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The San Francisco Sunday Call
A GUN FOR POTTING SKY-SHIPS Admiral Twining i Invents an ■;,. UprigMt [ Rifle That Experts V Believe Will Make the 1\ Heavens Too Dangerous for '. Bomb-Dropping Aeroplanes William L. Altdorfer ' (Copyright. 191 1, by William L. Alt dorfer.). ;- > v'V" < BEFORE long American warships will- be equipped with another battery- of guns to fight • hostile invaders in the air. Uncle Sam, with the assistance of his ordnance ex • perts at Washington, has Invented a new gun that will shoot more than three miles straight up in the air. Any hostile airship coming within this dis tance of a battleship in future will be ■ taking great chances, for the new gun .■will be able to bring it down, no matter how great the speed it may be travel ing through the air. ../. After shooting a shell more than IS,OOO feet into the air and closer to '.the skies than an aeroplane has ever flown, the experiments; with the new naval gun destined to destroy the air ships of an enemy, have proved suc cessful even beyond the fondest hopes of its inventor, Admiral Nathan C. • Twining. ' The new gun is a,great improvement over the aeroplane guns of other countries, as much .of the intricate . mechanism and gears has been elim • mated. " The perfection' of, this gun places the United States far in advance of her rivals in the matter of defence against aerial attack. Many guns for defence against aeroplanes have been built by European powers, but their 8 success has been limited. Probably • the.best known aeroplane gun, is manu , factured In Germany. Recently this ,* gun was mounted on an automobile truck, and is said to be efficient, but very clumsy. A crew of six men is needed to operate It. All that is needed to put an aero > plane or balloon out of commission, and probably kill the occupants in stantly, is to ' explode a small shell somewhere near it. The white hot steel from the bursting shell and the flame from the explosion are sufficient. This result can be obtained from the • Twining gun, which is so small It can be operated by one man if necessary. Admiral Twining" story of how he happened to design • the gun is inter- s * esting and shows what can be done In •a remarkably, short time. "About a month ago I thought of the aeroplane guns invented by foreign countries and realized it was time the' United States I got in the procession. ' I started: the j plans and within a week they were fin ished. "About three weeks from,that time the gun was completed at the "Wash ington naval yard and sent to the naval proving grounds at Indian head.'where. the experiments proved it a success. -.-".'. "In an aerial gun the problem V_ of r. the recoil and the sight is the hardest to overcome. The great ; difficulty in de-; signing a mount to withstand, the ter rifle recoil of a gun pointing directly up In the air; was successfully • met,' and 1 the only thing now necessary? to make the gun accurate and almost 1 sure to hit an airship is the matter of the sight. Our experiments at Indian head have given us sufficient 1 data from which to design a sight, and it is now being done. - "Another great problem confronting »us, with an aeroplane gun is to figure f out the trajectory or curve the shot describes while going through the air. When firing straight ahead or;: on a horizontal plane, this has been j figured out to - a certainty, but when we . fire Into the air— something entirely new— it is altogether different. However, it •is certain this ; point will be deter mined in a very short while. "In order to hit; an aeroplane the man who sights the gun must" be very skil ful. It is something like wing shoot "ing, and requires accurate: Judgment on ; the part of ? the man sighting?the gun. The range finders we /already; have in the navy can be used to find the range of an airship Just as .well as finding . the range of art object on ?a" horizontal plane." ••■ -,v '•;' ;--.'. ■■■■■' ■ ■..-■'■:'-". j-' In speaking .the; danger of bombs thrown from an • airship * striking th* deck of a battleship. Admiral Twining gives - some interesting reasons why this : would be ; next to "impossible, un less the 'airship conies dangerously close to the battleship. He said: "A shot '• from ■ a,. gun on a"; battleship "can reach' the aeroplane • much quicker; than a bomb can be dropped from the > air ship to the battleship. If a gun could be placed ;.- on an airship and "fired downward, t the airship -would ; then be in nearly - as good '! a -,' position"'' as % the battleship, but there } has been' ho J such gun yet invented. The question ;of weight- comes > in : here. A gun ;- to .'.be of any value at all "should weigh about 100 pounds, and when this weight "'■'. is added: to that of ; the operator it would be too heavy for the aeroplane ?to carry."