WI: French Zeppelins and German Aeroplanes

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Bad@logic, Dec 20, 2017.

  1. Bad@logic Well-Known Member

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    Historically the French ultimately gained the upper hand over the Germans in aeroplane production in WW1, producing far more aircraft and winning control of the skies. Meanwhile the Germans, although producing plenty of aircraft themselves, are most famous for their usage of lighter-than-air zeppelins, that they used for bombing strategic targets in Paris and London and on post-war passenger routes.

    Ironically however, before the war the French had been perceived as being superior in lighter than air military applications in 1906 with French Lebaudy airships, followed in 1907 with La Patrie, a French semi-rigid aircraft. The Germans had been forced into reacting to French developments rather than leading, purchasing the rigid zeppelins despite their distaste at the extensive military drawbacks of this design.

    What might be the results if this situation was reversed, and French zeppelins - obviously with a different name - or lighter than air vessels in general, found greater success than their German counterparts, driven by national policy, different inventors, and luck and random chance, while on the German side greater effort went proportionally into their heavier than air programs?
     
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  2. Driftless Geezer

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    Perhaps have Henri Giffard's 1852 steam-engined dirigible have more success, leading to more extensive and earlier French lighter-than-air projects? Giffard's combination of engine and torpedo shaped gas bag worked, but the steam engine lacked sufficient power to overcome headwinds. If Giffard has more initial success, that might encourage follow on French aviators as lighter, more powerful internal combustion engines come available later in the 19th century.
     
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  3. Tanc49 Domitian Truther

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    I've always had the PoD in mind that Gambetta's escape from Paris in 1871 would lead to a big zeppelin craze in the 1880's :D
     
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  4. marathag Well-Known Member with a target on his back

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    We have the original term, ballon dirigeable, that was 'dirigible' in English unless you make the Lebaudy Brother more the popular face of it, like OTL the good Count was.
     
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  5. Dynasoar Yankee AeroSpace Pirate

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    Regardless of country of origin, the hydrogen lifted airship, in the experience of German Army and Naval airship operations was, quite likely, more dangerous to its own crewmen than to the enemy. There were other means of providing lighter-than-air vehicles, using the technology and materials of the early 1900s, not dependent on lifting gasses or hot air.

    Any ideas?

    I'll try to continue later.

    Dynasoar
     
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  6. RanulfC Well-Known Member

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    Bad@logic wrote:
    Something happens to the Count? I'd agree with Driftless as well in that a more successful Giffard dirigible would be a good start. Much like successful heavier-than-air flight it greatly depends on a sufficient power plant and control scheme and his basic set up was good, just not good enough. That could possibly lead to a more effective use during the Franco-Prussian war though I doubt it would be a "war-winner" by itself, but I can imagine a greater "effect" from propaganda at the very least. (Bombing German artillery and troop concentrations will be a surprise at first but rapidly less effective as concentrated fire is going to be a problem) I can imagine the significant propaganda power of flights both into and out of the city of Paris during the siege. And while the overall military effectiveness of having bombs dropped from the sky, (probably mostly at night) on the besiegers is going to be small it might be enough to get a slightly different peace.

    Marathag wrote:
    There was also "aerostat" (aerostat) which were flown by "aérostatier" (which would rapily become "aerostater" for general use) which if used in conjunction with a more successful overall effort might replace "ballon dirigeable" even given the meaning difference due to "aerostat" being non-powered/non-steerable and "dirigible" meaning to refer to a powered/steerable LTA vehicle. (After all how 'cool' does "No. 1 Compagnie des Aérostatiers" sound even if you only have one (1) balloon to pilot? :) )

    Randy
     
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  7. Just Leo Contrarian with a heart of gold

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    It might be interesting to consider that the Germans came to the realization that military dirigibles, called Zeppelins, had limitations, and that they used Gotha bombers with great success, as well as Zeppelin-Staaken bombers. Zeppelin also made a transport aircraft so good that it was cancelled by Versailles, because it was as fast as the fastest fighters. It was to have no equal in quite some time.
     
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  8. Driftless Geezer

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    Giffard's basic ideas were fairly sound, but he needed a powerplant that was both lighter and more powerful. His steam engine and boiler weighed about 350lbs/160kg, and he carried about 150lbs/68kg of coal for fuel. He could fly with some level of control in calmer air, but just not enough "juice" in the engine to overcome the winds he encountered at altitude. Giffard's next aerial efforts were problematic and he eventually shifted his experimental work to more static balloons and other engineering work. If he has more success in his follow on work to his first dirigible, then other aviators, especially in France may take the next progressions, especially as lighter more powerful internal combustion come into play.
     
