Long before supersonic jet aircraft existed, the armies of the world often employed hot air balloons as a kind of air force. The first use of these 'observation balloons' to influence a battle came at the Battle of Fleurus in 1794, an engagement of the French Revolutionary Wars between France and a Coalition involving Hanover, Hapsburg Monarchy, Dutch Republic and Britain.
A major part of the French victory at Fleurus (which Col. Nicolas Stoult described as fifteen of the most desperate hours of fighting he'd ever witnessed) was the use of the observation balloon l'Entreprenant which constantly provided updates on the Austrian movements. The balloon was operated by the Aerostatic Corps, which was also the world's first air force.
Location painted: Fleurus, Austrian Netherlands
- 1794-06-26 Battle of Fleurus: major victory by forces of the First French Republic under General Jean-Baptiste Jourdan over the Coalition Army (Great Britain, Hanover, Dutch Republic, and Habsburgs) first use of reconnaissance balloon