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Airforce or Navy?

Discussion in 'Research' started by Gryphos, Feb 25, 2014.

  1. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

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    So I've been developing a world with a 19th century gaslight aesthetic in which airships are commonplace, as are seaships. And to add to this there are also rudimentary Red Baron style fighter biplanes. All three of these are used in a military capacity.

    My question is how to categorise airships. Seaships are obviously part of a navy, with fleets, armadas etc. And planes are obviously part of an airforce, with squadrons and stuff.

    But where do airships fit into this? You could say they're a navy because, well, airships. But they are in the air, so airforce would also make sense.

    And then there's the problem about, whichever of the two airships fall into, how do you distinguish them from the seaships and planes that also fall under that category?
     
  2. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    The US Navy, Army and Marine Corps all have plenty of aircraft. You can define them however you want.
     
  3. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    Hmmmm... I'd say either air force or an air navy with the air force counted under it. The Airships are common right? While the biplanes are newer and less common. Or... am I misunderstanding that?

    I wouldn't put them under the navy though. You can't treat an airship like a regular ship. You have to worry about enemies above you and below you in addition to in front, behind, and to your sides. Flight is a 3D field of battle while the sea is closer to a 2D field. It requires different tactics and thinking to fight in the air and thus it would require different training to instill that form of thinking in the sailors on an airship than the sailors on a regular ship.
     
  4. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    For me it would depend on what the airships are used for... If it is to be a fast ship [communications, surveillance etc], then it would come from the Navy. If it was as eyes for the artillery then it would be the Army. If it was used as a force in its own right [i.e. bombing] then it is Airforce.
    Even today in the British armed forces there is a weird demarcation in their helicopters... ones designed to shoot at things are in the Army. Those that carry people are in the Airforce. The ones that drop things [like torpedoes] are in the Navy...
     
  5. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

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    No, that's about right. I mean, biplanes aren't super new, but they're certainly still in the tinkering stage. Basically the way they were in WW1.

    They're used for a variety of things. Their speed and ease of travel makes them ideal for surveillance and communication. But their main use is as a military force in and of itself. Not only are they used for bombing but also platforms for artillery. Similarly to how you get sea battles, you'd end up with battles taking place in the air between fleets.

    I was kind of thinking along the route of 'Aerial Navy' or something like that. I which case I could call the commanders 'Air Admirals' or 'Flight Captains'.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2014
  6. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    Gryphos, you're on the right track. Consider the history of the development of your airships, and you'll find your terminology. Your little biplanes will be the ones with all the fancy, new names, because their design is completely new, but your airships developed from something else, didn't they?
     
  7. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

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    Yes, airships are essentially a variation on seaships and even have similar designs. Imagine the hull and deck of a boat suspended from a balloon, only airship hulls obviously have to be smaller and lighter than their sea going counterparts.

    So I've decided that airships are a navy, but I've just thought of another problem, what about planes? See, in real life planes are called the airforce because they're the only air going military vehicle (yes, helicopters exist but that's only modern day). But in a world of airships, which already fly, it would be strange to call planes 'the airforce'. So now I need to come up with a general name for the force of fighters.
     
  8. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    hmm... I was wondering why planes would have been invented in a world which already had airships - and then arrived at the answer. Biplanes would have greater speed and maneuverability than anything being held aloft by a balloon. They're your dog-fighters. So, your name will be derived from their utility.
     
  9. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

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    Yeah, fighters are the shock forces, used for hit and run strikes and dogfighting.

    I'm thinking it could be referred to as something like 'Fighter Corps' or 'Wing Corps'.
     
  10. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    "Wing Corps" has a very nice ring to it.
     
  11. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    How you did it would depend on how your military was structured in the first place. The U.S. didn't have an independent air force until post-WWII. Prior to that, it was the "Army Air Force"–and the Navy and Marines operated (and still operate today) air "forces" of their own… including land-based ones. And the Army and Navy both operated airships as well. So it would pretty much come down to application.

    If, as you have it, the airship division is a separate one–historically, this has never been the case–it can work any way you wish, with terminology, organization and ranks following any (or no) pattern you care for. Which, if it is an independent service, might be more fun anyway.

    Question: does the same service operate the airships and the planes? Logically, one might expect this. On the other hand, logic often took a back seat when it came to technological advances and inter-service rivalries. The British navy is replete with examples of resistance to innovation, often for no better reason than that the fleet was so bloody large that any innovation would cost them far more than it would any other sea power. On the other hand, it was the Admiralty, not the army, which developed the weapon that ultimately rendered trench warfare obsolete–the tank. (That had less to do with innovation amongst naval officers than it did with Churchill being in charge of the Admiralty at the time. If he'd been Exchequer, then the first tanks would have been developed by the Bank of England. ;) ) So your fixed-wing airplanes may well be operated by another service, and the airship fleet heaps scorn on them… hoping that their scorn will prevent the planes developing into viable rivals.

