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Old 05-21-2009, 02:10 PM
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Default Operation Manifest Destiny Ruminations

During my commute, I have been thinking more about my Operation Manifest Destiny concept. (No, I’m not shelving Thunder Empire. I write Thunder Empire when I’m at home, but I conceptualize while driving.) As I have remarked before, the whole concept revolves around airships.

A potential mission or module would involve moving all of the airship equipment and personnel from Missouri to Colorado. MilGov probably would expend whatever resources necessary to ensure safe delivery. Still, given the state of things, there might be room for PCs to play their part. Route reconnaissance would be critical. Oklahoma, through which the most obvious route is traced, seems more-or-less under MilGov control, but one could tweak this situation to add excitement. Surely CivGov would have obtained information about the airships from its own agents. CivGov would realize that airships could completely change the balance of power in their favor. What kind of effort could they make to acquire the airship materials and people being trucked (presumably) to Colorado?

Equally, there may be players in the remnants of the Oklahoma government who could be swayed to try to get hold of the airship resources for themselves. Perhaps CivGov corrupts an important official in the rump Oklahoman government? Perhaps that person thinks s/he can make off with the airship resources and use them to purchase a position in whatever organization will offer the best deal? Perhaps a warlord just outside the boundaries of MilGov control gets wind of the movement of men and machines across Oklahoma and makes a bid of his own to acquire the invaluable convoy?

Assuming the airship materials liberated from the New Americans in the Ozarks make it to Colorado, there remains much to be done to realize a vision of fleets of airships aiding in the reestablishment of long-distance commerce and tying the nation back together. Based on the statistics in Airlords of the Ozarks (thanks, Littlearmies), the smaller New American airship cruises at 12 mph and has a range of 380 miles. The larger airship cruises at slightly more than 11 mph and has a range of more than 500 miles. In order to make proper use of the airships, MilGov will need to establish secure aerodromes at suitable intervals. In some cases, aerodromes will have to be established in locales where there is no MilGov control. Sorting out this problem is an excellent mission for player characters.

I see MilGov turning the whole airship show over to the Air Force. It wouldn’t take much for the USAF Chief of Staff to convince his counterparts that manufacturing as many airships with the greatest possible lift capacity would be Colorado’s top priority. Specialty products and machines not available in Colorado might be necessary. Players could be assigned long-range reconnaissance to locate the needed materials and machines.

Determining MilGov’s priorities is going to be a challenge for me. It’s not going to be hard to come up with a laundry list of missions for whatever airships Colorado Springs has available at any point in time. What gets done first? To a large degree, the answer is going to be based on the condition and assets of the Colorado enclave. Equally, the answer will be determined by the needs and assets of other MilGov enclaves. Also, key personalities will influence the list. Any input on all of this would be most welcome.

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Old 05-21-2009, 03:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Webstral
A potential mission or module would involve moving all of the airship equipment and personnel from Missouri to Colorado. MilGov probably would expend whatever resources necessary to ensure safe delivery. Still, given the state of things, there might be room for PCs to play their part. Route reconnaissance would be critical. Oklahoma, through which the most obvious route is traced, seems more-or-less under MilGov control, but one could tweak this situation to add excitement. Surely CivGov would have obtained information about the airships from its own agents. CivGov would realize that airships could completely change the balance of power in their favor. What kind of effort could they make to acquire the airship materials and people being trucked (presumably) to Colorado?

Equally, there may be players in the remnants of the Oklahoma government who could be swayed to try to get hold of the airship resources for themselves. Perhaps CivGov corrupts an important official in the rump Oklahoman government? Perhaps that person thinks s/he can make off with the airship resources and use them to purchase a position in whatever organization will offer the best deal? Perhaps a warlord just outside the boundaries of MilGov control gets wind of the movement of men and machines across Oklahoma and makes a bid of his own to acquire the invaluable convoy?
Opsec???? Maybe Milgov can find a team of soldiers whose families happen to be in a refugee camp in a Milgov enclave. In case years of operations overseas wouldn't have taught people that loose lips sink ships.

Milgov tells the state/local governments (or its subordinate commands) acquire X number of semi trucks (so many vans, so many flatbeds), Y gallons of fuel, and have troops ready to clear civilian traffic, if any, from roads when we tell you. Never any word of airships. High priority cargo, details classified.

Or it might be high enough priority to assign one of the remaining C-130s to fly out and pick up the cargo. To quote Mad Max in Road Warrior "Think of it as a down payment."

