purchased two airships from France in 1909. Russia
began an airship building program in 1931 and there
was a commercial airship service operating inside the
Russian interior by 1937."
Russian Army Air Service (RAAS) was established
in 1912. By the outbreak of the First World War the
RAAS owned 360 aircraft and 16 airships, making it the
largest airforce in the world. However, with limited
financial resources, expansion was slow and by 1917
the Russians had fewer that 1,000 aircraft in service."
RZita@aol.com 24 Feb 2003
The Soviets never flew a Zeppelin-type rigid airship,
but they had a program in the 1930's whereby they obtained
the services of the famous (but temporarily disgraced)
Italian airship pilot/designer Umberto Nobile (who flew
the Amundsen-Ellsworth expedition over the North Pole
with the Italian-built NORGE in 1926 and repeated the
venture in 1928 with the Italian-sponsored near sistership
ITALIA, only to crash the ship and incur the wrath of
Mussolini after a truly remarkable saga of over a month
in a tent on an ice floe waiting to be rescued.)
Later recounted in several installments of the LTA
SOCIETY BULLETIN ("Buoyant Flight") and in a book entitled
"MY FIVE YEARS WITH SOVIET AIRSHIPS" Nobile (who became
something of a "rehabilitated national hero" and media
sensation up to his death in Rome in 1974) the Soviet
venture was ambitious. Their commisars for airship
policy believed that, despite having little experience,
they could produce HUNDREDS of airships because
developmental timeframes and economic/industrial conditions
were totally different than in capitalist countries.
Nobile stayed until around 1937 (then for awhile even
ended up teaching aeronautical engineering in Chicago
before being declared an "Enemy Alien" and being shipped
back to Italy in '43.) The Soviet airships, of
which there were at least a dozen successful ones,
were semi-rigids of good streamlining, around 700,000
to 1m. cubic foot displacement. One of them (B-6?)
set an endurance record of some 170 hours in 1937 and
it was rumored that one or two were in use in the interior
of Russia into World War II, but 1945 would seem to
be stretching the date.
It is ironic that despite their industrial capability
(and the fact that they found considerable quantities
of helium in Siberian gas reserves) the Soviets never
embarked on a program of using airships for maritime
patrol, fishery, border security, etc.(I guess
guard towers and barbed wire were sufficient.)
Occasionally in the 50's-70's there was talk of their
developing a super atomic-powered rigid and there was
a modest program under a designer named David Bimbat
which developed small non-rigids for forestry patrol
(they looked a lot like motorized observation
balloons) Their largest-built venture in this
period seems to have been a ship on the order of 200-foot
length; even twelve years after the fall of the old
Soviety Union, the definitive history of Soviet LTA
RZita@aol.com 25 Feb 2003
Nobile was a big fan of the Maybach engines produced
by the Zeppelin Co. in Germany (NORGE and ITALIA used
versions of the 245hp. six-cylinder "MbIVa altitude
motor ", 110 of which were built for airship use in
1917-1918. German Naval Airship L61 and post-war
commercial airship LZ-120 BODENSEE were fitted with
this engine and were surrendered to Italy in 1920 as
war reparations. Former German Army Zeppelin LZ-120
(factory # LZ-90) was also delivered to Italy, but was
fitted with the older Maybach "HsLu" 240-hp. power plant.
MbIVa's featured six over-sized cylinders, a
compression ratio of 6.7/1 and a dry weight of about
860lb. (in the 1918 version with aluminum pistons.)
There was a floatless carburetor at each end of the
engine (working with a ball-and-sump setup) and the
engine was hand-cranked, with compression reliefs on
the cylinders magneto starting and hand-powered suction
primer. Designed for high-altitude flying, they
could not be run a full throttle below 6000 feet.
Rugged, reliable power plants, they could run out about
2000 hours between overhaul.
"Mark H. Foxwell" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
25 February 2003
According to Hartcup's Achievement of the Airship
pp 240-2, Nobile worked in the USSR from 1931 until
He "is believed to have been responsible for the design
of nine semi-rigid airships."
The rationale for the Soviet program was to provide
transport to distant rugged regions, notably Siberia,
as well as such utility functions as surveying.
There were works at Leningrad, and Zagi near Moscow,
the latter also the center of Tsiolkovski's metalclad
efforts. The plan was to make 92 ships but it is unknown
how many were actually made.
The BV class was similar to the Italia at 700,000 cu
ft, 3 engines (never says what kind), 68 mph top speed,
range 2000 miles, crew of 16 and capacity for 16 more
passengers. A BV claimed an endurance record of 130
1/2 hr, range of 3107 miles in 1937; later that year
the BV-6 was lost attempting an Artic rescue and this
is conjectured to be the reason for abandonment of the
There were also some non-rigids built in 1937 at Zagi.
