My kingdom has developed a new flying ship powered by a new air-magic engine. As near as my scholars and engineers are able to tell, it's the first of its kind. Three working prototypes ply the skies over the remote test range. We are very proud of them and look forward to how they will speedily destroy our enemies.

I'm looking for a process to go searching for new ways of using these flying ships as weapons of war. I do not want descriptions of how this platform might be used; doing so would require greater disclosure of the capabilities of these new airships than I'm comfortable to divulge. I know of the usual pattern of "build something. test it. evaluate performance. repeat." I know about that pattern but would like something more detailed/nuanced if I can get it that accounts for more factors involved in developing a weapons platform.

Economic Constraints

Like any real project, unlimited funds and infinite time aren't available. Here are a list of constraints on this program.

  • Isolated test areas where experiments can be done in relative secrecy.
  • New construction and testing facilities are under construction near the testing grounds.
  • A collection of 50 naval architects drawn from the Royal Navy Shipyards.
  • 500 assistants to the naval architects. This group includes draftsmen and people holding other required skills.
  • 10 Master shipwrights.
  • Sufficient Royal mines, foundries, forests and mills to supply raw materials for a modest number of these airships per year.
  • Some magic is available but assume it won't be used for any construction tasks. Magic use is very expensive in my world.

Technology Constraints

I operate under the following technical constraints:

  • The best computing machines I have are the minds of my naval architects and scientists.
  • We don't know what the table of elements looks like or even to look for such a thing.
  • Optics are limited to 10x magnification.
  • Our foundries can create bulk high quality low carbon steel. Wood is still the preferred structural material.

As king, I have the authority, manpower and material resources to make this project go. I'm also aware that these kinds of programs can bog down quickly in in-fighting, cost overruns and such like. Help me design a program to improve these new airships as fast a possible.


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  • $\begingroup$ What is your tech level? Do you have gunpowder, explosives or their magic equivalents? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Sep 5 '18 at 18:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander I didn't specify a tech level as I'm hoping that the development process to improve the flying ships is independent of the weapons I attach to the ship. This is about the process to get strong ships, not how to make the ships strong. $\endgroup$ – Green Sep 5 '18 at 18:33
  • $\begingroup$ Are you looking for research&development, or this is already done, and you need to get large scale manufacturing process underway? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Sep 5 '18 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Green The [weapons] tech you're testing puts some limits on how the process can be run because of the destructive potential of the weapons being tested compared to the durability of the vessels. $\endgroup$ – Ash Sep 5 '18 at 18:39
  • $\begingroup$ The R&D process. I have lots of people from the naval yards who know how to build ships and do it as efficiently as tech will allow. $\endgroup$ – Green Sep 5 '18 at 18:39

My point is: as soon as the airships can sustainably and reliably fly, they will be weaponised. So, no extra effort needed. (Well, you'd need Skunk Works and MiG and what not, but they mostly arise automatically, as soon as money is poured into the area.)

Let's look into the history of aviation.

  • Kites existed in 5th century BC.
  • Tower jumpers existed as early as 852.
  • A concept of lighter-than-air ship is attributed to Leonardo da Vinci.
  • An early glider concept: 1647
  • First concept of an airship with vacuum ballons: Francesco Lana de Terzi, 1670
  • First hydrogen ballon: 1783
  • 1897: airship with metal envelope
  • There are aeroplanes and glider concepts through out the 19th century.
  • Langley seems to have built an aircraft 1896.
  • 1900: first Zeppelin
  • Brothers Wright made controlled and powered flight 1903
  • Around 1907-8 the technology of a plane gets more established
  • Airplanes see military use 1911. (Even though the balloons were used for reconnaissance by Chinese centuries before that!)
  • WW1 starts, 1914 first airship bombing happens
  • Similarly, 1914 is airplane combat, with 1915 first confirmed victory
  • The Hindenburg fire: 1934
  • First jet is 1939
  • Now, everyone knows the warplanes played a great role in WW2.

So, there are centuries of ideas and experiments. Once a working engine and a proper concept is there, which I assign as 1903 for planes and 1900 for airships, the military usage comes in 1911 and 1914 accordingly. Wait another 20-30 years, and the devices evolve into a vicious game changer at war.

Basically it's about 10 years, a lightening bolt when compared to centuries of concepts and tower jumpers.


Have everyone who knows about the ships submit their ideas for how to improve the ships. You can tally the ideas to find the most popular ones, and flag unique ideas that may prove useful. Take these results and hand them over to R&D so they can give you feasibility specs on the ideas submitted. Now you have three ships so the three best solutions based on a matrix of advantages, feasibility, and potential developments can be tested simultaneously.

Basically use a think tank.

  • $\begingroup$ too many people for a plain brainstorm. In reality, leader will ask a few trusted lieutenants, each of them will ask a few of their subordinates. Selection process will be political as much as practical - if you cannot get funding to test your idea, nobody will know how good it is. $\endgroup$ – Bald Bear Sep 5 '18 at 19:06

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