    The flip side would be to have the airship service operating at least some planes of their own: the airships can be used as carriers for the otherwise short-ranged airplanes. I'd say that this should be a fairly limited application, if you want the airships to be fighting each other directly; otherwise, you'll end up with exactly the same thing you did with surface fleets–the aircraft carriers rendering other capital ships obsolete, because they could never get in range to fire their guns. Though there are other ways to prevent such dominance. If the airships are sturdy enough, and helium-lifted, it's possible that the lightweight biplanes simply can't carry a weapon capable of bringing them down, barring perhaps lucky hits to critical systems: machine-gunning them would require several airplanes expending all the ammo they can carry to create enough holes to make a difference. The airships can also reach higher altitudes than the planes can–which was historically true, albeit within a fairly narrow window.

    Depending on how detailed you plan to get, you may wish to look into what methods are available for lifting the ships. Helium, of course, seems ideal… so much so you'd wonder why anybody ever used hydrogen at all. That is, until you look into how difficult and expensive it is to produce helium. You may wish to provide some more streamlined method than actually existed. I have this fantastic visualization of atomic piles being built solely for the purpose of capturing the helium resulting from alpha decay.… :D

    One thing you'll absolutely want to have down is the terminology of the craft themselves: airship, blimp, dirigible, zeppelin, etc. are not completely interchangeable. I noticed you only use "airship" here, which is fine; just don't allow yourself to fall into the trap of using an incorrect term for the sake of variety in your text. "Zeppelin," in fact, hints at one way to do this: your ships are named after whoever first designed them. Or who produces them ("Three nimble Fochers circled the giant Kripp"), though that will only work if you have sets of names for each side of the conflict; presumably, the same company isn't producing the same type of ship for both combatants. Might be confusing for the readers, unless your descriptions are sufficiently vivid they'll stick once the names are introduced; on the other hand, sometimes a bit of ambiguity and leaving things to reader imagination is useful… heh.

    Otherwise, if the airships come in distinct "classes" more or less standard to all combatants, I'd suspect that naval terminology would be more likely to catch on than air force terms–especially since the latter wouldn't exist yet anyway. Perhaps the airship arm took up names the navy wasn't actively using any more at that point: where the navy has battleships, cruisers and destroyers, the air fleet has, oh, frigates, corvettes, gunships, whatever else. Or maybe they went way back and co-opted names such as galley, galleon, brigantine, and suchlike. Or the other way around: the navy still calls their big boys ships of the line and the smaller ones sloops, and it's the air arm that's taken up the name cruiser. Especially if the navies are still heavy on sailed wooden vessels rather than motorized ironclads. (Note that "destroyer" was a name evolved from a very specific naval application: the original full name was "torpedo-boat destroyer," and was a response to the proliferation of small, light torpedo boats. So this name would never be used by the air arm unless it had evolved into the modern generic term.)

    Note, finally, that if fixed-wing airplanes are still largely developmental, they might not be organized into squadrons… might not be organized at all. They could be operated individually, attached to whatever other units they served: brigade- or division-level land forces might have a plane or two for reconnaissance and nothing else, just as most capital ships following WWI had seaplanes on catapults, even after carriers came into vogue; at division or corps level, there might be a small number of planes available as a "battery" in the same way artillery was. If you want a larger presence of airplanes, then, yes, inevitably they'd come to be organized, though you can still choose the terminology based on their application if you didn't want to use flight, squadron, wing, group (bo-ring), etc., or wanted to supplement it ("21st Battery Wing, 309th Reconnaissance Flight, Prince's Own Aircraft Destroyer Squadron").
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
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  12. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

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    I would say that the 'Wing Corps' is less of a separate military service and more of a subsection, thinking about it. I'm imagining it as a subsection of the Aerial Navy. So if a person wants to enlist in the Aerial Navy, they would have to specify serving on either an airship or in a fighter, but both are part of the Aerial Navy.

    But even though they're both part of the same service, I would assume they'd have different ranks and titles due to the vast differences in the skills needed. However, the Wing Corps would still answer to the highest Aerial Naval authority.

    Yes, I thought about that for a while. To get around this I've decided that, firstly, airplanes aren't common enough to be a primary attack force. Also, yes, the weaponry a fighter would be able to carry wouldn't do much. It would be a major nuisance, and something the airship would definitely want to take out, but an attacking airship would be able to do much more actual damage.

    Plus, the advantage of airships over planes would be their static presence. With planes you could only really launch them on brief attacks before they have to come back. But an airship can stay put and keep on bombing that city. It can also blockade landlocked cities similar to with a seaship and coastal cities. So airships becoming obsolete won't be a problem.