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Originally Posted by Webstral
Assuming the airship materials liberated from the New Americans in the Ozarks make it to Colorado, there remains much to be done to realize a vision of fleets of airships aiding in the reestablishment of long-distance commerce and tying the nation back together. Based on the statistics in Airlords of the Ozarks (thanks, Littlearmies), the smaller New American airship cruises at 12 mph and has a range of 380 miles. The larger airship cruises at slightly more than 11 mph and has a range of more than 500 miles. In order to make proper use of the airships, MilGov will need to establish secure aerodromes at suitable intervals. In some cases, aerodromes will have to be established in locales where there is no MilGov control. Sorting out this problem is an excellent mission for player characters.

I see MilGov turning the whole airship show over to the Air Force. It wouldn’t take much for the USAF Chief of Staff to convince his counterparts that manufacturing as many airships with the greatest possible lift capacity would be Colorado’s top priority. Specialty products and machines not available in Colorado might be necessary. Players could be assigned long-range reconnaissance to locate the needed materials and machines.

Determining MilGov’s priorities is going to be a challenge for me. It’s not going to be hard to come up with a laundry list of missions for whatever airships Colorado Springs has available at any point in time. What gets done first? To a large degree, the answer is going to be based on the condition and assets of the Colorado enclave. Equally, the answer will be determined by the needs and assets of other MilGov enclaves. Also, key personalities will influence the list. Any input on all of this would be most welcome.

Webstral
It might be possible to string together Milgov enclaves with 500 mile hops. Colorado Springs to Ft. Sill, Ft. Sill to Memphis, Colorado Springs to Hill AFB, Hill to Mountain Home AFB, Mountain Home to McChord AFB, all are under 500 miles. (Yes, getting Hill and Mountain Home back under Milgov control might be an effort). California is more of a problem, as is finding somewhere in eastern Tennessee or SW Virginia to serve as a link to Norfolk and New Jersey.

One calculation the USAF will have to convince the other joint chiefs about is the tradeoffs between diverting men and material into airship construction is worth the savings in fuel over using the relatively massive quantities of existing civil (and military) cargo aircraft that sit grounded. When you add in the relative uncertainties of operations (vulnerability to rough weather, aircrew experience differentials between LTA and fixed wing pilots, availability of support facilities - runways, hangars, parts, gas, fuel) it gets even more difficult to decide.

When I was looking at what was needed for recovery, air transport came out pretty low on the scale. Its a (relatively) high-cost means of transportation. Its two advantages are speed and the ability to bypass hostile ground. Unfortunately, in many cases what is most needed to be moved between enclaves for long-term recovery is bulk items - food, fuel, munitions, manufactured products. These don't move well by air, even in LTA. In many cases, the most efficient use of resources is, unfortunately, to secure a surface transportation route - a rail line, navigible waterway, road or power/telephone line. In the recovery plan we're working on, we have Milgov maintaining a fixed-wing and LTA ferry service between enclaves, but it's infrequent and used for only high-priority passengers and cargo, certainly not being used to move sacks of rice or to reunite families. (This isn't to be cold-hearted, its just that the limited supplies of fuel, spares and crew means that commercial air service won't be back for a few decades).
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Old 05-21-2009, 06:35 PM
Abbott Shaull Abbott Shaull is offline
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Now what would these ship be transporting. Anything above part the cost would be prohibiting.
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Old 05-21-2009, 10:09 PM
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Prevailing winds would need to be taken into account (location and time of year). The actual range could be significantly more or less when this is taken into account. Strong enough winds in the wrong direction could stop the airships cold (or force them to move to altitudes where the wind conditions are different. Strong enough winds in the right direction could make the entire process much, much easier (just floating along in the currents like a raft heading down stream.

Just a thought.
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Old 05-22-2009, 12:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Webstral
Based on the statistics in Airlords of the Ozarks (thanks, Littlearmies), the smaller New American airship cruises at 12 mph and has a range of 380 miles. The larger airship cruises at slightly more than 11 mph and has a range of more than 500 miles.
Those speeds and ranges seem woefully inadequate in my opinion when you consider the Hindenberg of the mid to late 1930's was as follows:

Quote:
General characteristics

Crew: 40 to 61
Capacity: 50-72 passengers
Length: 245 m (803 ft 10 in)
Diameter: 41 m (130 ft 0 in)
Volume: 200,000 m³ (7,100,000 ft³)
Powerplant: 4 × Daimler-Benz diesel engines, 890 kW (1,200 hp) each
Performance

Maximum speed: 135 km/h (85 mph)
Admittedly it was much larger, but even so, a machine built with 60+ year old technology able to move 10 times faster and regularly cross the Atlantic?
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Old 05-22-2009, 12:36 AM
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Diesel engines are pretty fuel efficient. The Airlords of the Ozarks airships run on methanol don't they? That would account for a big drop in range.