V-1 First of May 78,000 cu ft, 2 75hp engines, top
speed 55 mph, endurance 12 hr, crew of 7. Designed to
pick up passengers without landing!
V-2 "had double the capacity" [does this mean double
the volume?], 2 230 hp engines, could carry 8 pax.
Had a breakaway flight once with 13 aboard but the captain
(who climbed up a handling rope) and a helmswoman brought
her back despite a storm.
V-3 & 4 were 230,000 -- 250,000 cu ft and meant
to cover 750 miles range but were abandoned after the
Hartcup goes on to say that "Today  the
USSR is probably the only nation using airships commercially."
(referenced to his footnote 12) For geological prospecting
and logging specifically. He mentions a modern B-1,
"a non-rigid, made of glass fibre with a tricycle undercarriage."
10 (background of Soviet
interest in LTA):
British Public Records Office (PRO) Dept of Scientific
and Industrial Research (DSIR) 23/4139 & 23/3603;Mintschall,
Vladimir "Status of the Airship in the USSR, Foreign
Science Bulletin V 1 # 10 Oct 1963; Addinell, H "Russia
and her Airships," Flight 1 Dec 1932.
11 (the non-rigids of 1937):
Kansas City Times, Stalino Ukraine 8 Sept 1938
12 ( "contemporary" airships):
"Phoenix Newsletter," The Airship
Association, #8, July 1972.
As for the engines Nobile may have used: Nobile was
a big fan of the Maybach engines produced by the Zeppelin
Co. in Germany... Rugged, reliable power plants, they
could run out about 2000 hours between overhaul.
And indeed all the best airships did use Maybachs,
including the US ZRSs -- but we're asking about Soviet
ships here. I suppose Maybachs were available until
Hitler took power but after that I'd doubt very much
that any such technology would be exported to the USSR.
So Nobile had a couple years to place orders and lay
up a stock but I doubt he anticipated a cutoff.
Perhaps Hitler neglected to instantly terminate private
relations with Soviet enterprises. Certainly prior to
his assumption of power there had been a long-standing
relationship of convenience between Weimar-era German
militarists and industrialists who wished to develop
military aircraft forbidden by the Versailles treaty,
and the USSR, which was also treated as an outlaw nation
during the 1920's and wanted the benefit of participating
with and observing the enterprises of one of the most
advanced technological nations in the world. Most later
Luftwaffe commanders got their training in Russia, at
a base leased by the Germans; while they were being
trained they were dropped from the official military
rolls, thus evading Versailles prohibitions against
training more than a small fraction of German officers
I always assumed Hitler terminated all such contacts
immediately however; (and they were already faltering
in the early '30s) nor did the German officers mind
in the least since under him they could now train in
Germany itself and develop all the weapons they wanted
on German soil, eventually (1935) they did so openly.
So I suppose that if Nobile began with Maybachs, he
soon had to substitute something Soviet-made. But I
wouldn't doubt the Russians could create a good imitation
of a Maybach if it were enough of a state priority.
"Robert Mosher" <email@example.com>
24 Feb 2003
The Soviet Military Encyclopedia article on Dirigibles
mentions the altitude record set by "B-6" -- properly
transliterated as "V-6" and concludes with a note on
"V-12" (of 3,000 cubic meters) as having operated
in the Black Sea region from 1945-1947 helping to locate
sea mines and sunken vessels.
The Red Army used 4 airships. They made 1500
flights. In 1943-44 the USSR V-12 airship made 969 flights.
The Russians built and flew the Pobeda ("Victory") airship
in 1944. In 1945 USSR V-12 and Pobeda airships made
216 flights. 200 000 cubic meters of hydrogen and 320
tones of cargo had been delivered.
non-rigid airship, for MSFS2000. By Alexander Belov.
Non-rigid airship, first flown in 1932. The most successful
airship type developed in Soviet Union prior the Second
World war. During The Second World war SSSR-V1 was used
for carrying supplies for captive baloon units of Red
Army, making more than 900 flights. Fully animated model
featured detailed engines and cart interior. 959K
Arie, M. IA. (Mikhail IAkovlevich): Dirizhabli
Kiev : Nauk. dumka, 1986 -- 262 p. : ill. ; 23 cm. --
Antonov Design Bureau in the late 1960's?
Heather Campbell: Controversy in Soviet R
& D: the airship case study.
Santa Monica, Calif., Rand, 1972.
Umberto Nobile: My five years with Soviet
Akron, OH (1800 Triplet Blvd., Akron 44306) : Lighter-than-Air
L. S. Hill: American and Soviet interest
Santa Monica, Calif. : Rand Corp., 1963
Viktor Petrovich Borozdin: Otdat' korabl'
v vozdukh! : Dokum. povest
Moskva : Mol. gvardiia, 1979
LCCN: 79-381400 -- Russian