Balloon carrier

A balloon carrier or balloon tender was a ship equipped with a balloon, usually tied to the ship by a rope or cable, and usually used for observation. During the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th century, these ships were built to have the furthest possible view of the surrounding waters. After several experiments, the type became formalized in the early 1900s, but was soon to be superseded by the development of seaplane carriers and regular aircraft carriers at the beginning of World War I.

Balloon barge
The Union Army balloon Washington aboard the George Washington Parke Custis, towed by the tug Coeur de Leon.
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Swedish captive balloon carrier in 1907

Early history

In 1849 the Austrian Navy ship SMS Vulcano took part in the first aggressive use of balloons in warfare,[1][2] serving as a balloon carrier (the precursor to the aircraft carrier)[3] in the first offensive use of air power in naval aviation.[4][5][6] Austrian forces besieging Venice attempted to float some 200 paper hot air balloons, each carrying a 24- to 30-pound bomb that was to be dropped from the balloon with a time fuse over the besieged city. The balloons were launched mainly from land; however, some were also launched from Vulcano. The Austrians used smaller pilot balloons to determine the correct fuse settings. At least one bomb fell in the city; however, due to the wind changing after launch, most of the balloons missed their target, and some drifted back over Austrian lines and the launching ship Vulcano.[7][8][9]

Later, during the American Civil War, about the time of the Peninsula Campaign, gas-filled balloons were being used to perform reconnaissance on Confederate positions. The battles turned inland into the heavily forested areas of the Virginia Peninsula where balloons could not travel. A coal barge, the George Washington Parke Custis, was cleared of all deck rigging to accommodate the gas generators and apparatus of balloons. From this ship, professor Thaddeus S. C. Lowe, Chief Aeronaut of the Union Army Balloon Corps, made his first ascents over the Potomac River and telegraphed claims of his successful aerial venture. Other barges were converted to assist with the other military balloons transported about the eastern waterways. None of these Civil War craft ever sailed on the high seas. A Confederate balloon carrier, the CSS Teaser, was in service from 1861 to 1862 before being captured by the Union Navy.


Balloons launched from ships led to the formal development of balloon carriers, or balloon tenders, during World War I, by the navies of Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and Sweden. About 10 such balloon tenders were built with their main objective being aerial observation posts. These ships were either decommissioned or converted to seaplane tenders after the War.[10]


  1. ^ John Buckley (2006). Air Power in the Age of Total War. Routledge. p. 43. ISBN 978-1-135-36275-1.
  2. ^ Alan McKenna (2016). The Future of Drone Use: Opportunities and Threats from Ethical and Legal Perspectives. Springer. p. 355. ISBN 978-94-6265-132-6.
  3. ^ Philip Kaplan (2013). Naval Aviation in the Second World War. Pen and Sword. p. 19. ISBN 978-1-4738-2997-8.
  4. ^ Richard P. Hallion (2003). Taking Flight: Inventing the Aerial Age, from Antiquity through the First World War. Oxford University Press. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-19-028959-1.
  5. ^ R. D. Layman (1996). Naval Aviation in the First World War: Its Impact and Influence. Naval Institute Press. p. 56. ISBN 978-1-55750-617-7.
  6. ^ Stephen L. Renner (2016). Broken Wings: The Hungarian Air Force, 1918-45. Indiana University Press. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-253-02339-1.
  7. ^ Justin D. Murphy (2005). Military Aircraft, Origins to 1918: An Illustrated History of Their Impact. ABC-CLIO. pp. 9–10. ISBN 978-1-85109-488-2.
  8. ^ F. Stansbury Haydon (2000). Military Ballooning During the Early Civil War. The Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 18–20. ISBN 978-0-8018-6442-1.
  9. ^ Mikesh, Robert C. "Japan's World War II balloon bomb attacks on North America." (1973).
  10. ^ "Sandcastle V.I. - Carriers: Airpower at Sea - The Early Years / Part 1".
Amenities ship

An amenities ship is a ship outfitted with recreational facilities as part of a mobile naval base. Amenities ships included movie theaters and canteens staffed by mercantile crews of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary service. These ships were intended to provide a place where British Pacific Fleet personnel could relax between operations.