I'm pretty sure the listed speeds for the AotO airships are not the maximums and can be doubled or tripled can't they?
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Old 05-22-2009, 11:30 AM
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I'm pretty sure I read that the only place helium is "mined" is in the US-- Montana or South Dakota, maybe? I would think wherever that is, should be come a high priority, too.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Helium_Reserve
Oh, crap, it's stored in Amarillo! But it can be recovered from natural gas fields, like the ones around central Kansas, apparently. Well, that will have to be one of the stops from Arkansas to Colorado Springs, then.
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Old 05-22-2009, 11:35 AM
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My resource maps on my gaming site has the location of the current Helium processing/storage sites.


Last edited by kato13; 05-22-2009 at 11:43 AM.
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Old 07-05-2009, 12:31 AM
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OPSEC is a strange bird by 2000. We’d all love to believe that all of the appropriate people will be loyal and concerned with operational security. However, I think it’s entirely possible that local bandits and warlord will have agents in any major Army (Navy, USAF, Marine) command. A little gold, some dirt, a woman… the reasons for soldiers to pass information to others are as old as opposing forces. By 2000, many of the previous bets will be off for many of the survivors. Also, there is the high likelihood of CIA/CivGov moles in any major MilGov command. These moles might not be above passing information to local warlords if they felt doing so advanced CivGov’s interests over MilGov. It doesn’t take many people to compromise OPSEC.

As far as using C-130s goes, I think there are a couple of considerations. The first is the quantity of materiel to be moved. The wrecked airship and all of its components are going to be more than a single C-130 can haul. You raise a good point, though, by questioning just how much gear there is to be moved. I’ll have to re-examine the module and try to crunch some numbers.

The other problem with assuming that C-130s are available is that there are problems throughout CONUS that might be solved with a very modest airlift. For instance, the cat cracker at the MilGov enclave at Cairo, IL might be dealt with by moving suitable experts or a new part into place. Colorado might very well have some of both. Yet MilGov has not airlifted in the necessary gear or personnel to solve the problem. Why? By the same token, MilGov doesn’t provide transport for the PCs to get to Baja California to recover the precious weather satellite in Satellite Down. Why? One would think such a high priority item would merit an air drop into the locale at the very least. Further, in the opening section of Airlords of the Ozarks, the officer briefing the PCs remarks that the New Americans have achieved air superiority—with slow, short-range dirigibles and ultralights, no less. Perhaps the briefing officer only means local air superiority. Perhaps the briefing officer doesn’t understand that Colorado (or another MilGov enclave) still has MAC aircraft available. My interpretation, however, is that there are no operable C-130s to challenge the New American airlift capability. The briefing officer is concerned because the New Americans have found a way around the problems that have grounded the USAF.

I agree completely that Colorado Springs is going to try to find suitable bases for aerodromes within the range of whatever airships MilGov can acquire. The strategy will closely resemble the strategic placement of coaling stations across the Pacific linking the West Coast with the Philippines.

It’s true that air transport of the materials needed for recovery is at best a poor solution. Rail and water are the best solutions, if one is going to transport thousands of tons of grain, raw materials, fuel, and other bulk basic commodities from one part of the country to another. The object of the LTA links between MilGov enclaves is not to turn Colorado Springs into a granary that will provide other MilGov enclaves with ongoing supply. Airships enable MilGov to move certain key assets—foremost among them being personnel with critical skills. Other items that can be moved are machine tools and other specialty items that can help the surviving MilGov enclaves supply themselves. An emergency supply of several tons of seed might make the difference between an enclave feeding itself in Fall 2001 and failing. Although ammunition ought not to be moved by air, the timely arrival of a few tons of machine gun, rifle, and mortar rounds might make all the difference for some enclaves. Often, the item in shortest supply dictates the level of success of an organism, a population, or a society. Airships can ease the bottleneck for some of those items. Even a very limited ability to move personnel and goods between MilGov enclaves can have an enormous impact on the viability of the enclaves.