* "A. striking and simple . illustration of the difficulty an airman would ex perience In - dropping a ■ bomb ;• on. the deck of a battleship is, that of a person going over a trestle in * a railroad train traveling; at the rate, say, of 30 miles an : hour, trying to drop an orange be tween any two ties of the - trestle*. -In order to accomplish : this feat it, would be necessary to drop the orange several secondsj before reaching . the t"particular ties, because the velocity of ".the'..train would throw ? the orange ahead Just so many feet*. "This is the problem the air ship •is up against when it attacks. a battleship, only on; a . much greater scale.;; ?- ."-'.■.'■V---'-* ■:???-? ? "Again, the weight an; aeroplane can carry is limited and very few:~ bombs could be carried by the airman; but, pn the contrary, a? battleship carries al most any . amount of ammunition, and it can therefore afford ?to ?■ take -" more chances than an airship. This -same reasoning applies if a fleet of airships should attempt to destroy a city. "We hope ultimately to have such a sight that will enable us to fire at and reach an aero at any point in the sky within a 'vertical distance of at least 15,000 feet, >or within a horizontal ra dius of -'a*. mile. And Vwe believe that , such • a;" sight -will; be designed ;• shortly. When this is done there will be practi cally no danger to be apprehended from an f airship." '..-' '-.r; : ?■"?.;;-'':''"'];;'' While" the; new gun can be fired from any angle in a half circle, it is • the ; gen eral ' belief* that lit will ! never; be J aimed at 90 degrees or in a perpendicular po sition, for ' the ; reason that the shell might return to "the deck of the battle ship, probably unexploded,'.;and ; there; wreak the destruction /intended \ for the • enemy. -The angles of * firing probably; will range from 50 to 75 degrees.-, .:-.*" s \ "When the gun was submitted to its first test at Indian Head, fMd.,.;ls*shots* were fired* in the air at various angles, then the gun ? was > lowered to *70 de grees, but»the firing -crew lost sight of/ the;place where the shell fell because of the haze. Unloaded r shells were used in V the experiments. "X The v fuse of a; loaded i* shell .is so '■ sensitive, ordnance: . experts'* say,; that explosion would? re '->sult immediately; upon contact ;with; an • : airship> even though it grazed only a i wing'"" and would disable or . demolish ' the aeroplane and probably; kill the ,--.--. -,•-, ..>, .- ■-■ - ■>-;„. -^ (----'." ■ -**--->=w aviator. >' .. v ./1...: . w^;-> '.-•.The", second day's., tests ' were > even ;>.tl6*4li,,^'» .-p .-.«,-r ■»■'■', .- .>.'>-. V . •.,,!.-.*""-.«'-.---,',:s!s(i ; • ; ; more favorable - than ; the first f day. V A preliminary examination of the new '< gun showed it i stood.the • first test with- ? :j out., injury.^ The -; first * shot was ■': fired ' at; an- angle of about 70 degrees and a long line of smoKe, curving slightly as * it reached the heavens, furnished commanding, officer with * his only clew as ?, to ; the " course j, of the ? shots. ; Ob servers placed along the river bank to ;■ ascertain the - spot j where .£. the v shot -■ struck" said it" had become lost ;in-: the haze. *..:■ •'c;-.;;v, '--'-;:...■•■-'. •->-'"-'•- ?..-'-'-v?,;-":". A few seconds afterward another shot; was fired sat a lower angle. > Thistest; continued, the gun being altered ..every*.shot,'."until/10? rounds had been J~~r ,*---- -i-* ---.— " - .: .7 *. j- -.-. < .-.;^*. a ,; ----|y-..T^j v fired. The gun was swung on its tur ' ret ?so ;as-'-> to ';cover a 'quarter':of •; the i horizonVand discharged at angles rang- . ing from 60 to 85 degrees. X~" -X? lT ' X' It r was ;' then arranged .; to point fat an ! angle of ?75 >; degrees, - whenJt the ; final volley of the day— five shots fired in _f rapid* succession at an .Imaginary, aero plane—-was ,; discharged. '? From ' these tests;it. was shown.that*.the new aero '. v gun could, in' warfare, keep;up continu- ' } ous v firing ; at .-? the rate of /,12r j shots -a^ '.minute. - - -- ; The government expects to build at ; least 25 i. of ' the new aerial guns and, ;, after being teste*d at the Indianrhead; proving grounds, they will be sent im • mediately to : the /battleship fleet for I,mounting.'inVa; new deck battery.' Be- ' cause of the low. caliber It- will be pos ; sible to have them > made at ,' the Wash- S ington navy yard. This foundry has for s .%.'-,,_■<.- -.- . ---.».',..«- >.» --.-':-t<.. ......-.- k Ti-.j--^. --...-.