Category Warbirds

. О Albatros D V

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 29 feet, 8 inches; length, 24 feet; height, 8 feet, 10 inches Weights: empty, 1,511 pounds; gross, 2,066 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 185-horsepower Mercedes D Ilia liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 116 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,500 feet; range, 200 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1916-1918


he famous Albatros scouts were among the most beautiful and deadly fighters of World War I. By the spring of 1917 they had become so indelibly as­sociated with fighting that the British christened this period “Bloody April.”

The famous Fokker scourge of 1915 was sum­marily ended by the appearance of the Nieuport 11 and the de Havilland DH 2, and the Germans were hard-pressed to field an effective foil. In the spring of 1916 the Albatros Werke under chief engineer Robert Thelen conceived a fighter design unlike anything that had been seen in the skies of Western Europe. Dubbed the D I, it was extremely sleek and heavily armed, being the first German biplane fighter powerful enough to carry two synchronized machine guns. It debuted with great success that spring before a subsequent version, the infamous D III, appeared. This machine proved even dead­lier. The D III combined many aeronautical refine­ments and incorporated features of the heretofore unbeatable Nieuport 17, including vee struts and a smaller lower wing. In the hands of aces like von

Richthofen, Boelcke, and Voss, it quickly estab­lished superiority over opposing Allied aircraft. Consequently, the spring of 1917 became reviled as “Bloody April,” and the prowess of Albatros scouts caused the life expectancies of British airmen to be measured in days.

One persistent problem with the D III, which it had ironically inherited from Nieuport fighters, was the inherent weakness of the lower wing. In combat it was liable to flutter and break off, with fatal con­sequences. An improved model, the D V, was accord­ingly introduced in May 1917 to correct this. It fea­tured a deeper, elliptical fuselage, a more powerful engine, and more closely spaced wings. However, despite these refinements, the D V and its successor, the D Va, boasted few advantages over the aging D III. Throughout most of 1918, the D Vs constituted the bulk of German fighter strength, although they continually lost ground to newer Allied types such as the SPAD XIII and Sopwith Camel. An estimated

3,0 Albatroses, including Austrian versions, were manufactured.

. Commonwealth CA12 Boomerang

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet, 3 inches; length, 25 feet, 6 inches; height, 11 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 5,450 pounds; gross, 7,600 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,200-horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp radial engine Performance: maximum speed, 296 miles per hour; ceiling, 29,000 feet; range, 930 miles Armament: 4 x.303-inch machine guns; 2 x 20mm cannon Service dates: 1943-1945


ugnacious in appearance, this interim fighter was Australia’s only indigenous warplane designed during World War II. Tough and agile, it did valuable ground-support work throughout New Guinea.

Commencement of the Pacific War in December 1941 caught the Royal Australian Air Force com­pletely unprepared. Its combined fighter strength then consisted of two squadrons equipped with outdated Brewster F2A Buffaloes, and they were deployed at Singapore. Given the urgency of the situation, the gov­ernment resolved to build a new fighter out of local materials and talent, rather than wait for replace­ments from the United States and Great Britain. For­tunately, the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation was well situated to assist. Since 1938 it had been as­sembling Wirraway trainers and light bombers, which were based upon the excellent North American AT-6. It became necessary to construct a new craft using as many Wirraway components as possible. Laurence J. Wackett drew up the initial design in February 1942, and the first prototype flew that May. Christened the

CA 12 Boomerang, it bore a marked resemblance to the earlier Wirraway with major refinements. It was a low-wing, all-metal monoplane featuring a fully en­closed cockpit, retractable landing gear, and a three – blade propeller. The CA 12 was slower than the Japa­nese fighters it opposed, but it displayed great structural strength and maneuverability.

The first batch of Boomerangs arrived in the fall of 1942 and became operational in the spring of

1943. In service they proved themselves to be tough, agile customers. They never shot down a single Ja­panese aircraft but did outstanding ground-attack work in the mountain jungles of New Guinea. Using its exceptional maneuverability over rough terrain, CA 12s would identify Japanese troop concentra­tions at low altitude, strafe them, and mark their po­sition with smoke bombs for incoming bombers. For two years they fought in this capacity, unheralded but loved by the infantrymen they assisted in this grinding campaign. All were retired by 1945 after a production run of 250 machines.

. Commonwealth CA12 Boomerang

Type: Antisubmarine; Patrol-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 122 feet, 9 inches; length, 110 feet, 4 inches; height, 35 feet, 8 inches Weights: empty, 56, 659 pounds; gross, 101,850 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 6,100-horsepower Rolls-Royce Tyne Mk 21 turboprop engines Performance: maximum speed, 368 miles per hour; ceiling, 30,000 feet; range, 1,150 miles Armament: up to 7,716 pounds of rockets, bombs, or torpedoes Service dates: 1989-


he Atlantique 2 is Europe’s latest and most mod­ern antisubmarine warfare (ASW) aircraft. It combines state-of-the-art electronics with a robust, highly durable airframe.

Russian submarine construction of the 1950s sufficiently alarmed NATO into issuing requirements for a long-range maritime patrol aircraft to replace the aging Lockheed P2V Neptune. The new machine would have to conduct lengthy oceanic patrols and carry modern ASW equipment. In 1958 a contract was awarded to the French firm of Breguet, which by 1961 had constructed the first prototype Atlan – tique. This was a low-wing, all-metal monoplane with two engines and dual-wheel landing gear. It also featured a Thomson CSF search radar in a re­tractable radome. This aircraft differed conceptually from aircraft employed by the United States and Canada, as the Lockheed P-3 Orion and Canadair CL 28 Argus were essentially modified commercial airliners. The Atlantique, by comparison, was de­signed from the ground up as a dedicated ASW air­craft. A total of 87 were constructed and deployed
by France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and Pak­istan with considerable success.

By the 1970s a successor machine was needed, so Dassault (which had absorbed Breguet in 1971) suggested utilizing an improved airframe with greatly updated electronics. The first prototype Atlantique 2 was derived from an existing Atlantique in 1981 and markedly resembles the earlier craft. However, it em­ploys vastly improved engines and construction tech­niques, including better anticorrosion protection and better sealing between the panels. The new airframe now has a service-life expectancy of 30 years. The At – lantique 2’s electronic suite is a mind-boggling array of the very latest computer-enhanced sensory equip­ment. The new Thomson-CSF Iguane radar has an over-the-horizon sweep, tracks 100 targets simultane­ously, and can reputedly pick out objects as small as a submarine snorkel at a distance of several miles! The plane also carries a lethal array of antishipping mis­siles, torpedoes, and depth charges that are electroni­cally tethered to the radar. Currently France is the sole operator, with 42 machines on order.

. Commonwealth CA12 Boomerang

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber; Strategic Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 30 feet; length, 47 feet, 1 inch; height, 17 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 16,535 pounds; gross, 37,478 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 14,460-pound thrust SNECMA M53-P2 turbofan engine

Performance: maximum speed, 1,543 miles per hour; ceiling, 54,000 feet; range, 2,073 miles

Armament: 2 x 30mm cannons; up to 13,890 pounds of conventional or nuclear weapons

Service dates: 1983-


he Mirage 2000 represents the third generation of a famous fighter design. Assisted by the latest fly-by-wire technologies, it enjoys all the advantages of delta configuration with none of the vices.

By the early 1970s, the Armee de l’Air was con­sidering a new generation of fighters to serve as its avion de combat futur (future combat fighter) and eventual replacement for Mirage IIIs and F 1s then in service. Dassault originally advanced the very large F 2 Super Mirage design, which was rejected as too costly. The French government then stipu­lated a smaller, lighter machine along the lines of the General Dynamics F-16. In 1975 Dassault was au­thorized to proceed with plans for the Mirage 2000, a much tidier aircraft with an inherent 1:1 thrust-to – weight ratio. It revived the classic delta wing of old that, in this instance, was carefully blended into the roots for less drag. Moreover, by utilizing fly-by-wire technology—whereby computers assist and correct pilots while maneuvering—the fuselage was built
with its center of gravity farther back than usual. This makes for an intrinsically unstable aircraft that is highly maneuverable. The delta wing was also in­creased in overall area to allow for lower wing load­ing (pounds per square foot of wing area), which in turn resulted in superior low-altitude performance. The first Mirage 2000 flew in 1978, with initial deliv­eries arriving in 1983. Around 440 have been built.

In 1979 Dassault was asked to come up with a two-seat version of the Mirage 2000 as a possible re­placement for the aging Mirage IV nuclear bombers. The resulting Model 2000N (nuclear) first flew in 1991 with heavily revised avionics and a strength­ened airframe for low-altitude work. This capable craft employs an Antilope radar that enables safe fly­ing as low as 200 feet while barreling along at 700 miles per hour! Conventionally armed versions of the craft, the Mirage 2000D and S, are also being devel­oped for the export market. Various versions are also operated by Egypt, Taiwan, India, and Peru.

. Commonwealth CA12 Boomerang

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 30 feet, 6 inches; length, 50 feet, 2 inches; height, 14 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 16,314 pounds; gross, 35,715 pounds Power plant: 1 x SNECMA Atar 9K-50 turbojet engine

Performance: maximum speed, 1,453 miles per hour; ceiling, 65,615 feet; range, 520 miles Armament: 2 x 30mm cannons; up to 13,889 pounds of bombs, missiles, and rockets Service dates: 1973-


he multipurpose F 1 was an attempt to expand the flexibility of Dassault’s already capable Mi­rage III. It has taken the basic design to new levels of efficiency and, like its predecessor, is operated by many nations.

Responding to a 1964 Armee de l’Air require­ment for a new all-weather interceptor, Dassault began work on a two-seat, 20-ton design—the F 2— which retained some similarities to the earlier Mi­rage III but was much larger. At length this ma­chine was rejected, but a smaller design—the F 1—was developed as a company-funded project. Basically, it utilized the fuselage of the Mirage III but was fitted with a shoulder-mounted swept wing and tail surfaces. This more conventional layout yielded immediate advantage over the delta config­uration, being less susceptible to energy loss during rapid maneuvering. The new F 1 also enjoyed a run­way roll rate less than half that of the Mirage III. And because bladder tanks were superceded by in­
tegral fuel space, the F 1 possesses 40 percent greater range. The French military was very pleased with the new machine, which became operational in 1973 as the F 1C. As an interceptor, it is capable of lifting off with only two minutes’ warning. The advanced Cyrano II radar then enables it to track and lock on incoming targets, regardless of low – altitude ground clutter. The F 1 also makes a better ground-attack craft than the Mirage III family, es­pecially with regard to turbulence, as it handles bet­ter at low altitude.

The F 1C, like its forebear, was an outstanding success story in terms of export, for it is employed by no less than 11 nations. Its most notorious user was Iraq, which used them with good effect during the lengthy Iran-Iraq War. During the 1991 Gulf War, Mirage F 1s had the dubious distinction of serving on both sides. More than 900 have been manufac­tured, and these will continue on as a major service type for years to come.

. Commonwealth CA12 Boomerang

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 26 feet, 11 inches; length, 49 feet, 3 inches; height, 14 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 15,542 pounds; gross, 21,164 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 9,436-pound thrust SNECMA Atar 9C-3 turbojet engine

Performance: maximum speed, 1,460 miles per hour; ceiling, 75,460 feet; range, 746 miles

Armament: 2 x 30mm cannons; up to 8,818 pounds of bombs or rockets

Service dates: 1961-


he sleek Mirage III remains one of the classic fighter designs of all time and helped propel France to the forefront of military aviation. Through constant upgrades, many still fly in frontline service around the world.

In 1952 the Armee de l’Air sought an advanced lightweight interceptor to replace its aging Dassault Mysteres. The desired craft was intended to be built around two small turbojets and a small rocket booster. Dassault complied with a small delta design, the Mirage I, in 1953, but it was rejected as insuffi­ciently powered. The firm then went on to develop the bigger Mirage III as a company project; it was powered by a single turbojet engine. In 1956 this craft became the first European warplane to exceed Mach 2, and the French military immediately ex­pressed interest. The Mirage III was a conventional delta design, with a relatively small wing and a sharp, pointed profile. It was highly maneuverable and han­dled well, but like all delta designs it suffered from
high landing speeds and a prolonged takeoff. Nonetheless, the first Mirage III entered service in 1961 and was followed by numerous multimission variants. It was also widely exported abroad, espe­cially to Israel, which used them with decisive effect in the 1967 war. Most French machines have since been retired, but Mirage IIIs are continually up­graded and flown by several air forces, including Australia, Argentina, Brazil, and South Africa.

In 1967 Israel asked Dassault to design a cheaper ground-attack version, which subsequently emerged as the Mirage 5. This model lacked ad­vanced radar systems in exchange for more fuel and greater payload. It too was an export success. The final development was the Mirage 50 of 1979, which utilizes the Mirage 5 airframe in concert with a more powerful engine and advanced avionics. It is cur­rently utilized by more than 20 nations and will con­tinue flying well into the twenty-first century. A total of 1,400 Mirages of all variants has been constructed.

. Commonwealth CA12 Boomerang

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 31 feet, 6 inches; length, 46 feet, 11 inches; height, 12 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 14,220 pounds; gross, 25,353 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 11,025-pound thrust SNECMA Atar turbojet engine

Performance: maximum speed, 749 miles per hour; ceiling, 44,950 feet; range, 404 miles

Armament: 2 x 30mm cannons; 1 x AM39 Exocet missile

Service dates: 1978-


he Super Etendard is a modest strike fighter with transonic capabilities. However, once armed with the deadly Exocet antishipping missile, they sank two British ships during the 1982 Falkland Islands War.

In the early 1950s, NATO began seeking light, low-cost attack craft as alternatives to more expen­sive conventional jet fighters. In 1956 Dassault fielded its prototype Etendard IV (etendard meaning “stan­dard” or “flag”) as a competitor. It was a relatively small machine with sweptback wings and a pro­nounced fence under the chin. Being somewhat un­derpowered, it lost out to the Fiat G 91, but Dassault privately developed a navalized version with stronger landing gear and an arrester hook. In 1958 the French navy authorized production, and the first Etendard IVs joined the fleet in 1962 as reconnaissance/strike fighters. By 1971 a more modern replacement was needed, and the French government announced its intention to procure navalized Jaguar M aircraft. When that project unraveled because of spiraling cost overruns, Dassault again proposed a refurbished

Etendard machine. By the time they were deployed in 1982, they bore little commonality with the original craft and received the designation Super Etendard. The new machine boasts a bigger engine, greater fuel capacity, and a redesigned wing. It also possesses an advanced navigation/attack radar and can be refueled during flight. Although somewhat modest in perform­ance compared to U. S. and British carrier aircraft, the Super Etendard is fully capable of deploying the very accurate Exocet antishipping missile.

In the spring of 1982, Argentina, which oper­ated five Super Etendards, made world headlines when pilots sank the British destroyer HMS Sheffield and cargo ship Atlantic Conveyor off the Falkland Is­lands. The next customer to employ them was Iraq, then in a protracted struggle with Iran over control of the Persian Gulf. Iraqi pilots attacked several Iran­ian tankers and even badly damaged a U. S. de- stroyer—allegedly by mistake. These aircraft re­turned to France in 1985 in exchange for Mirage F 1s. Despite continual upgrades, the Super Etendard will be phased out by Dassault Rafael Cs in 2008.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Medium Bomber; Transport

Dimensions: wingspan, 78 feet, 8 inches; length, 58 feet, 4 inches; height, 14 feet, 7 inches Weights: empty, 13,890 pounds; gross, 23,040 pounds Power plant: 3 x 700-horsepower Piaggio P. X radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 211 miles per hour; ceiling, 26,240 feet; range, 1,336 miles Armament: up to 6 x 7.7mm machine guns; 2,205 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1935-1944


he handsome SM 81 was among the world’s best bombers when it first appeared. Despite growing obsolescence, they appeared wherever Italian troops fought in World War II.

In 1934 the appearance of the successful SM 73 commercial transport led to its development for military purposes. The prototype SM 81 emerged the following year with very similar lines. It was a large, low-wing monoplane in trimotor configuration, and in the course of a very long ca­reer a variety of differing engines was mounted. The craft was made of metal framework through­out, covered in fabric, and possessed two large, spatted landing gear. Although intended as a dedi­cated bomber, its roomy fuselage could also ac­commodate up to 18 fully equipped troops. SM 81s were rushed into service during the invasion of Ethiopia, where they rendered good service in bomber, transport, and reconnaissance roles. It thereafter served as the standard Italian bomber type until the appearance of the much superior SM 79s in 1937. Mussolini so liked the easy-flying
craft that he adopted one as his personal transport, and flew it regularly.

The Pipistrello (Bat) enjoyed an active service career that ranged the entire Mediterranean. They were among the first Italian aircraft to assist Franco’s Spanish Nationalist forces in 1936, per­forming well against light opposition. In 1940, after Italy’s entrance into World War II, the aging craft flew missions wherever Italian forces deployed. They bombed British targets in East Africa up through 1941, but the lightly armed craft took heavy losses. Thereafter, it became necessary to employ SM 81s exclusively as night bombers throughout the North African campaign. They raided Alexandria on numerous occasions but were subsequently em­ployed in transport and other second-line duties. In 1942 alone, the 18 Stormo Traspori (transport squadron) made 4,105 flights, conveying 28,613 troops and 4.5 million pounds of supplies. A handful of SM 81s survived up to the 1943 Italian surrender, and they found service with both sides until war’s end. Production amounted to 534 machines.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber; Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 28 feet, 6 inches; length, 57 feet, 6 inches; height, 16 feet Weights: empty, 15,432 pounds; gross, 34,612 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 5,115-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Turbomeca Adour Mk 102 turbofan engines Performance: maximums peed, 1,056 mile per hour; ceiling, 45,930 feet; range, 530 miles Armament: 2 x 30mm cannons; up to 10,000 pounds of bombs and rockets Service dates: 1972-


he highly capable Jaguar is one of the most suc­cessful multinational aircraft designs. Although originally designed as a trainer, it has since matured into a potent strike fighter.

By 1965 the great expense of modern military aircraft induced France and Great Britain to enter a joint program for developing an advanced jet trainer that could also double as a ground-attack craft. At length British Aircraft Corporation (now British Aerospace, or BAe) and Breguet (now Dassault) were tasked with designing such machines on a cost – effective basis. A basic prerequisite was the ability to deliver heavy ordnance at low level, high speed, and considerable range with great accuracy. The Jaguar prototype emerged in September 1968 as a high-wing jet with a sharply streamlined profile and highly swept wings. It featured tall landing gear to facilitate ease of loading large weapons on the numerous wing hardpoints. Being powered by two high-thrust Adour turbofan engines ensured that the craft possessed good STOL (short takeoff and landing) capabilities,
even when fully loaded. The first version, the Jaguar A, was a single-seat strike fighter deployed in France in 1972. This was followed by the Jaguar E, an ad­vanced two-seat trainer. Britain, meanwhile, re­ceived deliveries of the single-seat Jaguar GR Mk 1 and the dual-seat Jaguar B trainer. Total production of European variants reached 400 machines. Both France and Britain have also operated them abroad, during the 1991 Gulf War, in Chad, and in Mauritania. The Jaguars are currently being phased out by the more advanced Panavia Tornado, but they maintain their reputation as excellent aircraft.

The good performance and easy maintenance of the Jaguar made them ideal for the overseas mar­ket, so an export version, the Jaguar International, was created. This variant was based upon the British GR 1 and could be fitted with advanced Agave radar and Sea Eagle antiship missiles. Thus far, India has proven the biggest customer, although small orders have also been placed by Ecuador, Nigeria, and Oman.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 30 feet, 2 inches; length, 48 feet, 11 inches; height, 12 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 12,700 pounds; gross, 22,045 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 5,730-pound thrust Liming Wopen R-9BF turbojets

Performance: maximum speed, 900 miles per hour; ceiling, 58,725 feet; range, 370 miles

Armament: 2 x 30mm cannons; up to 1,100 pounds of bomb or rockets

Service dates: 1958-


he J 6 remains the single-most important aircraft in China’s arsenal. Continually improved since its inception, it remains a formidable dogfighter.

The Russian MiG 19 interceptor first flew in 1953 and subsequently became one of the world’s earliest mass-produced supersonic fighters. It was acquired in great quantities by the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact before being supplanted by more mod­ern MiG 21s in 1960. Two years previously, China contemplated construction of the MiG 19 under li­cense. The craft was rugged, endowed with high performance, and exhibited excellent powers of ma­neuverability and climb. In 1958 the Shenyang Fac­tory at Mukden obtained blueprints to the craft and manufactured its first example as the J 6. A handful of the craft had been turned out by the advent of the Cultural Revolution in 1961, which virtually gutted the Chinese aviation industry. Mass production could not resume until 1973; close to 3,000 have since been built. Like its Russian counterpart, the J 6 is a rakish all-metal jet with midmounted, highly
swept wings and tail surfaces. For added stability, the wings display pronounced fences across the chord. J 6s have since been fitted with a succession of more powerful engines and maintain a high-per­formance profile. To date it still fulfills numerous fighter, ground-attack, and reconnaissance missions within the People’s Liberation Air Force.

To improve its leverage with Third World na­tions, many of them desperately poor, China culti­vated their friendship by offering the J 6 for export. Ready client states include Albania, Bangladesh, Egypt, and North Korea. But the most notable cus­tomer in this instance is Pakistan, which continues operating several squadrons of constantly refur­bished J 6s. In combat with more advanced Indian aircraft, the redoubtable warhorse has unequivo­cally held its own, despite being based on obsolete technology. The J 6 and its export models will un­doubtedly see continued use well into the twenty – first century. They have since received the NATO designation FARMER.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Antisubmarine; Patrol-Bomber; Air/Sea Rescue


Dimensions: wingspan, 108 feet, 9 inches; length, 109 feet, 9 inches; height, 32 feet, 8 inches Weights: empty, 51,367 pounds; gross, 99,200 pounds

Power plant: 5 x 3,493-horsepower General Electric T46 turboprop engines Performance: maximum speed, 318 miles per hour; ceiling, 23,600 feet; range, 2,372 miles Armament: none Service dates: 1968-


he US 1 is the most advanced and capable flying boat ever built. Using sophisticated air boundary control technology, it can take off and land in amaz­ingly short distances.

Japan is preponderantly a maritime nation, its destiny closely linked to control of the seas surround­ing it. For this reason flying boats have always been something of a specialty in Japan’s history, and during World War II it produced some of the finest machines of that conflict. By 1965 the Japan Maritime Defense Force sought modern replacements for its Korean War-vintage Grumman UF-2 Albatroses. This was being sought for improved search-and-rescue capabil­ity, as well as antisubmarine warfare (ASW). They ap­proached ShinMaywa (previously Shin Meiwa and, before that, Kawanishi) to develop such a machine. A team headed by Dr. Shizuo Kikuhara, who was re­sponsible for the superb H8K Emily of World War II, responded with a large and modern four-engine craft. The PS 1 was a high-wing, all-metal monoplane with a
single-step hull and a high “T” tail. The aircraft also employed a fifth engine driving a unique air boundary control device. This vents engine gases and blows them directly against the lowered flaps, providing extra lift for takeoffs and landings. Such technology allowed the big craft to operate from relatively short distances. The hull also permits working in waves as high as 10 feet. ShinMaywa ultimately constructed 23 PS 1s, all of which were retired from ASW service in


In 1974 ShinMaywa tested the first prototype US 1, a dedicated search-and-rescue amphibian. It is outwardly identical to the earlier PS 1 save for the presence of retractable landing gear in the hull. The new craft has been stripped of all submarine detection equipment to make room for up to 36 stretchers. A maximum of 100 persons could be carried in emer­gency situations. A total of 13 have been acquired thus far, and a new version, the US 1kai, with improved Al­lison turboprop engines, is under evaluation.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Torpedo-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 63 feet, 6 inches; length, 40 feet, 7 inches; height, 13 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 3,703 pounds; gross, 5,363 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 225-horsepower Sunbeam liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 88 miles per hour; ceiling, 9,000 feet; range, 150 miles

Armament: 1 x.303-inch machine gun; 1 x 14-inch torpedo

Service dates: 1915-1918


he lumbering Short 184 was an illustrious vet­eran of World War I with an impressive combat record. It was actively engaged in the Battle of Jut­land and also launched the first aerial torpedo at­tack against enemy vessels.

The Short 184 had its origins in the beliefs of Commodore Murray F. Sueter, who in 1914 con­vinced the British Admiralty to develop an airplane capable of dropping torpedoes. This was then a rev­olutionary new concept. Accordingly, the Short 184 prototype flew the following year, so designated by the Admiralty practice of naming aircraft types by numbers assigned to the first example. The Short 184 was a standard, three-bay biplane of wood-and – fabric construction. The wings were extremely long, with the top ones sporting ailerons and the lower ones tipfloats. The fuselage was also somewhat at­tenuated and mounted two pontoon-type floats. De­spite its somewhat fragile appearance, the craft han­dled well and could hoist a heavy torpedo aloft. A total of 650 were acquired.