As for the range of the airships recovered from the New Americans, I agree that the range and speed of those airships are quite poor. Hopefully, Colorado Springs can do better in 2001 and beyond.

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Old 07-05-2009, 02:13 AM
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In our campaign, we had airships (rigid-hulled zepplins actually) built by MilGov being built even before we had a copy of the Airlords of the Ozarks. We had descirbed the reason why, was that the Air Force Chief-of-Staff had someone on his staff who was a major history buff. And while growing up had gotten involved in gliders and airships, and brought up the fact that the Germans during the first world had used airships to send supplies to the German field armies in Africa. Since the majority of the USAF personnel assets had ended up being transfered to ground combat positions and other areas outside of Air Force control, they where able to convince GoA Cummings that developing these airships would be a major advantage since the majority of high-tech devices where out of their reach at the moment. They had already been using high altitude 'weather balloon' technology form the 1950s and 60s to gather intelligence, and this was just another 'retro-tech' answer to the problems they where having RIGHT NOW.

And since the USN actually still has several of the pre-World War Two era airships they operated in storage they and the USAF would have something to use as a model for their efforts to build large Zepplin style airships.

Thus MilGov had already started work on airship technology... And the addition of the New America Airship tech would allow them to speed up their work at developing these zepplins that would be needed for the recovery of the country.

Or at least.. that was how we did it in our home campaign.
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Old 07-27-2009, 10:47 PM
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Okay, I'm piecing together a bit more on the value of airships in 2000. Were we to suppose that MilGov continues to have a C-130 in operation (which I think is open to some question), the C-130 still has its limitations. Avgas is rare and getting more rare. The C-130 can carry around 20 tons. Obviously, a niche remains, but perhaps MilGov has needs that are better met with another vehicle.

Airships on operation in the 1990's had cargo capacities greater than 20 tons. In some cases, airships could lift in excess of 100 tons for much less fuiel than making five C-130 hops. Granted, the airship isn't exactly burning up the track. There are cargoes that don't have to be there overnight every time.

Right now, I'm thinking about heavy machinery. Howling Wilderness, which I like up to the part about the climate change, mentions that the Colorado enclave is rebuilding industries from the ground up as manpower and materials allow. Airships would be a means of transporting heavy machinery from one location to Colorado. We could come up with an enormous list of the machines Colorado Springs would want, I'm sure. Whole modules could revolve around PCs searching for and securing the desired heavy machinery so that an airship extraction operation can come in and retrieve the stuff.

By the same token, strategic metals might be worth diverting an airship mission. Vanadium, tungsten, chromium, and other metals with specialized industrial applications might be too heavy for a C-130 mission; or there might not be a suitable landing site near enough to the metals for a C-130 mission. However, if the USAF can work out a system of retrieval while the airship hovers overhead (yes, I know the weather has to be right), a whole host of sites an circumstances become accessible. Really, it's rather exciting. PCs have an enormous range of possibilities that don't involve further degrading the situation in CONUS.

I'm thinking about the future of Thunder Empire and module design as a means of spurring further creativity. Phoenix has a fair amount of manufacturing. PCs might be charged with a LRS mission designed either to catalogue industrial sites in the Valley of the Sun or to search for a specific type of machinery. Although the PCs can't carry off the desired machines like they can a painting, their actions could have a direct effect on making teh machinery accessible either for an armed convoy coming in from Fort Huachuca or an airship retrieval.

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Old 07-28-2009, 12:10 AM
Abbott Shaull Abbott Shaull is offline
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Now what one of the first thing would be to find out how many one can make say few months time. How much tonnage one could move, and can you keep production up over time too.

You would want enough made initially to help move troops and their stores. This is important is giving people on your side, to put their mind at ease that they are on the right side. I mean moving a Battalion or more several hundred miles where they might be need right now is what many leader are on many leaders mind. They want to know they can get timely reinforced in times of need.

I agree the most of the fleet should be centrally located, but as your fleet grows some should be moved to the outlying fields. As replacement for those airships that have equipment failure or just for the local use. In Going Home the French III Corps used the airborne troops to make air mobile reactionary forces. These airships could be used to do the same thing. Move platoon or company from a locale to another where they can help some one who needs it now. The trouble with this, is that the people who have the means to call for help, have to realize they should be in dire straits before calling for this sky troops.

