Operation Outward (i)

'Outward' (i) was a British balloon offensive against Germany (20 March 1942/4 September 1944).

In this period the British launched 99,142 balloons, 53,343 of them each carrying three 6-lb (2.7-kg) incendiary devices, with the intention that they should float with the prevailing winds into Germany and then release their incendiaries to cause considerable damage in forests, heath areas and farmland areas in which cereal crops were growing. The other 45,599 balloons carried steel wires designed to drape themselves across German power lines and cause a short circuit.

The first launch site was established at Landguard Fort near Felixstowe in Suffolk, and it was from this location that the first launches took place on 20 March 1942. Within days, the British were receiving reports of forest fires near Berlin and Tilsit in East Prussia. Intercepts of Luftwaffe communications soon showed German fighters were trying to shoot down the balloons, which were cheap and therefore simple units designed to float at only 16,000 ft (4875 m). This encouraged the British as it was felt that the harassment value on German air defences alone justified 'Outward' (i) as it cost the Germans more, in terms of fuel and wear and tear on aircraft, to destroy each balloon than it cost the British to make and launch them.

In July 1942 a second launch site was set up at Oldstairs near Dover.

On 12 July 1942, a wire-carrying balloon struck a 110,000-volt power line near Leipzig. A failure in the overload switch at the Böhlen power station caused a fire that destroyed the station. This was the greatest success of 'Outward' (i).

Launches continued, though they were frequently suspended when there were large air raids on Germany as it was feared the balloons might damage Allied bombers. In the lead-up to 'Overlord', the launches became more sporadic, and the last launches took place on 4 September 1944.