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Published Airpower Journal - Summer 1989


Maj Franklin J. Hillson, USAF

THE United States and its NATO allies would be at a distinct disadvantage during a conventional war in Europe: they lack numbers. They are outnumbered in the air and on the ground. Yes, the debate over quantity versus quality continues, but the vast number of Soviet aircraft and armored vehicles presents a major dilemma to the West. Specifically, NATO faces a large number of Warsaw Pact attack aircraft whose primary objective is the airfields target as important to the East to destroy as it is to the West to defend. The West's potent ground-based antiaircraft system--consisting mainly of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs)--can be countered by electronic jamming and especially bv low-level flight. In fact, a highspeed, low-level attack at 100 feet or less makes NATO airfields and other vital targets terribly vulnerable.1 If the West is to improve its defenses against low-level air attack, it needs another element of the air defense team--something that can enhance current antiaircraft weapons while providing an extra measure of protection to crucial areas. That something is the barrage balloon.

Many people remember or have seen pictures of barrage balloons floating majestically in the skies over England in mock peacefulness during World War II. These large, airborne barriers protected important installations in both Great Britain and the United States against low-level air attack. They complemented the existing air defense system and--particularly in England--proved their worth an numerous occasions by helping to thwart low-flying enemy aircraft. Barrage balloons disappeared after World War II as newer, more sophisticated air defense weapons were introduced. The threat from low-flying aircraft, however, continues to be a problem. Aerial barrages still offer a viable deterrent against this form of attack, and we should use them. This article first examines the current low-level threat and the limitations of SAMs. Then, after a brief historical review of balloons in "combat," it discusses the utility of barrage balloons today in helping to protect a vital NATO asset--the airfield.2

The Low-Level Threat
and SAM Limitations

Modern technology allows aircraft to fly high and fast, but it also permits them to fly at very low altitudes--perhaps their most advantageous capability. Radar, antiaircraft artillery (AAA), and particularly SAMs make today's air defenses extremely formidable, but these systems are vulnerable to ultra-low-level attack by enemy aircraft. Because SAMs and other antiaircraft systems are deadly to high-flying aircraft, both NATO and the Warsaw Pact emphasize low-level attacks. This tactic helps negate the effect of SAMS, decreases enemy response time, and enhances the element of surprise. For example, a MiG-27 can complete a low-level flight from Berlin to Bitburg AB, West Germany, in only 30 minutes.3 Fast, low-flying strike aircraft present a serious problem to our air defenses, especially in view of the large number of the Warsaw Pact's attack aircraft. Squadron Leader Peter D. John of the Royal Air Force (RAP) elaborates on the low-level threat in his article "Aerial Barrages to Enhance Airfield Defences":

Over the past 20 years, tactical strike/attack aircraft have been designed by the Soviet Union and by western nations to deliver weapons from low-level, where they can achieve surprise and pose most problems to defensive systems. The speed at which such aircraft operate has been steadily increased, as has their capability to fly and drop weapons from progressively lower levels: speeds of 400 to 500 knots at a height of 100 feet or less [emphasis added] are now regarded as standard operating parameters. Facing NATO's Central Region, the WP (Warsaw Pact) deploys specialised ground attack squadrons with the range to tackle targets in the UK as well as continental Europe. Flogger D and Fencer are operational in large numbers, and the latter carries terrain-avoidance radar to improve its ultra-low-level capability. These third-generation aircraft … pose a considerable threat to the survivability of NATO air forces during a conventional war.4

The Falkland Islands War offers a solid example of the effectiveness of high-speed, low-altitude tactics in negating SAMs. The Argentinians put most of their groundbased antiaircraft weapons at Port Stanley and at the nearby airfield. Potentially very dangerous, these defenses consisted of a Roland missile unit, three units of Tigercat missiles, and a good sprinkling of Blowpipe shoulder-launched weapons as well as a collection of 20-mm and 35-mm rapid-fire guns.5 The area seemed fairly well protected, but the British still believed they could successfully attack this target. Traveling at 550-600 knots, their Sea Harriers flew 50 feet above the ocean, successfully completed the mission, and suffered no losses.6 During the course of the war, British pilots flow even lower to break radar lock once their radar warning receiver indicated SAM activation, Throughout the entire war, SAMs destroyed only two British aircraft.7

