The class proved to be versatile and effective, with a total of 158 being built in several versions. Soon after the outbreak of World War I, the threat to British shipping from German submarines became increasingly apparent, with numerous losses occurring during October and November 1914. Then, on 4 February 1915, a communiqué issued by the Imperial German Admiralty declared that, All the waters surrounding Great Britain, from February 18 onwards every enemy merchant vessel found within this war zone will be destroyed. The type was to have a speed of 40–50 mph, carry a crew of two,160 lb of bombs, wireless equipment, fuel for eight hours flying, and capable of reaching an altitude of 5,000 ft. It was ready for evaluation trials within a fortnight of approval being granted for the scheme, the whole process had taken less than three weeks, and voicing his approval, Admiral Fisher made the famous comment, Now I must have forty. The officer commanding the Kingsnorth facility was Wing-Commander N. F. Usborne, far into the night and the early hours of the morning this scientific officer worked to make these airships a success and due to him in large part their wonderful success was due. The external surface had five coats of dope applied to it to protect it from the elements, the first two coats were of Delta dope, followed by two of aluminium dope and finally one of aluminium varnish. To stiffen the nose of the envelope and to prevent it blowing in,24 canes were arranged radially from its centre, the envelope contained two ballonets of 6,375 cu ft each instead of just one as used on the prototype. The fins were identical in size and shape, and were constructed of spruce, aluminium, similar to the prototype, the production car was a wingless B. E. 2c fuselage stripped of various fittings, and equipped with two ash skids in place of the wheeled undercarriage. Mounted at the front of the car was an air-cooled 75 hp Renault engine driving a 9 ft diameter four-bladed propeller, the pilot was seated behind the observer, who also served as the wireless operator. A camera was fitted, and the armament consisted of bombs carried in frames suspended about the centre of the undercarriage, the bomb sight and release mechanism were located on the outside of the car on the starboard side of the pilots position. The Airships Ltd. design initially used 60,000 cu ft, dual controls were fitted for the pilot and the observer/wireless operator. Occasionally a third seat was fitted to carry a passenger or an engineer, Renault engines were normally fitted, mounted at the rear of the car in pusher configuration, but a Rolls-Royce Hawk proved effective in one instance. The type was slightly slower than the SS B. E. 2c, at the same time a number of new air stations were set up as well as a training station at Cranwell. The rigid airship programme was also gathering momentum, and these stations were joined by several more that together formed a chain all around the UK coast. However, construction at each of the facilities was hampered by aeroplane orders affecting the supply of envelopes, in total, some 60 examples of the three versions of SS class blimp were assembled, costing around £2,500 each. During the entire war there was one instance of a ship being sunk whilst being escorted by an airship. During the final 15 months of the war SS type airships carried out over 10,000 patrols, a total of 49 U-boats were sighted,27 of which were attacked from the air or by ships
An SS class airship using a B.E.2c fuselage as a gondola
An SS airship lands after a patrol, showing the large crew required for handling on the ground. Another SS airship can be seen in the air.