Category Warbirds

. Dewoitine D 520

Dimensions: wingspan, 33 feet, 5 inches; length, 28 feet, 8 inches; height, 8 feet, 5 inches Weights: empty, 4,685 pounds; gross, 5,897 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 930-horsepower Hispano-Suiza 12Y45 liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 332 miles per hour; ceiling, 33,620 feet; range, 553 miles Armament: 4 x 7.5mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon Service dates: 1939-1947


ewoitine’s racy D 520 was the most modern and capable French fighter of World War II. It fought with distinction in 1940 and went on to serve Vichy forces in Syria and North Africa.

By 1937 the French government felt pressing needs for new and more modern fighter aircraft. That year the Morane-Saulnier MS 405 won the com­petition when Dewoitine’s entry, the D 513, proved inferior. The company subsequently went back to the drawing board under Emile Dewoitine, Robert Castello, and Jacques Henrat to redesign a totally new machine. The D 520 prototype first flew in Octo­ber 1938 and was completely successful. It was an all-metal, low-wing monoplane fighter with stressed skin and retractable undercarriage. It was also heav­ily armed, possessing up to four machine guns and an engine-mounted 20mm cannon firing through the propeller hub. Moreover, the fighter plane proved impressively maneuverable and responsive, and it was faster than the MS 405. In 1939 the French gov­ernment decided to purchase it in quantity.

The commencement of World War II in Septem­ber 1939 did little to shake off the bureaucratic lethargy that plagued the French arms industry throughout the 1930s. Consequently, only one group de chasse (fighter group) was equipped with D 520s when the Germans invaded France in May 1940. Air­craft and pilots fought splendidly, claiming 147 enemy craft with a loss of 44 fighters, but France was nonetheless overwhelmed. Throughout the ensuing Vichy period, Germany allowed the D 520 to remain in production, and a total of 786 machines were built. They went on to reequip French forces in Syria and North Africa as Axis allies. In this capacity D 520s shot down numerous English airplanes while sustaining heavy losses of their own. In November 1942 Germany occupied Vichy France and impressed the surviving D 520s as trainers. After the Allied liberation of 1944, many Dewoitine fighters again passed into French hands and delivered parting shots against the retreat­ing Germans. Several D 520s were subsequently con­verted into two-seat trainers and flown until 1947.

. Dewoitine D 520

Type: Glider; Transport

Dimensions: wingspan, 68 feet, 5 inches; length, 36 feet, 10 inches; height, 9 feet Weights: empty, 1,896 pounds; gross, 4,630 pounds Power plant: none

Performance: maximum speed, 180 miles per hour Armament: 1 x 7.92mm machine gun Service dates: 1938-1945


he DFS 230 undertook the world’s first, success­ful glider assault in 1940. Thereafter it was widely employed in less glamorous work of a supply transport.

In 1932 an experimental glider had been de­signed by the Rhon-Rossitten Gesellschaft agency for meteorological research. Soon it came to the at­tention of Luftwaffe leader Ernst Udet, who envi­sioned military potential for such craft. Accordingly, a prototype was constructed by the firm Deutsches Forschunginstitut fur Segelflug and tested in 1937 before a large gathering of senior officers. The DFS 230 was a high-wing design with a boxlike fuse­lage that took off under tow, jettisoned its wheeled undercarriage, and landed on a belly skid. It was flown by a crew of two and could hold up to eight soldiers. In the hands of noted aviatrix Hanna Re- itsch, the prototype landed within a few feet of the generals and quickly disgorged its passengers. Fol­lowing this impressive display, the glider entered into production, and by 1938 Germany possessed the world’s first glider assault force.

