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The military value of aeronautics and aviation had profound effects on the patterns of its developments, not to mention on world history.

This page currently includes information about national military organizations and some qualitative details about the military relationship with aeronautics innovation, as well as the usual techtype reports listing patents with military applications.

Military organizations with aeronautics activity

Below are links to various military entities, followed by demonstrative quotations.


Military projects


Les ballons captifs militaires français, à suspension articulée, établis à Chalais, ainsi que leur treuil à vapeur, ont figuré dans la plupart des manoeuvres depuis 1880 et ont été utilisés dans plusieurs campagnes, celles du Tonkin en 1884, où leur effet moral fut important, de Chine en 1900 et du Maroc en 1907.

La Grand-Bretagne suivit l'exemple, en 1879, par l'ouverture des étblissments de Chatham, puis d'Aldershot. En 1885, les aérostiers anglais prirent part aux campagnes de Bechuanaland (Afrique du Sud) et du Soudan. Ce fut à cet occasion que l'on employa pour la première fois les tubes pour le transport de l'hydrogène comprimé. En 1899 et 1900, plusieurs ballons captifs ont servi aux opérations dans les deux partis de la guerre du Transvaal et, en 1900, les aérostiers étaient adjoints au corps expéditionnaire en Chine.

Venus à l'aérostation militaire en 1885 avec du matériel français établi par Yon et L. Godard, les Italiens utilsèrent leurs aérostiers dès 1887 dans la campagne d'Abyssinie, evant Massaoua et Saati. Les tubes à gaz étaient transportés à dos chameau.[4]

Some publications


Many military officers are included on this wiki and indeed many of the people involved in aero during the 1910s found their way into military service.

International suppliers

[For now listed as people rather than corporations, though most of them probably traded as such.]

La plupart des nations ont fondé des corps d'aérostiers militaires, et, fait à noter, presque toujours au début avec du matériel français fourni par Yon et Godard ou par Lachambre. Nous indiquerons simplement les dates de création: Russie, 1884; Espagne, 1884; Chine, 1886; Pays-Bas, 1886; Belgique, 1886; Danemark, 1889; Autriche, 1890; Japon, 1890; Bulgaire, 1893; Etats-Unis, 1893; Suède, 1897; Suisse, 1897.[4]

(US 1893?)

Aero hawks

Lawson's chart revealing American aero-unpreparedness


Coxwell, 1887 dates military aeronautics to the French Revolutionary era, referring maybe to the Committee of Public Safety (p. 168):

The inventive genius of the French may be traced no less than their intrepidity in their early efforts to apply the balloon to purposes of warfare.
In the year 1793, a scientific committee was formed in Paris with this object, when it was suggested that balloon should be used both for attack and defence, and for ascertaining the movement of armies in the field, and to get at the strength of fortified places.
Here was a clear and comprehensive plan for a new departure in military science which the leading nations of Europe have been slow in imitating.

Coxwell also mentions the use of a reconnaissance balloon by the Compagnie d'aérostiers at the Battle of Fleurus in 1794 (p. 173).

Hallion, 2003, p. 296:

At heart military dominance demands height. With height comes view, with view comes awareness, and with awareness comes the ability to undertake decisive action. Since earliest times, from the days of the scout perched on a horse on top of a hill, military leaders sought means of reaching across intervening terrain to learn about an enemy and his intentions, and if possible, to strike at him. Wellington, victorious over assorted armies at Seringapatam at Assaye in India, over various of Napoleon's marshals in Spain, and finally over Napoléon himself at Waterloo, famously remarked in 1845, "I have been passing my life in guessing what I might meet with beyond the next hill, or round the next corner." Early aviators recognized that the vantage point conveyed by flight offered tremendous possibilities of assuaging the frustration Wellington expressed.

Historic information sources

This deals primarily with historically military material as pertinent to France. This also goes beyond aero, and beyond our time period of primary interest, but World War I is well-represented, and individuals, as well as military units, are searchable.

Speculation and theory

Following the first demonstrations of ballooning, Benjamin Franklin speculated in a 1784 letter:

Convincing sovereigns of the folly of wars may, perhaps, be one effect of it, since it will be impracticable for the most potent of them to guard his dominions. Five thousand balloons, capable of raising two men each, could not cost more than five ships of the line; and where is the prince who can afford so to cover his country with troops for its defence, as that ten thousand men descending from the clouds might not in many places do an infinite deal of mischief before a force could be brought together to repel them?