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  9. RanulfC Well-Known Member

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    Just Leo wrote:
    I think that's the point actually, in supposing the French develop a 'thing' for dirigibles instead of the Germans with similar outcomes in that the Germans focus on a 'counter' to the French Lighter-Than-Air ships and invest more heavily in Heavier-Than-Air technology. Especially if the French get 'lucky' early on, (as suggested say during the Franco-Prussian War) and both they and the German initially place too much faith/fear in the dirigible. Again, especially if something happens to Count Zeppelin before he can get his own airships going. (Such things as multiple gas cells and such were already under consideration but hadn't been used)

    Now I have an image of a French dirigible flying high over Berlin engaged in a life-or-death fight with a Zeppelin-Stakken "Aerostat Destroyer" equipped with a searchlight and machine guns...

    (BTW, have a link to the transport aircraft? I can only find proposed variants of the ZS R.VI)

    Driftless wrote:
    Exactly. The next few ships after his used electric motors but they at that point-in-time aren't much better than steam.

    His own design/construction it would seem. (https://www.space.com/g00/16623-fir...er=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8=&i10c.ua=1) 250lb/113kg for the motor itself and 100b/45.4kg for the boiler and a special coke-burning firebox. Top speed was about 6mph/10kph and top engine power about 3HP/2.2kW. The Tisandier Electric Airship, (1882/83) had a 1.5HP electric engine that could push the speed to 15KPH but still not fight a head-wind of any kind. (Go figure, with less HP than the Giffard steam engine, better propeller design and faster RPM it would seem) The first "fully controllable free flight" of Renard and Krebs using 8.5HP/6.3Kw electric motor and 959lb/435kg of batteries was in 1884. But It took the Lebaudy brothers and a 40HP engine to make the dirigible "practical".

    However it might help to keep in mind it would appear you don't ACTUALLY need an 'engine' to make the system work as the "Aereon" of Solomon Andrews (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solomon_Andrews_(inventor) ) showed. (And speaking of, we missed one as Henri Dupuy de Lôme developed a hand-cranked, 14-passenger dirigible around the end of the Franco-Prussian War. Being 'driven' by 4-8 'crankers' it might have had enough 'omph' to push against a slight head-wind and be 'usable' in general if it had been completed earlier)

    Andrews destroyed his first prototype, (supposedly to prevent "Rebel spies" from stealing the design) and his second was of a more 'conventional' single envelope design. So what if, when his own nation shows no interest, (and the post ACW economy collapses) he gets some interest from France?

    I note that there appears to have been an understanding of the whole "power-to-weight" Issue as the near-follow-ons attempted to use electric motors and batteries to overcome the issues. I'm not sure a lighter, more powerful "open" steam system could have been built or used and batteries and electric motors were heavy as well but the power output was a better ratio.

    Now and interesting point is this man, Paul Haenlein, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Haenlein) flew a dirigible using a motor invented by this man, Etienne Lenoir (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Étienne_Lenoir) that used the lifting gas itself as fuel. Granted the example has only about 6HP/4.5kW but that's significantly more than Giffard at probably half-to-two-thirds the weight. Lenoir engines seemed to have been an item of high interest during the 1860s. Plus it could run on multiple fuels such as the suggested Naptha. Granted it's basically a steam-engine turned into a IC-engine but it has possibilities and was in general use

    Again going back to the timing one can get a rather significant POD from a very small 'success' during the Franco-Prussian War, especially on the French side. But correspondingly the German side will obviously want to 'keep up' to counter the "threat" as they see it. On the other hand it might simply seem that the "Army" has the French's number and focus may be on other areas, (matching England at sea) but if the French are all over an idea then the Germans will at least be putting some effort into the same area so the question is when do they 'figure out' that HTA is more adaptable than LTA? It took several years of WWI for the military to take the HTA airplane seriously as it was.

    Oh and interesting google-book I came across while doing some searching:
    "Dirigible Balloons" prepared by Charles Hayward for the American School of Correspondence, 1912
    https://books.google.com/books?id=g...onepage&q=Lebaudy Brothers, dirigible&f=false

    Randy
     
  10. Driftless Geezer

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    Did the French have an aeronautical society in the 19th century that could have served to coordinate some of the many paths of experimentation?
     
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  11. Just Leo Contrarian with a heart of gold

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    The Zeppelin-Staaken E-4/20 was designed by Rohrbach. He could never create its equal on his own dime. I never learned how to link, and I'm an old dog.

