Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute
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75 years. TsAGI's contribution to forge the Victory: Barrage and observation balloons

1 October 2020

1941, summer of war: the enemy was advancing, Nazi aircraft were rushing to the capital of the Soviet Union to destroy and defeat. However, the Luftwaffe pilots in the Moscow sky were met both by fighters and anti-aircraft guns. Barrage and observation aerostatic balloons played an important role in the city defense against the pinpoint bombardment. The Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute named after Professor N. E. Zhukovsky was the main developer of these “inflatable defenders” during the war period.

The first enemy attack on Moscow took place in July 1941. Some of the planes were shot down by Soviet fighters, and aerostatic balloons hindered the pilots who managed to fly over the city to bomb the targets. The next night, the enemy lost two more combat aircraft: during the attack, they got stuck in the cables of the barrage cylinders and crashed onto the ground. After that, the enemy began to fly at high altitudes and could no longer perform targeted bombing. Soon aerostatic divisions appeared in Moscow, Leningrad and other cities of the Soviet Union subjected to fascist raids. These divisions were a part of the air defense forces.

‘Many Moscovites remember how during the war years the aerostatic balloons girl-operators were walking along the wide streets of Moscow. To all parts of the city, sometimes tens of kilometers away, on foot, in any weather — in a downpour, in frost — they led huge, elephant-like, hydrogen-filled gasholders, 125 cubic meters of gas in each. The aerostatic balloons were gluttonous, every day they demanded pumping ... ‘, - Isai Davydov, the writer, recalls in his book The feat began in April.

TsAGI scientists were engaged in the development and improvement of balloons design. In particular, they created a single and tandem versions of the BAZ-136 all-weather aerostatic balloon, which was widely used to protect Moscow, Leningrad, Gorky, Saratov, Yaroslavl, Stalingrad, Sevastopol. Also, specialists of the institute carried out the fine-tuning of the triplet version (a system of three balloons). In addition, during the war years, the institute developed a line of barrage devices, such as MAZ-1 (mainly used in the navy), KAZ-43, VAZ-1, etc.

The aerostatic balloon action mechanism was simple: it soared into the air, carrying the steel ropes with mines attached to them, what left no chance for the aircraft when clashing. The “inflatable protector” shell was filled with lifting gas, and it soared to 2-3 thousand meters height, and in tandem to 4-5 thousand meters one.

The aerostatic balloons protected the sky of cities until the end of the Great Patriotic War. In Moscow only, from 1941 to 1945, they went aloft about 217 thousand times. And the combined efforts of all the combat assets of the Moscow air defense front managed to destroy over 1,300 enemy aircraft.

TsAGI Press Service
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