Argentine pilots also used these tactics to good effect. When attacking British ships, they flew "so low en route to their targets that salt water drops evaporated on their windshields, obscuring vision."8 Against ground targets, they hugged contours of the land to shield them against early warning systems and SAMs. In Lessons of the South Atlantic War, Gen Sir Frank King stated that

with one exception, all aircraft which attacked ground forces flew at less than 100 feet, using the ground contours. They were seldom exposed to surveillance radars until at a maximum of four kilometres range and there was often very little warning of their approach. The problem was exacerbated by bad weather, low clouds, mist [and] low light levels in valley bottoms for the last two to three hours of daylight.9

The Argentine air force scored some notable victories during the war despite the 400-mile flight from their bases on the mainland, a lack of coordination, defective bombs, and a relatively strong British air defense system.

A good part of the British air defense consisted of Blowpipe shoulder-launched guided missiles, and many people see such portable SAMs as the answer to the lowlevel threat. Indeed, this lightweight, lowcost weapon offers flexibility of use in battle and is available in large numbers. "Their main missions," according to Christian Poechhacker, a Defense International Update writer, "are to ensure the antiaircraft protection of units and sensitive locations, and to create above life battle zone an airspace so insecure that the chances for survival of low and very low flying aircraft will be extremely small."10 Unfortunately, this weapon may be overrated for several reasons. First, the user must "eyeball" the target find then align it in the optical sight. Visual conditions, then, are extremely important in acquiring the target. Second, firing time is limited. The Blowpipe operator has approximateIy 20 seconds to locate, acquire, and engage highspeed, low-flying aircraft,11 Because the aircraft can travel over three miles in those 20 seconds, it may be out of range by the time the missile is ready to fire. The last disadvantage concerns the small, one kilogram (kg) warhead, the standard weight for most portable SAMS. Poechhacker points out that

a 1 kg warhead is not powerful enough to obtain a destructive effect when the missile does not actually hit the target.... Experience in recent conflicts has revealed that if large percentage of aircraft hit by missile warheads of about 1 kg have been able to regain their bases. For example, a Super Etendard was able to return to its aircraft carrier after being hit by an SA-7 while supporting French troops in Beirut in 1984. Another lesson with the same SAM-type was learned in the Yom Kippur War, when almost half of the Israeli A-4 Skyhawks hit by SA-7s returned to base.12

Even though the Blowpipe is armed with a 2-kg warhead, a combination of the other factors still caused the British Blowpipe to perform rather poorly during the Falklands war. Of the 100 Blowpipe missiles launched at the enemy, only nine destroyed their targets,13 and those none successful strikes claimed only slow, low-flying Pucará ground-attack aircraft and helicopters.14

Air defense weapons will improve--witness the excellent Stinger missile--but there is no doubt that low-flying aircraft continue to be extremely difficult to combat. Their performance in the Falkland Islands attests to that fact. Interestingly, the British had a similar problem with low-flying enemy aircraft during World Wars I and II, but they countered this threat by employing a wonderfully simple weapon--the barrage balloon.

The Barrage Balloon
Defined and Employed

The barrage balloon was simply a bag of lighter-than-air gas attached to a steel cable anchored to the ground. The balloon could be raised or lowered to the desired altitude by means of a winch. Its purpose was ingenuous: to deny low-level airspace to enemy aircraft. This simple mission provided three major benefits: (1) it forced aircraft to higher altitudes, thereby decreasing surprise and bombing accuracy; (2) it enhanced ground-based air defenses and the ability of fighters to acquire targets,since intruding aircraft were limited in altitudes and direction: and (3) the cable presented a definite mental and material hazard to pilots.15 Many people think that a barrage balloon system was designed to snare aircraft like a spider web capturing unwary flies. Not so. Any airplanes caught in these aerial nets were a bonus; the real objective of the balloons was to deny low-altitude flight to the enemy. Mindful of these capabilities, the British saw the barrage balloon as a viable means to counter low-level attackers during the world wars.

During the last years of World War I, the British employed the barrage balloon in response to attacks by German Gotha bombers on London. Called an "apron," the barrage consisted of three balloons 500 yards apart joined together by a heavy steel cable.16 These balloons had an operational height of 7,000 to 10,000 feet, and by June 1918 10 apron barrages shielded the northern and eastern approaches to the capital.17 Although there is no record of these balloons ever directly bringing down an enemy aircraft, they did permit British fighters and AAA to concentrate their efforts in a smaller expanse of airspace (above 10,000 feet), and they prevented the Gothas from flying low. The Germans themselves thought the barriers were very effective. Gen Ernst Wilhelm von Hoeppner, the commanding general of the German airforce in World War I, received a report stating that the balloons made attacks very difficult and would make future raids on London virtually impossible if balloon defenses continued to improve.18 In fact, an increase of 3,000 feet in the operational height of the barrage balloons would have effectively stopped German heavier-than air bombardment of London since the Gotha's combat altitude was only 13,000 feet.19 Maj Gen Edward B. Ashmore, the London air defense area commander, valued the barrage balloon system and the services of its 3,587 personnel.20 Although the barrage balloon flew for only a year in England during World War I, it was a fully integrated component of the British air defense system and performed its important mission very well.

The success of the barrage balloon in the First World War paved the way for its use in the Second. This time, however, instead of a mere handful, thousands of balloons dotted the British skies. Again, the balloons provided a partial solution in countering fast, low-flying German bombers and fighters and in protecting key installations. The British belief in an integrated air defense system meant using every viable air defense weapon for self-protection--a combination that included the principal means of fighters, antiaircraft artillery, and balloons. The only modification in balloon usage from World War I concerned the apron concept. Instead, single balloons were used because they could be sent aloft more quickly and were easier to operate. Thus, in 1936 with war clouds darkening the horizons, the Committee of Imperial Defense authorized an initial barrage of 450 balloons for the protection of London.21

With the capital securely covered, barrage balloons also flew at fleet anchorages and harbors in threatened areas. Although airfields also requested them during the early months of the war, the balloons were not available because of slow production and losses due to combat and bad weather. However, thanks to a new balloon plant, the barrage system had 2,368 balloons by the end of August 1940 and would maintain approximately 2,000 operational balloons until the end of the war.22

These numbers demonstrate the extent to which the British valued their balloons. They even formed Balloon Command, an independent command under the leadership of Air Marshal Sir E. Leslie Gossage, to control the 52 operational barrage balloon squadrons stationed across Great Britain.23 Eventually, this command consisted of 33,000 men.24 The amount of equipment and the number of personnel, however, tell only part of the story. Performance in combat is the principal indicator of a weapon system's success, and the balloons received a thorough test during World War II.

During the Battle of Britain and throughout the war, balloons proved their worth, time and again. Besides protecting strategic cities and ports, barrage balloons mounted in boats defended estuaries against mine-laying aircraft. A declassified wartime report assessed their performance: "Following the aerial sowing of mechanical mines, the reallocation of various units of the balloon barrage system to places like the Thames Estuary, and certain other channels, has resulted in effectively reducing the aerial mine sowing operations of the German Air Force."25 Barrage balloon cables also successfully frustrated German attempts to achieve surprise, low-level penetration at Dover.

The Dover incident deserves elaboration because it provided, in the words of Air Marshal Gossage, "a clear indication of their [the Germans'] respect for the British balloon barrage."26 In an attempt to clear the balloons from Dover, the Germans launched a major effort in late August 1940. They destroyed 40 balloons but lost six aircraft in the process. Much to the Germans' chagrin, 34 new balloons appeared the very next day. Air Marshal Gossage commented on the action: "The protective balloons still fly over Dover. The attack on the barrage has proved too costly. . . . In general, major attacks on balloon barrages have ceased, the enemy having realised that the game is not worth the candle. The fact, however, that he hoped to destroy our balloons is in itself proof of the utility of the barrage."27 During the height of the blitz, 102 aircraft struck cables, resulting in 66 crashed or forced landings.28

After the Battle of Britain, balloons continued to prove their effectiveness in combat. Because of heavy losses during the day, the Germans switched to night attacks. Defensive night fighters were still in their rudimentary stages of development, so guns and balloons had to do most of the work against German bombers. Even after advances in night-fighter technology, it was the opinion of London that "balloons and guns were still essential, not so much to bring the enemy down as to keep him up so that point blank bombing was impossible."29 Two examples illustrate London's sentiments. First, a recently installed aerial barrage at Norwich surprised the Germans and diffused their bombardment by forcing them to attack above 8,000 feet.30 Second, the barrage balloons at Harwich saved that city from an attack by 17 bombers because the Germans went after their secondary target at Ipswich-Felixstowe, a place not protected by balloons.31 Overall, balloons lessened the severity of night raids on England by deterring point-blank bombing. Incidentally, they also had some tangible results in February and March of 1941, in that seven enemy aircraft crashed after striking cables in various parts of Great Britain.32

Even though German aerial activity over England gradually decreased, British balloon activity did not. Balloon Command units accompanied troops in North Africa and Italy, where they protected beachheads against low-level attack. Four thousand balloon personnel even took part in the invasion of Normandy, crossing the channel on D-day to protect artificial harbors, captured ports, and ammunition dumps of the Allies.33 But perhaps the best example of "balloons in combat" occurred during the V-1 offensive against London in 1944. Once again, balloons were an integral part of the air defense system and, in this case, formed the third and last line of defense against this low-flying weapon. Approximately 1,750 balloons from all over Great Britain were amassed around London, forming what one British officer called "the largest balloon curtain in history."34 Although guns and fighters destroyed most of the V-1 bombs (1,878 and 1,846, respectively), balloons were credited with 231 "kills."35 Basically, that was the last hurrah for British barrage balloons, and as the war gradually wound down in 1945, so too were the balloons of Balloon Command.

Great Britain was not the only country interested in aerial barriers. Many Americans would be surprised to know that the United States had its own extensive barrage balloon defense during the early part of World War II. In fact, many areas of the West Coast had "balloon curtains" protecting cities. factories, and harbors. By August 1942 approximately 430 balloons defended important areas in California, Oregon, and Washington against low-level attack.36 Several balloon units were also sent overseas into combat. In late 1943, for example, Army balloon batteries deployed to the fighting in the Mediterranean.

The North African campaign covered a fairly large front, and, as expected, many areas lacked sufficient air defenses. Balloons provided protection to several important ports, effectively enhancing the existing antiaircraft defenses. For example, in August 1943 the air defense region protecting Oran, Algeria, "requested 60 balloons for its sector in order to discourage torpedo, dive bombing, and low level bombing attacks."37 By October 1943 three American barrage balloon batteries (each with 45 balloons) operated in various ports in North Africa and Italy.38 When the port of Naples was captured, a battery of balloons operated there as part of the overall protection of that harbor from air attack. Naples was crucial to Allied operations in Italy: "Among [Mediterranean] ports Naples was the most important in the Allied line of communications; during January 1944 the port handled more tonnage than any other port in the world with the exception of New York."39 Although it was close to the German lines and received many air attacks, Naples had a solid air defense system and suffered only slight damage. A Fifth Army antiaircraft officer stated that a good port defense consisted of several elements, including an ample number of barrage balloons.40 The AAF Air Defense Activities in the Mediterranean summarized balloon operations in that theater: "Although American barrage balloons were not of primary importance in the Allied air defense system, they were undoubtedly valuable as a supplementary device to fighter aircraft and AA." 41

Barrage Balloons:
Their Applicability Today

British and American experiences with barrage balloons reveal two major facts: (1) the low-level air threat is a continuing problem, and (2) barrage balloons can aid in countering that threat. Therefore, it is rather surprising that aerial barrages are not mentioned in the history books. Balloons would be just as useful today as they were in the forties and would effectively complement the SAMs, rapid-fire AA guns, and fighters of the modern air defense system. Based on the performance of barrage balloons during World War II--when they successfully defended ports and factories from low-level attack--it seems logical to protect one of NATO's most important installations--the airfield. The Soviets fear the aerial might of the United States and its allies and will do everything possible to destroy it quickly and completely. Therefore, a massive low-level attack on NATO air bases, which many have called the Achilles' heel of air power, is a certainty. These targets deserve extra protection, and barrage balloons offer that capability. As mentioned earlier, the barrage balloon offers several distinct advantages that have been proven in wartime: it denies the low altitude to enemy aircraft, enhances air defense systems, and presents a definite mental and material hazard to the enemy pilot.

Strategically placed, balloons can easily and effectively deny low altitudes to the attacker. Three locations warrant balloon protection. One would be the suspected ingress routes located some distance, away from the airfield.42 Valleys, mountain passes, rivers, and canals are only a few sites where barrage balloons could be effectively placed at altitudes ranging from 300 to 1,000 feet. Next, some balloons could be placed closer to the air base in small, irregular groupings. Peter D. John states that "a staggered pair of lines, or small groups of randomly positioned balloons, would provide a better obstacle than a single line of closely-spaced balloons."43 Experience confirms his observation: balloons placed at irregular intervals and altitudes are effective barriers, whereas all orderly arrangement of rows of balloons at uniform altitude is easy to outflank or overfly. Finally, other balloons could be positioned throughout the air base itself. Since the Warsaw Pact lacks large numbers of standoff weapons, their aircraft must overfly the target to deliver their bombs.44 All three balloon emplacements should prove disruptive to attackers, forcing their aircraft higher and denying them the safety and surprise of low altitude.

With the, attacking aircraft forced higher, the balloons then provide almost simultaneous force enhancement. Active air defense personnel receive early warning and ready their weapons, taking advantage of the fact that balloon positions and altitudes are know. SAMs and other weapons will be only partially effective in the ultra-low, almost supersonic melee over the airfields. An aircraft forced higher is an aircraft closer to destruction. In addition, the balloon obstacles would divert the flyers' attention from their targets, causing them to either inaccurately bomb their objectives or to reattack.45 Another attack, of course, increases the probability of acquisition and destruction by a SAM.

Possibly the most ominous aspect of the barrage balloon--at least in the mind of the attacking pilot--is the physical and psychological hazard the cable presents to him and his aircraft. During World Was II, aerial cables did in fact destroy aircraft, and the threat of hitting a cable was nerve-racking. In Berlin Diary William L. Shirer wrote of a German pilot who, during the night bombing of London, always dropped his bombs too high because he feared the barrage balloons at lower altitudes.46 Allied pilots felt the same way about cables according to a declassified World War II intelligence bulletin: "In 1940, the RAF was encountering an increasing number of barrage balloons over their bombing objective in western and northwestern Germany, and these balloons were a major cause of worry to RAF pilots."47 An American pilot echoed the same feelings in another declassified report:

Unkown balloon cables are a very considerable mental hazard, regardless of anyone's ideas to the contrary. The undersigned had the opportunity to fly a Hurrican [sic] II out of a balloon-defended factory field last week, and in spite of having a corridor cleared by lowering one balloon, the mental reaction against all the remaining cables was distracting. Later on, during the same journey, wheat bad weather was encountered near Birmingham, the same cable worry was present. It is not believed that hostile aircraft will knowingly come down within close range of a balloon barrage.48

Aerial barriers are also cheap and durable. Wallop Industries of Great Britain has developed a balloon called the Skysnare,49 and a barrage of six costs approximately $18,000. Maintenance and training are equally inexpensive, and the only "fuel', for the system would be the helium or hydrogen gas to lift the balloon.50 Considering the price tag of modern weapon systems and ammunition, the cost-effectiveness of the balloon is impressive. Furthermore, the balloon is just as durable as it is affordable. Consisting of a cable, a single-ply plastic envelope, and a winch, the system is extremely robust and can remain airborne for up to two weeks per inflation.51 The 4-mm Kevlar cable gives the Skysnare system extraordinary strength and destructive power should an aircraft strike the cable.52

The advantages of the barrage balloon are many, but--as with any weapon system-- there are drawbacks. First, it is susceptible to high winds: during the Battle of Britain, a heavy gale destroyed or damaged approximately 250 balloons.53 A similar mishap occurred in the United States in 1942 when 57 balloons broke loose in a storm and caused substantial damage to the Seattle area.54 In each case the balloons were flying at operational altitudes. Subsequently, American balloons were simply hauled in when storms approached. In Great Britain, however, they were only lowered because the threat of German aircraft was still too great to bed them down completely. Timely weather reports could help solve this problem. A second disadvantage of balloons is the fact that their very presence signals the enemy that a target must be nearby. This drawback was partially corrected in World War II by camouflaging both balloon and "balloon bed." Moreover, the balloon was hidden in the clouds with only the near invisible cable showing. (The typically overcast European theater, then, is an excellent environment for balloons.) Certainly, the balloons would be exposed on clear days, but their deterrent value more than compensates for this drawback. Last, balloon cables are indiscriminately hazardous-friendly aircraft may inadvertently be caught in them. However, Peter D. John suggests using "procedural control" to reduce the chance of a friendly aircraft's hitting a cable.55 This method worked very well during World War II when hundreds of friendly planes safety negotiated aerial barriers.


In our search to build a better mousetrap, we often neglect the lessons of history. Technology has produced a marvel of engineering in the modern fighter plane, enabling it to fly higher, faster, and lower than ever before. In battle, the jet fighter's forte is high-speed, low-level attack--a tactic difficult to combat. Even weapons such as highly advanced SAMs have trouble defending against low-level attacks, as demonstrated in the Falkland Islands War. More technology always seems to be the answer, but a simple solution to the low-level threat is the barrage balloon.

Barrage balloons were developed in World War I to counter one of the most advanced technological threats of the time--the airplane. The Gotha bomber, which raided the countryside of southeastern England from 1917 to 1918, represented the apex of German aircraft engineering skill. But this airplane was effectively denied direct and low-level access to the target by a balloon and a wire. Although English balloons destroyed no enemy aircraft, they hindered German pilots by confining them to altitudes above 10,000 feet. Consequently, antiaircraft guns and fighters could more easily engage enemy planes flying at the higher altitudes.

Balloons gained even more prominence during World War II and performed well in combat. That the British used over 2,000 balloons manned by 33,000 personnel demonstrated their faith in the capabilities of the system. The United States shared this confidence. During the war, nearly 430 balloons protected the West Coast. Furthermore, several US Army balloon units saw "combat" in North Africa, providing effective protection against low-level attack on captured ports.

The barrage balloon disappeared after World War II, but this capable asset deserves to be used again. Naturally suited to defend small, important areas, barrage balloons would be perfect for NATO's vital airfields. Here, balloons can offer both tangible and intangible benefits. Expertly positioned, they provide a real hazard to enemy aircraft, forcing them up or around into awaiting SAMs. Chances of surprise attack and low-level approach are reduced. The intangible benefit concerns the presence of the balloon itself. it makes the enemy think twice about trying to destroy a balloon-protected target. Barrage balloons are not a cure-all, but they can enhance existing air defense systems. Col R. E. Turley, an American advocate of barrage balloons during World War II, emphasized the team approach to air defense in an article written in 1942:

When employed alone, barrage balloons ordinarily would not be effective. . . In conjunction with other arms, barrage balloons constitute an element in the antiaircraft defense system complementary to antiaircraft artillery and pursuit aviation, the balloons being most effective at low altitudes where the complementary arms are least efficient. If maintained at effective strength in spite of losses of balloons from storms. . . and enemy action, barrage balloons constitute a dependable and ever ready defense against low-flying aircraft.56

Simply stated: barrage balloons optimize air defenses.

While technology changes, some things remain the same. Just as a balloon and a wire could deter a Gotha over London 71 years ago, so can they deter a Soviet Fencer over Bitburg in the future.


1. Peter D. John, "Aerial Barrages to Enhance Airfield Defences," The Hawk: The Independent Journal of the Royal Air Force Staff College, March 1984, 40.

2. Ibid., 39.

3. Laurence Martin, NATO and the Defense of the West; An Analysis of America'sFirst Line of Defense (New York; Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1985). 79.

4. John, 40.

5. Jeffrey Ethell and Alfred Price, Air War South Atlantic (New York: Macmillan,1983), 30.

6. Ibid., 56.

7. Ibid., 249-50.

8. Bruce W. Watson and Peter M. Dunn, eds., Military Lessons of the Falkland IslandsWar; Views from the United States (Boulder, Colo.; Westview Press, 1984), 45.

