The idea of flight has captured man’s imagination since the very earliest times. But it was not until the closing decades of the eighteenth century that understanding and technology had reached the point where it was possible to develop a practical air vehicle; this was the hot-air balloon, invented in France by the Montgolfier brothers. Soon afterwards, another Frenchman, Jacques Charles, developed the first hydrogen-filled balloon, and in 1793 it was France that became the first state to form a balloon detachment in their army. The following year the French used their new weapon against the Austrians at the Battle of Fleurus to improve the effectiveness of their artillery. Air power had been born.
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