Ammunition ship

An ammunition ship is an auxiliary ship specially configured to carry ammunition, usually for naval ships and aircraft. An ammunition ship′s cargo handling systems, designed with extreme safety in mind, include ammunition hoists with airlocks between decks, and mechanisms for flooding entire compartments with sea water in case of emergencies. Ammunition ships most often deliver their cargo to other ships using underway replenishment, using both connected replenishment and vertical replenishment. To a lesser extent, they transport ammunition from one shore-based weapons station to another.

Coastal minesweeper

Coastal minesweeper is a term used by the United States Navy to indicate a minesweeper intended for coastal use as opposed to participating in fleet operations at sea.

Because of its small size—usually less than 100 feet in length—and construction—wood as opposed to steel—and slow speed—usually about 9 or 10 knots—the coastal minesweeper was considered too fragile and slow to operate on the high seas with the fleet.

Minesweeping, in conjunction with fleet activities, was usually relegated to the diesel-driven steel-hulled AM-type minesweepers, later to be replaced by the wood-hulled MSO-type minesweeper with aluminum engines.

Coastal submarine

A coastal submarine or littoral submarine is a small, maneuverable submarine with shallow draft well suited to navigation of coastal channels and harbors. Although size is not precisely defined, coastal submarines are larger than midget submarines, but smaller than sea-going submarines designed for longer patrols on the open ocean. Space limitations aboard coastal submarines restrict fuel availability for distant travel, food availability for extended patrol duration, and number of weapons carried. Within those limitations, however, coastal submarines may be able to reach areas inaccessible to larger submarines, and be more difficult to detect.

Combat stores ship

Combat stores ships, or storeships, were originally a designation given to ships in the Age of Sail and immediately afterward that navies used to stow supplies and other goods for naval purposes. Today, the United States Navy and the Royal Navy operate modern combat store ships. The Sirius and Mars classes (for the US) and the Fort Rosalie and Fort Victoria classes (for the UK) provide supplies, including frozen, chilled and dry provisions, and propulsion and aviation fuel to combatant ships that are at sea for extended periods of time. Storeships should not be confused with fast combat support ships or tenders.

Destroyer tender

A destroyer tender, or destroyer depot ship in British English, is an auxiliary ship designed to provide maintenance support to a flotilla of destroyers or other small warships. The use of this class has faded from its peak in the first half of the 20th century as the roles of small combatants have evolved (in conjunction with technological advances in propulsion reliability and efficiency).

Franz von Uchatius

Franz von Uchatius (1811–1881) was an Austrian artillery general and inventor. His inventions included both military applications and pioneer work in cinematography.

He invented a motion picture projector in 1853, developing it over the years from 1845 from the device then called stroboscope (Simon von Stampfer) and phenakistiscope (Joseph Plateau). This was the first example of projected animation, demonstrated in 1853; it is also described as the combination of the zoetrope with the magic lantern. It was called the kinetoscope, a term later used by Thomas Edison (see kinetoscope). He applied it to lecture on ballistics.He worked also on a smokeless powder, improved cannons and alloys (his steel bronze was a copper-tin alloy), Uchatius steel was produced industrially, by mixing granulated iron with iron oxide.His balloons, were the earliest recorded use of an unmanned aerial vehicle for warfighting occurred on July 1849, serving as a balloon carrier (the precursor to the aircraft carrier) in the first offensive use of air power in naval aviation. Austrian forces besieging Venice attempted to float some 200 incendiary balloons, each carrying a 24- to 30-pound bomb that was to be dropped from the balloon with a time fuse over the besieged city. The balloons were launched mainly from land; however, some were also launched from the Austrian ship SMS Vulcano. The Austrians used smaller pilot balloons to determine the correct fuse settings. At least one bomb fell in the city; however, due to the wind changing after launch, most of the balloons missed their target, and some drifted back over Austrian lines and the launching ship Vulcano.

