I'm bringing back zeppelin from the good old days and planning to convert it into a formidable air fortress which can withstand the full assault from the likes of at least 15 supermarine spitfires.

I do know that the original zeppelin will be like a sitting duck, however the axis power is very desperate and have a strong desire for air superiority.

Okay I know it's too much to ask but I need a fully functional metal bird of prey dominating the sky not just a balloon Bismarck, how can i do it using then existing (tested) technology?

No worry my ending isn't going to be a repeat of Bismarck! I planned it maiden voyage from Germany to America and levels at least 2 cities without nuclear option. Sounds insane but I can't do it at least not without your help.

In short you must make this maiden voyage happens while I'll deliver the promise of muhahahahaa!

Unacceptable answer(s):

Hire a couple of wizards carrying a (balloon) wands to lift a cap-sized Bismarck(so it can easily lights up the streets) over the enemy city and let it go... let it go... I'm the one with... (oops damn Disney)


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  • $\begingroup$ This isn't possible with th technology they had back then. If they had the technology, they would have used it. I think you should go with the captain America option. Use technology that was a lot more advanced than what they had back then. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Feb 6 '16 at 6:04
  • $\begingroup$ @XandarTheZenon: if they had sufficient funds and abundance resources and of course they aren't racist... no defectors! $\endgroup$ – user6760 Feb 6 '16 at 6:16
  • $\begingroup$ It doesn't need to tank everything just make the swarm of spitfires seems like a nuisance at least for the duration of its maiden voyage! This is already reduced difficulty imagine I pitted it against the A6M zeros! $\endgroup$ – user6760 Feb 6 '16 at 6:30
  • $\begingroup$ @user6760 As has been shown numerous times with various "how can I bootstrap Technology X?" questions on this site, even if you have all the knowledge gained through the interim steps, and a huge number of people, that still might very well not be enough to speed up technological advancement sufficiently to have any major impact in the short term. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Feb 6 '16 at 15:05
  • $\begingroup$ Too bad Buckmaster Fuller did his much of his research on geodesic domes after WWII. He calculated a geodesic sphere a half mile in diameter would have sufficient volume to lift if the interior was only 1 degree f warmer than the surrounding air. A massive sphere a mile in diameter will have far too much reserve buoyancy for a Spitfire's 8 .303 machine guns to shoot down. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Feb 6 '16 at 17:02
  • For some obscure reason, the development of high-altitude planes is lagging behind the historical example. The fighters become ineffective above 15,000 or 20,000 feet, and unable to climb over 25,000 feet.
  • Realizing that, the airships were designed for higher and higher altitude. They routinely operated at 30,000 feet and could reach 40,000 feet. This capability was never used in commercial airships, for obvious reasons, so it remained a secret.

That means at the beginning of the war airships can simply overfly the fighter screen. Until a new generation of flighters gets off the drawing boards, they rule supreme.


TL;DR: Your options may include using hot air, but with a far larger volume; Neon if you can hand wave how it was sourced; or a soft protective structure around the gas bags - details in the last paragraph.

Well, the key problem with the period zeppelins and squadrons of anything was the hot tracer rounds igniting the hydrogen Hindenburg style.

The obvious answer is to use World War One style airships (Balloons) that used hot air as their buoyancy device - Often Sopwith Camels and other World War one fighters would strafe them to no avail - There's even war story where a pilot (I've forgotten who) had to accidentally graze the balloon canvas with his propeller to destroy it. The drawback of this is that you have to have a far larger volume of hot air to get the same lifting capacity as a given body of hydrogen. Hot air at 120 degrees C, standard atmospheric pressure, has a specific density .89Kg/m3 - compared to dry cool air at 1.20 Kg/m^3. Compare this to hydrogen at 0.09 Kg/m^3 to understand how much lift would be losing.

One way around this is to use a physical bigger gas bag (about 14x times bigger - but as you get too big, the extra weight from the bag begins to exceed the gains from the extra volume - as surface area (IE mass) proportional to something like the cube root of the volume. Lookup the formulas for the area and volume of a sphere, and try some calculations for a proof.

Alternatively, you could pressure the hot air, to fit it into a smaller volume. Unfortunately, the equipment to pressurize it and keep it pressurized would likely be prohibitively heavy, but that's not my area of expertise, so I can't say too much.

Another option is to use a a non-combustible lifting gas. A quick look at Wikipedia confirms Neon as a lighter than air gas, that as a Nobel gas shouldn't light easily. The downside (again, directly from Wikipeida) is that it's rare in the earth's atmosphere, and I'm not sure the technology existed in the period to harvest it in any meaningfully quantities. Depending how desperate they are, you may be able to use some artistic license here to give them the technology.

Finally, you could use conventional hydrogen but find a way to protect the gas. The problem is that armor plates are out of the question as too heavy. I don't have any ideas immediately at hand for this, but you may want to look into surrounding the hydrogen gas cells with a cell of an innert refrigerated gas to cool the bullet before it contacts the gas, (I'm not sure that will work), or some kind of light honeycomb structure (Of what, I have no idea) that could decelerate the bullet to prevent contact with the hydrogen.

Happy artistic license!

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Wouldn't pressurized hot air be denser than ordinary air? $\endgroup$ – o.m. Feb 6 '16 at 8:38
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, indeed it would. The very point of heating gas is to expand it--so the lighter-than-aircraft has less mass per volume than the air it displaces--and so buoyancy results. Thus, as @o.m. points out, compressing that balloon into smaller volume is not a workable solution. $\endgroup$ – Graham Kemp Feb 6 '16 at 12:57

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