I saw this recently on The Drive – Remembering The Navy’s Doomed Aircraft-Carrying Airships: https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/remembering-the-navys-doomed-aircraft-carrying-airships/. Longer article.
BY THOMAS NEWDICK MAY 27, 2022
Parasite fighters operating from airships sounds like science fiction, but it was reality for the U.S. Navy in the 1930s.
Today, a fleet of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers is a central tool of American power projection, and these mighty warships and their aircraft are emblematic of the prowess of U.S. naval aviation. For a brief period in the 1930s, however, it looked as if the Navy might also field an armada of flying aircraft carriers — in the shape of giant rigid airships with their own squadrons of fighters that could be launched and retrieved in mid-air. Ninety years after trials of this concept began using the airship USS Akron, we look back on this incredible episode in naval airpower.
By the 1930s, the U.S. Navy was well-versed in aircraft operations from warships at sea, with the first generation of flattops proving that, with the help of tailhooks, aircraft could take off from warships and return to the deck after their mission. Often forgotten today is the fact that, at around the same time, the Navy was embracing the potential offered by rigid airships, inspired by the Zeppelin types that Germany had employed with considerable success in World War I.
Since an aircraft could be launched and recovered from a suitably equipped warship at sea, there was no reason why an aircraft — with a hook mounted above it, rather than below it — couldn’t also be snagged in flight by an airship, as it cruised through the clouds. That, at least, was the theory espoused by some influential Navy officers after the end of World War I.