The Short 184 made aviation history while at­tached to the floatplane tender HMS Ben-my-Chree during the Dardanelles campaign. On August 12, 1915, a Short 184 torpedoed and severely damaged a Turkish steamer. This success was repeated five days later when a steam tug was sent to the bottom, again demonstrating the validity of Sueter’s theories. Dur­ing the next three years, these creaking floatplanes distinguished themselves in a variety of missions and climes. Throughout the spring of 1916, five Short 184s operated from the Tigris River at Ora, Iraq, dropping supplies to the beleaguered garrison at Kut-al-Imara. On May 31, 1916, a Short 184 conducted history’s first naval reconnaissance flight when it espied part of the German battle fleet and successfully relayed coordi­nates. The ubiquitous Short 184 flew from every con­ceivable British naval base, be it in England, the Mediterranean, the Aegean, the Red Sea, Mesopota­mia, or the French coast. They retired from British service after the war, but several examples were op­erated by Greece and Estonia as late as 1933.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Heavy Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 99 feet, 1 inch; length, 87 feet, 3 inches; height, 22 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 43,200 pounds; gross, 70,000 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 1,650-horsepower Bristol Hercules XVI radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 270 miles per hour; ceiling, 17,000 feet; range, 2,010 miles

Armament: 8 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 14,000 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1941-1945


he slab-sided Stirling was Britain’s first strategic bomber and the first to achieve operational sta­tus during World War II. Visually impressive, it suf­fered from poor altitude performance and was even­tually eclipsed by the Avro Lancaster and Handley Page Halifax.

In 1936 the British air staff sought acquisition of its first strategic bomber, so the Air Ministry is­sued Specification B.12/36 for a four-engine aircraft. Several prototypes were entered by different firms, but Short’s model proved the most successful. It was a large, high-wing monoplane with smooth, stressed skin. The fuselage was rather long, was slab-sided, and housed three power turrets for de­fense. Because the wing was so far off the ground, enormous landing gear were required, causing the aircraft to appear larger than it actually was. A po­tential problem was the wingspan. Because min­istry specifications mandated that the new craft should fit into existing hangars, its wings could not exceed 100 feet. Thus, the Stirling, which was rather large, always suffered from insufficient lift.

Nonetheless, the decision was made to acquire the bomber in 1939, and within two years the first squadrons were outfitted.

In service the Stirling enjoyed a rather mixed record. The big craft was structurally sound and, at low altitude, quite maneuverable for its size. How­ever, its short wing enabled it to reach barely 17,000 feet while fully loaded—an easy target for antiair­craft batteries and enemy fighters. Another unfore­seen shortcoming was the bomb bay, which was constructed in sections and could not accommodate ordnance larger than 2,000 pounds—the largest weapon available in 1938. Thus, unlike the Hali- faxes and Lancasters that followed, its utility as a strategic weapon was decidedly limited. Stirlings nonetheless performed good service with RAF Bomber Command until 1944, when they were rele­gated to secondary tasks. Foremost among these was glider-towing, which they extensively per­formed at Normandy in June 1944. By 1945 Stirlings had flown 18,446 sorties and dropped 27,281 tons of bombs. A total of 2,373 were constructed.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Patrol-Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 112 feet, 9 inches; length, 85 feet, 3 inches; height, 32 feet, 10 inches Weights: empty, 37,000 pounds; gross, 65,000 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 1,200-horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp radial engines Performance: maximum speed, 213 miles per hour; ceiling, 17,900 feet; range, 2,980 miles Armament: 10 x.303-inch machine guns; 2,000 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1938-1959


he large, graceful Sunderland was among World War Il’s best flying boats. Because it bristled with armament, the Germans regarded it as the “Fly­ing Porcupine.”

The advent of successful Short Empire C-class flying boats in 1933 persuaded the British Air Min­istry to consider its adoption for military purposes. That year it issued Specification R.2/33 to replace the aging biplane flying boats with a new monoplane craft. The prototype Sunderland was heavily based upon the civilian craft when it first flew in 1937. It was a high-wing, four-engine airplane with stressed- skin construction and a very deep, two-step hull. The spacious hull of the Sunderland allowed for creature comforts not associated with military craft. These included comfortable bunks, wardrooms, and a galley serving hot food, all of which mitigated the effects of 10-hour patrols. The craft was also the first flying boat fitted with powered gun turrets in the nose, dorsal, and tail positions, as well as the first to carry antishipping radar. Despite its bulk, the

Sunderland handled well in both air and water and became operational in 1938. World War II com­menced the following year, and Sunderlands ulti­mately equipped 17 Royal Air Force squadrons.

This capable aircraft played a vital role in the ongoing battles in the Atlantic. They cruised thou­sands of miles over open ocean, providing convoy escorts and attacking U-boats whenever possible. The first submarine kill happened in January 1940 when a Sunderland forced the scuttling of U-55. The big craft, by flying low to the water, could also de­fend itself handily. On several occasions, Sunder – lands beat off roving bands of Junkers Ju 88s with considerable loss to the attackers. The Germans held the big craft in such esteem that they nick­named it the Stachelschwein (Porcupine). Sunder – lands performed useful service in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters throughout the war. They were re­tained in frontline service until 1959, giving them— at 21 years—the longest service record of any British combat type. A total of 721 were built.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 27 feet, 4 inches; length, 18 feet, 8 inches; height, 8 feet, 11 inches

Weights: empty, 1,190 pounds; gross, 1,620 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 160-horsepower Siemens-Halske rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 118 miles per hour; ceiling, 26,240 feet; range, 250 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1918-1919


he barrel-chested Siemens-Schuckert D III and D IV were among the finest fighters developed during World War I. At high altitude they possessed superior performance to the legendary Fokker D VII.

Since 1916 the famous Siemens-Schuckert Werke firm had been experimenting with numerous rotary-engine fighter designs. Eventually the pro­gram came under the sway of designer Harald Wolf, who originated a unique aircraft suitable for the large Siemens-Halske Sh III rotary engine. Called the D III, it was a squat, barrel-chested machine pos­sessing rather sleek lines. It had two-bay wings of conventional wooden construction, with the upper wing of considerably lower chord than the lower one. The massive engine was completely enclosed by a close-fitting cowling and drove a four-blade pro­peller. To counteract strong torque forces, the right wing was actually four inches longer than the left. In sum, this was a compact, powerful design of un­usual military promise.

In the winter of 1917 small batches of D IIIs arrived at the front for evaluation under combat
conditions. Pilots were awed by its aerial agility and phenomenal climb. In level flight, however, it was somewhat slower than other fighters, and the SH III engine was prone to overheating. Engine seizures were frequent, and by February 1918 all 20 D IIIs returned to the factory for modifications. They reappeared at the front by summer, along with 60 production models, having the lower part of their cowling cut off to facilitate cooling.

Concurrently, an improved version, the D IV, was also under development. Outwardly this model appeared identical to the D III, but it pos­sessed a redesigned top wing and a large spinner with cooling louvers. These modifications en­dowed the D IV with greater speed and even faster climb. By the fall of 1918 a total of 118 had been constructed, which equipped four squadrons. In service the D IVs proved the only German fighter capable of tackling the formidable Sopwith Camels and Snipes on equal terms. In 1919 several examples were flown by German against Bolshe­vik forces in the Baltic.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Heavy Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 97 feet, 9 inches; length, 56 feet, 1 inch; height, 15 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 8,378 pounds; gross, 12,125 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 150-horsepower Sunbeam liquid-cooled in-line engines

Performance: maximum speed, 85 miles per hour; ceiling, 10,500 feet; range, 435 miles

Armament: 7 x 7.7mm machine guns; 2,200 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1914-1924


he massive Ilya Muromets was the world’s first four-engine bomber—and a good one at that. In three years it dropped 2,200 tons of bombs on Ger­man positions, losing only one plane in combat.

In 1913 the Russo-Baltic Wagon Works con­structed the world’s first four-engine aircraft under the direction of Igor Sikorsky. Dubbed the Russki Vi – tiaz (Russian Knight), it was also the first to mount a fully enclosed cabin. This giant craft safely com­pleted 54 flights before being destroyed in a ground accident. In 1914 Sikorsky followed up his success by devising the first-ever four-engine bomber and christened it Ilya Muromets after a legendary me­dieval knight. The new machine possessed straight, unstaggered, four-bay wings with ailerons only on the upper. The fuselage was long and thin, with a completely enclosed cabin housing a crew of five. On February 12, 1914, with Sikorsky himself at the con­trols, the Ilya Muromets reached an altitude of 6,560 feet and loitered five hours while carrying 16 passen­gers and a dog! This performance, unmatched any­
where in the world, aroused the military’s interest, and it bought 10 copies as the Model IM.

After World War I commenced in 1914, Sikor­sky went on to construct roughly 80 more of the giant craft, which were pooled into an elite forma­tion known as the Vozdushnykh Korablei (Flying Ships) Squadron. On February 15, 1915, they com­menced a concerted, two-year bombardment cam­paign against targets along the eastern fringes of Germany and Austria. The Ilya Muromets carried particularly heavy loads for their day, with bombs weighing in excess of 920 pounds. This sounds even more impressive considering that ordnance dropped along the Western Front was usually hurled by hand! The mighty Russian giants were also well-built and heavily armed. In 422 sorties, only one was lost in combat, and only after downing three German fight­ers. Operations ceased after the Russian Revolution of 1917, with many bombers being destroyed on the ground. A handful of survivors served the Red Air Force as trainers until 1922.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Fighter; Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 27 feet, 6 inches; length, 20 feet, 4 inches; height, 9 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 897 pounds; gross, 1,490 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 80-horsepower Gnome air-cooled rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 73 miles per hour; ceiling, 11,482 feet; range, 200 miles

Armament: up to 2 x 7.62mm machine guns

Service dates: 1916-1924


he diminutive S 16 was one of the earliest fight­ers to mount forward-firing interrupter gear. A mediocre craft, its robust construction permitted useful service under very harsh operating condi­tions.

The Russo-Baltic Wagon Factory had gained considerable renown through the efforts of its chief engineer, Igor I. Sikorsky. His four-engine Ilya Muromets bombers were among the most advanced in the world, and in the spring of 1914 he was in­structed to design an escort fighter to assist the giant craft. The prototype emerged in February 1915 as the S 16. This was a small machine of conven­tional appearance and construction. It possessed a wire-braced wooden fuselage and a spacious cock­pit for two crewmen. The single bay wings were af­fixed to the fuselage by dual struts, and the craft was built entirely of wood and canvas covering. The S 16 was originally designed to be powered by a 100- horsepower Gnome Monosoupape rotary engine, but shortages necessitated using a smaller, 80-horse­power version. Consequently, the S 16, which pos­
sessed excellent flying characteristics, remained slow and underpowered. However, it was unique in mounting robust, four-wheeled landing gear. These allowed operations from the plowed fields that Rus­sian forces utilized as airstrips. In winter, the S 16 could also be fitted with skis.

The S 16 was only marginally successful, but it is notable in being among the first Allied aircraft to utilize Russian-designed interrupter gear for ma­chine guns to fire through the propeller arc. This system, conceived by naval Lieutenant G. I. Lavrov, was somewhat faulty (as were most early systems) and was usually complemented by a second, wing – mounted gun firing over the propeller. Only 34 S 16s were built by 1917, but they saw widespread service as reconnaissance craft. They were also deemed un­satisfactory for escorting the giant Ilya Muromets bombers, which proved very capable at defending themselves. After the Russian Revolution, the sur­viving S 16s were impressed into the Red Air Force as trainers. They dutifully served until being retired in 1924.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber; Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 33 feet, 6 inches; length, 25 feet, 3 inches; height, 10 feet, 3 inches Weights: empty, 1,259 pounds; gross, 2,150 pounds Power plant: 1 x 130-horsepower Clerget rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 106 miles per hour; ceiling, 15,000 feet; range, 400 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 230 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1916-1918


opwith 1 1/2 Strutters sported several technical innovations for their time and were exception­ally fine-looking aircraft. They compiled an exem­plary combat service record in World War I as fight­ers, bombers, and scouts.

In 1915 the British Admiralty issued new specifi­cations for a two-seat fighter, the first British tractor- type equipped with a synchronized machine gun for firing through the propeller arc. Sopwith completed the prototype in December of that year as a hand­some, two-bay biplane powered by a rotary engine. In fact, the new craft sported two interesting innova­tions. The first was a form of air brake, consisting of two square sections on the lower wing that were hinged and could be lowered upon landing. The sec­ond was a variable-incidence tailplane that allowed the craft to be trimmed in flight. Like all Sopwith ma­chines, the new Type 9400 was delightful to fly, re­sponsive, and maneuverable. It was also heavily armed for its day, mounting both a forward-firing ma­chine gun for the pilot and a ring-mounted weapon for the observer. Production began the following
spring; the first units reached the front in April 1916. Crews immediately dubbed it the 1 1/2 Strutter on ac­count of the “W”-shaped inboard struts.

Strutters were operated by both Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service units and ac­quired a jack-of-all-trades reputation. They initially functioned as escort fighters and enjoyed consider­able success, for very few two-seat aircraft were armed with interrupter gear. By that fall the newly arrived Albatros D I and Halberstadt fighters termi­nated this role, for the craft was too stable for vio­lent defensive maneuvers. Fortunately, their versa­tility made them excellent bombing platforms, and several hundred single-seat versions were deployed by both services. The British ultimately constructed 1,513 Strutters, but its biggest customer was France, which manufactured an additional 4,500 machines. They were also employed by the American Expedi­tionary Force, which purchased 514 machines to serve as trainers in 1918. Strutters continued to function in various capacities until supplanted by more advanced types in 1918.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 28 feet; length, 18 feet, 9 inches; height, 8 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 929 pounds; gross, 1,453 pounds Power plant: 1 x 140-horsepower Clerget rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 113 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,000 feet; range, 200 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns Service dates: 1917-1919


he immortal Camel was the finest British fighter of World War I. A snubbed-nosed dervish, it helped wrest air superiority away from Germany and counted among its victims the legendary Man­fred von Richthofen (the Red Baron).

Development of a new fighter to succeed the Sopwith Pup commenced in 1916 when Herbert Smith conceived a machine capable of greater ma­neuverability. He accomplished this by placing the heaviest parts—the engine, armament, and pilot— all within 8 feet of the nose section. This arrange­ment, coupled with the tremendous torque gener­ated by a Clerget rotary engine, gave the ensuing Sopwith F1 fighter unparalleled turning ability. It was also the first British fighter designed to be equipped with twin Vickers machine guns firing through the propeller arc. These were closely en­closed in a distinctive hump that inspired the nick­name Camel.

The Camel was unlike any British fighter to date and certainly differed from the Sopwith designs preceding it. Whereas the famous Pup and Triplane designs possessed gentle, almost sedate characteris­
tics, the new machine was both unstable and unfor­giving. These attributes rendered it a first-class fighter in the hands of an experienced pilot, for the Camel could outturn any German aircraft except the vaunted Fokker Dr I triplane. However, novice pilots found it a vicious handful and dangerous to fly, for careless turning inevitably led to fatal spins. Attrition among beginning pilots was appreciable high, but those who mastered the craft managed to shoot down an estimated 1,300 German airplanes, more than any other Allied fighter. Among the many vic­tims was Baron von Richthofen himself, purportedly bagged by Captain Roy Brown of Naval Squadron No. 209 on April 21, 1918. A total of 5,490 Camels were built, including the 2 F1, a navalized version featuring shorter wings and a detachable fuselage for shipboard storage. Like its Royal Flying Corps coun­terparts, the navy Camels fought tenaciously, scored well, and even claimed the last Zeppelin shot down during the war. The mighty Sopwiths were all retired within months of the November 1918 Armistice and were replaced by an even finer machine, the Snipe. It remains a classic British warplane.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 32 feet, 6 inches; length, 22 feet, 3 inches; height, 8 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 1,391 pounds; gross, 2,008 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 200-horsepower Hispano-Suiza Vee liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 112 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,000 feet; range, 250 miles Armament: up to 4 x.303-inch machine guns; 100 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1918-1919


he ungainly Dolphin was the first multigun British fighter ever produced. It had fine high-al­titude performance but, ironically, performed more useful work on the deck.

In 1917 Sopwith commenced work on a fighter that maximized vision and firepower at the expense of maneuverability. The new craft was an even big­ger departure from traditional company norms in that it utilized an in-line, not rotary, engine. The pro­totype emerged in May 1917 and immediately raised eyebrows. The wings of equal length were set back in a negative stagger to afford the pilot greater frontal view. To that end, the top wing’s center sec­tion was also cut out and mounted low to the fuse­lage, allowing the pilot’s head to protrude. This af­forded him a splendid field of vision but also guaranteed a broken neck—or worse—in the event of a noseover. The in-line motor gave the deep fuse­lage a rather pointed profile and mounted outboard radiators on either side. The armament was also worthy of note. In addition to two synchronized ma­
chine guns in front, it possessed a pair of drum-fed Lewis machine guns mounted at an angle over the pilot’s enclosure. This craft, christened the 5F1 Dol­phin, displayed excellent flying qualities, especially at high altitude, and the decision was made to enter production. Within a year 1,532 had been acquired.

Dolphins reached France in the spring of 1918 and were immediately viewed with suspicion. The geared Hispano-Suiza engine caused endless difficul­ties, and—owing to the wing arrangement—its stall characteristics caused many accidents. But pilots came to appreciate the fine high-altitude perfor­mance of the Dolphin and its robust construction. Curiously, many squadrons found the twin Lewis guns burdensome and discarded them altogether. Dolphins functioned as fighters for several months but found even greater success as ground-attack craft. Armed with four 25-pound bombs, they proved extremely effective at dispersing infantry forma­tions. The novel Sopwiths served well until war’s end and were phased out of service the following year.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 26 feet, 6 inches; length, 19 feet, 3 inches; height, 9 feet, 5 inches

Weights: empty, 790 pounds; gross, 1,225 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 80-horsepower Gnome Monosoupape rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 111 miles per hour; ceiling, 17,500 feet; range, 310 miles

Armament: 1 x.303-inch machine gun

Service dates: 1916-1917


hen first introduced, the elegant Pups were hailed as the most perfect flying machines of their day. They were also capable dogfighters and compiled an astonishing combat record.

In 1915 Sopwith’s Herbert Smith decided to produce a new fighter based on a personal aircraft owned by test pilot Harry Hawker. The resulting prototype looked like a scaled-down, single-seat ver­sion of the already capable 1 1/2 Strutter. It was a small, handsome craft driven by a rotary engine and constructed of wood and fabric. This new Model 9901 possessed broad wings of equal length, a re­duced center section to improve pilot vision, and the same distinctive inboard struts as the 1 1/2 Strutter. This close visual association gave rise to the craft’s popular name—the “pup” of the previous airplane. Although distinctly underpowered, the Pup was in every respect a pilot’s machine. It was docile yet sensitive, and by virtue of very low wing loading it was able to maintain altitude during violent acro­batic maneuvering. The tidy craft equipped several
naval squadrons and arrived in France during the spring of 1916.

In combat, the pugnacious Pup became the terror of the Western Front. It tackled the feared Al – batros scouts with ease and outflew them at high al­titude. The Royal Flying Corps was then hard – pressed owing to heavy casualties, and a number of Pup-equipped Royal Navy squadrons were dis­patched to assist. The most famous of these, Naval Eight, flew for only three months and accounted for 20 enemy craft. Having themselves received the Pup, air corps units also asserted their superiority at great expense to the enemy. The diminutive plane gained further distinction by participating in landing experiments aboard the carrier HMS Furious. On August 2, 1917, a Pup flown by Commander F. J. Rut­land became the first land plane to touch down on a moving ship at sea. By the fall of 1917, the splendid little Sopwiths were gradually withdrawn and re­placed by the newer Camels and Royal Aircraft Fac­tory SE 5s. A total of 1,770 had been manufactured.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 30 feet, 1 inch; length, 19 feet, 9 inches; height, 9 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 1,312 pounds; gross, 2,020 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 230-horsepower Bentley BR 2 rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 121 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,000 feet; range, 300 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns Service dates: 1918-1926


ad World War I endured beyond the November 1918 Armistice, the Snipe might have gained renown as the best all-around fighter of the war. Ac­cordingly, it served as the last rotary-engine airplane of the postwar period.

Throughout 1917 Herbert Smith worked on a more powerful successor to his already famous Camel. The new craft shared similar outlines with its predecessor but was built around the new 230- horsepower Bentley BR 2 rotary engine. Several pro­totypes were built, flown, and successively modified until rendered proficient. The 7F1 Snipe, as it was named, was a four-bay biplane design with a short fuselage and relatively long wings. Unlike the Camel, both wings were given several degrees of di­hedral, and the top one had its center section re­duced to improve pilot vision. The slab-sided fuse­lage of the former had also given way to a rounder, more streamlined form. And like its precursor, the Snipe possessed twin machine guns in a distinctive fairing over the engine, only now the hump was even more pronounced. Flight-testing concluded success­
fully, and production commenced in the spring of 1918.

Only 200 Snipes had been completed by the time of the Armistice, equipping three squadrons. Nonetheless, the new fighter quickly gained repute as being quite possibly the best aircraft of its class during the war. It climbed better than the Camel, re­tained all the legendary maneuverability, and pos­sessed none of the latter’s vicious spin characteris­tics. These traits were summarily displayed on October 27, 1918, when a Snipe flown by Canadian Major W. G. Barker single-handedly engaged 15 su­perb Fokker D VIIs, gaining him the Victoria Cross.

After the war, Snipes continued on as the first major Royal Air Force service fighter. Given their great aerial agility, they remained standard fare at aviation shows throughout the early 1920s, although their rotary-engine technology was approaching ob­solescence. By 1926 the weary Snipes had been eclipsed by newer radial-engine fighters like the Gloster Grebe and the Armstrong-Whitworth Siskin. Production totaled 2,103 machines.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Reconnaissance; Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 25 feet, 6 inches; length, 20 feet, 4 inches; height, 8 feet, 5 inches Weights: empty, 720 pounds; gross, 1,120 pounds Power plant: 1 x 80-horsepower Gnome rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 93 miles per hour; ceiling, 15,000 feet; range, 300 miles Armament: none Service dates: 1914-1915


he Tabloid was a fast, groundbreaking design of the early aviation era. In 1914 it became the first single-seat scout to enter military service and also made the first successful air raid on German soil.

In 1913 Tommy Sopwith established a small aircraft firm at Kingston-upon-Thames and com­menced his lifelong ambition of designing airplanes. His first effort was a small racing biplane named the Tabloid that possessed amazing performance for its day. It was a standard two-bay biplane constructed when monoplanes seemed the future of aviation. Of standard wood-and-fabric construction, it sported a neatly fitting metal cowl and a broad fuselage seat­ing two occupants side by side. The wings were rake-tipped and utilized warping for lateral control. When Harry Hawker flew the Tabloid at the Hendon Air Show on November 29, 1913, he reached a blaz­ing 93 miles per hour and climbed 1,200 feet a minute while carrying a passenger and two and a half hours of fuel! Such outstanding performance quickly garnered military attention, and shortly be­fore World War I the nifty biplane was acquired in
small numbers by both the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. Around 40 were built, modified to carry ailerons.

Military aircraft at this juncture were little more than civilian flying contraptions pressed into service. However, the speedy Tabloids were among the first aircraft dispatched to France and soon com­menced reconnaissance operations. The craft was never formally armed, but on one occasion a Tabloid piloted by Lieutenant Norman Spratt forced a German machine down by constantly circling it! A more ominous action transpired on October 8, 1916, when two Tabloids flown by Commander Spenser Gray and Lieutenant Marix conducted the first allied bomb run over Germany. Spenser became lost in the mist and dropped his small bombs on the Cologne railway station, but Marix enjoyed spectacular suc­cess by destroying Zeppelin Z IX in its shed. Follow­ing some brief Mediterranean service, the famous Tabloids were finally retired. But Tommy Sopwith had made his mark and went on to become a renowned aircraft manufacturer.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 26 feet, 6 inches; length, 18 feet, 10 inches; height, 10 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 1,101 pounds; gross, 1,541 pounds Power plant: 1 x 130-horsepower Clerget rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 117 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,500 feet; range, 250 miles Armament: 1 x.303-inch machine gun Service dates: 1917


oming on the heels of the vaunted Pup, the Sop­with Triplane was an even bigger surprise to the Germans. The little Tripehound was faster and could outturn and outclimb the Albatros scouts with ease.

The Sopwith Triplane originated when Herbert Smith attempted to wring even more maneuverabil­ity out of his exiting Pup design. The prototype flew in May 1916 and shared some outward similarities with the earlier machine, but little else. Like the Pup, the Triplane was compact and good-looking. It employed three wings of equal length, but each was fitted with an aileron to enhance turning and roll rates. Being a triplane, the wings were also of less chord, which gave the pilot better fields of vision. The fuselage was conventionally built of wood and fabric with the engine, armament, fuel, and pilot concentrated toward the front. This arrangement, in concert with torque forces from the spinning rotary engine, contributed to its very sharp turning rate. Trial flights were successful, and the Triplane was
ordered in quantity for both the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. A majority of the 140 Triplanes constructed were flown by navy pilots, who dubbed it the Tripehound.

The little Sopwiths appeared on the Western Front in the spring of 1917 and completely mastered the formidable Albatros D III scouts. The leading tri­plane exponent was Lieutenant Raymond Colling – shaw, a Canadian commanding B Flight of Naval Ten. This unit fancied itself the “Black Flight” be­cause all five Triplanes were painted black and christened Black Death, Black Maria, Black Roger, Black Prince, and Black Sheep. In three months of combat, Collingshaw’s flight accounted for no less than 87 German aircraft. Other units enjoyed similar success, and for seven months Tripehounds domi­nated the air. By the fall of 1917 they were replaced by newer Sopwith Camels and relegated to training duties. The reign of this little Sopwith was brief, but the Germans paid it a direct compliment by bringing out a triplane of their own—the famous Fokker Dr I.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Light Bomber; Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 32 feet, 5 inches; length, 40 feet, 2 inches; height, 14 feet

Weights: empty, 6,993 pounds; gross, 13,890 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 4,000-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Viper turbojet engine

Performance: maximum speed, 565 miles per hour; ceiling, 49,200 feet; range, 807 miles

Armament: up to 2,646 pounds of gunpods, bombs, or rockets

Service dates: 1985-


he Super Galeb is a competent trainer/light at­tack craft that saw active duty during the Yu­goslavian civil war. Several were consequently shot down by NATO air forces.

No sooner had the straight-wing G 2 Galeb (Seagull) trainer been deployed in 1970 than the Yu­goslavian Federal Air Force began agitating for a more advanced design with greater ground-attack capability. The government, wishing to expand its ties to Third World governments through arms trad­ing, was in complete agreement. By 1978 SOKO, the state-run airplane factory, had unveiled its first G 4 Super Galeb prototype, which shared little common­ality with the previous craft beyond the name. It possessed a pointed profile, a swept wing, and tail surfaces that sloped slightly downward. This last feature was unique for a training craft, as the fins were an all-moving arrangement for greater maneu­verability. The crew of two sat tandem under a spa­cious bubble canopy in staggered seats. Production commenced in 1980, and by 1985 the G 4 had largely
superceded the older Galebs as advanced trainers. In service the Super Galeb was reasonably fast and could carry a useful load of ordnance, making it ideal as a cheap strike fighter. Around 130 G 4s were built before production ceased in 1992.

Despite their status as trainers, G 4s acquired a controversial reputation as a ground-attack craft. In 1990 the military government of Myanmar (Burma), beset by guerilla movements, purchased 12 of the sleek craft for counterinsurgency operations. Yu­goslavia willingly sold machines in the face of inter­national sanctions against the oppressive local regime. Two years later Super Galebs were in action against Yugoslavians after the civil war commenced. Transferred to the largely Serbian Yugoslav state, G 4s pounded ethnic Muslim civilian centers for some time until ordered by the United Nations to observe a no-fly zone. On February 28, 1994, three Super Galebs disobeyed and were downed in NATO’s first-ever hostile action. It is not known how many G 4s remain operational.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 31 feet, 6 inches; length, 48 feet, 10 inches; height, 14 feet, 7 inches

Weights: empty, 13,007 pounds; gross, 22,267 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 5,000-pound thrust Roll-Royce Viper turbojet engines

Performance: maximum speed, 721 miles per hour; ceiling, 41,010 feet; range, 329 miles

Armament: 2 x 23mm cannons; up to 3,307 pounds of bomb and rockets

Service dates: 1979-


olitics and aviation make for strange bedfellows.

This axiom is borne out in the case of the jointly produced Orao, an indifferent fighter-bomber with great national pride attached.

In 1970 two maverick communist states, Ro­mania and Yugoslavia, announced a decision to jointly develop a new ground-attack aircraft. This move could hardly be viewed as unexpected, as Yugoslavia under Marshal Tito had thumbed its nose at the Soviet Union since 1946. Moreover, Ro­mania’s dictator Nicolae Ceausescu—his country a nominal member of the Warsaw Pact—was a prag­matist determined to forge links outside of the communist bloc. Given the prickly sensibilities of Balkan nationalism, however, each side went to in­ordinate lengths not to outstage the other. The new craft hoisted a lot of national pride on its back, so, despite common origins, it was also as­signed different names! The Romanian version would be designated the IAR 93, whereas its Yu­goslavian counterpart became the SOKO J 22 Orao (Eagle).

Early on the two national state aviation indus­tries SOKO and CNIAR elected a relatively simple, if outwardly modern, design. The J 22/IAR 93 was a single-seat, shoulder-wing jet with swept wings and tail surfaces. It was powered by two Rolls-Royce Viper tur­bojet engines with afterburners, to be manufactured locally. The new craft was destined as a low-level ground-attack machine with possible interception functions. Plans were also entertained to produce a two-seat trainer version. Construction moved forward haltingly, and it was not until October 31, 1974, that two prototypes flew—on the same day in both coun­tries. Production had finally geared up by 1979, and the first models arrived for service shortly thereafter. The initial machines lacked afterburners and were immedi­ately consigned to reconnaissance duties. Subsequent models were fitted with the thrust-enhancing device, but even that addition did not translate into supersonic performance. Consequently, the Orao remains a poor man’s attack plane. Romania has acquired about 200, but Yugoslavian production halted at about 50 after that country splintered in 1995.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 26 feet, 6 inches; length, 20 feet, 4 inches; height, 7 feet, 8 inches Weights: empty, 1,255 pounds; gross, 1,808 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 220-horsepower Hispano-Suiza liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 138 miles per hour; ceiling, 21,800 feet; range, 220 miles Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns Service dates: 1916-1923


he magnificent SPAD XIII was the best French fighter of World War I and a radical departure from earlier design philosophies. Although not as nimble as the lighter Nieuports, the sacrifice in ma­neuverability was offset by speed and ruggedness.

In 1916 the inability of the Societe Pour les Appareils Deperdussin (SPAD) to market the SPAD A 1 two-seat fighter induced designer Louis Bechereau to rethink his approach. In April 1916 his prototype SPAD VII emerged as a completely new aircraft sporting beautifully clean lines. It was a conventional biplane with unstaggered, four-bay wings and a round cross-section fuselage housing a 160-horsepower in-line V engine. Armament was re­stricted to one machine gun. Test flights proved the SPAD VII possessed great speed and strength, so the craft entered service within months. The new fighter was immediately successful, being faster than German fighters in both climb and level flight. Moreover, SPAD VIIs could absorb amazing amounts of damage and return safely. By 1917 more than 5,000 had been produced, and they equipped
virtually every French fighter squadron, along with many in Italy, Belgium, and Russia. Reputedly, Ital­ian ace Francesco Baracca grew so attached to his SPAD VII that he refused to trade it when later mod­els became available.

In 1917 Bechereau capitalized on his success by developing the mighty SPAD XIII. This was a fur­ther refinement of his earlier masterpiece, with two machine guns, longer wings, and a stronger engine. In combat the SPAD XIII repeated the success of the earlier design, and it became the chosen mount of numerous French aces such as Rene Fonck, Georges Guynemer, and Charles Nungesser. By 1918 more than 8,472 had been constructed, equipping no less than 71 French squadrons. It also replaced rick­ety Nieuport 28s of the American Expeditionary Force and was flown with great success by Captain Eddie Rickenbacker. More than any other airplane, the SPAD XIII helped turn the air war’s tide in favor of the Allies. Afterward it was widely exported abroad and continued in frontline service for nearly a decade.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 45 feet, 3 inches; length, 61 feet, 6 inches; height, 16 feet, 5 inches

Weights: empty, 36,155 pounds; gross, 42,989 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 24,802-pound thrust NPO Saturn AL-21F-3 turbojet engine

Performance: maximum speed, 870 miles per hour; ceiling, 49,870 feet; range, 715 miles

Armament: 2 x 30mm cannons; up to 2,205 pounds of bomb or rockets

Service dates: 1971-


ussian aircraft builders display great ingenuity in wringing every last ounce of performance from existing machines. The long-lived Su 17 is such an example, and it continues to be upgraded and em­ployed long after the basic design became obsolete.

In 1956 the Sukhoi design bureau created its first tactical jet bomber, the Su 7, a modern-looking machine built in large numbers to offset its relative simplicity. It was a capable fighter-bomber and ruggedly built but also somewhat underpowered. Moreover, it suffered from long runway rolls and rather short range. In 1967 the Sukhoi bureau de­cided to upgrade this family of bombers by adding variable-geometry wings to enhance takeoff, land­ing, and load-carrying abilities. Early on it was judged impossible to fit wing-retracting equipment into the narrow fuselage, so engineers compromised by making the wings pivot midway along their length. The added lift increased the Su 7’s takeoff performance, and operational radius and ordnance payload were improved as well. Commencing in
1971 the new Su 17 became operational in large numbers, and they were deployed by Warsaw Pact allies and Soviet client states. It has since received the NATO designation FITTER.

During the past three decades, the basic Su 17 design has undergone numerous modifications and upgrades that render this marginally obsolete ma­chine still useful as an attack craft. The latest variant, the Su 17M, is distinguished by a close-fitting clamshell canopy with a high spine ridge running the length of the fuselage. The tail fin is also somewhat taller and employs a single airscoop at its base. This model has been exported abroad as the Su 22, with somewhat lowered-powered avionics, but otherwise it remains an effective bombing platform. After the breakup of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, many former Warsaw Pact countries were eager to unload their aging Sukhois, but Russia alone seems content to maintain its stable of 800-plus Su 17s. Their rugged design, combined with good reliability and perform­ance, ensures a long service life.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Medium Bomber; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, (spread) 57 feet, 10 inches; length, 80 feet, 5 inches; height, 16 feet Weights: empty, 41,887 pounds; gross, 87,522 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 24,802-pound thrust NPO Saturn AL-21F-3A turbofan engines Performance: maximum speed, 1,441 miles per hour; ceiling, 57,415 feet; range, 1,300 miles Armament: 1 x 23mm cannon; up to 17,637 pounds of nuclear or conventional bombs Service dates: 1974-


he formidable Su 24 is among the most potent weapons of the Russian tactical air arm. It can attack at low level, high speed, and with pinpoint ac­curacy under any weather conditions.

Up through the late 1960s, Soviet tactical avia­tion, though possessing huge quantities of airplanes, still lacked genuine nighttime all-weather attack ca­pability. Moreover, in view of the increasing sophis­tication of antiaircraft defenses, low-level opera­tions were becoming a matter of survival. The existing Il 28 and Yak 28s then in service were sim­ply too old or too incapable to meet such rigorous standards. To remedy this shortfall and place the Red Air Force on par with Western adversaries, the Sukhoi design bureau was entrusted with designing a new generation of ground-attack craft. Commenc­ing in 1970 it experimented with a bizarre variety of delta and vertical-takeoff prototypes before settling on a machine very reminiscent of the General Dy­namics F-111. Like that groundbreaking U. S. design, the new Su 24 employed variable-geometry wings
that sweep forward to assist takeoff and landings, then sweep back for high-speed operations. Around 900 were constructed since 1974, and they received the NATO code name FENCER.

In service the Su 24s were the first Russian air­craft to incorporate a totally integrated avionics sys­tem, one linking bombsight, weapons control, and navigation into one central computer. The new Su 24, in fact, was initially viewed as a “mini-F-111” owning to the obvious side-by-side placement of the two-member crew. This was proof that a Soviet war­plane, for the first time, flew with a dedicated weapons-systems officer to operate an advanced avionics suite. Approaching a target at low altitude and high speed, Su 24s can deliver a host of conven­tional or nuclear weapons with great accuracy at night and in bad weather. An equally adept tactical reconnaissance version, the Su 24MR, has also been developed. With continual upgrades, these formida­ble warplanes will remain in service for years to come.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Antitank; Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 47 feet, 1 inch; length, 50 feet, 11 inches; height, 15 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 21,605 pounds; gross, 41,005 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 9,921-pound thrust NMPK R-195 turbojet engines

Performance: maximum speed, 590 miles per hour; ceiling, 22,965 feet; range, 308 miles

Armament: 1 x 30mm cannon; up to 9,700 pounds of bombs or rockets

Service dates: 1984-


he Su 25 is successor to the famous Il 2 Shtur – movik of World War II. Fast and heavily armed, it is reputedly the most difficult plane in the world to shoot down.

The air war in Vietnam highlighted the need for simple close-support aircraft able to operate from unpaved strips close to the front. Such warplanes would also have to deliver heavy ordnance against targets with great accuracy and be able to survive in­tense ground fire. The United States parlayed its ex­perience into the Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II, a heavily armored twin-engine bomber. The Soviets also watched these developments closely before de­ciding that they, too, needed similar aircraft and ca­pabilities. During World War II Russia had deployed the redoubtable Il 2 Shturmovik aircraft for identical reasons, so in 1968 the Sukhoi design bureau became tasked with developing an equivalent machine for the jet age. The bureau settled upon a design reminis­cent of the Northrop YA-9, which had lost out to the A-10 in competition. The new Su 25 was an all-metal,
shoulder-wing monoplane constructed around a heavily armored titanium “tub” that housed both pilot and avionics. Engines were placed in long, rein­forced nacelles on either side of the fuselage, and the fuel tanks were filled with reticulated foam for pro­tection against explosions. To assist slow-speed ma­neuvering, the wingtip pods split open at the ends to form air brakes. Its profile is rather pointed, but a blunt noseplate covers a laser range finder/target designator. The Su 25 is somewhat faster than the A – 10, trusting more in speed to ensure survival than a dependency on agility and heavy armor. It is nonetheless an effective tank destroyer.

A series of preproduction aircraft was subse­quently deployed to Afghanistan, where the planes performed useful service against guerilla forces. They flew some 60,000 sorties, losing 23 machines in the process, but the decision was made to enter pro­duction in 1980. Since then 330 Su 25s have been built; they have received the NATO designation FROGFOOT.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 48 feet, 3 inches; length, 72 feet; height, 19 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 38,580 pounds; gross, 72,750 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 27,557-pound thrust Saturn/Lyulka AL-31F turbofan engines Performance: maximum speed, 1,553 miles per hour; ceiling, 59,055 feet; range, 2,285 miles Armament: 1 x 30mm cannon; up to 10 air-to-air missiles Service dates: 1985-


he fantastic Su 27 is probably the world’s most impressive interceptor. Fast, capable, and heavily armed, it was the first aircraft to perform the famous “cobra” maneuver.

By 1969 the forthcoming generation of U. S. fighters—the Grumman F-14 Tomcat and the Mc – Donnell-Douglas F-15 Eagle—caused great conster­nation within Soviet aviation circles. These new planes were projected to be faster, more maneuver­able, and able to carry more missiles than their Rus­sian counterparts. That year Pavel Sukhoi began de­velopment of a fighter-interceptor with the range, armament, and ultramodern avionics to counter them. It was imperative that the new craft be able to detect and intercept low-flying targets and meet agile U. S. fighters on equal terms. Several unsuc­cessful prototypes were developed before Sukhoi died; his successor, Mikhail Simonov, hit upon a functional solution. The new Su 27 was a big fighter by virtue of the 4-foot-wide radar dish utilized in the nose. It also employed widely separated twin turbo­fan engines in a beautifully blended forebody and
high-lift wing. The craft was deliberately made un­stable for enhanced maneuverability and is flown with computer-assisted fly-by-wire technology. Moreover, the Su 27 does not require in-flight refuel­ing, as it carries 10 tons of fuel aloft. The NATO code word for the big craft is FLANKER, a name adopted by Russian pilots themselves.

In 1986 pilot Viktor Pugachev impressively flew an Su 27 from Moscow to the Paris Air Show nonstop, then stunned observers by demonstrating the famous “cobra” maneuver. In this acrobatic stunt, the pilot raises the nose of the Su 27 at high speed until the air­craft virtually stands still on its tail in midair; the pilot then lowers it without loss of altitude—the effect is a cobralike appearance. In service the FLANKER is de­signed for long-range interception, being the first Rus­sian fighter unshackled from ground-controlled inter­cept radar. It can launch up to 10 missiles before closing in for the kill with a heavy cannon. China, wishing to replace its aging fighter fleet, purchased several for its own air force. The Su 27 is a formidable fighting machine and will remain so for years.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet, 10 inches; length, 32 feet, 8 inches; height, 12 feet, 8 inches Weights: empty, 6,600 pounds; gross, 8,500 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 2,050-horsepower Rolls-Royce Griffon liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 448 miles per hour; ceiling, 44,500 feet; range, 460 miles Armament: 2 x 20mm cannons; 4 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 500 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1938-1954


he immortal Spitfire remains the symbol of British aerial prowess during World War II. Beau­tiful, fast, and lethal, this thoroughbred warrior was the quintessential fighter pilot’s dream—and more.

Reginald J. Mitchell was an accomplished de­signer of racing craft when, in 1934, he set about de­signing Britain’s first all-metal eight-gun fighter. His initial attempt, to be named the Spitfire, was a crank-winged apparition that flew as bad as it looked. However, development continued as a com­pany project. The revised machine was a rakish, highly streamlined aircraft with a pointed spinner, retractable undercarriage, and beautiful elliptical wings. It exuded the persona of a racehorse. The new Spitfire flew just less than 350 miles per hour, making it the fastest fighter in the world. Moreover, its handling and maneuverability were intrinsically superb, traits that carried over through a long and exemplary service life. The usually dubious British Air Ministry was so singularly impressed by the craft that a new specification was issued “around it” to fa­cilitate production. Spitfire Is entered squadron ser­
vice in 1938, and the following year, when Europe was plunged into war, they constituted 40 percent of Britain’s frontline fighter strength.

Commencing with the 1940 Battle of Britain, Spitfires captured the imagination of the world. They fought the equally capable Messerschmitt Bf 109Es to a draw, leaving the more numerous Hawker Hurricanes to drub bomber formations. As the war developed, so did the Spitfire, into no less than 40 major versions. Prior to 1941 they were in­delibly associated with the equally famous Rolls – Royce Merlin engine, but the appearance of the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 in 1942 caused better engines to be sought. Eventually the powerful Griffon in-line engine was married to the Spitfire fuselage, endow­ing it with greater speed and climb without infring­ing upon its legendary handling. The new Spitfire XIV was so fast that it successfully engaged the dreaded Me 262 jet fighters, downing several. The last marks were assembled in 1947 and remained in service until 1954. More than 20,000 of these peer­less warriors were built.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Patrol-Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 85 feet; length, 54 feet, 10 inches; height, 21 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 11,250 pounds; gross, 19,000 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 875-horsepower Bristol Pegasus X radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 165 miles per hour; ceiling, 18,500 feet; range, 1,000 miles

Armament: 3 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 1,000 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1938-1942


he Stranraer was the last in a dynasty of flying boats that spanned the interwar period. It was also the fastest flying boat ever employed by the Royal Air Force.

In 1924 the British Air Ministry released speci­fications for a new biplane flying boat to replace the World War I-vintage Felixstowe F5. The following year, Reginald J. Mitchell, future designer of the leg­endary Spitfire, conceived a new machine based upon his successful Supermarine Swan, a civilian machine. Christened the Southampton, 78 ma­chines were manufactured for the Royal Air Force. The Mk II variant sported an all-metal hull, and in 1927-1928 Southamptons of No. 205 Squadron suc­cessfully completed a 27,000-mile tour of the Far East. They served capably for nearly a decade be­fore being supplanted by a more refined model, the Scapa, in 1933. This machine bore many similarities to its forebear but differed in having double rud­ders, a fully enclosed cockpit, and relocated en­gines at the bottom of the top wing. By 1935 15 ex­
amples had been delivered; they were withdrawn by 1938.

In 1931 the government drew up specifications for a new all-purpose flying boat. Mitchell created a scaled-up version of the Scapa that was initially des­ignated the Southampton V. It was longer than the Scapa, with an extra set of interplane struts and a tailgunner position. The prototype was powered by two Bristol Pegasus IIIM engines driving two-blade wooden propellers, but production models utilized three-blade metal ones. Consequently, the new craft, which was renamed the Stranraer, became the fastest flying boat ever acquired by the RAF. A total of 24 were delivered in 1935, but Stranraers were rapidly overtaken by technology and soon rendered obsolete. They actively patrolled in 1939, but the fol­lowing year gave way to greatly superior Short Sun – derlands. However, Stranraers received a second lease on life in 1941 when the Royal Canadian Air Force acquired an additional 47 examples. They per­formed coastal patrolling until being retired in 1944.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Air/Sea Rescue; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 45 feet, 10 inches; length, 37 feet, 3 inches; height, 15 feet, 3 inches

Weights: empty, 4,900 pounds; gross, 7,200 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 775-horsepower Bristol Pegasus radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 135 miles per hour; ceiling, 18,500 feet; range, 600 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 760 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1936-1945


he homely “Shagbat” was one of the most wel­come sights in the skies of World War II. It res­cued thousands of downed airmen and performed useful service as a naval gunnery spotter.

As early as 1921 Reginald J. Mitchell had de­signed a small flying boat that he deemed the Seagull. It continued on as a private venture for many years until 1933, when the Australian government pur­chased 24 examples of the latest version, the Seagull

V. This craft was ugly but functional. It was a single­bay biplane with a fuselage mounted below the lower wing; a pusher-configuration engine stood affixed on struts above it. The hull was made of metal and stressed for shipboard catapulting and, hence, very strong. Flying surfaces were all fabric-covered, and there was a fully enclosed cockpit and two gunner positions. At this time the Fleet Air Arm closely scru­tinized Mitchell’s creation and in March 1936 adopted it as the Walrus I. They were deployed on capital ships throughout the fleet and engaged in reconnais­
sance and gunnery spotting. Once fitted with fixed landing gear, the little amphibians could also operate from airstrips. As events proved, the Walrus was adept at convoy patrolling and antisubmarine war­fare. A total of 287 Walrus Is were produced.

During World War II the ubiquitous Walrus served in virtually every theater of the war. Anti­quated appearances notwithstanding, it was a tough little craft capable of absorbing great amounts of punishment. In addition to naval service, Shagbats also equipped numerous squadrons of the Royal Air Force Air/Sea Rescue Service. This force was re­sponsible for saving thousands of downed airmen, and its stately gait and noisy drone were reassuring sights in the combat theaters. By 1940 a new ver­sion, the Walrus II, was introduced, with a com­pletely wooden hull. Production of Mk IIs amounted to 453 machines, with many serving in the Aus­tralian, New Zealand, and other Commonwealth navies. Most were phased out shortly after 1945.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 66 feet, 8 inches; length, 40 feet, 3 inches; height, 10 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 10,511 pounds; gross, 17,372 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 960-horsepower M-103 liquid-cooled in-line engines

Performance: maximum speed, 280 miles per hour; ceiling, 25,590 feet; range, 1,429 miles

Armament: 6 x 7.62mm machine guns; 1,323 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1936-1943


ast-flying SB 2s were among the world’s best bombers when they appeared in 1936. They en­joyed a distinguished career in Spain, Mongolia, and Finland before suffering heavy losses in World War II.

In 1933 the Soviet government announced specifications for an entirely new light bomber, one so fast that it could operate without escort fighters. The Tupolev design bureau finessed the problem with great skill, and in 1934 it built two prototypes with radial and in-line engines respectively. The new SB 1 was Russia’s first stressed-skin aircraft, a mid­wing, all-metal monoplane bomber. It was modern in every respect to Western contemporaries and pos­sessed such advanced features as retractable land­ing gear and flush-riveting. A crew of four was com­fortably housed, and the plane flew faster than any fighter or bomber then in service, including the highly touted Bristol Blenheim. In 1936 the in-line – engine prototype entered production as the SB 2, and nearly 7,000 were produced. These modern, ca­pable craft formed the bulk of Soviet tactical avia­tion over the next five years and played a major role
in modernizing and revitalizing the Soviet bomber forces.

SB 2s were bloodied in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), where they proved impervious to slower Nationalist fighters. They also enjoyed simi­lar success in Mongolia against the Japanese and were exported to China in quantity. Several new ver­sions were also introduced with more powerful en­gines, but this robust design was growing obsolete in light of developments elsewhere. SB 2s again fought well against Finland during 1939-1940, but when Germany invaded Russia the following year they lost their speed advantage. Being somewhat flammable, scores were quickly dispatched by for­midable Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Bf 110 fighters. But they were abundantly available, and so the Sovi­ets had little recourse but to continually employ them. They did so in a wide variety of roles, includ­ing that of night intruder and torpedo-bomber. By the time SB 2s withdrew in 1943, they had sustained the heaviest losses of any Russian aircraft in World War II.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Heavy Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 132 feet, 10 inches; length, 82 feet, 8 inches; height, 18 feet

Weights: empty, 22,000 pounds; gross, 54,020 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 730-horsepower M-34R liquid-cooled in-line engines

Performance: maximum speed, 179 miles per hour; ceiling, 25,365 feet; range, 1,550 miles

Armament: 4 x 7.62mm machine guns; up to 12,790 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1931-1944


he mighty TB 3 was the world’s most advanced heavy bomber throughout most of the early 1930s. Despite archaic looks, it was a solid, capable design and served admirably through most of World War II.

Russian proclivities for giant aircraft dated back to the Sikorsky Ilya Muromets of 1914, and in time they accumulated sufficient knowledge and ex­pertise to build even bigger machines. In 1925 An­drei N. Tupolev fielded the TB 1, an advanced metal monoplane that was the best in its class. Three years later he received orders to build a four-engine bomber with prodigious range and lifting abilities. He complied, and the new TB 3 emerged as an all­metal, low-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear and a crew of ten. Initial models were covered in corrugated metal, stressed to great strength. Conse­quently, in 1931 the TB 3 could lift more than 12,000 pounds on short flights—a payload unmatched until the Avro Lancaster and Boeing B-29 Superfortress a decade later. Stalin appreciated the propaganda
value of such huge machines, and during the 1934 May Day parade no less than 250 TB 3s overflew Moscow. The production run concluded by 1938 with 808 machines built, with latter versions pos­sessing smooth, stressed skin.

