures and quality control, which the British demonstrated and as a result had relatively few incidents.

The biggest killer of airships (rigid and non-rigid) from an operational perspective and not including being shot down, was adverse weather that led to structural compromise. Future airship operators need to ponder that.

So, the issue with operating airships these days is cost associated with establishing infrastructure and operation. Just building a workable one won't ensure a production tender.
 

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