In battle, the DFS 230s were usually towed by Junkers Ju 52 transports and released over a target, arriving silently and unannounced to the surprise of defenders. This is exactly what transpired on May 10, 1940, when 41 DFS 230s were assigned to take strate­gic Fort Eben-Emael on the Prince Albert Canal in Belgium. Nine gliders landed directly on target, stormed the fort, and held it against Belgian forces until the main German army arrived the following day. In May 1941 an even bigger force of 53 DFS 230s was towed in broad daylight over the British-held is­land of Crete. Resistance was fierce and losses heavy, but the island eventually succumbed to what was then the world’s largest airborne assault. Thereafter, most DFS 230s were employed in Russia, ferrying much-needed supplies to troops at the front. But per­haps their most notorious mission occurred on Sep­tember 12, 1943, in Abruzzi, Italy. There a glider force under legendary commando Otto Skorzeny put down on mountainous terrain just outside the Rifugio Hotel and rescued Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. A total of 1,022 of these useful gliders were built.

. Dewoitine D 520

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 43 feet, 7 inches; length, 25 feet, 10 inches; height, 19 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 2,143 pounds; gross, 3,146 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 200-horsepower Benz Bz IV liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 97 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,400 feet; range, 350 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns

Service dates: 1916-1918


he ubiquitous DFW C series was built in greater numbers than any other German aircraft of World War I. Amazingly acrobatic, it frequently out – maneuvered the latest Allied fighters.

Throughout 1914-1916 Deutsche Flugzeug – Werke manufactured an unarmed two-seat reconnais­sance aircraft called the B I. Once outmoded by more advanced allied fighters, it spent the rest of the war in training capacities. Meanwhile, DFW moved ahead on newer two-seaters—the C series, which was both armed and more maneuverable than the earlier ma­chines. The most important was the C IV, which ap­peared at the front in the spring of 1916. It was a con­ventional two-bay biplane constructed of wood and fabric. The 150-horsepower Benz III engine was semi­cowled in Germanic fashion to facilitate cooling, and it sported a typical “rhinoceros”-type exhaust pipe. In service the C IV demonstrated excellent qualities, but the introduction of better enemy fighters again prompted DFW to update the basic design.

A new machine—the C V—emerged in the summer of 1916. It was outwardly very similar to the C IV but possessed a more powerful Benz IV engine and other aeronautical refinements. Among them were rounded tail contours, balanced tail surfaces, and side radiators. This last item was subject to con­siderable revision once the machine was mass-pro­duced, and later-model C Vs were fitted with a box – type leading-edge device. The C V was well adapted for photographic and artillery-spotting roles and re­tained all the maneuverability of earlier models. Moreover, it could easily outturn the latest French and British fighters in pursuit. DFW ultimately con­structed 2,340 C types, making them the most nu­merous German aircraft of this conflict. C Vs consti­tuted the largest variant produced and were manufactured by DFW, Aviatik, and Halberstadt. More than 600 C Vs remained in frontline service by war’s end. On June 17, 1919, a C V established a world altitude record of 31,561 feet.

. Dewoitine D 520

Type: Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 77 feet, 9 inches; length, 63 feet, 2 inches; height, 17 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 12,897 pounds; gross, 22,046 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 880-horsepower Junkers Jumo 205D liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 162 miles per hour; ceiling, 13,780 feet; range, 2,175 miles Armament: 1 x 13mm machine gun; 1 x 20mm cannon; 220 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1939-1942


raceful Do 18s formed the bulk of Luftwaffe maritime reconnaissance units in the early days of World War II. One of them suffered the indignity of becoming the first German aircraft lost to British forces.

Throughout the late 1920s, Deutsche Luft­hansa transatlantic business was conducted on the Dornier Do 15 Wal (Whale) flying boat, which estab­lished several record flights. In 1934 its successor, the Do 18, first appeared. This craft incorporated many characteristics of the previous design, having retained the two large sponsons on either side of the midfuselage. These features endowed it with stabil­ity in the water and also provided additional lift while in flight. The Do 18 was powered by two en­gines in tandem arrangement, one pulling and one pushing, atop of the wing. Several were acquired by Lufthansa in 1936, and within two years one Do 18 established a world record by flying 5,214 miles non­stop from Germany to Brazil. The Luftwaffe, which had also employed the older Do 15, began utilizing

Do 18s as of 1939. These differed from civilian ver­sions by having more powerful engines and gunner positions in the bow and midships.

