SSZ-class blimp

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SSZ class
RolePatrol airship
National originUnited Kingdom
First flight1916
Primary userRoyal Navy
Number built77
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SSZ class
RolePatrol airship
National originUnited Kingdom
First flight1916
Primary userRoyal Navy
Number built77

The SSZ (Sea Scout Zero) blimps were developed in United Kingdom during World War I from the earlier SS ("Sea Scout") class. The main role of these craft was to escort convoys and scout or search for German U-Boats.

Design and development[edit]

SSZ 17 landing at Pembroke, 1917. Note the boat-shaped car and scoop to supply air to the ballonets.

The SSZ was built at the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) airship station at Capel-le-Ferne[1] near Folkestone to the design of three officers that were serving there[2] as a successor to the SS class.[3]

Similar to other SS class types, the SSZs had an envelope of 70,000 cu ft (2,000 m3) capacity containing two ballonets of 6,375 cu ft (180.5 m3) each;[4] and like the SSPs, the fuel was contained in aluminium tanks slung on the axis of the envelope.[5]

The design of the car was a departure from that of other SS types. It was streamlined, boat-shaped and watertight, was floored from end-to-end, and was enclosed with sides of fabric-covered 8-ply wood[2] or aluminium. The car was comfortable and accommodated a 3-man crew – the forward position being occupied by the wireless operator/gunner with the pilot seated amidships, and the engineer was stationed at the rear.[5]

A single water-cooled 75 hp (56 kW) Rolls-Royce Hawk engine was mounted on bearers above the level of the rear of the car, and drove a 9 ft (2.7 m) diameter four-bladed propeller in pusher configuration.[5]

The SSZ design was judged superior to the SSP, which had been developed at RNAS Kingsnorth at the same time, and so the SSP was cancelled.[3]

Operational history[edit]

The average patrol lasted eight hours, but there were instances of flights of much greater duration – three of 25–26 hours; one of 30 h 20 min; and a record of 50 h 55 min held by SSZ.39 in the summer of 1918.[5]

On 16 August 1918, a makeshift SSZ ship was being assembled from a disused envelope and a spare SS Zero car at RNAS Howden airship station. Petrol fumes from a spillage in the car were ignited some time later by a spark when the radio equipment was being tested; and the ensuing fireball, fed by fuel and gas, completely enveloped and destroyed both the SSZ and R23X class airship R27 with which it was sharing a hangar. Although the hangar itself survived, one airman lost his life, and two further blimps that were moored nearby, SSZ.38 and SSZ.54, were also destroyed.[6]

The SSZ's greater stability in flight and longer hours of endurance enabled them to operate in worse weather conditions than had previously been attempted,[5] and early in 1917 all existing SS types were superseded by the SS Zero.[1] They were turned out as fast as they could be built, and a total of 77 SSZs were produced between 1916 and 1918, two of which were acquired by France and two by the United States.[4]


 United Kingdom
 United States


Data from [4]

General characteristics



See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Twenty-One Years of Airship Progress. Retrieved on 28 March 2009.
  2. ^ a b Whale (2008), p.60.
  3. ^ a b Castle (2009) p23
  4. ^ a b c SSZ data. Airship Heritage Trust. Retrieved on 18 March 2009.
  5. ^ a b c d e Whale (2008), p.61.
  6. ^ HMA 23X Airship Heritage Trust. Retrieved on 28 March 2009.
  • Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1919. London: Sampson Low Marston. pp. 8c. 
  • Whale, George (2008). British Airships: Past Present and Future. Toronto, Canada: Bastian Books. p. 124. ISBN 0-554-30772-3. 
  • Castle, Ian (2009), British Airships 1905–30, New Vanguard, Osprey Publishing 

External links[edit]