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Page history last edited by Michael 3 years ago

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     The Y-class zeppelins were developed in 1919 as a long-range, high-altitude bomber for the German military, it was also employed to carry cargo to troops in distant regions (including Africa).

     Note that it's very unlikely, or even impossible, for any of these to be around in useful condition by the 1930s. They weren't built to last very long.




  • length 743 feet 2 inches

  • diameter 78 feet 6 inches

  • volume 2.4 million cubic feet, in 16 gas cells; the lifting gas is hydrogen

    • maximum weight 75 tons, including structure, machinery, fuel, gasbags, ballast, armament, cargo, everything ...

    • payload 24 tons, including fuel, ballast, crew, armament, cargo

  • 1000 gallons (8,000 pounds) of water ballast

  • 150 gallons (1200 pounds) of drinking (1/2 gallon per day per person, which is about half of the long-term 'adequate' amount) and cooking water, and possibly to top-off radiators if the recuperators fail. It's possible that on long-range flights over land (or ice) the airship could briefly stop to gather drinking water.


Propulsion and Performance


  • propelled by six 240 HP Maybach MbIVa 6-cylinder 23 liter water-cooled engines. The engines are capable of providing their rated power at high altitude; they have aluminum pistons, and a dry weight each of 860 pounds; they each use 12 gallons of fuel per hour at full power, or 6 gallons at cruising power. A recuperating system recovers some of the water from the exhaust.

  • top speed 72.7 miles per hour, cruising speed 66 miles per hour

  • fuel capacity 4400 gallons of gasoline (26,400 pounds of gasoline), enough for 60 hours of full power flight, or 120 hours at cruising speed. The twelve fuel tanks can be dropped (not remotely from the control gondola, however).

  • endurance at least 60 hours, or 7900 miles at 66 miles per hour

  • maximum altitude 20,000 feet static, 26,800 feet dynamic (including hull lift at full speed)

  • in peacetime, the airship would fly about 650 feet above the terrain




  • rifles, sub-machine guns, pistols, hand grenades, bayonets, etc. for the crew (stored in the fire-proof room), about 400 pounds total

  • bomb load 6600 pounds, in two bomb bays in the keel; for long-range bombing missions the bomb load is limited to 3300 pounds

    • the bomb bay accommodates 56 bombs of 120 pounds each. Larger bombs of the German military weigh 220 pounds, 660 pounds and one ton, but have to be carried in non-standard or makeshift racks.

  • machine guns and cannon:

    • as many as twelve Spandau LMG 08/15 guns; typically equipped with 3 on top, 1 aft, 2 in the aft gondola, 2 in the engine nacelles, 4 in the forward gondola. For extra-long-range or high altitude missions, the guns are removed.

      • An LMG 08/15 gun weighs 26 pounds; 500 rounds of belted ammo weighs 14.4 pounds; there's probably 3.6 pounds of mounting hardware that can be removed, making each gun 44 pounds of weight -- thus 528 pounds of gunnery total.

    • the German Navy has sometimes used 20mm Becker M2 guns (marked 2 CM FLZ. K. BECKER TYP 2) in some of its airships since May of 1918; each Becker gun carried (with 2 magazines) replaces two LMG -8/15 machine guns (so at most five of these unless fewer bombs, crew, fuel or cargo are carried). The Becker M2 is fed from a 15 round box magazine; the gun weighs 66 pounds empty, a loaded magazine weighs 11 pounds, and a canvas sack to catch empty brass weighs 2.5 pounds (required for guns fitted atop the hull). There are sold-steel (training or armor-piercing) rounds, and high-explosive tracer rounds. The HE rounds are impact fuzed, with no minimum range -- they are ready to explode as soon as they are fired. There are two triggers on the spade grips -- the left trigger is for full auto, the right trigger for single shots.

    • the Szakats SZC 20mm cannon is another possible weapon replacing the more common machine guns. It's an air-cooled belt-fed full-auto-only weapon, which was still being tested in late 1918. It's not as lightweight as the Becker gun.




  • charts and navigational instruments, clocks, binoculars, and typical "naval" bridge equipment

  • medical supplies and a two-bunk sick bay

  • electric lighting system; all fixtures within the envelope (i.e., the hull) are of an explosion-proof design

  • internal telephone system between all the gondolas and nacelles

  • voice pipe system from the top, aft, and bow positions, and from the radio room, to the control car

  • mooring ropes and anchors

  • illumination parachute flares (to be dropped by hand)

  • if appropriate to the mission, an aerial reconnaissance camera

  • some sort of bombsight, in the control gondola

  • tools and spares for repairing engines, controls, structure and gasbags

  • cloud car for one man, with telephone, compass and clock; it can be lowered 3000 feet below the keel, by an electric winch. The observer aboard the cloud car lies on his belly, and looks out through curved windows in the front and underside of the bomb-shaped car.

