You are here

Knowledge Preservation: Re-fuelling and re-supply underway

Re-fuelling and re-supply of LTAV and Airships while under-way is an important tool to extend the endurance and range of LTAV.  The United States Navy (USN) developed and practiced various procedures to enable re-fuelling and re-supply at sea, starting with the Airship Tender USS Patoka in the 1920's, and developing those procedures until the end of the USN use of Airships in the early 1960's.

Of course it was long possible, but not actually performed in a test until January 1944, to land a USN K-ship on a flattop (Aircraft Carrier) and plug the fuel hose in as if it were on the ground. This became more common after WWII. One of the first techniques for in-air refueling (if not the first) simply duplicated what the Royal Navy did in 1918, dropping down a line to a surface vessel, pulling up a hose, and gasoline was forced up to the airship with compressed air. For the K-type airship, this had to wait the improvement included in the so called “2K” set of modifications, which mounted a one-point coupling aft which was accessible by a crewman, and a winch to pull up the hose; somewhat tricky starting light (empty of fuel) and gradually getting heavier while trying to keep in sync with the surface vessel. Eventually this technique was used with fleet oilers, so the airship could refuel without a flattop.

The all-new 4K and 5K airships were equipped with powerful winches so as to be able to snag and bring aboard not just fuel, but torpedoes and even crewmen via basket. So the “bag” technique was perfected, allowing a bag of fuel to be hooked and brought aboard. A frightening incident where the bag slammed into the flattop’s superstructure probably lead to the development of the in-water retrieval. Any vessel, or even a cargo plane, could drop a bag of fuel for the airship to later recover.

With the ZPG series airships carrying their own relief crew, there was no further need of flattops. ZPGs either picked up fuel bags or hovered over a fleet oiler using the hose method. The ZPGs commonly used the winch and an onboard bag to retrieve sea water to periodically replace the weight of consumed gasoline, which was dumped when the bag was snagged.

The Naval Airship Association is a source for much information on Procedures and there are a couple of films that cover re-fuelling and re-supply while under way, in particular "Navy Blimp Training" and "Blimps fight a Cold War".

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer