Page images
PDF
EPUB

pare for it.

see the hawser tied to that rope hauled in ? army, an officer who has had much practical Can't you hear the gong that tells the engi- experience, maintains that an enemy can no neer to reverse his propellers, so that the longer conceal his movements. He will be ship may be stopped almost instantly and compelled to move. Forced marches, in made fast?

Bellenger's opinion, will become the ruleSurely the mooring of a future air-liner dense masses of troops hurrying on almost will be fully as impressive, fully as spec- blindly in order to escape the attack that tacular, fully as ceremonious as the mooring must inevitably follow detection by a watchful of a Lusitania. It will even be exciting in a eye in the air. In forced marches Bellenger gale ; for, if the wind is blowing with a sees the salvation of many a future army velocity greater than the maximum speed corps. of the ship, it is not difficult to imagine the All this assumes inactivity on the part of captain approaching the tower stern first the aircraft. Have we any reason to suppose on the windward side, slowly drifting back that a brigade can escape destruction merely with the gale, against which he is running by a forced march? Suppose that a great with the propellers revolving at full speed. air-ship, plunging through the air at express

As they disembark the passengers will all train speed at a low elevation above the long, pass up into the tapering nose of the enve- writhing, sweating, toiling serpent of men, lope, out through a door, and step upon a necessarily marching in close formationplatform which swings with the ship in the suppose that an air-ship should drop two hunwind.

dred bombs, one bomb every hundred yards. All the experience of the present justifies Who can describe the frightful panic that the assumption that both aeroplanes and air- would ensue? The attack has come so ships will cleave the air. How big will they swiftly that there has been no time to prebe? To the size of the air-ship there is no

All eyes will be directed toward theoretical limit. Indeed, the bigger it is the the vessel. No one will notice the bombs more economically can it be operated. If until their awful explosions reveal the true there were any good reason for doing so, and purpose of the aerial visitation. Even if the if the passenger demands of the present were roar of rapidly succeeding explosions apprises great enough, Count von Zeppelin could no the officers further ahead of an impending doubt design a dirigible longer than any trans- attack, and even if the morale of the men is atlantic liner, and drive it from Sicily to such that they can be brought to fire, there Liverpool and back on a schedule that could will hardly be time enough for more than one be maintained with fair regularity, even with shot per man.

Riddled though it may be the imperfect meteorological data at present with a thousand bullets, a rigid Zeppelin can supplied by weather bureaus.

But the aero- still keep afloat. Indeed, there may be diffiplane, on the other hand, is not capable of culty in keeping it down because of the bombunlimited magnification. It is not likely that weight that has been discarded. Each bullet it will ever carry more than five or seven hole will have a diameter less than that of an passengers. High-speed monoplanes will ordinary gas-burner. With no pressure, the carry even less. Compared with them bi- twenty thousand cubic meters of gas in a planes and triplanes—both good weight lifters Zeppelin will escape so slowly that there will and carriers—will seem as lumberingly slow be ample time, if not to reach headquarters, as a sightseeing automobile.

at least to land in a safe zone near a railway,

so that fresh gas and new ballonets can be AIRCRAFT IN THE WAR OF THE FUTURE hurried to it.

Long before these changes will be effected, Aeroplanes, too, will be used in the war aircraft will so far have changed our methods of the future. Perhaps, as some German of fighting that an entirely new science of officers have suggested, they may be emwarfare will have been created. In less than ployed as auxiliaries to the larger air-ship, half a century combats will be fought in three which, because of its greater radius of action, dimensions instead of in two. The experi- may assume the task of locating the general ence gained in the great European military position of a huge hostile army, leaving to maneuvers and in the Tripolitan campaign the swift aeroplane the task of studying the clearly indicates that.

position and strength of individual batteries Above all, a new system of tactics must be and brigades. Perhaps, too, it may be posinvented. Captain Bellenger, of the French sible to conceal aeroplanes behind a clump of

[graphic]

WHEN THE UNSTEADY MUZZLE-SIGHT RESTS FOR AN INSTANT UPON IT THE TRIGGER IS PULLE THE EFFECT IS MAGICAL. FOR AN INSTANT THE BIPLANE SEEMS TO HOVER LIKE A

WOUNDED BIRD. THEN IT PLUNGES DOWN, DOWN, WITH VERTIGINOUS SPEED

trees (flying-machines are not so easily detected as bodies of troops at an elevation of two thousand feet and more) and to have them whir off to their tasks in response to the signals of air-ships that have performed the preliminary work. At all events, despite the bomb-dropping exploits of the Italians in North Africa, scouting will be the chief function of the aeroplane in war.

Much of the slaughter that attended the siege of Port Arthur centered about the capture of an eminence that has passed into history as “ 203-Meter Hill.” The Japanese wanted that eminence, not to plant guns upon it, but to station on its commanding top a few men who could direct the fire of the Japanese batteries. Time and

Time and time again 203-Meter Hill changed hands. When the Japanese captured it for good the fate of Port Arthur was sealed. A skillfully handled aeroplane would have accomplished the same result more expeditiously, and hundreds of Russians and Japanese who gave up their lives in the fierce struggles that were waged to hold that hill would be alive to-day.

The battles of the next century will not be devoid of picturesque incidents ; but bloody scouting expeditions, frightful battles about 203-Meter Hills, will be conspicuously few. Those wars will not be so aeronautically onesided as the Turkish-Italian conflict or the struggle in the Balkans. Each commander will have his aeroplanes, and each will bend every effort to destroy the machines of the other. Victory will probably rest with the side that has the most numerous and the swiftest flotilla of machines; for number means ability to sacrifice machines in the effort to obtain information, and swiftness means ability to escape uninjured with the information obtained. The general who has lost his last aeroplane will be at the mercy of an adversary who knows where every battery, where every company of infantry and cavalry, is placed.

From this it follows that means must be devised to destroy aeroplanes. Special artillery has been designed for that purpose ; but its effectiveness may be doubted. True, the Russian aviator Popoff was brought down by shrapnel in the Balkan campaign, but it is not known how low he was flying.

There is nothing for it but to arm the aeroplane with light machine guns and to pit machine against machine in the air. If the elaborate experiments of the French count for anything, three-seated aeroplanes will be

employed in war—three-seated because there must be a pilot to operate the machine, an officer who will study the enemy below, and a gunner who will fight off attack. The click of that officer's camera-shutter may be the death-warrant of a whole regiment below; the touch of his pencil on the page of a notebook may spell destruction to a stronghold.

Assume that some years hence a threeseated machine will be designed in which all military requirements are fulfilled, and assume that two armies, the Reds and the Blues, face each other, each having its aerial corps of trained pilots, gunners, and officers. How will the machines be handled ?

Back of a crest of hills a battery of artillery has been planted by the Reds. One hour after sunrise there is a single dull, heavy report. A shell whistles through the air. A Red lieutenant on the eminence above the battery raises his glass and watches. Five thousand yards away a group of white huts with thatched roofs lie huddled together. The Red lieutenant sees a little upheaval in one of the huts—a little splash, as it were—and then fames and smoke from a burning roof. The shell has found its mark and done its work.

“ All right,” says the Red lieutenant. Whereupon a soldier at his side picks up a field telephone and informs the commander of the battery that the test shot has found the range. Five minutes later the air is split with ten sharp detonations, and as many shells rush toward the white huts ; for a little behind them lies the first of seven lines of outposts back of which the Blues are intrenched.

To be fired on by concealed guns is not pleasant. There is no way of retaliating. If the battery behind the hills is to be silenced its position must be accurately known. A Blue captain of infantry leaps into an automobile and dashes off to the north. Fifteen minutes later he salutes the Commander-inChief and reports that unless the Red fire is silenced, which is impossible without knowing the position of the hostile guns, the first line of defenses must be abandoned at once. The Blue general calls an officer and orders him to ascertain the number and position of the guns behind the hills.