9. Lessons of the South Atlantic War, Proceedings of the Conference on the Anglo-Argentine War of 1982(Washington, D.C.; Defense & Foreign Affairs Ltd., 1982), 88.

10. Christian Poechhacker, "Low Level Air Defence Aircraft Hunters: A Critical Survey of Modern Man-Portable Surface-to-Air Missile Systems," Defence International Update, no. 70 (April 1986):10.

11. Lessons of the South Atlantic War, 89.

12. Poechhacker, 11.

13. Watson and Dunn, 91.

14. Poechhacker, 12.

15. Tactics Department of the AAA School, "Notes for AA Tactics, " in Pamphlet 20, Barrage Balloons, 15 June 1943, 5-7.

16. Christopher Cole and E.F. Cheesman, The Air Defence of Britian, 1914-1918 (London: Putnam Press, 1984), 307.

17. Ibid.

18. Leslie Gossage, "Balloon Command, "Flying and Popular Aviation 31, no. 3 (July-December 1942): 100.

19. Ian V. Hogg, Anti-Aircraft: A History of Air Defence (London: Macdonald and Jane's Publishers Ltd., 1978), 166.

20. Gossage, 99.

21. Basil Collier, History of the Second World War: The Defence of the UnitedKingdom, United Kingdom Military Series, vol. 5 (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1957), 44.

22. Ibid., 153.

23. Ibid., 475.

24. Barrage Balloon Development in the United States Army Air Corps 1923-1942, Army Air Forces Historical Study 3 (Maxwell AFB, Ala.; USAF Historical Research Center), 100.

25. G. N. Robinson, "Barrage Balloons" (Maxwell AFB, Ala.; USAF Historical Research Center, 1941), 14.

26. Gossage, 98.

27. Ibid.

28. Donald Dale Jackson, The Aeronauts, Epic of Flight Series, vol. 4 (Alexandria, Va.; Time-Life Books, 1980), 102.

29. Collier, 311.

30. Ibid., 308.

31. Ibid., 517.

32. Ibid., 277.

33. R. F. Delderfield, "A Study in Passive Defence," The Royal Air Force Quarterly 16,no. 3 (December 1944 - September 1945): 167.

34. Ibid., 169.

35. Capt Norman MacMillan, The Royal Air Force in the World War, vol. 4, 1940-1945 (II) (London: George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd., 1950), 194.

36. History, 4th Antiaircraft Command, 9 January 1942-1 July 1945 (Maxwell AFB, Ala.; USAF Historical Research Center), 153.

37. C. L. Grant, AAF Air Defense Activities in the Mediterranean 1942-September 1944, USAF Historical Study 66 (Maxwell AFB, Ala.: USAF Historical Research Center), 87.

38. Ibid.

39. Ibid., 103.

40. Ibid., 104.

41. Ibid., 88.

42. John, 45.

43. Ibid., 49.

44. Ibid., 40.

45. Ibid., 45.

46. William L. Shirer, Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent, 1934 -1941 (New York: A. A. Knopf, 1941), 516.

47. Air Forces General Information Bulletin 7, British & German Balloon Barrages, December 1942, 16. 48. Robinson, 14.

49. "Tethered Anti-Aircraft Balloon," International Defense Review 20, no. 5 (1987): 687.

50. John, 49-50.

51. Wallop Systems Limited, "Rampart Low Level Defence System," London, 1987, an advertisement.

52. Ibid.

53. Robinson, 14.

54. History, 4th Antiaircraft Command, 146.

55. John, 51.

56. R. E. Turley, "Barrage Balloons," Coast Artillery Journal 85, no. 1 (January-February 1942): 21-22.


Maj Franklin J. Hillson, USAF (BA, Virginia Military Institute: MA, College of William and Mary) is on a joint-duty assignment with the Joint Tactical Command, Control and Communications Agency at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. He is an air weapons controller, having served tours in Canada, West Germany, and the United States. Major Hillson is a graduate of Squadron Officer School and Air Command and Staff College.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.

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