--,*»*-,-•■ , years been too small to meet the exact ,-' ing casting? * requirements' for i modern ' big guns, and :all big gun castings have been made by privatefconcerns.' ■?,;?,? ??: The idea of; the new one ! pounder-gun"; is expected to be; developed - later into a three inch gun. Naval experts. say 'the ; three inch gun; will ishoot^s%ven-]mlles ■■ straight;up. into the air, and-:with this great range they claim no airship will be able to ':, live long enough to t come; within r striking distance of any battle ship. And even should it manage ito ;!,live* through the hail 'of shot and shell which would greet it, the chances are v a thousand to one it would fail in strik- ing the battleship with a bomb. The army, has \ progressed even ? farther I than the navy in perfecting an aero plane gun. The new army gun is a six I pounder, equipped with specially adapt ed high explosive projectiles and shrap nel shells, to demolish aeroplanes and balloons in battle. It can be elevated at 1 any angle and throws X a shell S seven ■miitsX^'XXXXX^X-X-- The construction of the new army rifle has just been completed at the Rock Island, 111., arsenal. Experiments with it are expected to begin at the Sandy Hook proving grounds within a i fortnight The army thus is in advance .:■'•'" . . * ( ' ■■'■^xxi of | the navy toward the solution of . the problem of defense agaln/st*airships.'7 The shells which thi*. gun will hurl into the skies are remarkable devices. They are loaded: with dunnlte and other high/ explosives, and, on 1' bursting, send forth a shower.- of shot in a conelike i area, similar to the performance of ;a/ skyrocket, almost certain to strike an "airship/- If palmed with any degree of accuracy. Other projectiles which ) have been designed \t or/ the new gun? contain : only a high explosive,/^which,/on? ex-; ploding, would'/; wreck any „.;: airship /in/; its vicinity. X-XXXX-y. ' "-■''■•> j? Following the wake .'of these pow erful /* projectiles ? will be/ "tracers," ; which will aid »"in/:accurately aiming the gun in the course of a hostile air ship. The "tracers" to ;be used in day-r light will (.. be of ,/smoke//while "^sparks; will show the path of ..the shell/at night. The sight of this new gun"/also. has -been; perfected. It is designed to meet the changing conditions of >. the . tra jectory of fa? projectile fired at varying ; angles. As soon as V the angle of the | aeroplane has \> been d mined,'. //the \ sight will automatically set the gun to the proper elevation. j/ '/ i-" ;'?' XXI ' 'In the forthcoming experiments at Sandy Hook, the army will shoot at bal loons and box kites, and possibly, a "real, :aeroplane/; will be used "-for/ the '| pur pose of sighting at great distance.' The /signal.*; corps is "^expected sto * co-operate /with* the /ordnance' department and send * one of its airships now at College Park, to the proving V grounds. Credit for : « ) the Invention Is due ordnance ex perts of the army;working?/ under the direction of Brigadier General William Crozier, chief of ordnance. ? i .*' The strenuous 'efforts now/being, made . to 1 perfect an instrument? of war capable of demolishing /?"an?,.' airship, it was - pointed out to the writer, demonstrate .the*seriousness?wlthl/which the 'i possi bilities of the aeroplane in any future conflict is regarded by naval experts. / fi: Many?""' American officers/ still cling ;to ? , the belief that its mission (in f» warfare - will be confined largely to scouting purposes. But even this, they admit, is of tremendous importance. The scout? cruisers—the "eyes of the navy"—by the • utilization of -aeroplanes, which ; could/be/sent aloft from their decks at' any moment, would * increase r ' their radii by hundreds of i^^ miles:;J/ Few be-/; lieve, however, the airship ever will be ; resolved f into an attacking force?? -, The Germans have made the great est/progress |in the development of an t airship!/ gun, both ; of ; the ? army and the navy, while /the French and the English follow closely. -/ In "Germany/ they have an airship? gun (which; can/ be mounted/; on board f ship, but-/ at | pres ent / has. been adopted only for army use.' This gun was shown at the Brus- ? sels exhibition, mounted on a power ful j* armored f motor car. capable/of a speeds of ?40?mlles/ah/hbuf. XXli'" -■?'';/ ;,7 On*/ this gun the sights are changed by means of a hand wtfeel. They are telescopic??! and;, a/moving? object can be/ followed "easily; .while a/ patent tern -? perature scale indicates /automatically^ the fuse setting for J any elevation or range. Special arrangements < were made ; for supporting the motor chassis as a I gun platform, making it perfectly rigid. t >-xue-pecmiar«ieatureior4tnis gun;is that |the] recoil is absorbed without | the 1 ne cessity of compensating springs.'. These features are said to be especially use ful in a gun carried on a car, and are such as to ?enable! moderate curves to be taken ;at ',- a-J high speed. For » mili | tary use the German car scarries 2? six men, 110 rounds of ammunition and 200 litres of f benzine.