Aeronautics

During the piping times of peace the utility of aircraft as weapons of offence was discussed freely in an academic manner. It was urged that the usefulness of such vessels in this particular field would be restricted to bomb-throwing. So far these contentions have been substantiated during the present campaign. At the same time it was averred that even as a bomb-thrower the ship of the air would prove an uncertain quantity, and that the results achieved would be quite contrary to expectations.

The stern test of war has served to reveal conclusively the fact that aerial craft can be put out of action readily and effectively, when once the marksman has picked up the range, whether the gunner be conducting his operations with an anti- aircraft gun stationed upon the ground, or from a hostile machine. It will be remembered that Flight-Commander Briggs, on the occasion of the daring British raid upon the Zeppelin sheds at Friedrichshafen, was brought to the ground by a bullet which penetrated his fuel tank.

Ever since the days of Jules Verne no theme has proved so popular in fiction as fighting in the air. It was a subject which lent itself to vivid imagination and spirited picturesque portrayal. Discussion might be provoked, but it inevitably proved abortive, inasmuch as there was a complete absence of data based upon actual experience. The novelist was without any theory: he avowedly depended upon the brilliance of his imagination. The critic could only theorise, and no matter how dogmatic his reasonings, they were certainly as unconvincing as those of the object of his attack.

The airman has not been allowed to hold his undisputed sway in military operations for long. Desperate situations demand drastic remedies and already considerable and illuminating ingenuity is being displayed to baffle and mislead the scout of the skies.

When the airship and the aeroplane became accepted units of warfare it was only natural that efforts should be concentrated upon the evolution of ways and means to compass their destruction or, at least, to restrict their field of activity. But aircraft appeared to have an immense advantage in combat. They possess virtually unlimited space in which to manoeuvre, and are able to select the elevation from which to hurl their missiles of destruction.

The immobile anti-aircraft gun, as distinct from that attached to a travelling carriage such as a motor-car, may be subdivided into two classes. The one is the fixed arm which cannot be moved readily, mounted upon a permanent emplacement; the other is the field-piece which, while fired from a stationary position, may be moved from point to point upon a suitable carriage.

by Frederick A. Talbot

While the anti-aircraft gun represents the only force which has been brought to the practical stage for repelling aerial attack, and incidentally is the sole offensive weapon which has established its effectiveness, many other schemes have been devised and suggested to consummate these ends. While some of these schemes are wildly fantastic, others are feasible within certain limitations, as for instance when directed against dirigibles.

Ever since the earliest days of the great conquest of the air, first by the dirigible balloon and then by the aeroplane, their use in time of war has been a fruitful theme for discussion. But their arrival was of too recent a date, their many utilities too unexplored to provide anything other than theories, many obviously untenable, others avowedly problematical.

Yet the part airships have played in the Greatest War has come as a surprise even to their most convinced advocates. For every expectation shattered, they have shown a more than compensating possibility of usefulness.

In a previous chapter the various methods of signalling between the ground and the airman aloft have been described. Seeing that wireless telegraphy has made such enormous strides and has advanced to such a degree of perfection, one naturally would conclude that it constitutes an ideal system of communication under such conditions in military operations.

But this is not the case. Wireless is utilised only to a very limited extent. This is due to two causes. The one is of a technical, the other of a strategical character.

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