General stores issue ship

General stores issue ship is a type of ship used by the United States Navy during World War II and for some time afterwards.

The task of the general stores issue ship was to sail into non-combat, or rear, areas and disburse general stores, such as canned goods, toilet paper, office supplies, etc., to ships and stations.

Guard ship

A guard ship is a warship assigned as a stationary guard in a port or harbour, as opposed to a coastal patrol boat which serves its protective role at sea.

Incendiary balloon

An incendiary balloon (or balloon bomb) is a balloon inflated with a lighter than air gas such as hot air, hydrogen, or helium, that has a bomb, incendiary device, or Molotov cocktail attached. The balloon is carried by the prevailing winds to the target area, where it falls or releases its payload.

Light aircraft carrier

A light aircraft carrier, or light fleet carrier, is an aircraft carrier that is smaller than the standard carriers of a navy. The precise definition of the type varies by country; light carriers typically have a complement of aircraft only one-half to two-thirds the size of a full-sized fleet carrier. A light carrier was similar in concept to an escort carrier in most respects, however light carriers were intended for higher speeds to be deployed alongside fleet carriers, while escort carriers usually defended convoys and provided air support during amphibious operations.

Mine countermeasures vessel

A mine countermeasures vessel or MCMV is a type of naval ship designed for the location of and destruction of naval mines which combines the role of a minesweeper and minehunter in one hull. The term MCMV is also applied collectively to minehunters and minesweepers.


A minehunter is a naval vessel that seeks, detects, and destroys individual naval mines. Minesweepers, on the other hand, clear mined areas as a whole, without prior detection of mines. A vessel that combines both of these roles is known as a mine countermeasures vessel (MCMV).

Net laying ship

A net laying ship, also known as a net layer, net tender, gate ship or boom defence vessel was a type of small auxiliary ship.

A net layer's primary function was to lay and maintain steel anti-torpedo or anti-submarine nets. Nets could be laid around an individual ship at anchor, or around harbors or other anchorages. Net laying was potentially dangerous work, and net laying seamen were experts at dealing with blocks, tackles, knots and splicing. As World War II progressed, net layers were pressed into a variety of additional roles including salvage, troop and cargo transport, buoy maintenance, and service as tugboats.

Ocean boarding vessel

Ocean boarding vessels (OBVs) were merchant ships taken over by the Royal Navy for the purpose of enforcing wartime blockades by intercepting and boarding foreign vessels.

Repair ship

A repair ship is a naval auxiliary ship designed to provide maintenance support to warships. Repair ships provide similar services to destroyer, submarine and seaplane tenders or depot ships, but may offer a broader range of repair capability including equipment and personnel for repair of more significant machinery failures or battle damage.

SMS Vulcano

SMS Vulcano (subsequently renamed to German Vulkan, also Vulcan) was a paddle steamer built for the Austro-Hungarian Navy in Venice and launched in 1843. Subsequently given the German name Vulkan, or Vulcan. Remained in service until 1872, and finally stricken in 1884 to become a coal hulk.In 1849 the Vulcano, serving as a balloon carrier (the precursor to the aircraft carrier), launched hot air balloon bombs at Venice, the first offensive use of air power in naval aviation.

Spanish seaplane carrier Dédalo

Dédalo (Spanish for Daedalus) was a Spanish seaplane and balloon carrier, the first of two ships of the Spanish Navy to carry this name. She entered in service in 1922 and was written off in 1936, after taking part in the Second Moroccan War, where her aircraft were instrumental to the successful landing of Franco-Spanish forces at Al Hoceima.

Submarine tender

A submarine tender is a type of depot ship that supplies and supports submarines.

Aircraft carriers
Patrol craft
Fast attack craft
Mine warfare
Command and support


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