Do 18s ultimately equipped five squadrons in the Kustenfliegergruppen (coastal reconnaissance groups) by the advent of World War II. They served primarily over the Baltic and North Sea, keeping a wary eye on British naval movements. On Septem­ber 26, 1939, three Do 18s were shadowing the British fleet when they were suddenly attacked by Blackburn Skuas from the carrier HMS Ark Royal. One of the stately flying boats was shot down, be­coming the first German plane lost in combat to Britain. After 1940 the Do 18s were slowly with­drawn from maritime reconnaissance in favor of air/sea rescue missions. These craft were subse­quently painted all white with large red crosses and largely ignored until the British discovered them conducting electronic surveillance. By 1942 the handful of Do 18s still in service functioned as trainers.

. Dewoitine D 520

Type: Medium Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 84 feet; length, 61 feet, 8 inches; height, 18 feet

Weights: empty, 14,080 pounds; gross, 20,240 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 750-horsepower BMW VIU liquid-cooled in-line engines

Performance: maximum speed, 161 miles per hour; ceiling, 13,776 feet; range, 840 miles

Armament: 3 x 7.92mm machine guns; 2,205 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1935-1940


he Do 23, Germany’s first large bomber aircraft since World War I, was by most aviation stan­dards an operational flop. However, it played a major role in helping reconstitute the Luftwaffe bomber force.

By 1930 Germany was increasingly disposed to ignore provisions of the 1918 Armistice, which for­bade the nation from possessing combat aircraft. A number of firms, such as Dornier, had opened sub­sidiaries in Switzerland and other places to clandes­tinely develop such weapons. In this instance, Dornier had been entrusted to design Germany’s first large bomber since World War I. The prototype Do F was constructed at the company’s Swiss Al – tenhein factory in 1929, where it was marketed as a cargo transport intended for the German rail ser­vice. It was a twin-engine, high-wing monoplane de­sign of metal construction. The fuselage was rectan­gular in cross-section, and the lengthy wings possessed a long chord. The big craft also possessed rudimentary retractable landing gear. The Do F was employed exactly as advertised, despite its uncanny
resemblance to a bomber. Moreover, its crews were actually military personnel being clandestinely trained in the rudiments of aerial warfare. From this was developed a more refined version, the Do 11, in 1933. With Adolf Hitler now in power, all pretense toward civilian applications was dropped.

The Do 11 bomber appeared very similar to the Do F, save for a glazed bombardier section in the nose. It entered production as the Luftwaffe’s first bomber but was unpopular due to bad landing characteristics; only 79 were produced. Another failed version, the Do 13, was also made in small numbers. When these were subsequently modified with revised wing and tail surfaces in 1936, the type was reintroduced as the Do 23. A total of 273 units were built, fleshing out the first Luftwaffe bomber groups. The airplane performed well as a trainer, but its shortcomings as a bomber meant early re­tirement from frontline service in 1937. A handful survived during World War II and were outfitted with degaussing equipment for oceanic minefield work.

. Dewoitine D 520

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 88 feet, 7 inches; length, 72 feet, 2 inches; height, 17 feet, 10 inches

Weights: empty, 29,700 pounds; gross, 40,565 pounds

Power plant: 3 x 1,000-horsepower Bramo Fafnir radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 211 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,360 feet; range, 2,950 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon; 1,200 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1939-1945


he Do 24 saw widespread service with the Luft­waffe as a reconnaissance and air/sea rescue craft. Throughout this same period it found similar employment with the Dutch and later Spanish navies.