In service the TB 3s proved ruggedly adaptable and easily maintained. They made international head­lines by transporting scientific teams during a num­ber of expeditions to the Arctic Circle. TB 3s were also used during the mid-1930s to train embryonic So­viet parachute forces, who deployed by jumping off the aircraft’s broad wing. An even more controversial use was the so-called parasite experiments, whereby the lumbering craft carried their own fighter escorts. One TB 3 could successfully carry, launch, and re­trieve no less than three I 15 biplanes and two I 16 monoplanes. The giant craft was marginally obsolete at the start of the 1941 German invasion and, being vulnerable to enemy fighters, served as a night bomber and transport. All these versatile machines were retired from service by 1944.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Medium Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 61 feet, 10 inches; length, 45 feet, 3 inches; height, 13 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 18,524 pounds; gross, 28,219 pounds Power plant: 2 x 1,850-horsepower Shvetsov radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 342 mile per hour; ceiling, 31,170 feet; range, 1,553 miles Armament: 1 x 12.7mm machine gun; 2 x 20mm cannons; up to 5,004 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1944-1961


he Tu 2 was a Soviet medium bomber that com­piled an impressive record in World War II. Its success is especially remarkable considering that it was designed in a prison.

In 1937 the Russian aircraft engineer Andrei Tupolev was accused of passing secrets to the Ger­mans and was incarcerated in a Soviet gulag. He and his entire staff languished for two years until they obtained promises of early release in exchange for designing a new bomber for the Red Air Force. Work commenced from behind prison walls, and in Janu­ary 1941 the prototype first flew. It was designated “Aircraft 102,” for Tupolev’s status as a nonperson precluded using his initials! The new machine was a strikingly clean, twin-engine design with smooth en­gine cowlings, a pointed profile, and twin rudders. During flight tests it demonstrated even better per­formance than the Petlyakov Pe 2s then in service. It was slow going at first, but the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 dramatically acceler­ated the pace of production.

The Tu 2 proved itself a fine machine, espe­cially in terms of speed, payload, and handling. The big, rugged craft was especially popular with crews for its amazing ability to absorb damage and remain aloft. Initial deliveries did not commence until late 1944, and then in only limited numbers. This was be­cause the Tu 2 was more complicated to build than the Pe 2 and took longer to assemble. Another rea­son is that the Pe 2 was already serving capably— and in large numbers—so Tupolev’s new machine did not receive priority production. Nonetheless, by 1945 Tu 2s were a common sight in the skies over Eastern Europe, and they had a devastating effect upon German troops and armor. Consequently, Tupolev was rehabilitated and received the Stalin Prize for his achievement. Tu 2s remained in produc­tion until 1948, following a production run of 2,557 machines. Forces under the United Nations encoun­tered them during the Korean War in 1950, and Tu 2s also flew with communist satellite air forces until 1961.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Medium Bomber; Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 108 feet, 3 inches; length, 14 feet, 2 inches; height, 34 feet

Weights: empty, 82,012 pounds; gross, 167,110 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 20,920-pound thrust Mikulin RD-3m-500 turbojets

Performance: maximum speed, 616 miles per hour; ceiling, 40,350 feet; range, 4,000 miles

Armament: 6 x 23mm cannons; up to 6,600 pounds of nuclear bombs or standoff missiles

Service dates: 1955-


ne of the classic aviation designs of the 1950s, the Tu 16 was Russia’s most successful jet bomber. It remains in active service today as a mis­sile platform and maritime reconnaissance craft.

The origins of the famous Tu 16 trace back to 1944, when bad weather forced down three U. S. Boeing B-29s on a Russian airfield in Siberia. The So­viet Union, neutral toward Japan, promptly detained the crews and confiscated the aircraft. This techno­logical windfall handed Soviet dictator Josef Stalin the world’s most advanced bomber aircraft, and he immediately ordered reverse-engineered copies for the Red Air Force. They became known as the Tupolev Tu 4 and received the NATO designation BULL. By 1950 the Americans and British were de­veloping and deploying advanced jet-powered bomber designs, so Stalin authorized production of Soviet models as well. The new Tu 16 thus became the first successful Soviet jet bomber, the first with swept-back wings, and the first with engines buried
in the wing roots. It was revealed to the West in 1954 as a midwing aircraft of extremely sleek lines. The landing gear were uniquely positioned in trailing- edge pods, as the wing was too thin to contain them. Tupolev’s conservative approach gave the Tu 16 a robust construction that in turn led to a long and varied service life. Around 2,000 were manufactured and given the NATO code name BADGER.

Initial models of the Tu 16 were tactical nuclear bombers, but, lacking the necessary range to hit the United States, they were quickly phased out by more modern designs. Most were shunted over to the Soviet navy, which employed them in long-range reconnais­sance and antishipping strike roles. Many BADGERS encountered at sea were usually configured with one or more cruise missiles in the bomb bay or under the wings. The type was also exported to China in the late 1950s and was produced there in some quantity. An estimated 70 Tu 16s fly with Russian naval aviation and will continue serving for years to come.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Medium Bomber; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 77 feet; length, 139 feet, 9 inches; height, 35 feet

Weights: empty, 83,995 pounds; gross, 207,230 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 27,560-pound thrust Dobrynin RD-7M-2 turbojet engines

Performance: maximum speed, 920 miles per hour; ceiling, 43,365 feet; range, 2,600 miles

Armament: 2 x 23mm cannons; up to 22,046 pounds of nuclear weapons or missiles

Service dates: 1961-


he Tu 22 was the Soviet Union’s first supersonic bomber. Hobbled by poor range, it spent most of a long life as a maritime reconnaissance platform or performing antishipping functions.

Throughout the late 1950s, Western air defenses acquired new levels of sophistication and effective­ness. The Soviet Union, saddled with lumbering sub­sonic bombers, had little hope of mounting effective attacks in the event of war. It therefore became im­perative to develop new jet bombers with a minimum supersonic dash capacity for successful penetration of enemy air space. Around 1956 the Tupolev design bureau began creating Russia’s first supersonic bomber, one that could compete with the General Dy­namics B-58 Hustler and Dassault Mirage IV. The Tu 22 emerged four years later as a machine config­ured for high speed and high altitude without sacrific­ing subsonic handling. Its most unusual aspect was the twin engines mounted high on the rear fuselage. This obviated the need for long inlet ducts and the
drag penalties they imposed. The wings were also carefully rendered with a compound sweep that facil­itated high speeds yet performed well in a subsonic regime. Moreover, the Tu 22 was the first Soviet bomber to dispense with traditional glazed noses and numerous gun turrets: The new craft employed inter­nal bombing/navigation radar and a remote-con­trolled tail turret. In service the Tu 22 flew well and could reach supersonic speeds for brief periods, but it possessed abysmally short range. Around 250 were constructed, known to NATO as BLINDER A.

The Tu 22 did not survive long as a nuclear bomber, for in the early 1960s most were siphoned off into Soviet naval aviation. They were fitted with various antishipping strike missiles and redesig­nated BLINDER B. A maritime reconnaissance ver­sion, BLINDER C, with numerous electronic protu­berances, was also developed. Only a few Tu 22s remain operational at present in Russia. Several oth­ers are currently employed by the Libyan air force.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Medium Bomber; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, (spread) 112 feet, 6 inches; length, 139 feet, 4 inches; height, 36 feet Weights: empty, 119,059 pounds; gross, 278,660 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 55,115-pound thrust Kuznetsov KKBM MN25 turbofan engines Performance: maximum speed, 1,320 miles per hour; ceiling, 59,055 feet; range, 7,457 miles Armament: 2 x 23mm cannons; up to 52,910 pounds of bombs or missiles Service dates: 1975-


nce the object of intense diplomatic debate, the celebrated Tu 22M was merely the latest failed attempt by the Soviet Union to acquire strategic bombing capability. It is nonetheless a formidable aircraft with extensive service in the Russian naval air arm.

In the early 1960s the Tu 22’s shortcomings prompted the Tupolev design bureau to consider major revisions. Wind-tunnel studies indicated that a variable-geometry arrangement (known as the “swing wing”) could nearly double its combat radius while halving takeoff distance. Because the Soviet Union still lacked a bona fide supersonic bomber ca­pable of reaching the United States, Tupolev was au­thorized to develop an improved Tu 22. The first model emerged in 1969 as a highly modified BLINDER, replete with an area-ruled fuselage and podded landing gear on the wing’s trailing edges. The wing itself was conservatively designed and piv­oted only midway down the span. The new machine entered service soon thereafter, receiving the NATO designation BACKFIRE A. Because of the plane’s
high drag and other deficiencies, only small num­bers were built.

In 1969 Tupolev fielded a new and radically al­tered prototype, soon internationally known as the BACKFIRE B. This craft employed the nose section of the old Tu 22, but the thin fuselage was joined to two lengthy engine nacelles with massive air intakes at the front. The landing gear were also repositioned from wingpods to the fuselage. In service the new craft displayed marked improvement over earlier models and entered production as the Tu 22M. This may have been a deliberate ruse on the part of the Soviets, who wished to regard it as simply a Tu 22 variant during the SALT arms-reduction negotia­tions. The United States, fearful that the new plane possessed sufficient range as a strategic bomber, in­sisted that it be included in negotiations. As it turns out, even with in-flight refueling the Tu 22M could barely reach Cuba. However, the BACKFIRE re­mains a formidable antishipping weapon and contin­ues serving in that capacity with Russian naval avia­tion. Production peaked at around 250 machines.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Strategic Bomber; Antisubmarine; Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 167 feet, 7 inches; length, 155 feet, 10 inches; height, 39 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 189,544 pounds; gross, 407,848 pounds Power plant: 4 x 14,795-horsepower Kuznetsov NK-12M turboprop engines Performance: maximum speed, 757 miles per hour; ceiling, 39,370 feet; range, 5,150 miles Armament: 2 x 23mm cannons; up to 25,000 pounds of bombs; torpedoes, or missiles Service dates: 1955-


he legendary BEAR is the world’s fastest pro­peller-driven aircraft. It is also the world’s largest combat aircraft, with a distinguished service record dating back nearly half a century.

In the early 1950s the Soviet quest to crash-build a viable intercontinental strategic bomber took two distinct paths. The more conventional, jet-powered approach culminated in the unsatisfactory Mya – sishchev M 4, a promising design that simply lacked sufficient range to be strategic. Recognizing the pit­falls of early jet-engine technology, the Tupolev design bureau opted to utilize newly developed turboprop en­gines as a practical compromise. The four massive Kuznetsov power plants chosen would drive eight contrarotating propellers that were huge—18 feet in diameter! The fuselage was also conservatively con­ceived, as were the enormous swept wings. When the Tu 95 premiered at Moscow in 1955, the aviation world gasped, as Russia had apparently constructed an aircraft that should not have worked at all. In fact, the Tu 95 functioned well as a strategic bomber, being
almost supersonic and, thanks to the economy of the engines, possessing great range. With in-flight refuel­ing, the Soviets now fielded an aircraft that could hit the United States and return. This point was well taken by the Americans, who spent billions of dollars developing new missiles and interceptors to thwart it. Around 300 Tu 95s of various types were constructed; all were assigned the NATO code name BEAR.

The first Tu 95s were intended as nuclear bombers, but the increasing sophistication of sur­face-to-air missile technology rendered them obso­lete by 1960. Thereafter, great numbers were outfit­ted with nuclear-tipped standoff missiles. They functioned as the pride of Soviet Naval Long Range Aviation, as does a new version, the Tu 142. This is a revamped BEAR with a longer fuselage, longer in­board nacelles, and totally redesigned wings. The Tu 142 functions today as a dedicated antisubmarine warfare weapon of tremendous range and punch. At least 100 BEARs are still thought to remain in ser­vice with Russia and India.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Strategic Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, (spread) 182 feet, 9 inches; length, 177 feet, 6 inches; height, 43 feet

Weights: empty, 260,140 pounds; gross, 589,947 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 30,843-pound thrust Kuznetsov NK-321 turbofan engines

Performance: maximum speed, 1,243 miles per hour; ceiling, 49,200 feet; range, 7,640 miles

Armament: up to 36,000 pounds of nuclear bombs and missiles

Service dates: 1987-


he mighty Tu 160 (designated BLACKJACK by NATO) is the most powerful and heaviest war­plane ever constructed. It is designed to penetrate enemy airspace in high – or low-altitude configura­tions with greater speed and heavier payload than the rival North American/Rockwell B-1B Lancer.

Up through the early 1970s, the United States developed an advanced strategic bomber capable of hitting targets in the Soviet Union with speed, alti­tude, and excellent prospects for survival. The So­viet government summarily ordered its aviation in­dustry to design a similar machine, even after U. S. President Jimmy Carter canceled the B-1 program in 1977. Three years later President Ronald Reagan resurrected it as the B-1B, which to save money be­came slated for low-altitude operations. No such cost-cutting measures were enacted in the Soviet program, however, and when the new Tu 160 materi­alized in 1981, it was capable of operating at any alti­tude. The design team under Vladimir I. Bliznuk ful­filled its tasks well, for the Tu 160 was 30 percent bigger than the B-1B, faster, and more capable. The

Soviet craft employed a similar planform to its American counterpart, possessing a blended fuse­lage and variable-geometry wings. The four podded engines are similarly housed under the fixed portion of the wings. The underside also sports two cav­ernous rotary bomb bays carrying a variety of freefall and guided nuclear weapons. Finally, the Tu 160 is almost completely operated by 100 com­puterized systems, and the two pilots are equipped with fighterlike joysticks plugged into multiple fly­by-wire systems. The Soviet government authorized 100 to be built, and NATO granted it the designation BLACKJACK.

After 1991 the intended role of this massive bomber is largely irrelevant. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, former Russian President Boris Yeltsin ordered a halt to production of most strate­gic weapons, and the run of Tu 160s appears to have ended at 38 machines. Half of them were marooned in the newly independent Ukraine, pending return to Russia. The final disposition of these formidable air­craft remains unknown.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 31 feet, 2 inches; length, 24 feet, 4 inches; height, 8 feet 8 inches

Weights: empty, 1,654 pounds; gross, 2,536 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 230-horsepower Hiero liquid-cooled engine

Performance: maximum speed, 118 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,076 feet; range, 360 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1918-1919


he little-known Ufag C I was among the best Austrian two-seaters of World War I and was often more popular with pilots than the celebrated Phonix C I. It became the preferred machine for low-level artillery-spotting and reconnaissance work.

In January 1917 the Ungarische Flugzeugfabrik firm entered competition against the Phonix firm to build a new reconnaissance aircraft for the Luft – fahrtruppe (Austrian air service). Like its rival, it was based upon the Hansa-Brandenburg C I, one of the infamous “Star-strutter” designs. The new Ufag machine dispensed with complicated bracing in favor of a conventional, single-bay approach. In ad­dition, the nominally swept wing was highly modi­fied into a straightened form with rounded tips that curved slightly inward. A crew of two sat in separate cockpits that were placed in a rather deep fuselage. The gunner also stood in a built-up ring that af­forded him an excellent field of fire. Test results were impressive, and during flight trials against the Phonix machine the Ufag design proved faster and 318 _ more maneuverable at lower altitudes. The Austrian
government saw virtues in both aircraft, and the re­spective companies were allowed to begin produc­tion. The Ufag machine entered Austrian service as the C I in the spring of 1918.

Ufag C Is were deployed almost exclusively along the Italian front and gained a reputation as rugged, durable weapons. Given its superior low – level performance, it was the choice of many pilots for dangerous artillery-spotting service, whereas the Phonix C I was favored for high-level reconnais­sance work. The relatively fast Ufag was also praised for its ability to evade and outrun most Ital­ian fighters. Subsequent models introduced in­creased wingspan and a modified empennage with a smaller tailplane and a plain, unbalanced rudder to enhance maneuverability. As reconnaissance plat­forms they equaled anything fielded on the Western Front. By war’s end, a total of 244 C Is had been de­livered by Ufag with an additional 40 machines con­tributed by Phonix. In 1919 several machines partic­ipated in the Hungarian Revolution and were also procured in small quantities by the fledgling Roman­ian air force.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wing span, 36 feet, 6 inches; length, 27 feet, 2 inches; height, 11 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 1,220 pounds; gross, 2,050 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 100-horsepower Gnome Monosoupape rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 70 miles per hour; ceiling, 9,000 feet; range, 240 miles

Armament: 1 x.303-inch machine guns

Service dates: 1915-1916


he slow, sturdy “Gunbus” was among the world’s earliest warplanes and the first British fighter. It performed useful, if undistinguished, service in World War I before being withdrawn.

The giant Vickers firm had established an air­plane division as early as 1911 and was the first En­glish company to market that new technology for military purposes. At the Olympia Air Show in 1913 Vickers unveiled its Type 18 “Destroyer,” a contro­versial pusher design sporting a belt-fed Maxim ma­chine gun operated by the observer. With successive refinements a final form, the FB 5 (Fighting Bi­plane), emerged in 1914. This, too, was a biplane pusher with two-bay, equal-length, unstaggered wings. A large nacelle was fastened to the lower wing, housing a crew of two and the motor. The tail – booms, four in number, were made of steel and con­verged on a structure that formed the rudder. De­spite its fragile appearance, the FB 5 was sturdy and possessed viceless flying characteristics. The Vick­
ers firm, convinced that war with Germany was im­minent, began construction before it was ordered by the government. When war did erupt in August 1914, several machines were available for military use, and it became the first British fighter accepted into service.

The first FB 5s did not reach France until the spring of 1915, and by summer they were flying in squadron strength. In combat it flew slow and stately, but it performed well against the equally primitive German craft of the day. On one occasion, a “Gunbus” piloted by Lieutenant G. S.M. Insall downed an Aviatik but was forced to land from damage. He subsequently repaired his plane under fire and flew it home the fol­lowing day, winning the Victoria Cross. That fall the notorious Fokker Eindekker appeared, firing a syn­chronized gun through the propeller, which ended the FB 5’s military career. By 1916 surviving machines functioned only as trainers, a somewhat anticlimactic finale for Britain’s first fighter craft.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Strategic Bomber; Tanker

Dimensions: wingspan, 114 feet, 4 inches; length, 108 feet, 3 inches; height, 32 feet, 4 inches

Weights: empty, 75,881 pounds; gross, 175,000 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 10,050-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Avon turbojet engines

Performance: maximum speed, 567 miles per hour; ceiling, 54,000 feet; range, 4,500 miles

Armament: up to 21,000 pounds of nuclear or conventional bombs

Service dates: 1955-1964


he Valiant was the first of the famous V – bombers and became the first British aircraft to test-drop nuclear weapons. Ironically, metal fatigue terminated their short and rather useful service.

The aftermath of the U. S. bombings of Hi­roshima and Nagasaki underscored the necessity of nuclear deterrence to maintain peace and security in the postwar period. This was especially true in a world dominated by East-versus-West confronta­tion. Such prerogatives were in mind when the British Air Ministry issued Specification B.35/46 in 1946 for a fleet of jet-propelled nuclear bombers. Both Avro and Handley Page submitted designs that were extremely advanced and complicated, culmi­nating in the splendid Vulcan and Victor bombers. However, rather than go charging off into uncharted waters, Vickers forwarded a plan that was deliber­ately less complicated and promised lower perform­ance. The Air Ministry, wishing it as insurance in case the more advanced machines failed to material­ized, then drew up Specification B.9/48 around the craft. The prototype Valiant first flew in 1951 as an
ultramodern, all-metal jet bomber. It was a high – wing configuration, with four jets buried in the wing roots, and a high tail. The Valiant flew well enough to warrant production, so in 1955 the first 30 exam­ples of the B 1 model became operational. These were followed by 11 B(PR) 1 reconnaissance ver­sions, 14 B(PR) K 1 reconnaissance/tankers, and 48 BK 1 bomber/tankers. Total production amounted to 104 machines.

Operationally, Valiants highlighted all the diplomatic and military perils of the age. In 1956 sev­eral flew from Malta and dropped bombs on Egypt during the Suez Crisis. On October 11 of that same year a Valiant test-dropped the first British atomic weapon over northern Australia. The feat was dupli­cated on May 15, 1957, when a Valiant dropped Britain’s first thermonuclear device in the Pacific. But as the more capable and modern Vulcans and Victors became operational, Valiants gradually were transferred to refueling duties. They were thus employed until 1964, when widespread metal fatigue caused the active fleet to be scrapped.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Torpedo-Bomber; Liaison

Dimensions: wingspan, 49 feet; length, 37 feet, 8 inches; height, 14 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 4,724 pounds; gross, 8,500 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 825-horsepower Bristol Perseus radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 156 miles per hour; ceiling, 17,000 feet; range, 630 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; 1 x 18-inch torpedo, or 1,000 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1933-1942


he hulking Vildebeest was a capable machine that flew for nearly a decade. Totally obsolete by World War II, it suffered heavy losses during the de­fense of Singapore.

In 1925 a British Air Ministry specification sought to replace the Hawker Horsley torpedo – bomber with a more modern design. Three years later Vickers fielded the prototype Vildebeest as a possible contender. It was a large, two-bay biplane with fixed landing gear and an uncowled radial engine. The two square-tipped wings were unstaggered and of equal span, being made of metal framework and fabric cov­ering. The fuselage was circular in cross-section and seated a crew of two in widely spaced seats. The landing gear were also widely spaced to hold an 18- inch-wide torpedo slung between them. It took a suc­cession of different engines before the Vildebeest was successfully flown, but in 1933 it became the RAF Coastal Command’s standard torpedo-bomber.

The Vildebeest served capably for many years, and in 1935 a new model, the Mk IV, introduced a third
cockpit. Total production orders amounted to 194 ma­chines, with 15 of them being diverted to the Royal New Zealand Air Force. When developmental prob­lems delayed the appearance of the new Bristol Beau­fort, the Vildebeest’s anticipated successor, they re­mained in service long after their operational usefulness had ended. This fact was painfully under­scored in December 1941 when the Japanese attacked Malaysia. Vildebeests of No. 36 and No. 100 Squadrons fought with great courage—and little results—while taking heavy losses. The aging craft simply could not withstand the onslaught of modern fighter craft. Only two surviving bombers managed to reach Sumatra be­fore being destroyed.

In 1934 the RAF sought an army cooperation version of the Vildebeest to replace the aging Fairey IIIs and Westland Wapitis. This craft, known as the Vincent, differed only in having an additional fuel tank and specialized communications equipment. A total of 197 were built, and they served throughout the Middle East until 1941.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Heavy Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 68 feet; length, 43 feet, 6 inches; height, 15 feet Power plant: 2 x 207-horsepower Hispano-Suiza water-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 103 miles per hour; ceiling, 12,000 feet; range, 900 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; 2,476 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1919-1930


he Vickers Vimy was a standard Royal Air Force heavy bomber between 1919 and 1930. However, it is best remembered for two highly successful long-range flights to Ireland and Australia.

The Vimy originated from a 1917 design speci­fication for heavy bombers capable of hitting Berlin from the British Isles, much like the Handley Page O/400 and de Havilland DH 10. The prototype first flew in November 1917 as a standard three-bay bi­plane of wood-and-canvas construction. The en­gines hung midway between equal-span wings on struts; the fuselage sported a large biplane tail unit, and the whole thing touched down on paired, fixed wheels. Three preproduction machines reached Eu­rope before the 1918 Armistice but saw no combat. Thereafter Vimys formed the bulk of RAF heavy bombardment units until their gradual replacement by Vickers Virginias in 1924. Toward the end of their service life, around 80 Vimys were refitted with radial engines and assigned training duties. They were finally withdrawn in 1930 after a produc­tion run of 221 machines.

In the course of its long career, the Vimy be­came indelibly associated with two historic flights. The first staged out of Newfoundland, Canada, on June 15, 1919, when a modified Vimy flown by Cap­tains John Adcock and Arthur Whitten-Brown suc­cessfully reached Ireland in the world’s first transat­lantic crossing. The second, more ambitious flight took off from London on November 12, 1919, and was flown by Captain Ross Smith and his brother, Lieutenant Keith Smith. They successfully reached Australia by air on December 10, 1918, after 136 hours of flying time. A third, less-celebrated venture transpired on February 4, 1920, when a Vimy piloted by Lieutenant-Colonel Pierre van Rynevld and squadron leader Christopher J. Q. Brand, both of the South African air force, pioneered a mail link be­tween London and Cape Town. Having crash-landed in Egypt, they were loaned another Vimy and pro­ceeded as far as Bulawayo, Rhodesia, before being stalled again by mechanical problems. They finally touched down in Cape Town on March 20, 1920, in a third aircraft—a de Havilland DH 9.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 74 feet, 7 inches; length, 39 feet, 3 inches; height, 12 feet, 4 inches

Weights: empty, 6,690 pounds; gross, 11,100 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 950-horsepower Bristol Pegasus XX radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 228 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,680 feet; range, 1,110 miles

Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 2,000 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1937-1944


he Wellesley was one of the longest-spanned single-engine bombers ever built. It set a world range record in 1938 and helped pioneer the geo­detic building techniques applied to the famous Vickers Wellington.

