During World War One Germany had invested heavily in the dirigible. The rigid frame, lighter than air Zeppelins had been used for naval reconnaissance. However, they had proven very vulnerable to machine gun fire. Hydrogen was the gas used to inflate the ship and that gas was instantly combustible. One spark, much less a tracer round, would instantly torch the ship. The USN liked the idea of dirigible. Here were cruisers of the air, unfettered to the fleet, that could provide long range reconnaissance, in lieu and better than a traditional scout cruiser. Plus the USN had the answer to combustibility, use helium. Unlike hydrogen, helium was inert and would not catch fire. The US contracted with the Zeppelin company to build its first airship. Delivered in 1924 the Zeppelin Company designated the ship ZR3 (LZ-127) but for the USN she was christened USS Los Angeles. That same year the Zeppelin Company granted the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company the license to build zeppelins in the US. Two were built by Goodyear and named Akron and Macon.
These dirigibles were unique in that each carried five diminutive parasite fighters. These Sparrowhawks were launched by a hook and bar launch/retrieval system from a hangar underneath the aircraft. The Akron took her maiden flight September 2, 1931 but she had less than two years of life. Although immune to fire, the USN zeppelins were still very vulnerable to the great structural forces exerted by storms. The Akron was lost in a storm off the coast of New Jersey on April 4, 1933 with only 3 of her 76 man crew surviving. The twins had a top speed of 80mph and were 785 feet long and 133 in width. The National Museum of Naval Aviation at Pensacola NAS has a lighter than air section, which among other items has this large scale model of USS Akron.