Into a waiting monoplane three men clamber. In front is the pilot; behind him, in a line, sit a Blue captain of the Aerial Corps, and a man whose duty it is to manipulate a machine gun. The engine is started. It

[merged small][ocr errors]

spits and splutters and then setties down to effect of the shells scattering death among a steady purr. The monoplane throbs like a the outposts of the Blues, sits the Red lieugigantic, living bird, with wings outspread, tenant. He has seen the Blue monoplane ready to leap into the air. Such is the speed screwing its way up and up beyond the of the eight-foot propeller that it seems more range of rifles and machine guns. Long like a solid disk glittering in the morning before the aeroplane has reached a safe sun than two wooden blades spinning at the height he has telephoned its coming to headrate of fourteen hundred revolutions a min- quarters. No occult powers are needed to ute. Six soldiers hold the machine in leash,

divine its purpose.

If the battery is to condigging their heels into the earth and strain- tinue its deadly work, that giant bird of the ing every muscle against the pull of the air, soaring on at railway speed, must be whirling propeller.

stopped at any cost. The Blue captain taps the shoulder of the Just as the Blue monoplane reaches the pilot in front of him twice—the signal that all crest of the hill, two three-seated biplanes, is ready. Next he raises his hand, and the each armed with a machine gun, are sent up six men that hold the machine back release from the headquarters of the Reds. The their grip. For perhaps a hundred yards the Blue captain knows that he must turn and monoplane bowls over the turf at railway run for it, if he is to reach camp alive. But speed, gathering momentum for its leap into he knows, too, that only if he can bring back the air. The pilot pulls a lever. Instantly accurate information of the masked batteries' the elevating rudder tilts up ever so slightly, location can the Blues hold their own. And so, and the machine vaults from the ground like despite two hostile biplanes, despite the danger a vulture.

that lurks in a one-sided battle in the air, he Once in the air the pilot knows better than keeps on long enough to note on his map the to wing his way directly to the battery behind position of each gun. The battery is easily the hills. Sixty miles an hour is fast-faster enough plotted, relatively to a church, a railthan any hawk or eagle can fly. But the way station, and a large hotel. Four precious machine is big—so big that at low elevations minutes have been lost. The biplanes are an enemy's machine guns might bring it only a mile away, and one thousand feet down with ease. And so the pilot climbs up below him. He leans over and shouts an and up in great circles. He looks at the order into the pilot's ear. A pedal is pressed, barometer. It falls as the machine rises. the machine cants over, as it swings around Five hundred feet, a thousand, fifteen hun- in a graceful circle, and begins its homeward dred, two thousand, he reads. At last the Alight. aneroid indicates three thousand feet. Now The Red biplanes lose no time in worming he knows that he is safe, for at that height their way up into the air. Up, on a long the monoplane, despite its spread, seems like easy incline, they fly toward the receding Blue a sparrow from below. Only by a miracle machine. They lurch and sway for a moment could a shot fired from the ground strike it. as they soar over the crest, caught in the

Straight for the battery concealed behind invisible surf of air that beats against the hill, the crest the machine now speeds. Below and then settle down to the grim task of lies the battlefield—the trenches, the tents, destroying the enemy's monoplane. the cavalry, the infantry, the baggage trains On and on the three machines race for of the Blues, all more like a child's tin panoply life. The monoplane has the advantage of of war than a nation's picked men under position. The gunner in back of the Blue arms. That yellow ribbon trailing off to the captain puts his shoulder to his piece and north is a road. The two bright filaments squints along the barrel. Aiming for the strung with mathematical straightness from nearer biplane at a downward angle of fortyeast to west are the steel tracks of railway, five degrees, he fires half a dozen shots. No and the long serpent that crawls upon them response from the biplane, nor any sign that and vomits smoke from its head is a freight a single shot has told. If it is hard to hit a train. The white shimmering thread that moving thing, it is harder still when the platwinds through the green fields and is lost in form of the marksman is moving too. the mist is a stream. Its source lies some- The biplanes are gaining. Once more the where among the hills toward which the Blue marksman takes aim and fires, again machine is rushing.