In 1931 a British Air Ministry specification called for a long-range bomber, and Vickers constructed two aircraft. The first was a biplane built in precise con­formity to the specification; it proved singularly unim­pressive. The second, undertaken as a private venture, was radically different and successful. The new craft was a low-wing monoplane of exceptionally long span and powered by a cowled radial engine. A crew of two sat in separate, fully enclosed canopies. But the most distinguishing feature was its construction. Designers Barnes Wallis and Rex Pierson had previously collabo­rated on building airship R100 for Vickers and decided to incorporate its geodetic structure into a large air­craft. This technique entailed building a crisscross lat­tice structure of metal, promoting great strength with very little weight. The fuselage and wings of the new
craft were accordingly built along these lines with im­pressive results. It proved so superior to the biplane entry that the Air Ministry canceled the old specifica­tions and rewrote them with the new monoplane in mind. In 1937 it entered service as the Vickers Welles­ley; 176 were constructed.

By the advent of World War II in 1939, the Wellesley was marginally obsolete, but at least 100 were maintained in and around the Middle East. Many of them dropped bombs on Italian targets dur­ing the East African campaign and conducted long – range reconnaissance throughout the western Mediterranean. After 1941 most Wellesleys were de­clared surplus and scrapped. However, this craft is best remembered for efforts by the RAF Long Range Development Flight. In 1938 three modified Welles­leys took off from Ismailia, Egypt, for Darwin, Aus­tralia. Two arrived safely exactly 48 hours later, hav­ing covered 7,162 miles in poor weather. This was the greatest distance ever flown in a straight line, and the record remained unbroken until 1945.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Medium Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 86 feet, 2 inches; length, 64 feet, 7 inches; height, 17 feet, 5 inches

Weights: empty, 18,970 pounds; gross, 34,000 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,500-horsepower Bristol Hercules XI radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 255 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,000 feet; range, 1,540 miles

Armament: 8 x.303-inch machine guns; 4,500 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1938-1953


he “Wimpy” was built in greater numbers than any other British multiengine aircraft. Its geo­detic structure allowed it to absorb extensive dam­age and keep flying.

In 1932 the British Air Ministry sought devel­opment of a new twin-engine heavy bomber and is­sued Specification B.9/32. A Vickers design team under Barnes Wallis decided to capitalize on prior success with the Wellesley by incorporating the same geodetic construction techniques. The proto­type was unveiled in 1936 as a midwing monoplane employing the trademark basket-weave lattice struc­ture in the wings and fuselage, all covered by fabric. The resulting craft was relatively light for its size but phenomenally strong. It was also heavily defended by powered gun turrets in the nose and tail and addi­tional beam positions. The Wellington entered squadron service in 1938 as the most advanced medium bomber in the world. Known as “Wimpy” after a cartoon character, it helped form the back­bone of RAF Bomber Command when World War II commenced in 1939.

Wellingtons, in concert with several Bristol Blenheims, made the first British raid of the war when they hit naval targets at Wilhelmshaven on Sep­tember 4, 1939. However, the practice of daylight bombing, in the teeth of determined fighter opposi­tion, usually resulted in heavy losses. Consequently, a return raid over Wilhelmshaven on December 18 resulted in 10 out of 24 Wellingtons being lost. There­after, they were restricted to nighttime operations, and by helping establish the RAF strategy of night­time saturation bombing, the “Wimpy” made its greatest contribution. Almost impervious to flak, many sustained great damage yet survived. Until the advent of bigger, more capable four-engine aircraft from 1942 on, Wellingtons bore the brunt of strategic bombing with excellent results. Large numbers also served with the RAF Coastal Command throughout the Atlantic and Mediterranean theaters, sinking no less than 26 U-boats. Production totaled 11,462 ma­chines. Many remained in service until 1953, almost three decades after the original specifications had been announced.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Transport; Antisubmarine; Reconnaissance


Dimensions: rotorspan, 42 feet; length, 49 feet, 9 inches; height, 12 feet

Weights: empty, 6,772 pounds; gross, 10,750 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,135-horsepower Rolls-Royce Gem turboshaft engines

Performance: maximum speed, 159 miles per hour; ceiling, 10,600 feet; range, 392 miles

Armament: 6 x TOW antitank missiles or 6 x Sea Skua antiship missiles

Service dates: 1977-


he versatile Lynx is one of the world’s foremost tactical helicopters. Jointly built by Britain and France, it serves in navies around the world and per­forms many military functions.

The Lynx can trace its origins to the Westland WG.13, a design submitted in fulfillment of the Anglo-French helicopter accord of 1968. Through this expedient, both countries would jointly build and deploy three basic helicopters. The first two, the Puma and Gazelle, were of entirely French design, but the WG.13 was an original Westland product. It was a sleek pod-and-boom configuration utilizing the new semirigid rotor technology. Thirteen proto­types were built, with the first flying in March 1971. Test results were excellent and revealed the ma­chine to be fast, agile, and extremely acrobatic. Christened the Lynx, it is one of few helicopters in the world that can be routinely looped and rolled in complete safety. Production commenced in 1976, with Britain responsible for 70 percent of the parts and France the remainder.

The Lynx is currently available in two ver­sions. The navy Lynx possesses tricycle landing gear and a rotorhead capable of a negative 6 degrees of pitch that, in effect, “pushes” the machine down on a rolling ship deck to keep it in place. These heli­copters are outfitted with advanced avionics that permit all-weather operations while being flown by only one pilot. Furthermore, they are extremely ver­satile and can fulfill a variety of antisubmarine, anti­shipping, and surveillance missions. In 1982 Lynxes became the first helicopter to fire Sea Skua missiles in anger when they damaged the Argentine subma­rine Santa Fe near South Georgia Island. The Royal Navy has acquired 91 of these useful machines; 200 more fly with navies around the world.

The military Lynx version is immediately rec­ognizable by its landing skids. It can carry up to 12 fully armed troops but is usually outfitted with eight TOW missiles and a roof-mounted sight for antitank work. The British army maintains and operates a large fleet of 100 Lynxes.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Liaison; Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 50 feet; length, 30 feet, 6 inches; height, 14 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 4,365 pounds; gross, 6,318 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 870-horsepower Bristol Mercury XX radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 212 miles per hour; ceiling, 21,500 feet; range, 600 miles

Armament: 3 x.303-inch machine guns

Service dates: 1938-1945


ossessing excellent STOL (short takeoff and landing) characteristics, “Lizzie” was a useful li­aison and reconnaissance aircraft. It became renowned for its ability to drop off and retrieve se­cret agents throughout occupied Europe.

In 1934 the British Air Ministry, wishing to re­place the aging Hawker Hector biplanes as army co­operation craft, issued Specification A.39/34. It called for a new monoplane aircraft with good STOL characteristics for operating from small fields. West­land entered a design called Lysander, one of the most unique-looking airplanes ever flown by the Royal Air Force. It was a braced monoplane with large, spatted wheels and braced, lozenge-shaped wings. The wings were metal-covered from the lead­ing edge to the main spar, then covered by fabric. Slotted flaps were fitted to the trailing edges, which when deployed allowed the craft to land and take off at speeds as slow as 65 miles per hour. The ro­tund fuselage consisted of steel tubing and wooden formers, also fabric-covered. The Lysander was somewhat heavily armed for a liaison aircraft, sport­
ing two forward-firing machine guns and one for the observer. It entered production in 1938 and equipped several squadrons by the advent of World War II.

In September 1939 Lysanders were deployed to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. They performed useful reconnaissance and artillery – spotting services as long as the RAF maintained local air superiority. However, commencing with the Battle of France in May 1940, the slow-flying air­planes were easy prey for fast, heavily armed Ger­man fighters. They were called upon to perform ground-attack and air-supply missions, often in the teeth of enemy opposition. No less than 112 were lost in a single month, by which time the British had been driven from the continent. Thereafter, new work was found for the “Lizzie” in the form of train­ing and glider-towing. Its ability to land and abruptly depart made it ideal for dropping and retrieving spe­cial agents throughout Europe. A total of 1,593 Lysanders were built; all were declared obsolete by


. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Antitank; Reconnaissance; Antisubmarine


Dimensions: rotorspan, 32 feet, 3 inches; length, 30 feet, 4 inches; height, 8 feet, 11 inches Weights: empty, 3,452 pounds; gross, 5,500 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,050-horsepower Rolls-Royce Nimbus turboshaft engine Performance: maximum speed, 132 miles per hour; ceiling, 12,500 feet; range, 478 miles Armament: 4 x SS.11 antitank missiles or 2 x Mk 44 torpedoes Service dates: 1963-1998


he Scout was a useful light utility helicopter for the British army. A naval derivative, the Wasp, became the first helicopter deployed in large num­bers aboard Royal Navy frigates.

Shortcomings of the Saunders Roe Skeeter hel­icopter induced that company to initiate design of a larger, more capable craft in 1956. Designated P 531, it was a standard pod-and-boom machine with a fully enclosed cabin, large glazed windows, and landing skids. The prototype first flew with good re­sults in 1958, although a more powerful version, the P 531-2, flew the following year. In 1960 Saunders Roe was absorbed by Westland, but work continued apace on the production models, which entered ser­vice in 1963 as the Scout.

The British army ordered 150 examples of the AH 1 Scout for use as light utility/liaison aircraft. De­spite their small size, Scouts were applauded for strength and reliability in the field. They performed sterling service throughout the 1982 Falkland Is­
lands War as reconnaissance and medevac vehicles. Toward the end of their long career, many were out­fitted with SS.11 wire-guided missiles for antitank work. By 1994 all had been retired in favor of the more modern Lynx. A solitary example remains in flyable condition at Middle Wallop.

In the early 1960s the Royal Navy needed a standard light helicopter to perform antisubmarine warfare work aboard its frigates. The Scout seemed like a logical place to begin, so a navalized version, the Wasp, was developed in 1962. It differed from army versions mainly in possessing castor landing gear and a folding tail section for shipboard storage. It also employed locking brakes to keep the helicop­ter from pitching on deck during heavy seas. In ser­vice the Wasp flew without sensors, relying instead on sonar findings from its mothership for guidance. The Royal Navy acquired 98 Wasps, with an addi­tional 35 being exported to Brazil, New Zealand, and South Africa. All have been retired since 1998.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Light Bomber; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 46 feet, 5 inches; length, 32 feet, 6 inches; height, 11 feet, 10 inches

Weights: empty, 3,280 pounds; gross, 5,400 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 460-horsepower Bristol Jupiter VI radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 140 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,600 feet; range, 360 miles

Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 580 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1927-1939


he inelegant Wapiti was Westland’s first airplane and a stalwart machine of the 1930s. They served conspicuously throughout the empire and final variants even overflew Mount Everest.

As the 1920s drew to a close, the British Air Ministry decided that new aircraft were needed to better maintain order throughout the British Em­pire. Specification 26/27 was therefore issued, call­ing for a new general-purpose aircraft. As a cost-cut­ting expedient, it also mandated that the winning candidate would utilize as many parts of the old de Havilland DH 9a as possible. Fortunately, Westland had constructed DH 9s during 1916-1918, and in 1927 a Westland prototype beat out six other com­petitors to win a government contract. The new craft, called the Wapiti, used the same wings, inter­plane struts, and tail unit as the DH 9a. However, they were wedded to a new, much deeper fuselage. Once fitted to a 420-horsepower Bristol Jupiter VI radial engine, the new craft flew exceedingly well, and in 1927 the first 25 aircraft were delivered.

In service the Wapiti proved to be a rugged, functional design that went through five marks in five years. The most significant of these was the Mk II, which introduced an all-metal framework. Wapitis flew the length and breadth of the British Empire, serving as army cooperation planes, light bombers, and reconnaissance craft. In fulfilling these duties there evolved a seaplane Wapiti on twin floats, an Arctic Wapiti with skis, a long – range Wapiti with additional fuel tanks for desert patrol, and the Wapiti trainer with dual controls. By the time production ceased in 1932, 521 ma­chines had been constructed for the Royal Air Force, with another 500 exported to other coun­tries. Commencing in 1932 around 80 Wapitis were upgraded to a successive model, the Wallace, with lengthened fuselages and bigger engines. On April 3, 1932, two of these aircraft climbed to 29,026 feet and ranged over Mount Everest in the Himalayas. The last Wapitis were finally retired in 1939.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 45 feet; length, 32 feet, 9 inches; height, 11 feet, 7 inches Weights: empty, 8,310 pounds; gross, 11,388 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 885-horsepower Rolls-Royce Peregrine liquid-cooled in-line engines Armament: 4 x 20mm cannons; up to 1,000 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1940-1943


he futuristic, spectacular Whirlwind was one of Britain’s most conspicuous aviation failures of World War II. Conceived as a fast and hard-hitting escort fighter, it flew well but suffered from insur­mountable engine problems.

In 1935 the Air Ministry issued the highly secret Specification F.37/35 to obtain the world’s first twin- engine, single-seat fighter. Moreover, the new design was also intended to be the world’s first cannon­armed fighter. A Westland design team under W. E.W. “Teddy” Petter conceived a very advanced solution the following year, and the government quietly issued a contract for two prototypes. The first ones flew in September 1938, being among the most advanced warplanes of the time. The Whirlwind appeared radi­cally different from contemporary fighters. It pos­sessed a long fuselage, the cross-section being less than those of the engine nacelles. Moreover, the wing was set far forward on the fuselage, and the distinct, cruciform tail sat high in the rear. It was also one of the first fighters to possess a bubble canopy for unim­peded all-around vision. The aircraft was formidably armed with four 20mm concentrated cannons,
closely packed together in the nose, for unprece­dented firepower. The Whirlwind displayed excellent range and maneuverability, and thus, in great secrecy, the government decided to produce them in quantity.

In view of its great potential, the Whirlwind proved a major disappointment. The problem source was the Roll Royce Peregrine engines, which were unreliable, low-powered, and required high maintenance time. The Whirlwind also exhibited high landing speeds, despite the presence of Fowler flaps, which rendered it unsuitable for a majority of British airfields. Ultimately, 112 were constructed and equipped only two squadrons. Commencing in 1941, Whirlwinds performed useful work as escort fighters and subsequently distinguished themselves as low-level fighter-bombers. Their specialty was a cross-channel foray dubbed the “Rhubarb.” Roaring in low and fast, Westland fighters appeared suddenly and wreaked havoc on enemy transportation and railway systems. But in view of mechanical unrelia­bility, their operational days were limited. By 1943 all were replaced by the initially temperamental, but ultimately more successful, Hawker Typhoon.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 30 feet, 2 inches; length, 27 feet, 10 inches; height, 7 feet, 11 inches Weights: empty, 4,641 pounds; gross, 5,864 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,300-horsepower VK 105PF liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 407 miles per hour; ceiling, 35,105 feet; range, 559 miles Armament: 2 x 12.7mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon Service dates: 1944-1946


he Yak 3 was a highly successful low-altitude in­terceptor during World War II. It sprung from a family of fighters renowned for their maneuverabil­ity, and German pilots were warned to avoid it.

In late 1942 attempts were made to wring even better performance out of existing Yak fighters. Rus­sian aircraft performed better at low altitude than their German counterparts, but the latter were gen­erally faster. Because the majority of air battles along the Eastern Front were waged at low altitude, the Red Air Force wanted a weapon that would en­sure air superiority close overhead. Consequently, a Yak 1M fuselage was modified to accept an ad­vanced VK 107 engine. To accomplish this, the al­ready light frame was lightened even further, and special care was taken to reduce drag through streamlining. The most notable modification was moving the bulky chin oil cooler to the wing roots. The fuselage was also cut down toward the rear and a simple bubble canopy installed. Finally, a smaller
wing was fitted, and armament was pared down to save weight. When teething problems delayed the availability of the VK 107 engine, the existing VK 105PF was substituted. In service the new fighter, designated the Yak 3, proved an even better dog – fighter than its more numerous Yak 9 stablemates.

Yak 3s made their appearance in the summer of 1944 and were strikingly successful. Not only could they outturn Messerschmitt Bf 109s and Focke-Wulf Fw 190s at low altitude, the new Yaks climbed and accelerated faster. In the hands of skilled pilots it proved deadly. On July 14, 1944, eight Yak 3s encountered 60 enemy aircraft and claimed three Junkers Ju 88s and four Me 109s with­out loss. In another swirling engagement, 18 Yak 3s tangled with 30 Bf 109s, downing 15 with the loss of a single plane. The Germans quickly took stock of this streamlined dervish and advised pilots to avoid Yak 3 fighters below 16,000 feet. A total of 4,848 were built.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 32 feet; length, 28 feet; height, 9 feet, 8 inches Weights: empty, 5,988 pounds; gross, 6,830 pounds

Power plant: 1 1,650-horsepower Klimov VK 107A liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 434 miles per hour; veiling, 39,040 feet; range, 541 miles Armament: 2 x 12.7mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon; up to 220 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1942-1950


he Yak 9 was the Soviet Union’s most numerous and important wartime fighter during 1942-1945. It helped to wrest away air supremacy from German invaders and facilitated the ultimate Russian victory.

Responding to a 1939 Soviet directive for new fighters, young Alexander Yakovlev originated a promising design, while attempting to build the smallest possible airframe around a powerful VK 105 engine. It was built of steel tubing and covered with wood. First flown in 1940, the craft handled ex­tremely well and was rushed into production as the Yak 1. Latter models eventually acquired a lower fuselage and a bubble canopy for better vision. From there the new Yak 7 evolved, incorporating lighter construction and additional fuel. It retained the fully enclosed, old-style canopy and served mainly in ground-attack roles. Both fighters did valuable work blunting the German aerial on­slaught, but by 1942 a newer version was needed to acquire air superiority. Thus was born the Yak 9, which, numerically speaking, was the largest and
most important member of this burgeoning family of aircraft.

The Yak 9 was essentially a lightened version of the earlier Yak 7, although fitted with the Yak 1’s bubble canopy. A smaller wing with metal spars was also fitted, along with revised tail surfaces and a re­tractable tailwheel. Moreover, it featured metal skin­ning instead of wood, as well as additional stream­lining. Yak 9s debuted during the 1942 Battle of Stalingrad and demonstrated marked superiority over Messerschmitt Bf 109s at low altitude. This ruggedly versatile craft was subsequently adopted for an entire range of activities, including long-range escort and tankbusting. By 1943 the second genera­tion of Yak 9s appeared with stronger engines and a higher proportion of metal parts. These also sported a redesigned fuselage and bigger wings and proved to be the most maneuverable members of the series. Yak 9s remained in service until about 1950. Total production of this variant reached 16,769 out of a grand total of 30,000 Yak machines.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 24 feet; length, 50 feet, 10 inches; height, 14 feet, 4 inches Weights: empty, 16,501 pounds; gross, 25,794 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 14,991-pound thrust NMPK turbojet; 2 x 7,175-pound thrust RKBM turbojet Performance: maximum speed, 627 miles per hour; ceiling, 39,370 feet; range, 230 miles Armament: up to 2,200 pounds of air-to-air missiles Service dates: 1976-


he complicated Yak 36 remains the Russian navy’s lone operational shipborne attack craft. It operates on the same principle as the more famous British Harrier, although it is lacking in payload and sophistication.

Throughout the late 1950s and into the 1960s, Russia and Great Britain experimented heavily with VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft for mili­tary applications. By 1969 the British arrived at a vi­able solution by deploying the British Aerospace Harrier, the world’s first VTOL attack craft. Russian efforts, by comparison, were conducted with much less imagination. They did not field a working proto­type until 1967 with the appearance of a Yakovlev bureau prototype designated FREEHAND by NATO. It was a crude, if functional, machine compared to the sophisticated Harrier, apparently constructed as a testbed for follow-on designs. The pace of Yakovlev’s research increased by 1969, when con­struction of the Soviet Union’s first VTOL-dedicated aircraft carrier, the Kiev, commenced. However, it was not until 1976 that the Kiev sailed with a com­
pliment of new Yak 36 fighters as standard equip­ment. Around 100 were apparently built, receiving the NATO designation FORGER.

Despite outward similarities to the Harrier, the Yak 36 is more primitive and less capable. It em­ploys a main thrust engine for both vertical and hor­izontal flight, assisted by two smaller engines during liftoff. The engines are arrayed in vectoring nozzles, two forward and two aft. Thus configured, the Yak 36 cannot make conventional takeoffs from a carrier deck, lacking forward thrust. It is therefore constricted to fuel-consuming vertical-lift opera­tions. Neither does the FORGER employ wingtip nozzles like the Harrier, making it incapable of such dazzling maneuvers as vectored thrust in combat (“viffing”). For all its limitations, the Yak 36 is still a viable shipborne strike aircraft, much better armed than the helicopters most Russian ships employ. It certainly represents a threat to unarmed maritime reconnaissance craft like the Orion and Nimrod. The Yak 36 apparently remains an interim type, pending arrival of a more advanced successor.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Dive-Bomber; Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 37 feet, 8 inches; length, 33 feet, 6 inches; height, 12 feet, 3 inches Weights: empty, 5,514 pounds; gross, 10,267 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,400-horsepower Aichi AE1P Atsuka liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 357 miles per hour; ceiling, 34,450 feet; range, 945 miles Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns; 1 x 12.7mm machine gun; 1,234 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1943-1945


he D4Y was the fastest carrier-based dive – bomber of World War II. Although suffering from lack of armor and armament, it also fulfilled recon­naissance, night-fighter, and kamikaze functions.

In 1937 the Imperial Japanese Navy staff re­quested a replacement for its Aichi D3A dive – bombers. They approached the design staff at the Yokosuka Naval Air Arsenal with stringent require­ments that included a 1,380-mile range, a 550-pound payload, and a top speed of 320 miles per hour. This was a departure from prevailing norms, for most dive-bombers were by necessity relatively slow, sta­ble machines. To meet these new specifications, it was decided to employ a relatively small fuselage powered by an in-line engine. The power plant cho­sen was the Aichi Atsuka, a licensed copy of the Daimler-Benz DB 600. The prototype D4Y first flew in November 1940 as a sleek, all-metal, midwing monoplane. It had a pointed outline, a long canopy seating two crew members, and was stressed for catapult operations. The craft was fast and handled
well, but it suffered from chronic engine problems. Two more years of development followed before a handful of preproduction models served aboard the carrier Soryu in 1942. They functioned as high­speed reconnaissance craft and were lost when the Soryu sank at Midway in June 1942. It was not until 1943 that the persistent engine problems were re­solved and mass production commenced. Eventu­ally the D4Y Suisei (Comet) gained the Allied desig­nation Judy.

Several hundred D4Ys were deployed on nine Japanese carriers by the fall of 1944 and experienced their baptism of fire off Truk. There, and in a host of successive encounters, Judys performed well but were inevitably intercepted by hordes of U. S. fighters without ever reaching their targets. Lacking self-seal­ing tanks and armor, they also proved extremely vul­nerable to attack. Nonetheless, new CR models were introduced with a more reliable radial engine; kamikaze and night-fighter versions were also de­ployed. A total of 2,319 D4Ys were built.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Suicide Craft

Dimensions: wingspan, 16 feet, 9 inches; length, 19 feet, 11 inches; height, 3 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 970 pounds; gross, 4,718 pounds

Power plant: 3 x Type 4 MK1 rocket motors with 1,765 pounds of thrust Performance: maximum speed, 535 miles per hour; range, 23 miles Armament: 2,646 pounds of explosives Service dates: 1945


orn out of Japan’s desperation to stem the Allied march through the Pacific, the Oka was a hideously ingenious and potentially formidable weapon. It might have wreaked havoc on Allied forces had the bombers carrying them been able to penetrate American fighter screens.

By the summer of 1944 Japanese military plan­ners were beginning to sense futility in defending the empire against the Allied onslaught. Navy Ensign Mitsuo Ohta then conceived of an idea that was at once simple and barbaric. He proposed creating a small manned aircraft, part glider and part rocket, that could be released near an objective and destroy itself in the finest tradition of kamikaze warriors. That fall the Yokosuka Naval Air Arsenal constructed a functioning prototype of what came to known as the MXY 7 Oka. The name, which means “Cherry Blossom,” was chosen for the traditional reverence shown it by samurai warriors: Both were expected to enjoy lives that were brilliant—and brief. It was a small gliding platform made from wood and metal, fitted with stubby wings and twin rudders. However, once powered by three small rocket motors, it could
streak toward targets at speeds in excess of 500 miles per hour. Moreover, the Oka packed nearly

3,0 pounds of high explosives in the nose, which detonated on contact. The most ghoulish feature was that pilots were sealed into their cockpit before launching without any thought of survival. It was en­visioned that fleets of such destructive craft, in con­cert with more conventional propeller-driven kamikazes, would convince the United States not to invade Japan or sign a more favorable peace treaty. By the spring of 1945 more than 800 MXY 7 Okas had been assembled. The Allies came to know them as Baka, the Japanese term for “idiot.”

The Okas were first deployed in March 1945, when 16 specially rigged G4M bombers approached the U. S. fleet. However, most were shot down by Navy fighters, and the Okas that did manage to be launched were too distant to be effective. Other at­tacks were more successful, and an MXY 7 sank the destroyer USS Mannert L. Abele in April 1945. For­tunately, the war ended before more lives, Japanese and American alike, could be claimed by such insidi­ous technology.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Medium Bomber; Torpedo-Bomber; Dive-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 65 feet, 7 inches; length, 49 feet, 2 inches; height, 14 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 16,017 pounds; gross, 29,762 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,820-horsepower Nakajima NK9B Homare radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 340 miles per hour; ceiling, 30,840 feet; range, 3,337 miles

Armament: 2 x 20mm cannons; up to 2,205 pounds of bombs or torpedoes

Service dates: 1945


he P1Y1 was a fine multimission aircraft in the tradition of the Junkers Ju 88 and de Havilland Mosquito. However, it remained plagued by teething problems and mechanical unreliability.