  • two Siemens radio transmitter-receivers, one short wave and one long wave, of 200 watts power each, along with a Telefunken direction-finding antenna-compass and a code machine. The loop antenna for the radio compass is rotated manually from the chart room in the control gondola. The radio room has a set of batteries to power the radios for a short time (about 2 hours for one radio for one battery; there are probably only two batteries).

    • the long-wave radio uses a 400 foot antenna, reeled out from the radio room with an electrically-powered winch, with a weight on the end.

    • the short-wave radio has an 85 foot long antenna, reeled out from the radio room on a manually-cranked winch.

    • a simple 50 foot long antenna mounted inside the envelope is used for receiving only.

    • a simple emergency short-wave radio is installed at the bow, which can be powered by a stationary bicycle generator.

  • oxygen generation and distribution system for crew; gunners at the stern and top positions must carry oxygen tanks to their positions

  • 30 lifejackets

  • a pound or so of food per man, per day, for missions lasting longer than a day

  • 2 lightweight aluminum lifeboats

  • fire extinguishers, hull patch kits, spark-proof electric flashlights, etc. as appropriate for the period, and all lightweight


Gondolas and Nacelles


     There is a 48 foot long control gondola (at the front), with one of the engines, and the boarding vestibule. There are four mounting points for machine guns in this gondola. Moving between the gondola and the interior of the airship is done via a vertical ladder, encased in an aluminum tube. Two air-filled rubber bumpers on the underside of the gondola cushion landings.


red grid lines are spaced 6 feet apart; print this at 1" grid spacing for use with gaming figures


     The port and starboard engine nacelles each hold one engine. Access to these nacelles is over open gangplanks -- very un-nerving. The outside windows of these nacelles have mounting points for a machine gun.

     The aft gondola contains three engines. One turns a propeller at the rear of the gondola, and the other two turn propellers mounted on the sides of the airship; long chain-drives turn those propellers. Two mounting points for machine guns are in this gondola, one on each side. A vertical aluminum tube, containing a ladder, connects this gondola to the interior of the airship. There are two air-filled rubber cushions on the underside of this gondola.


Interior Spaces


     A narrow wooden walkway runs along the keel truss, from the bow to the stern.


red grid lines are spaced 6 feet apart; print this at 1" grid spacing for use with gaming figures


     Along the keel are some enclosed compartments. Their walls and ceilings are tightly-stretched canvas; for some of them (marked with an asterisk below), the walls and ceiling are quilted, to insulate against noise and cold.


  • the wardroom*, which is the crew's mess. It's got an electric heater, and large celluloid windows on either side. Roller blinds are usually drawn at night to keep any light from escaping.

  • the captain's cabin*

  • the sick bay*, which includes an electric heater and a sort of primitive oxygen tent

  • the radio room*

  • the "fire safe" room (in German, feuerfester raum); small arms, matches, flares, hob-nailed boots, any anything else likely to ignite a spark is kept in here

  • cloud car service room, with an electric winch

  • cloud car bay, which has a sliding canvas "floor" (don't step on it)

  • two bomb bays




     In military service, this class would carry 21 to 30 men, depending on the mission.


  • captain

  • 3 officers

  • radio operator

  • 8 - 10 engineers and mechanics

  • 4 - 8 petty officers and specialists

  • 4 - 7 crew


     Mechanics, petty officers and crew act as air-to-air gunners when needed.

     From a source written in 1918:  "Q: Where does the crew of a Zeppelin sleep? A: Within the framework is a long passageway for the crew, a mere boardwalk nine inches wide ... Along this passageway hangs a series of hammocks. This is where the crew is quartered."

     If employed to carry troops, and no bombs, at least 16 could be placed in hammocks for a long-distance voyage.  




     LZ-180 "Douzeperan" was produced by Luftschiffbau Zeppelin in 1920 at Friedrichshafen, for the Austrian military (possibly in violation of treaties). It was reported to have an additional 45 foot long gondola carried several meters behind the control gondola. It had an additional ten crew (or passengers) aboard, no bomb bay, and fewer machine guns. A couple of powerful electric searchlights were carried in the nose; and the cloud car system was replaced with a simple platform (13 feet long by 8 feet wide), for raising or lowering cargo. An additional radio room was fitted, above the aft gondola.


     The purpose of the additional gondola was unknown; it apparently had no windows.

     This zeppelin operated from the Austrian airfield at Fischamend; it disappeared in November of 1921 while on a secret long-range mission.


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