without effect. Still no reply from the forePerched on his eminence, watching the most biplane. The captain of the Blue

monoplane decides on a new course. He fire. One of the bullets has pierced the left orders his pilot to drop five hundred feet, wing of the Blue monoplane ; but the tiny down to the level of the hostile biplane. If hole that it has left is of no more significance gun fire is of no avail, perhaps the wash of than the ventilating holes in the pilot's helmet. his propeller may prove more effective. The Again the gunner in the Red machine fires, monoplane dives and then straightens out its this time with telling effect. The marksman course again.

in the Blue machine falls to one side, shot The pilot of the leading biplane is no aerial through the heart, his head and an arm hanginnocent. He sees the downward glide and ing limply over the edge of the fuselage. knows its meaning. If he is caught in the The machine is unbalanced for a moment. turbulent air churned by the monoplane's Only by throwing his weight to the opposite propeller, his machine will pitch and roll like side is the pilot able to restore the monoplane a rowboat in a stormy sea. Quickly he pulls to an even keel. He looks back and sees the lever that controls his elevating rudder what has happened. The Blue captain lifts and climbs up out of the wake of the mono- the dead man under the armpits and disposes plane before him. The pilot of the accom- his body so that the machine's equilibrium is panying biplane does likewise. For a few no longer disturbed. It is impossible to use hundred feet the two double-deckers glide the machine gun now, for the dead man is up. The increased head-on resistance re- in the way. The Blue captain picks up a tards them and they lose headway. And rifle. He raises the weapon to his shoulder so the Blue monoplane gains for a few and fires. The gunner in the biplane answers. seconds.

Neither scores a hit. Bullets whistle around Once more the marksman in the Blue each machine, unheard by either crew above machine tries his machine gun. The nearer the roar of the motors. The Red biplane biplane is somewhat above him and behind glides down to the level of the monoplane, him now; it is even harder to hit than before. but carefully keeps to the right so that it may Carefully he takes aim, as carefully as his use its gun to advantage. The two machines throbbing, rocking seat will permit. The are only five hundred yards apart now, with helmet of the Red pilot appears just over the the Blue camp plainly in sight. The men in canvas-covered fuselage. When the unsteady the Red biplane realize that they must act muzzle-sight rests for an instant upon it the quickly lest the monoplane escape with news trigger is pulled.

that may prove the undoing of the battery The effect is magical. For an instant the behind the bill. biplane seems to hover like a wounded bird. A hail of bullets pours from the crackling Then it plunges down, down, down, with machine gun of the biplane. The gunner vertiginous speed. As the machine drops handles the weapon as if it were a hose, and the pilot works the control levers frantically- the stream of projectiles that spouts from its in vain. One of the cables leading to an muzzle as if it were so much water. So aileron had been shot in two, and the machine short is the distance that he cannot miss. is utterly unmanageable. The officer behind The canvas of the monoplane is riddled with the pilot seizes the duplicate emergency shot. Both pilot and Blue captain topple levers, and, in desperation, tries to control

Down crashes the machine to the the pitching machine. The duplicate con- green earth two thousand feet below. Its trols are of no avail. No power can save work of destruction complete, the Red biplane him and his two companions. The machine turns back. It winds its way far into the crashes to the ground, a shapeiess mass of clouds until it seems a mere black speck. splintered wood, torn canvas, and twisted Then in three long, swift, magnificent stages wire, buried beneath which lie the bodies of it glides down to the landing ground of the three brave men.

A ladder is placed against the The Blue captain smiles grimly. One machine. The officer clambers down, salutes Red machine at least has been removed by his General, reports the loss of one Red a miraculously lucky shot. The other, how- biplane and the destruction of the Blue monoever, keeps on undaunted. It is even be- plane. coming more aggressive; for the machine Three hours later the first line of Blue gun in its canvas-covered body has opened outposts are in the hands of the Reds.

over.

Red camp.

« PreviousContinue »