In 1940 the Japanese naval staff established demanding specifications for a new high-speed medium bomber. The craft had to be capable for level-bombing, dive-bombing, and torpedo-bombing while possessing great speed, range, and armament. It fell upon a design team headed by Tadanao Mit – suzi and Masao Yamana to formulate the design into a functioning prototype. This took three years to ac­complish, and it was not until 1943 that the first P1Y1 took flight. It was an extremely clean, appeal­ing machine, with a streamlined fuselage, cowls, and tapering wings. More important, it was fitted with self-sealing fuel tanks and armor for the crew of three. Test pilots marveled at the big machine’s speed and maneuverability, but ground crews grum­bled over its complex hydraulics and unreliable

Homare radial engines. At this stage in the war, Japan very much needed a more capable bomber, so the navy elected to commence production before persistent design flaws had been corrected. Ma­chines rolled off the assembly line up through 1944, but not a single P1Y1 Ginga (Milky Way) was ac­cepted into service until properly debugged. By the time this transpired in January 1945, the Japanese Empire was in dire straits indeed. Around that time it received the Allied designation Frances.

In service the P1Y1 proved something of a mixed blessing. When running properly it was fast, extremely robust, and able to outrun Allied fighters at low altitude. However, operations were bedeviled by shoddy workmanship, a lack of trained mechan­ics, and spare-parts shortages. At length it became necessary to adapt the P1Y1 as a night fighter, but it lacked the necessary performance at high altitude. Many were thus expended as kamikazes. A total of 1,098 were built.

. Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello

Type: Heavy Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 138 feet, 5 inches; length, 72 feet, 6 inches; height, 20 feet, 8 inches Weights: empty, 17,426 pounds; gross, 26,066 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 245-horsepower Maybach Mb IV liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 84 miles per hour; ceiling, 14,170 feet; range, 800 miles Armament: 7 x 7.92mm machine guns; up to 4,409 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1917-1918


he gigantic, lumbering Zeppelin Staaken R bombers were the most remarkable aircraft of World War I. They raided England with impunity and hoisted some of the largest bombs dropped in that conflict.

As early as 1915 the famous Count Ferdinand Zeppelin expressed interest in Riesenflugzeug (giant aircraft) as possible weapons; that year, in concert with engineers Gustav Klein and Helmut Hirth, a fac­tory was founded at a field provided by the Gothaer Waggonfabrik firm. The following year the company reestablished itself as the Zeppelin Werke Staaken outside of Berlin. For two years the count and his co­horts developed numerous R-class prototypes with varying degrees of success. It was not until June 1917 that the first production model, the R VI, emerged. It was a huge, multibay biplane with a slab-sided fuse­lage and a large biplane tail assembly. The R VI was powered by no less than four Maybach engines posi­tioned in tandem cowls, with two pushers and two
tractors per side. A crew of seven was carried, includ­ing two pilots who were seated in a fully enclosed cabin. The R VI was so large that its landing gear uti­lized no less than 16 wheels, grouped in fours, under the wing. A smaller set of nosewheels was also em­ployed to prevent noseovers upon landing. All told, the R VIs were crude but perfectly functional strate­gic bombers. A total of 18 were acquired, bringing the entire number of R types constructed to 32.

The R VIs began operations against France and England in the summer of 1917. They raided London several times and, on one occasion, delivered a bomb weighing 2,205 pounds—the heaviest dropped during the entire war. Surprisingly, no R ship was ever shot down during 28 raids over England, al­though several were lost in accidents. Two were subsequently downed on the continent, but by war’s end the R VIs enjoyed a higher percentage of suc­cessful raids than their more famous Gotha rivals. This was a formidable warplane in its day.

. О Amiot 143

Dimensions: wingspan, 80 feet, 4 inches; length, 59 feet; height, 18 feet Weights: empty, 13,448 pounds; gross, 21,385 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 870-horsepower Gnome-Rhone Mistral Major radial engines Performance: maximum speed, 193 miles per hour; ceiling, 25,920 feet; range, 746 miles Armament: 4 x 7.5mm machine guns; 1,764 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1935-1942


he Amiot 143 was an ugly but functional French bomber of the 1930s. It was still in frontline ser­vice at the beginning of World War II and sustained heavy losses.

In 1928 the French government circulated new specifications for an all-metal, four-place bomber ca­pable of operating day or night. Three years later the Amiot Avions company fielded the first Model 140 prototype, a craft more noted for ugliness than per­formance. The type underwent additional refine­ments, which did little to enhance its looks, but in 1934 a revised model, the 143, emerged. This was a cantilevered high-wing monoplane featuring a fully enclosed cockpit, two hand-powered gun turrets, and a lengthy greenhouse gondola on the underside of a narrow fuselage. The wing chords were very broad and the air foil so thick that crew members could reach and service the engines in flight. Finally, the type rested on fixed landing gear covered by streamlined spats 7 feet in length. The first Amiot 143 was acquired in 1935, and a total of 138 were manu­
factured. It certainly did little to alleviate France’s reputation for designing unattractive aircraft.

The angular Amiot was marginally obsolete by the advent of World War II, but it was still a major bombing type in the Armee de l’Air, equipping five bomb groups. Commencing in 1939, they were pri­marily used to drop leaflets over Germany and for other propaganda functions. The Battle of France commenced in May 1940, and the lumbering craft began dispensing more lethal cargo. Given their slow speed and light armament, Amiot 143s were usually constrained to night attacks on factories and marshaling yards, dropping 528 tons of bombs. How­ever, they are best remembered for the heroic May 14, 1940, attack on the Meuse River bridges near Sedan. Flying in broad daylight against heavily de­fended positions, 13 of 14 aircraft committed were lost. Following the French capitulation, many Amiot 143s made their way to Africa and internment while others served the new Vichy regime. All were basi­cally scrapped by 1942.

. О Amiot 143

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 40 feet, 7 inches; length, 26 feet, 6 inches; height, 10 feet, 5 inches

Weights: empty, 1,906 pounds; gross, 2,566 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 150-horsepower Salmson Canton-Unne radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 89 miles per hour; ceiling, 14,110 feet; range, 250 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns

Service dates: 1916-1918


he Anatra was a mediocre aircraft and beset by shoddy construction. Nonetheless, it was contin­uously operated by long-suffering Russian airmen and managed to perform useful work.

The Anatra aircraft company was owned and operated by an Italian banker based in Odessa. In 1915, the company’s first effort at making warplanes, a Russian copy of the Voisin LA S, proved disastrous. The machine suffered from very poor lateral control and crashed inexplicably. The following year the company fielded an original design, the Anatra D, which was inspired by some captured German Avi – atiks. The Anatra was a two-bay biplane with slightly backswept, unstaggered wings. These were con­structed of wood and fabric, and the upper ones sported ailerons. The fuselage was likewise made of wood, being covered in aluminum up to the first un­dercarriage strut, then finished in fabric. The tail sur­faces were steel tubing covered by fabric and pos­sessed rounded leading edges. This first version, known as the Anade, was powered by a 100-horse­power Gnome Monosoupape rotary engine, which
was notorious for unreliability. The aircraft handled well for its class but remained structurally weak. It was nevertheless placed in production, with roughly 200 built in 1916.

In combat the Anatra D proved highly unsatis­factory. It was nose-heavy and glided poorly without power. The engine was also subject to malfunction­ing, and several unexplained crashes were attrib­uted to poor construction. Worse yet, shortages of quality wood necessitated the factory to produce main wing spars that were spliced and wrapped in glued linen. On July 17, 1917, an Anatra D piloted by a Lieutenant Robinet and a passenger broke up in flight over Odessa during a demonstration flight, killing both men. It was then decided to introduce a newer version, the DS Anasal, which was powered by a Salmson Canton-Unne radial engine. This im­proved performance somewhat, but the close-fitting cowl caused overheating. About 380 of all versions were acquired during the war. It is a tribute to the stoicism of Russian airmen that they bravely flew whatever airplanes were available when so ordered.

. Dassault/Dornier Alphajet

Type: Trainer; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 29 feet, 10 inches; length, 38 feet, 6 inches; height, 14 feet, 2 inches Weights: empty, 7,374 pounds; gross, 17,637 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 2,976-pound thrust SNECMA/Turbomeca Larzac turbojet engines Performance: maximum speed, 621 miles per hour; ceiling, 14,630 feet; range, 764 miles Armament: none, or up to 5,511 pounds of bombs, rockets, or gunpods Service dates: 1978-


he Alphajet was a Franco-German effort to build a modern jet trainer easily adapted to ground-at­tack missions. The design functioned well and con­tinues to serve with the air forces of several nations.

By 1968 the rising expense associated with mod­ern military aircraft induced two former enemies, France and Germany, to undertake joint development of an advanced trainer/light strike aircraft for their re­spective air forces. The new craft was intended to re­place a host of aging Fouga Magisters, Lockheed T- 33s, and Fiat G 91s. Two highly respected firms, Dassault and Dornier, then spent several years work­ing out the final details before developing a prototype. The first Alphajet flew in 1975 as a modern shoulder­wing jet seating two crew members under a lengthy canopy. The rear seat is also staggered above the front one to afford instructors better forward vision. The wings and tail surfaces are all highly swept, and the final product compact yet attractive. The craft also possesses twin engines—a Luftwaffe requirement re­sulting from its unsavory experience with single-en­
gine Lockheed F-104 Starfighters. Given their dual function, the French and German versions differ widely as to avionics. The French use them as dedi­cated advanced trainers with less powerful systems. The Germans, meanwhile, fly theirs with the backseat removed and mount highly sophisticated radar, target­ing, and communications equipment. Curiously, either version of the Alphajet can be rigged for ground at­tack with the addition of weapons pods and bombs. A total of 600 were built by 1982.

This high-performance package naturally aroused the interest of poorer nations, which sought increased firepower at bargain prices. Belgium, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Nigeria, Qatar, Cameroon, and Togo all have purchased the diminu­tive craft and arrayed them with various weapons arrangements. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Germany decided to mothball its fleet of Alphajets and has since sold 80 refurbished machines to Portu­gal. France, meanwhile, continues to upgrade its trainers, calling the new machines Lanciers.

. Dassault/Dornier Alphajet

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 28 feet, 3 inches; length, 25 feet, 2 inches; height, 9 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 943 pounds; gross, 1,441 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 100-horsepower Gnome Monosoupape rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 93 miles per hour; ceiling, 14,000 feet; range, 250 miles

Armament: 1 x.303-inch machine gun

Service dates: 1916-1917


he fragile-looking DH 2 was the Royal Flying Corps’s first true fighter plane. Tough and ma­neuverable, its appearance signified the end of Ger­many’s “Fokker scourge.”

The DH 2 single-seat fighter craft evolved from Geoffrey de Havilland’s earlier DH 1 two-seat recon­naissance craft in 1915. Like its predecessor, the pilot sat in a central nacelle well forward of the two – bay wings, enjoying unrestricted frontal vision. The rotary pusher engine was immediately to his rear. The wings were conventional wood and canvas af­fairs, and four tail booms jutted rearward and at­tached to a vee-shaped structure fastening the tail. De Havilland opted for a pusher design because the British still lacked synchronization technology that permitted firing machine guns through a propeller arc. Therefore, the DH 2 possessed a single drum – fed Lewis machine gun mounted in the pilot’s na­celle. In flight the craft flew only moderately fast, but it climbed well and was completely acrobatic.

The first DH 2s were deployed to France in January 1916 with No. 24 Squadron—the first purely
conceived fighter unit ever operated by the Royal Flying Corps. Prior to this, British formations were mixed bags of various kinds of aircraft. Air superi­ority at this time had passed completely into Ger­man hands because of the notorious, machine gun-armed Fokker Eindekker. But the DH 2s, de­spite their unconventional appearance, proved first – class dogfighters and swept the sky of German op­position. On one occasion, a single pusher flown by Major L. W.B. Rees mistakenly joined what he thought were 10 British bombers returning from a raid. They turned out to be German, and in the en­suing scrape his DH 2 dispatched two of the enemy and scattered the rest. Rees subsequently received the Victoria Cross.

In the fall of 1916 the first Albatros D Is and D Ils appeared, and de Havilland’s little pushers be­came completely outclassed. They sustained heavy losses before withdrawing from frontline service in

1917. Nonetheless, the DH 2 had made its mark as Britain’s first successful fighter.

. Dassault/Dornier Alphajet

Type: Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 42 feet, 5 inches; length, 30 feet, 8 inches; height, 11 feet Weights: empty, 2,300 pounds; gross, 3,472 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 375-horsepower Rolls-Royce Eagle liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 136 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,000 feet; range, 420 miles Armament: up to 4 x.303-inch machine guns; 460 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1917-1932


he DH 4 was the first British aircraft specifically designed for daylight bombing and among the best of its kind in World War I. It was built in even greater numbers by the United States and enjoyed considerable longevity there.

The DH 4 was designed in response to a 1916 Air Ministry specification for a new daylight-bomb­ing aircraft, the first acquired by the Royal Flying Corps. A prototype was flown in August of that year and proved entirely successful. The DH 4 was a stan­dard two-bay biplane constructed of wood and fab­ric. The fuselage consisted of two complete halves bolted together, with the forward half covered in plywood for greater strength. Another distinguish­ing feature was the widely spaced cockpits, between which sat a large fuel tank. Such placement facili­tated better views for the pilot and gunner but rather hindered close cooperation. It was also fitted with dual flight controls for both crew members. The DH 4 was originally supposed to be powered by the splendid Rolls-Royce Eagle engine but they
proved unavailable, so several other power plants were employed.

In service the DH 4 was a superb airplane. Fully loaded, it was as fast as most fighters and could absorb considerable damage. Great numbers were employed by both the Royal Flying Corps and its naval equivalent, and it enjoyed a wide-ranging career from France to Palestine. As such, DH 4s were successfully employed in bombing, reconnais­sance, and antisubmarine patrols. In August 1918 a Royal Navy DH 4 even managed to shoot down a Zeppelin L 70. The DH 4 was also the only British warplane to be manufactured in great numbers by the United States; the U. S.-built machines were pow­ered by the famous Liberty in-line engine. By 1918 DH 4s equipped no less that 11 American and nine Royal Air Force squadrons. The British, who built 1,449 examples, discarded them after the war, but the Americans went on to construct an additional 4,686 machines. They underwent constant modifica­tions and remained in service until 1932.

. Dassault/Dornier Alphajet

Type: Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 45 feet, 11 inches; length, 30 feet, 3 inches; height, 11 feet, 4 inches Weights: empty, 2,800 pounds; gross, 4,645 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 400-horsepower Packard Liberty liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 123 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,750 feet; range, 600 miles Armament: 3 x.303-inch machine guns; 660 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1918-1931


he original DH 9, which suffered from a poor en­gine, had been foisted upon the Royal Flying Corps through governmental bureaucracy and proved a disaster. Fortunately, the much improved DH 9a became a splendid bomber it its own right and subsequently accrued a distinguished service record.

By 1917 the rising tempo of German raids against England forced the British High Command to increase its own bomber force for retaliatory pur­poses. The government then decided to replace the excellent DH 4 with an updated version, christened the DH 9. This new machine utilized the same wing and empennage as the DH 4, but it enjoyed closer cockpits and a new—and theoretically more power­ful—BHP engine. However, in service the BHP was underpowered and completely unreliable, making the DH 9’s performance inferior to the craft it was meant to replace. Also, their low-ceiling perfor­mance subjected them to attacks by both fighters and antiaircraft batteries; in time losses grew pro­hibitive. Despite appeals from General Hugh Tren-
chard to get rid of the DH 9 altogether, the govern­ment had other priorities, and full-scale production was maintained. A total of 4,000 were acquired.

In view of the DH 9’s poor performance, a new version, the DH 9a, was developed. This appeared very similar to the old craft, although it employed greater wingspan and a stronger fuselage. Shortages of the splendid Rolls-Royce Eagle engine forced it to employ the 400-horsepower Liberty engine, built in the United States. The result of coupling a good en­gine to a fine airframe was an excellent aircraft that went by the sobriquet of “Nine-ack.” DH 9as fought with distinction toward the end of World War I and remained in production after the Armistice. No less than 2,500 were built during the postwar period, and they continued in frontline service until 1931. Nine – acks were best remembered for the policing role they fulfilled across the British Empire, particularly along the North-West Frontier of India. Their reli­able performance was greatly appreciated by crews, because crash-landing usually meant death at the hands of hostile tribesmen.

. Dassault/Dornier Alphajet

Type: Heavy Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 65 feet, 6 inches; length, 39 feet, 7 inches; height, 14 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 5,585 pounds; gross, 9,000 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 400-horsepower Packard Liberty liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 112 miles per hour; ceiling, 17,000 feet; range, 600 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; 1,280 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1918-1922


he jut-jawed DH 10 was one of the finest bomber designs of World War I, but it arrived too late for combat. It is best remembered as a postwar mail carrier that pioneered vital air routes in Europe, Egypt, and India.

In 1916 Geoffrey de Havilland designed a twin – engine pusher-type bomber known informally as the DH 3. It was a proficient design, and the Air Ministry placed an order for 50 machines. When production was canceled before the first example could be built, the project was summarily shelved until 1917. That year a new specification for heavy bombers was circulated, and de Havilland decided to upgrade his previous design. The resulting craft was named the DH 10, a three-seat, three-bay biplane pusher. It was distinct in that the fuselage was slung low, par­tially covered in plywood, and it employed a wide – track undercarriage. An ongoing shortage of Rolls – Royce engines prompted switching to the reliable American Liberty model, which were ultimately
mounted in tractor position. As a bomber the DH 10 hoisted twice the bomb load of the DH 9a at higher speed and altitude. In the summer of 1918 a contract for 1,275 machines was placed.

The DH 10 was an excellent bomber for its day, strongly built and easy to fly. Had the war con­tinued it would have become very numerous, but only eight had arrived in France by the time of the Armistice. Production then ceased at 223 machines, which were dispersed among various squadrons in Europe, Africa, and India. The DH 10 spent the rest of its days as a utility craft, most notably as a mail carrier. In 1919 the machines of No. 120 Squadron commenced the first night service between Hawkinge, England, and Cologne, Germany. Similar work was performed by DH 10s of No. 216 Squadron along the Cairo-to-Baghdad route. It fi­nally had an opportunity to drop bombs in 1920-1922, during a revolt of rebel tribesmen along India’s North-West Frontier.

. Dassault/Dornier Alphajet

Type: Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 29 feet, 4 inches; length, 23 feet, 11 inches; height, 8 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 1,200 pounds; gross, 1,825 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 120-horsepower DH Gypsy liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 109 miles per hour; ceiling, 13,600 feet; range, 300 miles

Armament: none

Service dates: 1932-1947


he ubiquitous Tiger Moth was the last biplane trainer of the Royal Air Force and among the most numerous. During World War II it trained thou­sands of British and Commonwealth pilots from around the globe.

The great commercial and acrobatic success of de Havilland’s Moth aircraft in the late 1920s caused military circles to consider its adoption as a trainer. Around that time the RAF began employing the pop­ular DH 60T Gypsy Moth variant, which had been modified to allow pilots easier escape from the front cockpit while wearing a parachute. This meant stag­gering the top wing forward and providing it with several degrees of sweep. After several more refine­ments, it was introduced into the service as the DH 82 Tiger Moth, quite possibly the greatest biplane trainer of all time. This fabric-covered, compact little craft had single-bay wings and an inverted engine to improve the frontal view. As airplanes, Tiger Moths were gentle and forgiving—perfect for training inex­perienced pilots. However, they were also strong,
completely acrobatic, and could be literally thrown around the sky with abandon. A second model, the DH 82A Tiger Moth II, mounted a canvas hood over the rear cockpit to teach instrument flying.

By the advent of World War II in 1939, 1,611 Tiger Moths were in use at 28 Elementary Flying Schools across Britain. During the war the number of machines increased exponentially, with more than 8,000 being manufactured in England, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Literally thousands of Commonwealth pilots took the first step toward winning their wings by strapping themselves into Tiger Moths! During the war, several DH 82s were impressed into service as communications aircraft and flying ambulances. The threatened invasion of England in 1940 prompted others to be fitted with bomb racks. A radio-controlled version, the Queen Bee, also served as a flying drone for aerial gunnery. After the war, Tiger Moths remained frontline train­ers until 1947. Hundreds still fly today in private hands, and they remain beloved machines.

. Dassault/Dornier Alphajet

Type: Reconnaissance; Light Bomber; Fighter; Night Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 54 feet, 2 inches; length, 41 feet, 6 inches; height, 15 feet, 3 inches Weights: empty, 16,631 pounds; gross, 25,500 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,710-horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin 76 liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 425 miles per hour; ceiling, 36,000 feet; range, 3,500 miles Armament: 4 x 20mm cannons; 4 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 4,000 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1941-1955


ailed as the “Wooden Wonder,” the Mosquito was among the most versatile and proficient warplanes of World War II. It saw service in a count­less variety of roles and enjoyed the lowest loss rate of any Royal Air Force aircraft.

In 1938 the de Havilland company proposed a high-speed reconnaissance aircraft flown by only two men. The new craft would be totally unarmed, relying solely upon speed for survival. Moreover, to de-emphasize use of strategic resources like metal, de Havilland wanted the plane entirely made from wood. Understandably, officials at the Air Ministry simply scoffed at the proposal. The company nonetheless proceeded to construct several proto­types that first flew in 1940. The country was at war with Germany then, and severely hard-pressed, but ministry officials remained hostile to the notion of wooden warplanes. Their minds completely changed when the first Mosquitos demonstrated speeds and maneuverability usually associated with single-engine fighters. The aircraft was then rushed into production and flew its first daylight reconnais­
sance mission over Paris in 1941. When the “Mossies” easily outpaced pursuing German fight­ers, a legend was born.

During the next four years, de Havilland pro­duced great quantities of Mosquitos in a bewildering variety of types. They capably performed several roles with distinction: reconnaissance, night fighter, day fighter, and light bomber. Fast and almost un­stoppable, Mosquitos were also famous for their pinpoint accurate bombing raids. In January 1943 they interrupted a speech given by Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goring—then returned later that day to drop bombs on a rally given by propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels. Lightning raids against Gestapo headquarters in The Hague and Copenhagen were also a specialty. Mosquitos served in Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific, suffering the lowest loss rate of any British aircraft. After the war they remained the fastest machines in RAF Bomber Com­mand inventory until overtaken by Canberra jet bombers in 1951. A total of 7,781 Mosquitos were built—truly one of the world’s greatest warplanes.

. Dassault/Dornier Alphajet

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber; Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 38 feet; length, 30 feet, 9 inches; height, 8 feet, 10 inches

Weights: empty, 7,283 pounds; gross, 12,390 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 3,350-pound thrust de Havilland Goblin turbojet engine

Performance: maximum speed, 548 miles per hour; ceiling, 42,800 feet; range, 1,220 miles

Armament: 4 x 20mm cannons; 2,000 pounds of bombs or rockets

Service dates: 1946-1990


he diminutive Vampire was England’s second jet fighter and spawned a large number of subtypes. It enjoyed a lengthy career and was exported to no less than 25 nations.

The British Air Ministry issued Specification

E. 6/41 in 1941 to obtain a jet fighter built around a single de Havilland Goblin centrifugal-flow turbojet. The relatively low thrust of this early engine virtually dictated the design because of the necessity to keep the tailpipe as short as possible. De Havilland re­sponded with a unique twin-boomed approach. The fuselage was a bulbous pod housing the pilot, engine, nosewheel, and armament. The pilot sat in a cockpit close to the nose and under a bubble canopy that af­forded excellent vision. The all-metal wing was mid­mounted and affixed by twin booms extending rear­ward, themselves joined by a single stabilizer. The prototype first flew in September 1943, with Geoffrey de Havilland Jr. at the controls. He reported excel­lent flight characteristics, even at breathtaking
speeds of 500 miles per hour. In 1946 the aircraft en­tered the service as the DH 100 Vampire (the original designation was Spider Crab). Subsequent modifica­tions yielded the Mk III, which had larger fuel tanks and a redesigned tail. However, it was not until 1949 that the major production version, the FB Mk 5, ar­rived. It featured clipped wings, longer undercar­riage, and the ability to carry rockets and bombs.

The Vampire exhibited such docile handling in flight that it was an ideal trainer. It was also ex­ported around the world and saw extensive service with 25 air forces. Switzerland operated its Vam­pires with little interruption until 1991. On Decem­ber 3, 1945, a Royal Navy Sea Vampire also became the first pure jet to operate off a carrier deck. This version, naturally, was stressed for catapulting and used an arrester hook. One final model, the NF Mk 10, was a two-seat night fighter version with radar. The total number of Vampires manufactured was around 2,000. It was a classic early jet design.

. Dassault/Dornier Alphajet

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 50 feet; length, 55 feet, 7 inches; height, 10 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 22,000; gross, 36,000 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 11,250-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Avon turbojet engines Performance: maximum speed, 650 miles per hour; ceiling, 48,000 feet; range, 600 miles Armament: 4 x Firestreak, Red Top, or Bullpup missiles Service dates: 1959-1972


he formidable Sea Vixen compiled a litany of firsts for the Fleet Air Arm. It was the Royal Navy’s first all-weather interceptor, the first de­signed as an integrated weapons system, and the first armed solely with missiles.