As for the need to secure land routes, this is easier said than done. It takes nothing to sever a rail line or to set up road block. Let's face it, there are too few rivers that can support commercial traffic too. You could use ultralights/airships with the rail lines too, where they ultralights scout to make sure their nothing going on with the rail line ahead of the train. Airships could be used to transport any force or engineers/labors to handle problems...

Just some thoughts...
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Old 07-28-2009, 12:16 AM
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As for the need to secure land routes, this is easier said than done. It takes nothing to sever a rail line or to set up road block. Let's face it, there are too few rivers that can support commercial traffic too. You could use ultralights/airships with the rail lines too, where they ultralights scout to make sure their nothing going on with the rail line ahead of the train. Airships could be used to transport any force or engineers/labors to handle problems...
I like this part. It would be very easy to make an unpowered light rail cart (like a trolley) from which an ultralight could take off, rolling along the track until the ultralight lifts away. You wouldn't even need to modify the landing gear. All you'd need to do would be to make sure that you had a suitable site to land the ultralight near the stopped train after it had completed a recon flight.
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Old 07-28-2009, 12:32 AM
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I like the concept, but I'm not so sure the materials would be available.
Airships need gas to fly. They also need topping up from time to time due to leaks, accidents, etc.
Is the gas available in sufficient quantities to make an entire fleet practical?
Of course that assumes all the other materials are also available.
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Old 07-28-2009, 08:48 AM
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Airships need fuel. Whether that fuel is gas is another question.

The availability of materials is an excellent question. One needs a framework for dirigibles, plus a buoyancy ingredient (like helium), and an airbag. The carriage should not be a big deal, although I’m no expert. So long as there is a lighter-than-air mechanism, an airbag, and a framework, one should be able to create an airship.

Several members of the crew of Columbia have long experience with airships. It may very well be possible to turn this experience into practical knowledge regarding basic design, materials, and the like. In any event, there should be written materials in the Denver and Colorado Springs public libraries on LTA ships. Provided the PCs rescue suitable members of Columbia’s crew, they should be able to combine their knowledge with that of surviving USAF personnel, surviving engineers in the Colorado enclave, and printed references.

Based on my reading thus far, I believe the factors to be balanced are the volume of the airbag, the structural strength of the airframe, and the type of gas used to provide buoyancy. The greater the volume of the airbag, the greater the lifting power of the airship. Obviously, greater lifting power is better, all things being equal. However, an airbag of greater volume requires a larger airframe. Larger zeppelin airframes are probably harder to construct than smaller airframes. However, I’m not at the point in my research where I can speak on the matter with any sort of authority whatsoever.

The materials of the airframe might be an issue, as well. Obviously, lighter and stronger are better qualities. Aluminum would seem to be an ideal substance, as it is both light and strong. How difficult an aluminum airframe would be to fabricate in the Colorado enclave in 2000 is beyond my ability to say at the moment. It would seem that there would be a good deal of scrap aluminum around, including unusable airframes. Again, how readily heavier-than-air airframes might be turned into LTA airframes is unknown to me.

Another option might be wood and epoxy. The Germans created an airframe out of wood and epoxy at the end of the Second World War. I’m sure the engineering issues change when one talks about turning the technology for a fighter airframe into the airframe for an LTA a hundred feet long intended to lift fifty tons or more. Still, the possibility exists that wood and epoxy might yield good results. Wood, at least, is still plentiful in Colorado of 2000. How difficult it might be to manufacture the right kind of epoxy is another unknown to me. However, it have more confidence that epoxy could be created in Colorado of 2000 than scrap aluminum could be turned into a reliable airframe.

The airbag is another issue. Still, knowledge of the tensile strength of various materials isn’t exactly a secret. Again, a public or college library should have such information. Getting the right kind of material might be more of a challenge. Hot air balloons probably could be recycled into airship airbag material. I’m a bit more dubious about the ability of MilGov to manufacture more of the right kind of materials from scratch. However, it seems to me that we’re really only talking about extruding polymers for a petroleum-based fabric. MilGov has petroleum in Colorado, if not in large amounts. With the right machines, Colorado should be able to work its magic. This leads me back to missions for the PCs.

Of course, airships require rather large hangers or some other handling facilities. These would have to be constructed. Altogether, the construction of an airship fleet would be a very significant undertaking. But the payoff! The ability to move men and machines by air from one MilGov cantonment to the other would be gigantic. If MilGov in Colorado had or could make spare parts for the Cairo, IL refinery that could bring the facility back to something like its full production potential, the impact on MilGov enclaves throughout the Mississippi Valley would be incredible.