    The Aero-Club of France was created in 1898, and founded the international federation, FAI or IAF, in 1905.
     
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  12. Dynasoar Yankee AeroSpace Pirate

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    Referring back to #5, French literature dating back to 1794 proposed steam as a lifting gas for balloons. Lift 0.56 that of hydrogen on a volumetric basis, which means airships dimensions scaled up 1.21, or if steam spiked with 15% hydrogen (will not ignite), 1.17 linear increase.

    Without going into details of condensation within the envelope, which would be a more than adequate condenser for steam engine propulsion (drainback to boiler) the numbers come together nicely for a non-flammable, essentially silent night raider.

    Airframe should be semi-rigid, like "Norge" or earlier configurations. Depending on burner control and vaporization rate, no internal ballonet should be required.

    Dynasoar
     
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  13. RanulfC Well-Known Member

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    Seems a young Lieutenant in the French Army Corps. of Engineers, Jean Baptiste Meusnier (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Baptiste_Meusnier) was the originator of the "dirigible" concept but his proposal was not pursued, (https://blogs.scientificamerican.co...be-part-of-our-transportation-infrastructure/) though in 1984 Gallagher, (of fruit-smashing fame) sponsored the building of a one man powered blimp named "White Dwarf" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Dwarf_(dirigible) ) which flew 58.08mi/93km with an average speed of about 7mph/11kph. Nothing spectacular of course and an actual 'engine' would be preferred but if you're trying to make some propaganda...

    Just Leo wrote:
    No issues, but dang it's ahead of its time; (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeppelin-Staaken_E-4/20) And as historical hind-sight has proven the IAC/"Winners" of WWI were far too harsh for their own good.

    Apperently the "official" Gas Balloon Association was founded in 1901 though there was the phenomena of "Balloonomania" in France and most of Europe during the late 18th and early 19th century, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balloonomania) which you would think would have spawned some organizations but doesn't seem to have happened that I can find.

    Dynasoar wrote:
    I've been seeing this proposal for years now, (http://www.flyingkettle.com/) which obviously has a more "British" bent, they did mention the French which is probably nice of them :) IRRC 15% hydrogen is below the mixture ratio for general ignition but it's going to build up 'hot' hydrogen in the upper part of the envelope and what material are you using you can inject 'live' steam into it at that time period? Note, I'm not 'dissing' the idea, I like it, (gives the French Navy something to 'do' other than blockade duty and there's always the 'bonus' of "one-upping" the Army of course :) ) I'm just trying to get a better handle on the whole idea/design.

    BTW; a 'vignette' playing in my mind has a hand-cranked version initially dropping some grenades on the German siege positions at night and "getting lucky" with a resupply movement for the artillery stores... But never mind that now :)
    (Ok, as another "aside" here in reading the Wikipedia article on the Franco-Prussian War for what the French and German Navies were up to I note that N-III and staff had made plans to invade Northern Germany if war broke out... And I immediately became scared of getting banned by CalBear because the Frisian Islands came to mind for some reason. I'M SORRY! ;) )

    Back on subject/track:
    Dynasoar wrote:
    Oh go into details you damn tease ;) Some of us live for technical discussions we have neither the engineering nor math skills to actually follow you know :) Semi-seriously how 'silent' are we talking as steam engines of the period were actually rather loud, especially the lighter ones which tended to have leaky seals due to said light construction. Most importantly of course;

    Where do we put the propeller? (Insert clip of the "rational, calm, and well laid out argument" from the Aeroclub in "Master of the World" here :) )

    Agree with the semi-rigid design though I'm not sure the burner/vaporization control fineness will be available at the time. What kind of payload are we looking at do you think?

    Anyway once you have a propaganda "victory" of any stripe that can be attributed to the Aerostat-Dirigible, (rather than balloon-dirigible) you'd probably see a repeat of the "Balloonomania" mentioned above with most European nations rapidly making developments. And by somewhere a but after 1903, (and we can't forget that the 'butterflies' might actually have someone else be the 'first' as well) heavier than air flight begins but initially would seem very limited and less desirable in general than lighter-than-air flight.

    It won't last of course as HTA is going to always be more robust than LTA all other things being equal but for a brief shining moment...