    In my world the airships are quite a bit different to real world ones. For one the gondolas aren't physically attached directly to the balloon, and you can't go inside the balloon. The open deck would be attached to the balloon by a few masts to keep it steady and otherwise hang from it via ropes and tethers. Also, the airships are quit e a lot smaller with smaller balloons, so no Hindenburg style behemoths (but the balloon is still be the biggest part of the ship). But of course in real life it would take a huge balloon to carry the ship and all the weaponry and ammunition that goes with it. To get around this I've decided to invent a super light and easily enough extracted gas that would be able to support a ship even with a relatively small balloon.

    I've decided that people will refer to them as a whole as 'airships', but within that there will be various classes within that. I'm not going to go down the naval route with naming the classes of ships (galleons, frigates etc.). What I'll end up calling them, I'm not entirely sure. Also, there will be makes of ship, identified by the company and model. For example, using Galleon as a filler class name, there could be a "Brigunson Wyrm" model of Galleon, manufactured by Brigunson co. This is where you'd get the variation in different nations' militaries, as Brigunson co. wouldn't supply it's advanced ships to the Pelepanean Kingdom while it's allegiance is with the SRA (Socialist Republic of Anvark).

    I'd say that as a military force the planes would almost always be in set squadrons mainly because of the sheer difficulty it is to make an aerial carrier. With the aerial carrier you can't have the balloon on top because it would make it impossible to land, so they'd need to develop a specially designed, huge carrier ship where the deck sits on top of the balloon. Because of all this effort, it would be a waste of an aerial fleet to go through the effort of acquiring one of these just so they could bring one plane. They'd want to make the most out of their carrier, so they'd always bring a full squadron (which I'm imagining would only be around five or six ships). But for seaships I could definitely see a captain putting a single fighter on his ironclad.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  13. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Good call. Simplifies your life. Presumably, it's also not flammable? –or, possibly better, has a very high ignition point? Nothing a bullet or a random spark can touch off, possibly not even normal explosives or its container burning… but magnesium or lightning might be different. Don't want it to be too perfect.

    Well, it wouldn't have to be on top… what's required is enough space for the pilot to approach the ship to a point where his craft can be recovered. For the ironclads, for instance, this means seaplanes: they're catapulted from the ship, but land in the water, of which there is plenty. For the airships, it would depend on construction. If the support masts can be placed far enough apart, the plane could land between them. If not, an open-box "hangar" might be possible: imagine trying to land in the tail of a C-130. Or any science fiction "shuttle bay." Or the plane has a hook on top, and catches a dangling bar; hook and bar can be reversed. (Yes, this is real, not just Indiana Jones stuff: Flying Aircraft Carrier | National Geographic Channel ) Keep in mind that a well-designed biplane can have a very low stall speed–low enough that, as you can see in the video, it is effectively stationary relative to its parent ship. And take-off is as simple as dropping the plane. So long decks would not be required for operation.

    If you're using the "hook" option, the airplanes can also have folding wings: they are unfolded after the plane is lowered into launch position, and folded before the plane is taken back inside the ship. This can allow the gondola to be narrower, if you like.

    In fact, what's actually required is that the pilot be recoverable–whether his plane is or not. Early in WWII, the Brits experimented with putting catapults on merchant ships, to launch fighters to kill or chase off German reconnaissance planes. The pilot would fly up, run the bogey off… then ditch as gracefully as his Hurricane allowed somewhere near a friendly ship. Not the world's best job, to say the least. For airships, this could involve the pilot bailing out somewhere he could float down to his craft, possibly catching a dangling line: see "skyhook." Again, not an ideal situation. But pilots are crazy that way. This option would also severely limit the actual use of airplanes, since you'd lose one each time you used one, but there might be situations where this is considered worthwhile.

    As you note, your airships can't be too small, regardless of how small their lifting balloons can be made; otherwise, they won't be able to do any of the other things you want them to. Ammunition is heavy, and takes up a fair amount of space. And keep in mind that in-flight replenishment of ammo and other stocks is not likely to be super-feasible, so they have to be able to carry as much of whatever as their mission requires: for blockades, that could come to quite a bit. Guns have recoil–assuming you're using the normal sort, at least–and require mass to resist this. Not to mention the size of the gun itself. I'd say that if anything, you should plan on your airship gondolas being roughly the same size as in the real world, possibly even larger due to the greater lifting power you're giving them; if so, it would be simple enough to construct an airship capable of operating a small number of biplanes (four, six, whatever), even if their only use was to repel attacking enemy planes and they were not intended to constitute part of the fleet's offensive striking power. Or each ship might carry one for that purpose, with no actual "carrier"-class ships. Or escort ships might carry one, capital ships none, the latter devoting their carrying capacity to the heavy ordnance they're designed to deliver. Or capital ships, with their greater overall storage capacity, might carry a couple each, and smaller craft, lacking such luxury, carry none.

    Or, of course, one of your combatants might get a wild hair and try to construct a large, scantily-armed, biplane-carrying capital airship, capable of deploying an awesome dozen or so planes at a time… heh.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  14. DassaultMirage

    DassaultMirage Minstrel

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    It depends upon your nation's government. Various navies have fighter planes, bombers, helicopters with various missions and even UAVs. Just don't mix up the term for air 'forces' under a navy. A couple of planes and its an AIR WING. A dozen and its an AIR GROUP or whatever fancier names you can come up with.
     
  15. Dragev

    Dragev Scribe

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    I don't know how realistic you want to make this, but I'm not sure the actual WWI airplanes could take off from a short platform; from what I read, they were incredibly fiddly and difficult to fly and climbed very slowly.

    I think you should read these; Dicta Boelcke - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia as well as these; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_tactics_in_the_Age_of_Sail , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_tactics_in_the_Age_of_Steam

    A mix of these types of tactics would be really interesting to read! :)

    I think "Air Force sounds good, as long as it's put into context; like "Imperial Air Force". I can't help but imagine early 20th century navy captains flying around in these things; Steampunk Airshipsâ€Â¦Plausible? | Centives :D
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2014
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  16. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    Thank you for putting my back in to my childhood for 5 minutes...
    For some reason I had Adolph Malan's rules [the link to them is at the bottom of Dicta Boelcke's page] on my wall as a child, I just didn't know where they came from...
     
  17. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    When I think of military names and units, I always notice how how counterintuitive some of it is at first glance. Not just the polysyllabic language for things, but how often one unit is called one thing, a similar one is called something very different, and they both have unit numbers in the forties or higher when most of the 1st-39th units no longer exist.

    All of that is a snapshot of the unit's history, including various red tape and infighting that muddied the waters further-- and to say militaries love their traditions is a massive understatement. So for an extra touch of authenticity, I'd suggest you sample around and see some of the quirks out there, and add one or two in your units. As long as they're quirks you can keep clear to the readers, and vet with a veteran so you don't trip yourself up.
     
  18. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    The earlier the tech, the less sophisticated the aerodynamics, to be sure. Barring, of course, whatever departures from strict linear history-following the author feels like making for the sake of his story. :p

    In fact, even at the outset of WWI, and certainly by its end, the capabilities of the planes varied widely. Some climbed better than others, some dived better, some were more nimble in the air, etc. The famous Sopwith Camel was famously a royal pain to fly; on the other hand, it was great for disengaging from an enemy on its tail… as long as it was convenient to turn to the right, that is. Why? Because its rotary engine acted as a gyroscope, and constantly tried to pull the plane that direction. Which also meant that the pilot had to constantly fight his own airplane just to make it go in a straight line. Other planes tended to be friendlier to their operators, though all had their own idiosyncrasies.

    Once you're airborne, climb is mostly a function of engine power (or, rather, its ratio to airplane weight); by the end of the war, some biplanes could climb as much as 1,000 feet/minute, though that was certainly the exception rather than the rule.

    As far as space needed to take off goes, keep in mind that nearly all of those planes flew from unimproved fields–flat, grassy places: imagine trying to reach minimum airspeed on that, and you'll see why "short" platforms may have seemed problematic. Put the planes on improved platforms, and takeoff requirements become very short indeed: look at early aircraft carriers, prior to catapults… and be sure to keep in mind that take-off only required part of the 500-600 foot flight deck, not its entire length. Of course, adding the ship's speed and launching into the wind helps considerably: the plane can get a "free" 30+ MPH before it so much as starts its engine. However, the first-ever takeoff from a ship, in 1910, was from an 83-foot temporary ramp mounted on the bow of the USS Birmingham… which was stationary at the time. Almost didn't make it (the plane's wheels hit the water)… but only "almost." So, yeah, pretty short platform. ;)

    There's an important point you're missing here, however: taking off from the ground requires achieving a minimum speed before lift from the flow of air over the wings overcomes gravity. This is far less of a problem if you're already airborne before you even start. "Take-off space" can be exactly zero: just drop the sucker. Detach the hook, roll it off the back, whatever. Gravity will get it up to speed soon enough. May mean you won't be able to take off if your platform is only 300 feet above sea level, but that'll be a pretty rare altitude for airships to be operating at.

    -

    Just as a note: even at the outbreak of WWI, there were also some monoplanes in service… some of which turned out to be quite good. Look up "Taube" (an excellent recon platform, it was totally outclassed once machine-gun-armed fighters came into service) or "Eindecker" (a good fighter, though its days of dominance were more due to it being the first plane to mount a synchronized machine gun; its aerial performance was merely adequate). The latter, in particular, would be of interest to anyone who's familiar enough with the history of aerial warfare to recognize some of the names associated with it… the aforementioned Boelcke, for one.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017

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