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Old 07-28-2009, 10:16 AM
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How susceptible are these to adverse weather? The larger the more difficult to handle? I recall this was a difficulty in German aircraft when bombing London in WW1. With no weather reports coming in, you could have an aircraft in trouble very quickly before they realize.
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Old 07-28-2009, 10:40 AM
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How susceptible are these to adverse weather? The larger the more difficult to handle? I recall this was a difficulty in German aircraft when bombing London in WW1. With no weather reports coming in, you could have an aircraft in trouble very quickly before they realize.
I agree. The airships talked about in Airlords of the Ozarks were all of the Lifting Body Airship design so they can handle adverse weather a little better than a standard blimp or zeppelin and are more fuel efficient but only in calm weather or a breeze would have have optimum performance. A tail wind they could handle okay but a cross wind or a head wind will degrade their performance. A gale would be very dangerous and could possibly only be negotiated if it was a tail wind. I predict that trying to fly any airhip in a storm would be suicidal.

To a certain extent an airship pilot could try to use changes in altitude to find more favourable wind conditions but in an unpressurised gondola and without oxygen there would be a similar upper limit to that experienced by pilots all the way back to World War One.
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Old 07-28-2009, 11:24 AM
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How susceptible are these to adverse weather? The larger the more difficult to handle? I recall this was a difficulty in German aircraft when bombing London in WW1. With no weather reports coming in, you could have an aircraft in trouble very quickly before they realize.
On the contrary, the reading I've been doing online claims that the larger airships are more stable than the smaller ones. The analogy is larger ships (like supertankers) compared to smaller ships. The buffeting of waves is felt less by the larger ships; the buffeting of wind is felt less by larger airships because they have greater inertia.

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Old 07-28-2009, 05:29 PM
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But with a larger surface area for the winds to act upon, it would require a stronger airframe (with corresponding greater weight) to handle the increased forces placed upon it.
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Old 07-28-2009, 10:47 PM
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True--just as a supertanker requires a structure capable of supporting the its larger hull and mass vis-a-vis a smaller tanker. The airship designers of 2001 are going to have to find the limits of their fabrication capabilities and build within them.

Esteemed colleagues, I’m reading a lot of idle speculation about the ability of airships to do the simple task of moving cargo while there’s a stiff breeze blowing--as if somehow LTA was a new technology with no track record. German-operated airships in the 1930’s were a quantum leap ahead of the machines that bombed London during the First World War. Large airships carried luxury passengers at a high price. The affluent of the Depression would not have paid today’s equivalent of thousands of dollars for a shaky ride on a deathtrap. All this was sixty years prior to the events of Twilight: 2000.

There are specific challenges to be overcome in the construction and operation of airships in Twilight: 2000. Let’s address them rather than try to rewrite aeronautical history with unfounded observations about suicide trips and the like. Here are a couple of ideas for objections to airships:

Q: Where’s the helium going to come from?
A: Good question. The map Kato provided is a good starting point. As a matter of interest, there are also small helium mines in Arizona, too. In addition to being found in natural gas fields, helium is a byproduct of U-235 decay; so wherever uranium is mined one gets pockets of helium. At any rate, very substantial supplies are available in Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle—territory MilGov controls.

Q: What if helium can’t be made available?
A: Then MilGov uses hydrogen.

Q: Isn’t hydrogen much too dangerous? What about the Hindenburg?
A: The use of hydrogen is dangerous. “Too dangerous” is a judgment call. If MilGov deems airship operation sufficiently critical, then the Air Force will use hydrogen-lifted airships. It’s been done. There are ways to mitigate the danger, too. One of the Hindenburg’s problems was that it was designed for helium use but wound up using hydrogen because the US imposed an embargo on helium sales to Germany.

Q: Aren’t airships just too vulnerable to bad weather?
A: Transatlantic airship travel operated for years. The weather in the North Atlantic is as nasty as it is anywhere in the world. Unpressurized airships couldn’t simply fly above it. They had to fly through it; yet somehow they got repeat passengers. Yes, bad weather presents a problem. No, it is not an insurmountable problem. If it were, there’d have been no airship industry. Airships continue to operate today, albeit in niche applications. Again, there is a cost-benefit ratio in the minds of MilGov that must be considered.