In 1935 the Dutch government approached Dornier to build a new flying boat for use in the Royal Netherlands Naval Air Service. Because work on the Do 18 had just completed, the new airplane in­corporated many features of its predecessor. The Do 24 was an all-metal, high-wing monoplane that utilized a typical two-step Dornier hull with large flotation sponsons on either side of the fuselage. The sizable tapered wing was fastened above the hull with struts and mounted three engines. A large twin rudder system was also employed. Service trials were excellent, and in 1939 the Do 24 entered Dutch service as part of the East Indies Air Forces. Several were also constructed in Holland under license.

In December 1941 the Japanese attack on the Dutch East Indies destroyed no less than nine

Do 24s. The remainder then fled to Australia, where another four succumbed to strafing. The surviving six Do 24s subsequently served with the Royal Aus­tralian Air Force in intelligence capacities until

1945. Following the German occupation of the Low Countries in 1940, all Do 24s then under production were seized and impressed by the Luftwaffe. These machines were outfitted as air/sea rescue craft and extensively flown in the Arctic, the Mediterranean, the North Sea, and the Atlantic. The Do 24 distin­guished itself in this capacity, being stoutly built and able to operate in rough water conditions. In one instance a Do 24 lost its tail section in high seas, so the crew simply sealed off the leak and tax­ied several hundred miles to land! Production of this useful craft was maintained in France and Hol­land, with a total of 294 being built. As a goodwill gesture to Spain, several Do 24s were sold in 1944, and they operated as air/sea rescue craft up through the 1970s.

. Dewoitine D 520

Type: Liaison; Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 39 feet, 4 inches; length, 31 feet, 4 inches; height, 8 feet, 10 inches

Weights: empty, 2,167 pounds; gross, 3,460 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 275-horsepower Lycoming GO-480 air-cooled engine

Performance: maximum speed, 155 miles per hour; ceiling, 10,825 feet; range, 685 miles

Armament: none

Service dates: 1957-


he Do 27 was a successful postwar design and marked Germany’s reentry into military aviation. It was a functional, rugged aircraft with an excep­tionally varied and lengthy service life.

In the aftermath of World War II, Germany was forbidden to possess or manufacture military aircraft of any kind. Consequently, Dr. Claude Dornier was forced to set up his office in Spain to continue working. In 1954 he received from the Spanish government specifications for a new light utility craft with STOL (short takeoff and landing) capabilities. That year the first prototype Do 25 flew as a high-wing, unbraced monoplane with fixed undercarriage and a spacious cabin. It was equipped with oversize flaps for good STOL per­formance. Another notable feature was the wide wraparound windscreen, which allowed for excel­lent vision. The machine displayed impressive qualities and was ordered in numbers by the gov­ernment. In light of existing restrictions, however, they were constructed by CASA in Spain as Do 27s.

The changing political climate of Central Eu­rope was then becoming transfixed over East-West confrontation as NATO under the United States faced off against the Warsaw Pact headed by the Soviet Union. The Americans were determined to make Ger­many a full-fledged military partner and allowed it to rearm. It was against this background that Dr. Dornier offered his new plane to the newly formed Luftwaffe (air force) and Heersflieger (army air force) of the Federal Republic of Germany. The Do 27, by virtue of its excellent ability to operate from short, unprepared strips became much in de­mand as an all-purpose liaison and general utility craft. Dornier then relocated back to Germany, where he constructed 428 of his rugged little airplanes. A second version, the Do 27B, was fitted with dual con­trols and operated as a trainer. Production concluded by 1966 after a run of 571 units. Given the great versa­tility of the Do 27, it was widely exported overseas to Israel, Nigeria, Belgium, Turkey, and Congo. Germany gradually replaced its Do 27s with helicopters in the late 1980s, and many were transferred to Portugal.