The exposure of interior territory to aerial attack was foreshadowed by naval bombardments targeting cities, which occurred periodically during the 19th century. This type of attack provoked similar issues in international law and politics, as well as the problems of defence versus deterrence.[5] (Thus, Lloyd George, "We shall bomb Germany with compound interest" — i.e. retaliate against their civilian population because of the impossibility of stopping their attacks on ours.)[6]

Air power also has a psychological effect, especially on people not familiar with it. According to an Italian report on the 1887 war in Eritrea:

Once the emperor and his army had arrived near the Italian camp, the Italian general caused a balloon to be sent up in order to observe the enemy from above. The effect of the balloon was to alarm the Ethiopian soldiers who, without listening to their commanders, began to turn back towards their homes, saying: 'We can face an army of men, but not an army of God which comes from the sky' ... If a bomb had fallen from the balloon, the entire armies of Begemder and Wollo would never have fired so much as a single rifle shot; only the soldiers of Tigray would have stayed to fight.[7]

World War, World Peace

An essay in 1902 argued that the potency of aerial warfare would bring about world peace, analogous to the later "Mutually Assured Destruction" argument that nuclear weapons were too destructive to use:

At first though it might seem that war might be transferred to the air overhead and battles be fought between the airships of nations, instead of by their battleships and armies. But the room overhead is limitless for the operation of aerial navigators. While an aerial battle was going on, a detached airship could destroy a nation. In short, the possibilities of destruction in a single airship would destroy destruction itself, by the common consent of all humanity, and the perfection of such an airship would be the signal for the unanimous decision and agreement of the nations to not use such in a war.
But the knowledge of such a means of complete destruction would exist; and, hence, no nation knowing that it was safe, all nations would turn form war as a recourse for the acquisition of territory or commercial advantages, and for the settlement of disputes. This means the end of war, and Mars must trade his sword for a hoe and his shield for a bushel basket.[8]

As did Gabriel de La Landelle in 1863 (though posed as an alternative to the tyrannical domination of earth from the air):

En livrant à l'homme le domaine aérien, jusqu'ici rebelle à ses àpres désirs, on ouvre les continents, on abat les barrières qui séparent les peuples; plus de places fortes, plus de frontières, plus d'obstacles infranchissables. Les fleuves, les mers, les déserts, les chaînes, de monts escarpés, les défilés étroits, les inondations, les marécages cessent de s'opposer à l'élan irrésistible de la civilization. Les plus faibles disposent d'une force qui rend la guerre impossible, et oblige bientôt les nations à vouloir, sérieusement enfin, le terme de cette barbarie qui les ruine même en temps de paix. Or, les conséquences certaine d'une paix permanente seraient les développements constants de l'agriculture, de l'industrie et du commerce, suivis bientôt de la dimunition du paupérisme.[9]

Giulio Douhet, possibly among others, is known to have changed positions on these matters, from the internationalistically pacifist to the supremely bellicose, application of aero-potential to the questions of war and peace.

Ideas of air power gaining near or absolute supremacy would continue, at least up through World War II, sometimes with variations.

In March 1941 Wallis circulated a long paper entitled “A Note on Methods of Attacking the Axis Powers”, in which he wrote about water and coal seams as targets. Such natural resources, he observed, had the great merit that they could not be moved or dispersed: “If their destruction or paralysis can be accomplished, THEY OFFER A MEANS OF RENDERING THE ENEMY UTTERLY INCAPABLE OF CONTINUING TO PROSECUTE THE WAR.”.[10]

In the above instance, it was Barnes Wallis pushing to destroy the key hydro-electric capacity of Germany by way of his aero-delivered rolling bombs. That is, the profound effect of air power rested not solely in its anti-personnel capacities, but rather in its ruination of the enemy nation’s strained industrial capacity.

American and British air commanders believed that an air attack on Germany could render redundant an invasion of Continental Europe. “Operation Rankin” was drafted in 1943, whereby the Western Allies would engage in an unopposed deployment and occupation of Germany by way of some combination of bombing, Russian victories and German internal political upheaval.[11] That is, though non-aerial per se military and other factors would still play crucial roles, the non-aerial sacrifices made by one nation could be made unnecessary, by way of extensive bombing.

Quotations on air power in war collected during World War I by Henry Woodhouse and printed at the front of his 1917 Textbook of Naval Aeronautics.


This wiki has 322 patents in category "Military". Other techtypes related to Military: CPC B64D25/00, CPC B64D2700/62649, CPC B64D2700/62657, CPC B64D7/00, CPC B64D7/02, CPC B64D7/04, CPC B64D7/06, CPC F41G3/24, CPC F41G5/00, CPC F41H11/04, CPC F41H5/045, GB 4 military, Gyroscope, MX F. I, Photography, Projectile, Torpedo, USPC 244/14, USPC 89/28.05, USPC 89/36.05

Patents in category Military

Publications referring to Military


Enclosing categories Simple tech terms
Subcategories Projectile, Bomb
Keywords Cargo, Communications, Electronics, Bombing
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