Q: Can a proper airframe for an airship be manufactured in Colorado in 2000?
A: Now we’re getting somewhere. The answer is that I don’t know. The technology isn’t mysterious. The San Francisco public library has a few relevant titles. Even the Marin County library system has one. Colorado Springs is the home of the USAF Academy. You can bet there will be a few volumes on airships in there. Although I can’t perform the engineering, it’s not cutting edge technology. Surely there are a few engineers left in Colorado who can do the work. The real question is whether or not a workable airframe can be manufactured given the conditions in Colorado. There is plenty of aluminum around, given that plenty of aircraft will be grounded at commercial airports and military airfields. If making the airships commands sufficiently high priority, there is electricity available from the surviving nuke plant for rendering scrap aluminum. If anyone has the personnel necessary to do the work on a new airframe, the Joint Chiefs have those people.

Q: What materials will be used for the airbag?
A: Another good question. I’ve given that one the best answer I can earlier in the thread. At the very least, the wreckage of the Columbia might be used to build a couple of small airships to get the ball rolling. The technology to construct the skin of an airship isn’t new. The real trick is producing or finding enough material of the desired tensile strength to skin airships. Scavenging hot air balloons might be a good place to start.

Q: How about the fuel?
A: Since the airship doesn’t require thrust to achieve lift, aviation gas probably isn’t necessary. In any event, an airship will use much energy to move a ton of cargo than a heavier-than-aircraft.

Q: How will the airship be made a viable military platform?
A: If the airship can be made into a gunship, that’s a bonus. The primary role of the airship is to move cargo between friendly areas that are separated by hostile territory. The airship is an air truck with a technology and resource requirements that are within the capabilities of MilGov in early 2001

Q: Can all of this be done in a cost-effective manner?
A: Now we’ve come to the $64,000 question. I don’t know the answer. I see the Joint Chiefs in a tough spot. Even without the meteorological changes of Howling Wilderness, MilGov has real problems. More than half the nation’s population is dead. The prewar stocks of fuel are gone. The prewar machines are breaking down. A fragile equilibrium seems to have come over the nation by the beginning of 2001, but many forces are at work to shatter that equilibrium. If the pieces of the industrial society are not put back together such that they can reinforce each other as they must to survive, then America will slide further backwards into the darkness. An industrial society requires an effective and working transportation network. The remnants of the US infrastructure will be breaking up soon, and the routes are menaced by brigands. The remaining MilGov enclaves cannot support each other because they are separated by miles of hostile territory.
Along comes the airship from Missouri. Granted, someone could have thought of it before; but no one did. Colorado Springs has something like three million people and surpluses such that the Joint Chiefs are considering reopening the Denver mint. They have an agricultural base, manufacturing, a limited budget of fossil fuels from Wyoming, limited minerals from mines in the Rockies, academic and engineers, and an army. Husbanding these resources won’t necessarily propagate them. If ever there was an investment that could arrest the downward spiral, airships are that investment.
Granted, airships aren’t going to replace rail and shipping for bulk cargoes. While it might be practical to move some seed from one location to another, the volume of food necessary to keep tens or hundreds of thousands of people alive probably can’t be moved by airship. Ammunition, rifles, machine guns, and mortars probably can be moved to critical locations. Critical machines and spare parts probably can be moved to keep what has survived to this point functional a while longer. High-value raw materials might be moved. Experts can be moved from place to place to increase agricultural and industrial productivity. Infantry can be moved from place to place so that the nation’s surviving military resources can be concentrated for decisive action. All-important lubricants can be moved. Did I mention the spare parts? Just getting working radios into all of the MilGov cantonments will change everything. Once the Joint Chiefs see the possibilities, I believe they will commit everything they can to assembling a fleet of airships to turn the downward spiral right side up.

In the end, there’s a degree of suspension of disbelief required. A great deal is simply unknown. I do think that airships in Colorado are not a very significant drain on one’s stock of suspension of disbelief. They are the right technology for the occasion.

