SSZ-class Maritime Blimp Airship
SSZ 65 represented one of the 77 SSZ-class airships constructed by Britain for World War 1 service.
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The "Submarine Scout Zero" ("SSZ") airships were manufactured across seventy-seven examples during World War 1 (1914-1918) beginning in 1916. These were devised as overwater patrol airships and thusly utilized heavily by the Royal Navy as well as the United States Navy (2 examples) and France (2 examples). The vessels took on the typical dirigible shape of the period and, internally, they lacked the rigid structural support network common to German Zeppelins - and therefore nicknamed "blimps". Their lifting properties came from helium gas held within an envelope which conformed to a predefined shape of its material construction.
As with the Zeppelins, the SSZ class showcased a cabin (known as a "car") along the ventral side of the craft and a ventral rudder fin as well as horizontal tailplanes. The air vehicles were manned by a crew of three (seated inline), measured a length of 44 meters, a beam of 12 meters and a height of 14.3 meters. Power was served through a single Rolls-Royce Hawk series engine of 75 horsepower which provided a top speed of 52 miles per hour. The engine was held at the extreme aft of the underslung car nacelle. Defensive armament was minimal, restricted to just 1 x 7.7mm Lewis machine gun on a trainable mount in the forward-most cockpit. Offensively, the airship could stock some 65lbs of conventional drop bombs.
In practice, such vessels could be called upon for maritime reconnaissance, bombing sorties and escort protection as they provided a much-needed "eye-in-the-sky" quality that surface warships lacked. Additionally, airships held inherently long endurance in the air and were, for a time, better alternatives tan shorter-ranged fixed-wing aircraft then in service. While fragile, an airship allowed warplanners a certain level of strategic flexibility that would prove crucial during the height of the war years.
SSZ.65 was part of the SSZ class and was able to survive all of the war through some 254 hours in the air, most of these coming during 1918, the last year of the global conflict. SSZ.65 was eventually removed from service in 1919 during the massive world-wide post-war drawdown.