    Randy
     
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  14. Dynasoar Yankee AeroSpace Pirate

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    Randy, et al,

    Thanks for your post and the website addresses you included. I found an excellent one before my initial post which I'll provide when one of my daughters comes by to show me how. Taking your questions in order, The internal envelope material circa 1915 would have to be oiled silk using a high temperature oil based impregnant. I believe its' wetting characteristics would be similar to present day silicone sprayed material. There would have to be an outer envelope separated by a dead air space to reduce heat transfer from condensing steam on the innermost surface to ambient, relatively fast moving air, but the two surfaces bounding the still air space would isolate the very high heat transfer of condensing steam in the interior and the moderate H sub C of moving air on the exterior. (numbers to come) The lower region of the inner envelope would be coated with warm condensate trickling down to collectors.

    As a first approximation of the ship itself, I used the "Norge" of 1923, tho semi-rigid airships had been in operation a decade before. Here are some numbers:
    'Norge' first then 'Steamer'

    Length 350 ft-420 ft Diameter 85 ft-103 ft Volume 670,000 cubic feet-1,120,000 cubic feet Hp 3 X 260 I.C.- 4 X 325 steam. Payload 21,000 pounds- 19,500 (weight of external cover, water and longer substructure - weight of lighter engines. no liquid cooling system and reduced ballast requirement.)

    The steam engine exhaust would be directed upward into the envelope and would not have the amplified "choo-choo" sound of a locomotive draft extracting stack. Instead there would be silencing via cylinder compounding as well as live steam and water injection into the exhaust to increase lift steam volume. Four large diameter pusher propellers direct drive, engines on outriggers from the central keel. Flash boilers located between engine pairs.

    Would try for 55 MPH cruise and 70+"dash" over target.

    Dynasoar
     
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  15. Bad@logic Well-Known Member

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    The steam-hydrogen combination seems neat, so maybe after the Franco-Prussian war that idea gets revived, the French emphasize its development and keep constant experiments going with such dirigibles, while on the German side the response is eventually fixed-engine aircraft as some sort of way to provide defense against them? Sounds like a really cool steam-punk style affair.
     
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  16. RanulfC Well-Known Member

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    Dynasoar wrote:
    Not really worried about the 'choo-choo' sound it's the "hiss" of escaping steam from loose seals which was an issue with "light weight" steam cylinders often used for 'aero' use early on. :) I like the inclusion of flash boilers as well but it still sounds like you'd need to carry a hefty water reserve with the exhaust injection and all. What's the boilers fired with btw?

    I like the quad props, considering how fast you can 'reverse' a steam engine it sounds like control authority would be pretty amazing. I have to wonder with steam/hydrogen though won't we have a lower altitude limit than the Zeppelin's had? Also how does this work (or does it) with multiple gas cells which was needed for the larger size airships?

    Bad@Logic wrote:
    Which is why I suggested some type of 'offensive' LTA being utilized and at least generating some good propaganda even if they don't actually 'win' the war. My reading of the general history of the war would indicate that had the fall of Paris been delayed much longer the Prussian/Germany military was showing cracks and it might have been enough pressure to cause the Prussians to settle for a lesser peace? The war indemnity is a given, (revenge for Napoleon) but maybe some give-and-take over Alsace-Lorraine? In any case I don't see France NOT falling to Revanchism in some aspects with the militaristic compensation that goes with it. And since LTA played such an 'important' part...

    Randy
     
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  17. Dynasoar Yankee AeroSpace Pirate

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    Randy, et al,

    I hadn't considered steam leakage sounds. Had never read of them in the context of very high pressure steam automobiles. The ship would have to have a simple electric generating system, which would drive the pumps and blowers required for the fuel oil burners in the flash boilers.


    With regard to altitude capability the German Kriegsmarine "height climber" Zeps conducted raids from 20,000 feet plus. Oxygen available for an occasional sniff. The Zep problem with altitude was the necessity to valve off much hydrogen when flying above pressure height. Airship captains developed a landing technique of rapid descent to adiabatically heat the lifting gas to support the ship just before landing. A supply of hydrogen was waiting to keep the ship off the ground (The Zeppelin In Combat; Doug Robinson). I know the present altitude record for hot air balloons is just under 70,000 feet; considering the nearly 2 to 1 advantage of steam relative to hot air, I'd expect a steam semi-rigid to be able to climb into the flight levels if designed to do so ( lighter structure, higher burner blower pressure, etc). More usually, say for night raids, 10,000, 12,000 feet should be adequate. Since unlike Zeps, there is no pressure height barrier to keep raid altitude lower.

    Visualize that the envelope would be divided into separate compartments, but the exact exhaust manifolding and buoyancy control would require a consulting agreement.

    Wire Dynasoar - Thousand Oaks
     
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