** r^'~;U •"•""rg^jg The question of airships attacking submarines "ihas also 'received consid erable attention of late. Only last . month an aviator named Abrun, flying outside Cherbourg harbor, France,; was |sent out Iby the* French naval f author fiasr- ''•■•■; ••/ "■ ■ to find two submarines which had been; ordered ?to submerge ,in the - har bor several hours before. .;vs;i:?' - * ? The aeroplane, at :a: height of 400 feet, discovered * w within 5 a * few ." minutes i both submarines, which were over a mile and a half apart. It/then; returned to the • harbor and; prepared : for a ' further f test —to discover : the ' submarines '"t while submerged - and going at sa? high ". rate "of i':; speed.; "> Abrun rose *at 5 once ; to * a ; height of 1.200 5 feet and, after i. a* short observation,? he found the periscope of one ? submarine, which was,; at a depth of about 18 feet. This second flight * occupied 20 minutes. »?Utt has now been demonstrated,^that from a height of about 3,000 feet it is possible to dis cover a submerged submarine; and that a submarine, with the aid of its peri scope, can not sight an aeroplane when the latter is flying l higher than 1,500 ,: feet. /X-::'XX'*X: VXi/ fX ' ■ X-".■? :■•"• The other side of.the story regarding • the destructive possibilities of the air ship or aeroplane as against the aero- ./ gun on land or sea is =of interest. ■* For ; instance, .-.' it '.is* claimed an ;. airship • can ; drop from an unreachable?: height, at least 200 pounds of high explosives, and destroy railroads, ?bridges,/;ships!: and "whole ? cities. ;?Morever," it i« should be » considered ? that fc? what f' goes rup must come down, and the destructive force of a descending bomb would be Just 'as ; great downward as In; Its upward flight, and there is no controlling its fall. V?The;; r fastest time made by expert gunners "..in?" recent experiments at find ing the range of an aeroplane, with all I the ;f most advance 1;, Instruments, was eight minutes, and then the barometer •? record ';-. on ?; aeroplane ?; showed the ? range was?2oo yards off.? The aviator is not standing still, waiting for the • gunner to find his range and shoot j him .. down, but' he is on his way and out of sight jbefore the gunner can adjust his 'sights.?-.-*- - "?:•- -'".. , . . ' < .v- \ - ',;' In France there are more than .1,000 i airmen all qualified for; special -military , duty. There are also 50 schools yof aviation J there, 10 'of 5 which''are of • the > highest order and can? turn .out aviators ; with a; weeks.; training '/if required. ;With/ the present/facilities 4ooff f con ;struction, 20 o aeroplanes Z a'y day could be produced; If they were needed. These can-be carried in compact form,;so the question of transportation' 9" amounts \to nothing. An old barn or a granary > : would afford I all the ■; needed facilities .for. putting together aeroplanes se cretly near the", scene ■ of action, so the J outside;? world ?. would ?; know-nothing -until* the fleet /of warbirds arose and was on Its way carrying destruction. '". , It is ; Just here that the generally ? unappreciated power of the aeroplane exists. It Is in that psychic effect upon ; the : t minds of the "people of threatened /communities that '" s the greatest peace compelling power the aeroplane is to be found. Self-preservation is a sound ? law of nature, and the destruction '»of all one's family and /belongings' is not ■a' thought that -can' be * overcome 'an appeal to patriotism. It is my all or 'your all that is at stake, and/the crime of/ war under such ?conditions'; might cause an insurrection against any ruler who sought to permit it. ;;//?; ?"A?v'./' ? Unfortunately, it is claimed with 'all s the / progress made in aviation, condi : tions f? have forced ?t development -* along lines not ■to ■ the - best /general good ;of science. It has ■ been ; a money making period /of the manufacturers, j and ? they i have only devoted their time fto / speed* ignoring i other/ and i- more >';" Important phases. Now solid / and . substantial ; progress 'Seems jto /be in order, • accord ing to experts, which will make the f aeroplane?J as positive/ a actor 4ln com merce? and war as - the railroad and; tho ■ dreadnought^ >V? ? ; . ?-/'--* ;*-"'■.?;:?//?''?'?// - .'?-■* While on the -subject; of ; aeroplanes, airships and aero guns, /it' is Interest ing/to ; go back 20 years or so. r [ If /any one had said at/that time ■ that within two decades man Would be able to see through";.? opaque r" substances, 'Ho talk • with vessels sailing on the j high * seas, or to fly higher and faster?than? most ; birds, no ?' one would have believed. Roentgen's X-rays, Marconi's/.wireless, and3the?/ invention of ;/a; heavier than air f flying;/machine have brought fall these things to pass. * ' • "-."■:, /-. And what is more wonderful than the ; conception of a monster air liner cross ing -the Atlantic than in Jules Verne's description of the Nautilus, which was scoffed at by scientists, many of whom have lived to see submarines become an important factor in every modern navy?'' And? has not ?Phlheas Fogg's "impossible" feat of going "round the world in 80 days" been cut Into ,by ial young French newspaper man? So with the airship and the aero gun. It is more than possible that within • the next decade we will have airships ply ing the atmosphere the same as auto mobiles now run upon the ground, and aero guns to bring down the aeroplanes when they become unruly, or on , hostile mission from a foreign country. -'";-" t.i :. •' .