At the start of World War 1 (1914-1918), the British air service could claim just six airships to its name. This inventory eventually grew as the war advanced and airships and blimps played an ever-increasing role throughout the conflict until matched by the latest fighters and "blimp busters". The North Sea-class airships - or NS-class - of Britain were developed as non-rigid (lacking an internal framework structure) for Royal Navy Air Service (RNAS) operation in mind and arrived in 1917, a first-flight recorded on February 1st of that year. Fourteen of the class were eventually completed and the series flew into the early 1920s. One of the stock was N.S.7 which managed to survive the remainder of the war. She was based out of East Fortune for her part in the conflict.
Airships of the period were used to provide crucial wartime service such as submarine hunting, maritime reconnaissance, naval artillery direction and convoy escort.
As a class, the ship's design carried a crew of ten personnel and were powered by 2 x Rolls-Royce Eagle engines of 250 horsepower. These were later replaced on some airships by 2 x Fiat engines of 240 horsepower each. Performance included a maximum speed of nearly 60 miles per hour with an endurance window of 24 hours and a service ceiling of 9,500 feet.
Three to five 7.7mm Lewis Gun machine guns were carried for point defense against marauding enemy fighters. A bombload of 1,380lb was made up of conventional drop stores.
Of the fourteen NS-class airships available, just six were in service at the end of the war. N.S.7 was used as an aerial escort of the surrendered German High Seas Fleet in the voyage to Rosyth after the war. The airship completed its final flight on October 25th, 1921.
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