In 1946 the British Admiralty issued Specifica­tion N.40/46, later upgraded to N.14/49, which insti­gated development of a twin-engine radar-equipped jet fighter. De Havilland, which had pioneered twin – boomed jet fighters, advanced the DH 110 design, but initially the navy rejected it in favor of the lower – powered Sea Venom. When the Royal Air Force also passed on it for what ultimately become the Gloster Javelin, the Fleet Air Arm took a second look and decided the craft was worth pursuing after all. The prototype debuted in 1951 as a most impressive war­plane. The DH 110 was a large machine with the crew compartment and twin engines mounted within a central, streamlined pod. The twin booms streamed back from the highly swept wing and were
joined farther aft by a single control surface. The pilot and radar operator sat side by side, but only the pilot was provided with a canopy, offset to the left. The DH 110 was a powerful flier, and during early testing it became the first British aircraft to break the sound barrier in a dive. When the proto­type subsequently broke up in flight, development halted and several years of bureaucratic indecision ensued. Consequently, the first FAW.1 Sea Vixens did not reach the fleet until 1959.

In service the Sea Vixen proved itself a power­ful addition to the fleet, both as an interceptor and a ground-attack plane (mounting U. S.-made Bullpup guided missiles). By 1961 a new version, the FAW.2, appeared, featuring revised booms extending over the front wing to carry additional fuel. This model also was the first navy fighter to dispense with can­nons entirely in favor of four Firestreak or Red Top missiles. A total of 148 Sea Vixens were built, with the last retiring in 1972.

. Dassault/Dornier Alphajet

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber; Night Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 41 feet, 8 inches; length, 33 feet; height, 6 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 8,100 pounds; gross, 15,310 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 4,850-pound thrust de Havilland Ghost turbojet engine

Performance: maximum speed, 640 miles per hour; ceiling, 45,000 feet; range, 1,075 miles

Armament: 4 x 20mm cannons; up to 2,000 pounds of bombs and rockets

Service dates: 1952-1990


he Venom was a successor to the earlier Vam – л. pire, but not nearly as popular. It nonetheless filled a critical niche in several areas until more ad­vanced machines could be deployed.

Continuing refinement of the de Havilland Goblin engine resulted in a totally new version, the Ghost, which featured 50 percent more thrust. This power plant was fitted into a heavily redesigned DH 100 Vampire in 1949, and the resulting hybrid gained a new designation as the DH 112 Venom. It bore striking similarity to its forebear, but it enjoyed the advantage of a wholly redesigned, thinner wing of broader chord. Consequently, the Venom possessed much higher performance than the Vampire. The Royal Air Force immediately ordered the type into production, and it became operational in 1952. The Venom was employed initially as a fighter-bomber, and the FB.1s and FB.4s could carry useful pay­loads. Both France and Switzerland obtained license to manufacture the craft domestically; the Swiss
models flew regularly in frontline service up to 1990. Two night-fighter versions, the NF.2 and NF.3 were also developed that sat a crew of two side by side. These superceded the Vampire NF 10s after 1953 and rendered useful service until being replaced by Gloster Javelins in 1957.

The Fleet Air Arm was naturally interested in such good performance, and in 1954 it accepted de­liveries of the Sea Venom FAW. These were the Royal Navy’s first all-weather interceptor and fea­tured arrester hooks, folding wings, and other naval equipment. They also sat a crew of two in side-by­side configuration. In 1956 Sea Venoms were at the forefront of the Anglo-French intervention during the Suez Crisis, making large-scale ground attacks in support of army units. Two years later Sea Venoms pioneered the use of Firestreak guided missiles as standard Fleet Air Arm armament. They served well until the arrival of the de Havilland DH 110 Sea Vixen in 1959. Around 500 of all types were built.

. О Ansaldo SVA 5 Primo

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 29 feet, 10 inches; length, 26 feet, 7 inches; height, 8 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 1,521 pounds; gross, 2,072 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 265-horsepower SPA liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 140 miles per hour; ceiling, 22,965 feet; range, 450 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns

Service dates: 1918-1929


he handsome Ansaldo craft conducted some of the longest and most impressive reconnaissance flights of World War I. They continued this tradition after the war and established many long-distance records.

In 1916 the Ansaldo firm began constructing a new high-performance fighter craft as a private com­pany venture. It fell upon Umberto Savoia and Rodolfo Verduzio to design the prototype, which flew in March 1917. The SVA 4 was a good-looking biplane that employed “W”-shaped Warren struts along the wings, thus dispensing with the need for bracing wires. The wings themselves were of slightly unequal length, with the top possessing rak­ish ailerons and the bottom several degrees of dihe­dral. The slender fuselage was plywood-covered and tapered to a point past the cockpit, affording the pilot excellent rearward vision. Flight trials revealed that the SVA 4 possessed good performance, but it was too stable for fighter tactics. It therefore en­tered production as a reconnaissance craft and, in
slightly modified form, joined the service in March 1918 as the SVA 5 Primo.

The single-seat Ansaldo designs accumulated a brilliant wartime career and were among the best air­craft of their class in the world. This fact was borne out by the many dangerous long-range reconnaissance missions seemingly performed with ease. On May 21, 1918, a pair of Primos crossed the Alps at high altitude, successfully photographed military installations at Friedrichshafen, Germany, and completed a flight of 435 miles. But the most famous Ansaldo mission hap­pened on August 9, 1918, when six modified aircraft, accompanied by the poet Gabrielle di Annunzio, flew 300 miles to Vienna, dropped leaflets for half an hour, and returned after a 620-mile sojourn. Many other such flights were recorded.

The SVA 5s remained in service long after the Armistice. In 1920 five set out on an across-the – world venture from Rome to Tokyo, covering 11,250 miles in 109 flying hours. Production concluded in 1927, following a run of 2,000 machines.

. О Ansaldo SVA 5 Primo

Type: Liaison; Transport

Dimensions: wingspan, 59 feet, 8 inches; length, 42 feet, 6 inches; height, 13 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 7,605 pounds; gross, 12,125 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,000-horsepower Shvetsov Ash-621R radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 157 miles per hour; ceiling, 14,425 feet; range, 562 miles

Armament: none

Service dates: 1947-


he ubiquitous An 2 was built in greater numbers than any aircraft since World War II. Antiquated looks belie incredible ruggedness and adaptability, and it still serves in no less than 30 countries around the world.

Oleg Antonov, who spent most of his youth de­signing gliders, finally established his own aviation design bureau in 1947. From the onset his desire was to manufacture multipurpose aircraft capable of operating anywhere. His first design, the An 2, was originally intended as an agricultural airplane for the Soviet Union’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. He deliberately chose a biplane because of the prodigious lifting qualities such machines pos­sess, as well as ease of handling at low altitude. The big An 2 is built entirely of metal, save for fabric – covered control surfaces, and is unique among bi­planes in that the fuselage completely fills in be­tween the two wings. The wings themselves are joined to each other by use of a single “I” strut and utilize such advanced devices as slotted trailing flaps and ailerons that automatically droop at low
speed. Consequently, An 2s display superb STOL (short takeoff and landing) characteristics and are also rugged and easily maintained. The Antonov fac­tory built “only” 5,000 An 2s in the Soviet Union be­fore production halted. However, the torch was then passed to Poland’s WSK-Mielec factory, which man­ufactured another 18,000. China has also built 1,500 for its own purposes. Total An 2 production, world­wide, is estimated in excess of 30,000! It remains the last mass-produced biplane.

This hulking aircraft was eventually employed by 30 air forces around the world and in a bewilder­ing variety of tasks. Most military establishments employ it as a transport, but it has since been adopted to crop-spraying, glider-tugging, navigation training, and parachute transport. It can also be fit­ted with skis to operate from snow. The Soviets recommenced production of An 2Ms in 1964, which featured bigger control surfaces and a variable-pitch propeller. Antonov’s homely prodigy remains one of the world’s great transportation aircraft. The NATO designation is COLT.

. О Ansaldo SVA 5 Primo

Type: Transport; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 124 feet, 8 inches; length, 108 feet, 7 inches; height, 34 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 61,728 pounds; gross, 134,480 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 4,000-horsepower ZMBD AI-20K turboprop engines

Performance: maximum speed, 482 miles per hour; ceiling, 33,465 feet; range, 3,542 miles

Armament: 2 x 23mm cannon

Service dates: 1960-


or many years, the An 12 constituted the back­bone of Soviet heavy airlift forces. It still func­tions today in the guise of a reconnaissance and electronic intelligence-gathering platform.

The perfection of turboprop technology by the mid-1950s ushered in a new era of military transportation. Higher power levels at greater economy, in turn, led to larger airplanes being built. The first of these, Lockheed’s famous C-130 Hercules, inspired the Antonov design bureau to provide the Soviet Union with a craft of equal util­ity. The An 12 was developed in 1958 and, like the Hercules, is a high-wing monoplane with an up­swept rear section. The pressurized fuselage is completely circular in cross-section and possesses large landing gear fairings on either side. But un­like the American craft, the An 12 sports an integral rear loading ramp that can be folded and stored. Antonov’s machine is also unique in mounting a tailgun position immediately below the rudder. It was a powerful addition to the Red Air Force after
becoming operational in 1960, and it could lift up to 20 tons of light tanks and trucks or 100 paratroop­ers while operating from the crudest landing strips. The An 12 therefore gave the Red Army a strategic mobility never before possessed. An estimated 850 of these brutish transports, designated CUB by NATO, were built by 1973.

As would be expected, the An 12 saw wide­spread use among the Warsaw Pact and other na­tions sympathetic to the Soviet Union. In addition to transportation duties, it also made an ideal platform for electronic espionage, with three versions being built. The CUB A was an interim type with bladelike antennas on the forward fuselage. The CUB B was fitted with two prominent belly radomes in addition to blade antennas, and the CUB C, sporting the usual array of antennas, had the tail turret deleted in favor of a radome. Most Russian An 12s have since been retired on account of wing-spar fatigue. Other major users, like India, are looking for jet-powered replacements.

. О Ansaldo SVA 5 Primo

Type: Transport

Dimensions: wingspan, 211 feet, 4 inches; length, 190 feet; height, 41 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 251,323 pounds; gross, 551,146 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 15,000-horsepower KKBM NK-12MA turboprop engines

Performance: maximum speed, 460 miles per hour; ceiling, 24,605 feet; range, 6,804 miles

Armament: none

Service dates: 1967-


he mighty Antei was once the world’s largest air­plane and established several weight and alti­tude records that still stand. Despite its sheer bulk, it handles well and operates easily from unprepared airstrips.

Russia is characterized geographically by huge distances and varied topographical features that can make surface travel difficult, if not impos­sible. Air transportation is a possible solution, but this means that equipment must ferry huge quanti­ties of cargo and supplies in order to be meaning­ful. In 1962 the Antonov design bureau was tasked with constructing a huge transport plane to facili­tate the shuttling of military goods and services around the country and the world. In only three years, a functioning prototype emerged that stunned Western authorities when unveiled at the Paris Air Salon in 1965. The massive An 22 Antei (Antheus, after a huge son of Neptune in Greek mythology) was a well-conceived enlargement of the previous An 12. Like its predecessor, it was cir­cular in cross-section and possessed wheel fairings
under the fuselage. It also sports a capacious cargo hold and a pressurized crew and passenger cabin. To facilitate operations off wet and unprepared airstrips, pressurization of the six pairs of wheels is controllable from the flight deck and can be changed in midair to suit any landing surface. The secret to the An 22’s prodigious hauling ability is found in the trailing-edge flaps. These are designed to utilize the powerful prop wash flowing over the wing from the four contrarotating turboprop en­gines and provide added lift. Its military implica­tions were obvious, and since 1969 an estimated 100 of the giant craft have been built and deployed. The NATO code name is COCK.

The An 22 was the world’s biggest airplane fol­lowing its debut and established many useful world records. The only Soviet transport capable of freighting a T-72 tank, it was employed by the USSR as a propaganda machine during many “humanitar­ian” flights abroad. This giant reigned supreme until 1968, when an even larger craft, Lockheed’s C-5A Galaxy, premiered.

. О de Havilland Canada DHC1 Chipmunk

Type: Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 34 feet, 4 inches; length, 25 feet, 5 inches; height, 7 feet Weights: empty, 1,425 pounds; gross, 2,014 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 145-horsepower de Havilland Gypsy air-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 138 miles per hour; ceiling, 15,800 feet; range, 280 miles Armament: none Service dates: 1946-1996


he famous Chipmunk was de Havilland Canada’s first product and a very successful one at that. Built in large numbers, it trained pilots in Canada, England, and countries across the world.

Even before World War II had concluded, de Havilland and its Canadian subsidiary began negoti­ating for a new postwar trainer. Such a craft would be invariably compared against the immortal Tiger Moth, one of the greatest training machines of all time. If successful, the parent company even offered help in marketing it abroad. By 1946 a design team headed by W. J. Jakimiuk created a simple, robust machine that they dubbed the Chipmunk. It was a low-wing monoplane constructed entirely of metal, save for the control surfaces, which were fabric-cov­ered. Under a braced canopy sat pupil and instruc­tor in tandem, and the craft also employed fixed landing gear. Intended as a primary trainer, the first DHC 1 Chipmunks accepted into Canadian service were not stressed and, consequently, not entirely ac­robatic. They were, however, gentle, responsive air­planes and quite popular in their intended role. By
1951 de Havilland Canada manufactured 218 Chip­munks. Many were subsequently fitted with a blown bubble canopy for better all-around vision.

In 1951 several DHC 1s were dispatched to En­gland for evaluation as a standard Royal Air Force trainer. Flight tests were successful, but the RAF in­sisted on certain modifications to bring the machine up to their more rigorous standards. These included a variable-pitch propeller, all-around stressing, land­ing lights, antispin stakes, and landing gear that were moved forward. This done, the parent de Havilland company produced an additional 740 Chipmunks for the RAF. These machines fleshed out virtually every training squadron in the service for several years. Others were taken to Germany, stripped of their rear seat, and employed as light communications aircraft. A handful were also employed in Cyprus for internal security duties during difficulties there in 1958. Thereafter, several score found markets abroad. The venerable DHC 1s remained in declining numbers until 1996, when all were officially discharged. Sev­eral hundred still fly today in private hands.

. Antonov An 124 Ruslan

Dimensions: wingspan, 240 feet, 5 inches; length, 226 feet, 8 inches; height, 68 feet, 2 inches

Weights: empty, 385,800 pounds; gross, 892,875 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 51,590-pound thrust Lotarev D-18T turbofan engines

Performance: maximum speed, 537 miles per hour; range, 10,523 miles

Armament: none

Service dates: 1987-


n 1985 the mighty Ruslan edged out Lockheed’s C-5A to become the biggest airplane to achieve production status. Three years later it was sur­passed by an even larger derivative, the An 225.

In 1968 the U. S. Air Force’s acquisition of the giant C-5A Galaxy gave it unparalleled ability to ship military hardware anywhere on the globe. The Soviet Union needed similar capacities to keep pace with the West, so in 1974 the Antonov design bureau was instructed to cease production of the huge An 22 turboprop transport and commenced designing a jet-powered craft. The specifications established for the An 124 were mind-boggling: It had to carry a minimum cargo of 150 tons to any point within the Soviet empire without refueling. Antonov, drawing inspiration from previous designs and the C-5A, fielded a prototype in 1985. The new An 124 was 18 feet wider than the vaunted Galaxy, and it also pos­sessed 53 percent greater hauling capacity. Like its competitor, which it greatly resembles, the Ruslan (named after Puskin’s legendary giant) has nose and
tail cargo doors that allow vehicles to drive on and off. The spacious cargo hold is lined by a special ti­tanium floor equipped with rollers, and roof- mounted hydraulic winches facilitate cargo-han­dling. It also has a pressurized passenger cabin for 88 people. Moreover, the giant craft can be made to “kneel” while unloading through retractable nose – wheels. Since 1987 an estimated 48 An 124s have been built, with half going to the air force and the re­mainder operated by the state airline Aeroflot. The NATO designation is CONDOR.

The reign of the An 124 was exceedingly short, for in 1988 it yielded the throne to an even bigger de­rivative, the An 225 Mriya (Dream). This is essen­tially a stretched Ruslan fitted with six turbofans that expel a combined total of 309,540 pounds of thrust! It was expressly designed to freight heavy components for the Russian space program, carry­ing large items like the space shuttle Buran piggy­back. Only two of these giants have been built, and they remain the largest aircraft in world history.

. Antonov An 124 Ruslan

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet, 1 inch; length, 31 feet, 2 inches; height, 10 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 4,057 pounds; gross, 5,457 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 690-horsepower Junkers Jumo 210 Da liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 190 miles per hour; ceiling, 26,575 feet; range, 258 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1936-1940


he Arado Ar 68 was the last biplane fighter of the German Luftwaffe. A capable performer, it briefly fulfilled a variety of duties, including training and nighttime fighting.

By the terms of the 1918 Armistice, Germany was forbidden to possess military aircraft of any kind. But even before the Nazi era commenced, the German war ministry began secretly developing warplanes in collusion with the Soviet Union. By 1933 the newly elected Nazi regime under Adolf Hitler scoffed at these treaty provisions and encour­aged Arado to develop a new fighter to replace the unpopular Heinkel He 51. Arado had previously ac­quired much experience in Russia, so in 1935 it fielded the first prototype Ar 68. This was a single­bay biplane with an oval-section fuselage made of metal. The wings were constructed of wood and were fabric-covered. A distinctive feature was the rather high, thin rudder, which subsequently became an Arado trademark. Results were initially disap­pointing, and subsequent prototypes experimented with a variety of power plants. By 1936 a 750-horse-
power BMW Vi-powered Ar 86 was regarded as ready and commenced flight trials against the He 51. The Luftwaffe high command was reluctant to ac­quire another biplane, seeing how the monoplane Messerschmitt Bf 109 was on the verge of produc­tion. However, in the hands of Ernst Udet, the Ar 68 easily outflew its opponent, and the type entered production in 1937.

The Ar 68 was an efficient design, fast and for­giving, but also obsolete at the inception of its ca­reer. it flew well during test trials in Spain, but the Bf 109, also present, consistently outperformed it. Consequently, the type was acquired only in small numbers before the Messerschmitt emerged as the Luftwaffe’s standard fighter. By the onset of World War II in 1939, most Ar 68s were functioning as ad­vanced trainers. A naval version, the radial-engine Ar 167, was developed for possible deployment on the carrier Graf Zeppelin, but the project was scrapped. After brief service as emergency night fighters in 1940, all surviving Ar 68s were unceremo­niously retired.

. Antonov An 124 Ruslan

Type: Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet, 1 inch; length, 27 feet, 1 inch; height, 8 feet, 8 inches Weights: empty, 2,854 pounds; gross, 3,858 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 485-horsepower Argus As 410MA-1 liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 211 miles per hour; ceiling, 22,965 feet; range, 615 miles Armament: 1 x 7.92mm machine gun Service dates: 1940-1945


he Ar 96 was the Luftwaffe’s most significant ad­vanced trainer, for it instructed virtually all Ger­man pilots of World War II. It was built in greater number than any training craft of the period, save for the North American AT-6.

The Ar 96 was designed by Walter Blume in 1938 as a new advanced trainer for the Luftwaffe. It was a streamlined, low-wing monoplane constructed en­tirely of metal and stressed skin. Student and instruc­tor were housed in tandem seats under a highly glazed canopy. The fuselage was oval-sectioned and mono – coque in design, topped by a trademark Arado tail fin. The new craft was a delightful performer, with a 240- horsepower Argus As 10C in-line engine and a fixed, two-blade propeller. However, the undercarriage, which originally retracted outward toward the wings was totally redesigned. An inward, widetrack retract­ing system was subsequently adopted as better suited for rough student landings. The Ar 96 entered produc­tion in 1940, and over the next five years it was a com­mon sight at Luftwaffe training schools.

In 1940 the Ar 96B prototype emerged. This differed from earlier models by having a more powerful Argus AS 410A engine, as well as a lengthened fuselage housing more fuel. It also fea­tured a distinct, variable-pitch propeller spinner and a 7.9mm machine gun for gunnery training. This variant was built in large numbers throughout the war years by Arado, Ago, and the former Czech factories of Avia and Letov. By 1945 no less than 11,546 Ar 96s had rolled off the assembly lines. It constituted the mainstay of the Luftwaffe’s ad­vanced training force and, as such, bore a conspic­uous role in the overall excellence of that force. Toward the end of the war, several Ar 96Bs were impressed into field service with machine guns and bombs for ground-attack purposes. Afterward, the type was continued in production by the French concern SIPA, which built a wooden ver­sion in 1946, followed by an all-metal one. Similar craft were also manufactured in Czechoslovakia until 1948.

. Antonov An 124 Ruslan

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 40 feet, 8 inches; length, 36 feet, 1 inch; height, 14 feet, 4 inches Weights: empty, 6,580 pounds; gross, 8,223 pounds Power plant: 1 x 960-horsepower BMW 132K radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 193 miles per hour; ceiling, 23,000 feet; range, 670 miles Armament: 3 x 7.92mm machine guns; 2 x 20mm cannons; 220 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1939-1945


rom Norway to the Mediterranean, the versatile Ar 196 served as the “eyes” of the German Kriegsmarine. Fast, well-armed, and solidly built, they were the best floatplanes of their class during World War II.

By 1936 it was envisioned that the newly re­constituted Kriegsmarine (German navy) was des­tined to serve as fast, hard-hitting commerce raiders. Because this required efficient aerial recon­naissance, the German Air Ministry issued specifica­tions for a new floatplane to accompany all German capital ships. In 1937 Arado perfected its prototype Ar 196 floatplane to compete with a design proffered by Focke-Wulf, the Fw 62. Arado’s craft was a radial – engine, low-wing monoplane with twin floats. It was of all-metal construction and stressed skin, save for the rear fuselage, which was fabric-covered. The trailing edges of the rounded wings were filled en­tirely with flaps and ailerons. Once fitted with a vari­able-pitch, three-blade propeller, the Ar 196 easily outperformed its rival and entered service in 1939. In time, it ultimately outfitted air units on board the
major warships Bismark, Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Prinz Eugen, Admiral Scheer, Graf Spee, and Lut – zow.

In service the Ar 196 proved to be among the most capable floatplanes of the war, one of few de­signs to serve outside the Pacific. Moreover, it exhib­ited better performance than contemporary British and U. S. machines like the Fairey Sea Fox and Cur­tiss Seagull. As spotting aircraft, Ar 196s would shadow enemy vessels and relay intercept coordi­nates back to their home ships. Those not stationed on warships flew from bases ringing the Bay of Bis­cay and the Mediterranean. And despite their float­plane configuration, they were well-armed and could put up a fight. On May 5, 1940, two Ar 196s under Lieutenant Gunther Mehrens spotted the dam­aged British submarine HMS Seal off Denmark and forced its surrender. Other Ar 196s provided escort duty for Axis convoys and occasionally shot up British patrol aircraft with their heavy armament. Ar 196s served in dwindling numbers until the war’s end. A total of 593 were built.

. Antonov An 124 Ruslan

Type: Reconnaissance; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 46 feet, 3 inches; length, 41 feet, 5 inches; height, 14 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 11,464 pounds; gross, 21,715 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,980-pound thrust Junkers Jumo 004B turbojet engines

Performance: maximum speed, 460 miles per hour; ceiling, 32,810 feet; range, 684 miles

Armament: 2 x 20mm cannons; 3,307 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1944-1945


he beautiful Blitz was the world’s first opera­tional jet bomber. Appearing too late to affect events in World War II, it served as a technological precursor of things to come.

In 1940 the German Air Ministry laid down specifications for a fast reconnaissance craft pow­ered by the new Junker Jumo jet engines, then un­dergoing bench tests. The Arado design team, headed by Walter Blume and Hans Rebeski, came up with an extremely handsome machine. The Ar 234 was a high-wing monoplane made entirely of metal. The pilot sat up front in a fully glazed nose section, and two podded jet engines were mounted under straight wings. To reduce drag, the fuselage was de­liberately kept as narrow as possible, although this initially precluded the use of landing gear. In fact, the first six prototypes were fitted with detachable trolleys that fell away upon takeoff, leaving the craft to land on skids. Commencing with the seventh pro­totype, all subsequent Ar 234s received narrow- track landing gear. In flight the Ar 234 was extremely
fast and quite maneuverable; it also pioneered such novel technology as pressurized cabins, ejection seats, autopilots, and bombing computers. With the Nazi regime fading fast by 1944, the Ar 234 received priority production status, and 274 machines were assembled.

The Blitz commenced operational sorties over England in the fall of 1944, where its high speed ren­dered it immune from Allied interception. Given such good performance, it was decided to introduce a bomber version, the Ar 234 B-2, which carried bombs on its fuselage and engine pods. These were the world’s first operational jet bombers. Their most celebrated action occurred in January 1945, when waves of Ar 234s hit the Remagen Bridge over the Rhine, collapsing it. The Blitz continued its little war of unstoppable pinprick raids until the last few weeks of the war, when jet fuel became unavailable. Had this amazing airplane been available in quantity, serious damage might have resulted. It nonetheless demonstrated the viability of jet bomber technology.

