Courtesy of The Oil Drum
Is that a boomerang I see in the pilot’s hand?
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Not completely silly at air, since I recently read a book by by a New Zealand author who reckons that we have sufficient skills in our light engineering industry here to build airships that could be used for maritime patrols of our EEZ, and would be cheaper and easier to operate than the Orions.
Unfortunately I’d borrowed the book, so can’t remember the author or title..
Would seem pretty easy to shoot down an airship, but maybe i’m limited in my thinking…
Stephen, The airship could be skinned with Kevlar or an aluminium/fibreglass composite. The latter would no heavier than conventional doped fabric.
If it’s transport, Kevyn knows! Heh. Cheers.
Well this time it was just good luck. Richard’s Hammond’s doco on the A380 featured the “300kmh chicken” impact test of alumium and composite materials.
I’ve posted before that airships are the way most bulk air travel of the future will have to work.
Understanding the reason is as simple as this.
To stay aloft an aircraft HAS to move fast enough to generate lift.
It has to generate lift according to its mass.
Generating that lift induces drag.
To stay aloft an Airship has to do… nothing. Load it as heavily as you wish, as long as the gasbag displaces enough mass of air, it floats.
This is similar to the advantage that a ship has over an airplane. Load it as heavily as you wish, as long as the ship displaces enough mass of water, it floats.
The two displacement vehicles then can travel as slowly as they wish (reducing skin drag as well) and pay no premium based on mass of the cargo.
Assume that you can get it up to 200 knots or so as a bulk transport vehicle and do the math. That’s 10x the speed of a ship and 1/3 the speed of an airliner.
At what is likely a tenth the cost in fuel for the airliner per ton being shipped.
For a maritime patrol craft within the NZ economic zone, it works too. It worked in WWII just fine. The PATROL aspect means it isn’t trying to be a warplane. Pretending that the Orion is a warplane is just as serious a misreading of its role. It is a long duration patrol craft. It may mount torpedoes for sub-hunting but it can’t do any more against a surface craft that wants to shoot back at it than a dirigible might.
If it comes to that, we have to call in one of the warships or an armed helicopter, but imagining that it could come to that in peacetime or any time soon requires a hell of an imagination. Will Japanese whaling ships shoot at a NZ government patrol ? Fishing boats? How much armament could you mount on a zep to shoot back with? Might be a major mistake to think it is so fragile.
From the Orion, if you want to board a vessel rescue someone, you can’t do it, even if the weather is perfect. A Zep can stop. It can put people in the water and pull them out. It provides greater flexibility.
Save the Orions for the nasty weather days when being harder for the wind to push around is a big advantage and save the fuel.
The chicken gun has been around for decades
Good points, but the ‘nasty weather days’ one is a bit of a worry, depending on how powerful an airship’s engines are anyway.
If you use helium rather than hydrogen and contain it in a large number of smaller cells rather than a few large ones, many hits will put a hole right through, let out a bit of helium and the airship dumps a bit of water and sails on.
Soft doesn’t always equate with fragile.
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