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Old 07-28-2009, 11:01 PM
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Q: Aren’t airships just too vulnerable to bad weather?
A: Transatlantic airship travel operated for years. The weather in the North Atlantic is as nasty as it is anywhere in the world. Unpressurized airships couldn’t simply fly above it. They had to fly through it; yet somehow they got repeat passengers. Yes, bad weather presents a problem. No, it is not an insurmountable problem. If it were, there’d have been no airship industry. Airships continue to operate today, albeit in niche applications. Again, there is a cost-benefit ratio in the minds of MilGov that must be considered.
I'm not an idiot and I know something of history. Yes zeppelins were used for trans-Atlantic travel. But they were absolutely HUGE craft with lots of leeway in their load and stress bearing frames. Isn't the discussion we are having about airships of a similar size to those described in Airlords of the Ozarks? I'm pretty sure a lighter-than-air craft of that size is going to have a really tough time of things in a gale or a storm.
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Old 07-29-2009, 12:24 AM
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I'm not an idiot and I know something of history. Yes zeppelins were used for trans-Atlantic travel. But they were absolutely HUGE craft with lots of leeway in their load and stress bearing frames. Isn't the discussion we are having about airships of a similar size to those described in Airlords of the Ozarks? I'm pretty sure a lighter-than-air craft of that size is going to have a really tough time of things in a gale or a storm.
1) There are currently airships of a variety of sizes operating in many locations. Some of them are even forced to deal with rough weather from time to time.
2) We're talking about airships of whatever size is going to be feasible. Obviously, bigger is better, provided suitable airframes can be fabricated.
3) Let's suppose we are limited to the small, slow airships of Airlords of the Ozarks and that they do have a tough time in extreme weather. What of it? Having experienced airship pilots available will help the new crews learn the do's and don'ts quickly. If airships can accomplish the mission by adjusting their operational patterns and accepting a certain loss rate, then a collection of posthumous Air Medals for the airship crews who became casualties is just one more price to be paid. It's sad for the air crews, but we do make a habit of discussing the deaths of millions in our fictional world.

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Old 07-29-2009, 12:42 AM
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While I believe airships are a good idea on the whole, the construction and use of them may be resisted by some in positions of command.
The resources that are required to construct airships are probably in high demand for other projects also. Yes, airships might speed up general recovery, but it only takes one quick look through history to see how slow changes to thinking can take...

Yes they will be built and put to use but I doubt very many would be constructed very quickly - maybe a handful a year.
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Old 07-29-2009, 01:02 AM
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I think that MilGov would be very, very careful not to lose any airships to catastrophic failure because once available stores of helium are gone that is it. You could power airships using internal combustion engines burning a variety of fuels (including alcohol or biodiesel) but I can't see anybody but the French being able to produce helium in industrial quantities in the decade after the nukes fly. And I very much doubt that hydrogen would be seen as a viable lifting gas option by the poor bastards expected to fly the airships.
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Old 07-29-2009, 01:49 AM
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but I can't see anybody but the French being able to produce helium in industrial quantities in the decade after the nukes fly.
Helium production is dependent on geology not technology. Numerous Helium refinery plants were developed in the US with World War I level technology. As for the resource itself, by a fluke of geography the US plain states are rich in Helium. The French simply don't have the gas resource. It is possible they could get it from Tunisian natural gas facilities, but it is not present within their borders. Poland and Russia have the remaining major sources. These will be mapped out in my new resource map.
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Old 07-29-2009, 01:52 AM
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Helium production is dependent on geology not technology. Numerous Helium refinery plants were developed in the US with World War I level technology. As for the resource itself, by a fluke of geography the US plain states are rich in Helium. The French simply don't have the gas resource.
In that case perhaps MilGov could benefit from an arrangement with CivGov (which has significant control among the plain states IIRC). Perhaps CivGov could be encouraged to get a helium production process online in exchange for MilGov assistance to build a few airships of its own.
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Old 07-29-2009, 01:58 AM
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Milgov would have forces near the refinery plants in Colorado and Oklahoma. I actually think they are dominant in Kansas as well. Unfortunately I cannot overlay resources and units.






The 95th Infantry, the 100th Infantry and the 49 Armored are all near Helium refineries.

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Old 07-29-2009, 02:01 AM
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Ah. I'm not having much luck with this thread am I. I think I'll just shut up now.
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Old 07-29-2009, 02:08 AM
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Ah. I'm not having much luck with this thread am I. I think I'll just shut up now.
Didn't mean to undercut you but I happened to be working on that data (Both the Mexican unit locations and Helium resources). The Mexicans have nearly overrun the Helium Reserve. That could make for some interesting conflict.
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Old 07-29-2009, 07:40 AM
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Regarding weather, one of the most experienced Zeppelin pilots was asked about how he dealt with flying through bad weather in his long career. His answer: "I always fly around storms." And this is with 1900-1930 weather reporting.

It's a bit simplistic, but I think if the crew is cautious enough and the mission planners are aware of the difficulties, weather should not be that much of a problem.
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