. Antonov An 124 Ruslan

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 43 feet, 6 inches; length, 31 feet, 5 inches; height, 10 feet, 11 inches Weights: empty, 1,916 pounds; gross, 2,811 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 160-horsepower Beardmore liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 95 miles per hour; ceiling, 13,000 feet; range, 250 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns Service dates: 1917-1918


he FK 8 was one of the most numerous British observation aircraft of World War I. Fast, strong, and well-armed, it went by the chummy but unflat­tering appellation of “Big Ack.”

In 1914 Dutch aircraft designer Fredrick Kool – hoven submitted plans to the British air minister to replace its antiquated BE 2c with a more capable ma­chine. The design was entrusted to the firm Arm­strong-Whitworth, and in 1915 the FK 3 emerged. More than 500 of these machines, informally dubbed “Little Ack,” were constructed and equipped several squadrons in the Middle East. The following year Koolhoven suggested an upgraded version based upon the previous machine, and thus was born the FK 8. This was a standard biplane with two bay wings, the top of which exhibited pronounced dihe­dral. The crew of two sat in a deep fuselage con­structed from wood and fabric. One interesting fea­ture was the presence of controls in both cockpits so that a gunner could fly the plane if the pilot became
incapacitated. Early FK 8s were also fitted with an ugly central skid on the landing struts to prevent noseovers. Around 1,500 were manufactured.

In combat the “Big Ack” was a rugged machine and capable of defending itself. Although not speedy, it maneuvered well, absorbed great amounts of damage, and was considered superior to the con­temporary Royal Aircraft Factory RE 8. One inci­dent illustrates the combat career of the FK 8 above all others when, on March 27, 1918, Lieutenants Macleon and Hammond were jumped by eight of the formidable Fokker triplanes. In a running battle, the FK 8 managed to shoot down four of its opponents, even while burning and badly shot up. The two men survived a crash landing and subsequently received the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest honor. The FK 8s were retired immediately after the war, but eight ended up in Australia. There they helped form the nucleus of the Northern Territory Aerial Services, better known today as QUANTAS.

. Antonov An 124 Ruslan

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 33 feet, 2 inches; length, 25 feet, 4 inches; height, 10 feet, 2 inches Weights: empty, 2,061 pounds; gross, 3,012 pounds

Power plant: 1 450-horsepower Armstrong-Siddeley Jaguar IV radial engine Performance: maximum speed, 156 miles per hour; ceiling, 27,000 feet; range, 150 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns Service dates: 1927-1932


he Siskin was Britain’s first post-World War I fighter and the first to possess an all-metal struc­ture. It was phenomenally maneuverable and stan­dard fare at air shows for many years.

Britain, although victorious in World War I, was beset by extreme economic hardship during the postwar period. Consequently, it was unable to pro­cure new fighter craft for the Royal Air Force until 1924. That year the Royal Air Ministry authorized two models into production, the Gloster Grebe and the Armstrong-Whitworth Siskin. The latter origi­nated in a company aircraft of the same name that had first been designed in 1918. This was a standard, wood-constructed biplane in most respects, save for being powered by an ABC Dragon radial engine. A fine performer, it was subsequently refitted with a 200-horsepower Armstrong-Siddeley Jaguar radial, and it went on to win the 1923 King’s Cup Air Race with speeds of 149 miles per hour. The new proto­type, christened the Siskin III, differed from its predecessor in several respects. First, both wing and
fuselage frames were constructed of metal and were fabric-covered. As a sesquiplane, the upper wings were longer than the lower ones. The new craft was also the first British biplane to utilize vee interplane struts between the wings. In service the Siskin was a smart performer with outstanding maneuverabil­ity. A total of 62 machines were built in 1926, sup­planting aging Sopwith Snipes in two squadrons.

In 1927 a definitive variant, the Siskin IIIA, emerged. This version lacked both an auxiliary fin beneath the rear fuselage and the dihedral on the upper wing. Moreover, it was powered by the 450- horsepower Jaguar IVS engine, which endowed it with even greater performance. A total of 385 Siskin IIIAs were acquired, and they outfitted 11 fighter squadrons. Their handling was so outstanding that they frequently starred at the yearly Hendon Dis­plays. There No. 43 Squadron pioneered formation acrobatics and featured stunts with several aircraft tied together. The fine-flying Siskins were eventually phased out in 1932 by Bristol Bulldogs.

. Antonov An 124 Ruslan

Type: m Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 84 feet; length, 69 feet, 3 inches; height, 15 feet Weights: empty, 19,330 pounds; gross, 33,500 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,145-horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin X liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 222 miles per hour; ceiling, 17,600 feet; range, 1,650 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 7,000 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1937-1945


he rugged Whitley was the principal British bomber during the early days of World War II. It was the first British aircraft to drop bombs on Ger­man soil since 1918 and saw extensive use up through the end of the war.

In 1935 Air Ministry Specification B.3/34 man­dated replacing the aging Handley Page Heyfords with a more modern design. Armstrong-Whitworth responded with what would become its most numer­ous aircraft. The Whitley was a midwing monoplane whose construction was midway between contem­porary designs and those of World War II. Con­structed of metal, it possessed twin rudders, and sported a retractable undercarriage. The slab-sided fuselage was also sheeted with flushed metal skin, but the thick wing lacked dihedral and the ailerons were fabric-covered. The Whitley performed well in test flights, and its drooping nose gave it a distinct, jut-jawed appearance. The Royal Air Force decided to place orders in 1936, and the following year Whit­leys began equipping various bomber squadrons. Subsequent versions were fitted with more power­
ful, in-line engines, and others were outfitted with radar and employed by the RAF Coastal Command. Production ran to 1,184 machines.

When World War II commenced in September 1939, Whitleys comprised the mainstay of RAF Bomber Command’s frontline strength. It was margin­ally obsolete and overshadowed by the more modern Wellingtons and Hampdens, but in service it accom­plished a number of aviation firsts. After spending the first year dropping leaflets over Germany, in August 1940 Whitleys became the first British aircraft to drop bombs on Berlin since World War I. The following February, they bombed the Tragino viaduct after Italy’s declaration of war against Britain, the first such action against that country. Numerous Whitleys were then rigged for parachute operations, and in February 1942 the German radar installation at Bruneval was raided. They also sank their first U-boat in the Bay of Biscay on November 30, 1941. These unattractive, rugged aircraft finally performed training and pa­trolling activities up through the end of hostilities. The Whitley was a capable, underappreciated aircraft.

. Dewoitine D510

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 39 feet, 8 inches; length, 26 feet; height, 8 feet, 10 inches Weights: empty, 2,870; gross, 4,235 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 860-horsepower Hispano-Suiza 12Ycrs liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 250 miles per hour; ceiling, 34,500 feet; range, 435 miles Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns, 1 x 20mm cannon Service dates: 1935-1940


he Dewoitine 500 series represented the most modern, technically ambitious fighters of their day. They marked a transition phase between open – cockpit biplanes of the 1920s and the more modern aircraft of World War II.

In 1930 the French Aeronautique Militaire is­sued specifications for a new fighter to replace the aging Nieuport-Delage ND 62s then deployed. It fell upon designer Emile Dewoitine to conceive a revo­lutionary new concept that spelled the beginning of the end for biplanes. First flown in 1932, the Dewoi – tine 500 exuded modernity. It was a cantilevered, low-wing monoplane constructed entirely of metal. The craft was covered by stressed metal sheeting and completely devoid of drag-inducing struts and bracing wires. The only seemingly antiquated fea­ture was fixed landing gear with conspicuous ob­long spats. The in-line engine was closely covered by a pointed cowl, giving the craft an ultramodern, very sleek appearance. In the air, the Dewoitine was faster than its biplane contemporaries, more maneu­verable, and, because of its metal construction,
much stronger. The Armee de l’Air was duly im­pressed by the new machine, and it entered produc­tion in 1933. Within two years a total of 143 were built, including a number of cannon-armed Model 501s.

In August 1934 Dewoitine fielded a more re­fined version, the Model 510. It mounted a larger rudder, an uprated engine, and other aerodynamic refinements. Consequently, it became the first French fighter to exceed 250 miles per hour in level flight. The French air service acquired an additional 120 of these sleek machines, with a further 30 being assigned to the Navy’s Aviation Maritime (naval air arm). These craft also caught the attention of sev­eral governments and were exported abroad, with China acquiring 24 D 510s, Lithuania 14. The Dewoi – tine series still equipped several frontline units as late as 1940, at which time they had been overtaken and rendered obsolete by the newer Messerschmitt Bf 109. Nonetheless, the D 500 series made history by anticipating modern design trends by several years.




Avia B 534

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 30 feet, 10 inches; length, 26 feet, 10 inches; height, 9 feet, 2 inches Weights: empty, 3,218 pounds; loaded, 4,365 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 850-horsepower Hispano-Suiza 12Ydrs liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 245 miles per hour; ceiling, 34,875 feet; range, 360 miles Armament: 4 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1934-1944


he beautiful Avia B 534 epitomized the very best of biplane technology. Although fast and maneu­verable, it could not compete with modern mono­plane fighters under development.

In 1932 the Avia firm under designer Frantisek Novotny substantially revised and updated its B 34 biplane fighter. Within a year a prototype emerged as the B 534, a machine as elegant in appearance as it was splendid in performance. Structurally, the B 534 was a single-bay biplane with wings of unequal length and highly staggered. Ailerons were placed on both the upper and lower wings to enhance ma­neuverability, while the whole craft was made of steel spars covered in fabric. The fuselage was streamlined and fitted with a beautifully wrought, close-fitting engine cowling. Moreover, it was heav­ily armed, mounting four machine guns. Two of these were originally wing-mounted, but when trials revealed unacceptable vibration when fired, they were relocated to the fuselage. The prototype was also fitted with a traditional open canopy, but subse­quent production models were fully enclosed. Suf­
fice it to say that the Czechoslovakian Army Air Force now possessed the fastest, most maneuver­able biplane fighter on the continent.

The B 534 was delightful to fly, fast, and re­sponsive to controls. At the 1937 Zurich Interna­tional Flying Meet, it dominated all events and cate­gories until pitted against Germany’s landmark monoplane fighter, the Messerschmitt Bf 109. Against this new breed of warrior, the Avia finished a close second, but the eclipse of biplane fighters was at hand. These craft might have put up tremen­dous resistance in 1938 when the Germans occupied western Czechoslovakia, but events transpired with­out a shot. A total of 446 Avia B 534s thus passed into German hands, and they were employed by the Luftwaffe as trainers and target tugs. Others were also similarly accorded to the puppet Slovak Air Force, which accompanied Hitler’s 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. Indifferently flown by unsympa­thetic pilots, they failed to distinguish themselves. A handful of B 534s eventually flew against Germany during the Slovak revolt of 1944.

Подпись: Aviatik C IAustria-Hungary/Germany

Avia B 534

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 27 feet; length, 22 feet; height, 7 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 1,440 pounds; gross, 2,152 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 160-horsepower Mercedes liquid-cooled engine

Performance: maximum speed, 111 miles per hour; ceiling, 8, 200 feet; range, 280 miles

Armament: 1 x 7.62mm machine gun; 40 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1914-1918


he Aviatik series was mediocre and quickly with­drawn from the Western Front during World War

I. However, the long range and dependability of these aircraft enabled them to serve in secondary theaters with distinction.

Following the onset of hostilities in August 1914, the Automobil und Aviatik AG company of Leipzig, Germany, commenced production of two – seat reconnaissance machines based upon its prewar P.15A models. An Austrian subsidiary, Osterreichis – che-Ungarische Flugzeugfabrik Aviatik of Vienna, also brought out slightly modified forms of the same craft. The first series, known as the Aviatik B I, was a conventional, fabric-covered, two-bay biplane with a slightly longer upper span. These craft were unusual in having the pilot placed in the rear seat while the gunner occupied the front. This seemingly absurd arrangement appreciably interfered with the latter’s field of fire while also obstructing the pilot’s view. Nonetheless, in the early days of aerial conflict, the long range and pleasant flying characteristics of the Aviatik made it popular with crews. It was also one
of the few two-seaters that could be rigged with bombs for harassment raids. Two subsequent ver­sions, the B II and B III were introduced with more powerful engines and more conventional seating. These machines could fly nearly half again as fast and as high as the first model, but by 1916 they suf­fered heavily at the hands of improved Allied fight­ers. Moreover, they were aerodynamically less stable than earlier versions. The Germans eventually deemed them unacceptable for the Western Front.

In an attempt to upgrade the performance of Austrian aircraft, a new version, the C I, was intro­duced in 1915. Modifications included a new 160- horsepower Mercedes engine, an exhaust stack piped over the top wing, and a streamlined spinner. However, this model reverted back to the awkward arrangement of placing the pilot in the rear seat, a feature corrected again in the subsequent C III model. For want of a better replacement, they re­mained in Austrian service on the Italian and Rus­sian fronts up through the end of the war. A total of 167 C models were constructed.


Avia B 534

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: 26 feet, 3 inches; length, 22 feet, 9 inches; height, 8 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 1,345 pounds; gross, 1,878 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 200-horsepower Daimler liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 115 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,177 feet; range, 250 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns

Service dates: 1917-1918


he “Berg Scout” was the first fighter designed and mass-produced in Austria. Although fast­climbing and maneuverable, it was distrusted by pi­lots because of a reputation for frailty.

In the fall of 1916, the Osterreichische-Un – garische Flugzeugfabrik Aviatik of Vienna began constructing a single-seat version of its two-seater C I machine. The chief designer, Julius von Berg, in­corporated many features of the previous model into the new craft, which became known as the “Berg Scout.” The D I was a conventional biplane fighter with slightly staggered, single-bay wings. However, the fuselage was very deep, leaving only the pilot’s head exposed. This provided considerable shelter against the elements but interfered with for­ward vision. Worse yet, the D I was armed with a single machine gun mounted on the top wing that fired above the propeller arc at an angle. Thus situ­ated, pilots enjoyed clear shots only while diving upon a target. However, the D I was light and, pro­pelled by a 185-horsepower Daimler motor, climbed like a rocket. It entered production in the spring of
1917 and joined the ranks of the hard-pressed Luft – fahrtruppe (Austrian air service) that fall.

In service many pilots expressed displeasure with the D I’s performance. Flight tests demon­strated that it could outclimb and outturn the Aus­trian-built Albatros (Oef) D III with ease, but several machines crashed after structural wing failures. Moreover, the new 200-horsepower Daimler engines were powerful but prone to overheating. An entire series of experimental radiators was eventually fit­ted, but these only further obstructed the already cramped front view. In an attempt to up-gun the D I, a pair of machine guns was also fitted with inter­rupter gear that fired through the propeller arc, but these were placed so far forward that pilots could not unjam them by hand. Despite long-standing defi­ciencies in the machine, Austrian pilots eventually adapted to the “Berg Scout,” and it rendered re­spectable service against a host of Italian and Rus­sian aircraft. Production orders totaled 1,200 air­craft, but only 700 had been delivered by the time of the Armistice.

Avia B 534

Type: Reconnaissance; Light Bomber; Fighter; Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet; length, 29 feet, 5 inches; height, 10 feet, 5 inches Weights: empty, 1,240 pounds; gross, 1,800 pounds Power plant: 1 x 100-horsepower Gnome Monosoupape rotary engine Performance: maximum speed, 82 miles per hour; ceiling, 10,000 feet; range, 250 miles Armament: usually none, or 1 x.303-inch machine gun; up to 80 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1913-1933


he gangly Avro 504 rates as one of the greatest airplanes ever. In a career spanning two decades it underwent many modifications and trained gener­ations of pilots.

In 1913 Alliot Verdon Roe, a pioneer of tractor – propelled airplanes, demonstrated his latest cre­ation, a rather modest-looking craft called the Avro 504. It was a standard two-seater biplane with four – bay wings and a large skid protruding from its land­ing gear. It was also immensely strong and exhibited docile handling qualities once airborne. Both the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Navy ordered sev­eral copies on the eve of World War I. Not surpris­ingly, Avro 504s were among the many reconnais­sance aircraft dispatched to France, and on August 22, 1914, one received the dubious distinction of be­coming the first British airplane lost in combat. The Royal Navy, fortunately, had outfitted their 504s as light bombers, and on November 21, 1914, four of the little biplanes launched a daring and devastating
raid upon the Zeppelin hangars at Friedrichshafen. During the course of the war, this handy craft re­ceived several modifications and one, the K version, was a single-seat fighter employed by home defense units until 1918!

However, it was as a trainer that the Avro 504 found its niche in aviation history. Commencing with the J model of 1916, it trained thousands of British and Allied pilots, including Prince Albert, the future King George VI. Moreover, it was the machine of choice at the famous School of Special Flying at Gosport. There the famous Major R. R. Smith-Barry used 504s to initiate his new and standardized sys­tem of flight instruction. After the war, it remained in production up through 1927 and was fitted with a bewildering variety of power plants. A total of 8,970 Avro 504s were built in England, with another 2,000 constructed in the Soviet Union. These remained in frontline service with the Royal Air Force until 1933 and flew many years thereafter with private owners.

Avia B 534

Type: Reconnaissance; Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 56 feet, 6 inches; length, 42 feet, 3 inches; height, 13 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 5,375 pounds; gross, 9,900 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 420-horsepower Cheetah XV radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 188 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,200 feet; range, 700 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 360 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1936-1968


he venerable Anson was one of the longest-serv­ing types in Royal Air Force history. Ease of fly­ing and great reliability garnered it the nickname “Faithful Annie.”

In 1935 the British Air Ministry invited Avro to develop a twin-engine landplane for reconnaissance purposes. Avro drew upon its Model 652 commercial craft, two of which were sold to Imperial Airways in 1933. The prototype Anson was based upon this air­craft and first flew in 1935. It was a low-wing mono­plane of mixed steel-tube, wood, and fabric con­struction. The fuselage was long and rectangular and sported a conspicuous dorsal gun turret. Having successfully concluded flight tests, Ansons entered service with the RAF in 1936. They were significant in being the first monoplane types accepted into ser­vice, and the first British warplane with retractable (if hand-cranked) landing gear. By the advent of World War II in 1939, Ansons equipped no less than 12 squadrons with the RAF Coastal Command. Its all-around utility and docile handling prompted the nickname “Faithful Annie.”

The Anson was marginally obsolete at the commencement of hostilities yet gave a good ac­count of itself before being replaced by Armstrong – Whitworth Whitleys and Lockheed Hudsons. Only two days after the declaration of war in September 1939, one dropped bombs on a U-boat, the first of­fensive action taken by a Coastal Command aircraft. In June 1940 a trio of Ansons was jumped by nine formidable Bf 109 fighters; the little cluster not only beat off the assailants but also shot down two and damaged a third! By 1942 they were replaced by more modern types, but Ansons continued to per­form important work as trainers. Several versions were introduced during the war that instructed thousands of pilots, radio operators, and gunners throughout commonwealth air forces. Ansons re­mained in production until 1952; 11,020 had been constructed in Great Britain and Canada. The last six British aircraft served as communications air­craft until mustering out with great ceremony in


Avia B 534

Type: Heavy Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 102 feet; length, 69 feet, 6 inches; height, 20 feet Weights: empty, 36,900 pounds; gross, 68,000 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 1,460-horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin XX liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 287 miles per hour; ceiling, 24,500 feet; range, 660 miles Armament: 8 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 2,000 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1942-1954


he Lancaster overcame troubled beginnings to become Britain’s legendary heavy bomber of World War II. Fitted with special ordnance, it gained special renown as the “Dam Buster.”

In 1936 the British Air Ministry released Specifi­cation P. 13/36 for a new twin-engine medium bomber. Avro originated the Manchester, which was a sound design but powered by totally unreliable Rolls-Royce Vulture engines. Two hundred of these unfortunate craft were built, but all left the service by 1942. How­ever, the machine was refitted with an increased wingspan to accommodate four engines and rechris­tened the Lancaster. Thus was born the outstanding British night bomber of World War II. The Lancaster was an all-metal, high-wing monoplane with dual rud­ders. The fuselage was an oval-shaped, monocoque construction with a cavernous bomb bay extending half the length of the fuselage. This capacious feature could carry a variety of explosive and incendiary de­vices. The big bomber was rushed into production, with many Manchesters being converted while still on the production line. The new bomber commenced operations over Germany in March 1942, and within a
year Lancasters largely supplanted the Handley Page Halifaxes and Short Stirlings as the backbone of RAF Bomber Command. They proved instrumental in implementing the Royal Air Force policy of nighttime saturation bombing of German cities and industrial centers.

Lancasters distinguished themselves in the evening skies over Europe by delivering 608,612 tons of bombs in 156,000 sorties. However, they are best remembered for two very special attacks. The first, launched against the Mohne and Eder dams on May 17, 1943, utilized the famous Barnes Wallis “skipping bomb” that demolished its targets. The second fell upon the German battleship Tirpitz in Norway. On November 12, 1944, 31 Lancasters armed with 12,000-pound “Tallboy” bombs finally sank the dreaded raider in a fjord. By war’s end, Lancasters had been modified to carry the 22,000- pound “Grand Slam” bomb. Many subsequently joined the RAF Coastal Command and performed maritime reconnaissance work until 1954. A total of 7,377 were built, and a handful remained in Cana­dian service until 1964.

Avia B 534

Type: Patrol-Bomber; Early Warning

Dimensions: wingspan, 120 feet; length, 87 feet, 4 inches; height, 16 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 57,000 pounds; gross, 98,000 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 9,820-horsepower Roll-Royce Griffon liquid cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 273 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,000 feet; range, 2,900 miles Armament: 2 x 20mm cannons; up to 20,00 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1951-1991


he anachronistic Shackleton was the RAF’s first dedicated maritime patrol-bomber. Fitted with decidedly third-rate radar, it also served as En­gland’s first distant-early-warning aircraft.

The Shackleton can trace its roots to the fa­mous Avro Lancaster through an intermediary type, the Lincoln heavy bomber. In 1946 the Royal Air Force sought to replace its World War Il-vintage pa­trol-bombers with a completely modern type. A standard Lincoln was accordingly modified into a prototype maritime patrol craft, and the differences were so pronounced that a new designation became necessary. The new Shackleton utilized the same wing and undercarriage as its forebear but em­ployed an all-new fuselage that was narrower and taller. The first MR 1 version did not become opera­tional with the RAF Coastal Command until 1951. The following year the MR 2 appeared with an ex­tended and heavily modified nose section. The final version, the MR 3, finally debuted in 1955. This craft featured a nosewheel, tricycle landing gear, and
fixed wingtip tanks to boost the already impressive cruise range. The dorsal turret was also deleted in favor of additional space, and a clear-view cockpit canopy was fitted. Moreover, to alleviate the strain of extended patrols on the crew, it also possessed such creature comforts as a soundproof wardroom. These durable craft performed well, and all were re­tired from maritime duties in 1971 by the jet-pow­ered Hawker-Siddeley Nimrod.

Defense cuts in the late 1960s led to the moth­balling of several aircraft carriers and, with them, the distant-early-warning Fairey Gannet aircraft. As a completely stopgap effort, 12 of the obsolete MR 2 Shackletons were then dusted off, fitted with the Gannet’s World War II-vintage radar, and employed as the new AEW 2. This was a ramshackle affair at best, but the British government saw fit to employ these flying museum pieces until their replacement by infinitely superior Boeing E-3A Sentries in 1991. Thus ended an aircraft dynasty that had served Britain long and well for nearly half a century.

Avia B 534

Type: Strategic Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 99 feet; length, 97 feet, 1 inch; height, 27 feet, 1 inch Weights: empty, unknown; gross, 200,000 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 20,000-pound thrust Bristol Olympus 301 turbojet engines Performance: maximum speed, 650 miles per hour; ceiling, 60,000 feet; range, 5,750 miles Armament: up to 21,000 pounds of conventional or nuclear weapons Service dates: 1957-1982


he hulking Vulcan was the second of Britain’s fa­mous “V” bombers and the first such craft outfit­ted with a delta wing. Although intended for a possi­ble war with the Soviet Union, it fired its only shots in anger during the 1982 Falklands conflict.

A 1946 British air staff study recommended production of a trio of new strategic bombers that combined high speed, heavy payload, and great range. The Air Ministry then issued Specification B.35/46 to that effect, and an Avro design team under Roy Chadwick came up with a unique solu­tion. They held that a large delta configuration was the best possible solution to all three requirements, especially in providing lift and, hence, range. A pro­totype of the huge craft was rolled out in August 1952 as the Vulcan. It was a very streamlined air­plane, with the air intakes and engines buried within the wing and tricycle landing gear. The design was strong enough to be rolled in flight, and the proto­type exhibited fighterlike qualities. The only major problem encountered was buffeting at high speeds,
which was corrected on production models by pro­viding a kinked leading edge and a less swept-back wing. The Vulcan B.1 entered the service in 1957, and 45 were constructed. These were followed by 87 of the B.2 model in 1960, which had extensively modified flight-control surfaces and stronger en­gines. This version was also equipped to fire the nu­clear-tipped Blue Steel standoff missile.

The Vulcans served capably in their roles as part of the West’s nuclear deterrent. However, when the Soviet Union finally perfected surface-to-air mis­sile technology, the big bomber’s mission changed from high-altitude bombing to low-altitude penetra­tion. New and better electronic countermeasures were installed, as well as an array of conventional bombs. The Vulcans were due to be phased out early in 1982 but earned a brief reprieve during the Falklands conflict with Argentina of that year, where a handful conducted very long-range bombing mis­sions with mixed results. This memorable bomber’s replacement was the Panavia Tornado.