. Dewoitine D 520

Type: Medium Bomber; Night Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 62 feet, 4 inches; length, 55 feet, 9 inches; height, 16 feet, 4 inches

Weights: empty, 19,985 pounds; gross, 36,817 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,700-horsepower BMW 810D radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 348 miles per hour; ceiling, 24,170 feet; range, 1,550 miles Armament: 4 x 7.9mm machine guns; 2 x 13mm machine guns; up to 8,818 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1937-1945


he “Flying Pencil” was a Luftwaffe workhorse throughout World War II. Although less numer­ous than competing Heinkel and Junker designs, it performed useful work in a wide variety of missions.

The Dornier Do 17 originated in a 1933 re­quest by Deutsche Lufthansa for a modern high­speed carrier for mail and passengers. The proto­type flew in 1934 as an all-metal, high-wing monoplane with a single fin. The new machine was fast, but the airline rejected it on account of its very narrow fuselage, which led to the name “Fly­ing Pencil.” Then the Luftwaffe expressed interest in developing the craft as a bomber. Fitted with a twin rudder assembly, the new Do 17s made a splash at the 1937 Military Aircraft Competition at Zurich, where they proved faster than any fighter present. By 1938 several bombers had been com­mitted to combat in Spain, where it was decided to provide the front cabin with the trademark “beetle – eye” canopy and heavier armament. More than

1,200 Do 17s were built, and in the early years of World War II they formed a vital part of the Luft­waffe bomber arm, along with He 111s and Ju 88s. Most were phased out by 1942.

In 1938 the Dornier design team conceived a progressive development, the Do 217. Despite out­ward similarities to the Do 17, this was an entirely new and more capable machine. Equipped with ra­dial engines, it served throughout the war years as a day bomber, a night fighter, and a dive-bomber. Like its predecessor, the Do 217 was fast, easy to fly, and very adaptable. By 1944 Model M and Model K ver­sions were equipped to handle Fritz X guided anti­ship missiles during the Italian campaign. In this ca­pacity Do 217s sank the British cruiser HMS Janus and also the Italian battleship Roma as it fled to join the Allies. Others were successfully rigged as night fighters. A final reconnaissance version, the Do 217P, could reach altitudes of 50,000 feet. More than 1,700 Do 217s were built.

. Dewoitine D 520

Type: Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet, 7 inches; length, 32 feet, 4 inches; height, 11 feet, 2 inches Weights: empty, 3,990 pounds; gross, 7,000 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 750-horsepower Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-25C turboprop engine Performance: maximum speed, 278 miles per hour; ceiling, 30,000 feet; range, 1,145 miles Armament: none Service dates: 1983-


he racy Tucano is South America’s first and most successful advanced training aircraft. It contin­ues to be widely exported abroad in a number of versions.

In 1978 the Brazilian government approached Embraer to design a new trainer to replace its aging fleet of Cessna T-37s. The new craft would not only have to be cost-effective but also closely mimic jet flight characteristics. That year a design team under Joseph Kovacs began work on a proto­type that was unveiled in August 1980. The EMB 312 Tucano (Toucan) is a low-wing, turbo­prop monoplane with exceedingly sleek lines. It seats two crew members in tandem under a spa­cious staggered canopy and is the only aircraft of its class fitted with ejection seats. The Tucano de­rives its name from a long and distinct cowling, which houses a powerful Pratt & Whitney Canada turboprop engine. To better mimic the handling characteristics of jet flight, it also features a throt­tle control that simultaneously synchronizes the propeller pitch. This assures smooth and rapid ac­
celeration and deceleration. The plane exhibited delightful flying characteristics, so in 1983 the first EMB 312 was delivered to the Air Force Academy near Sao Paulo. Such high performance and low operating costs also attracted outside attention, with Egypt purchasing no less than 54 of these fine machines. In short order, Argentina, Columbia, Honduras, Paraguay, and Venezuela all purchased Tucanos for their cadets. The latest customer is France, which in 1994 ordered 80 examples with air brakes and deicing equipment.

By far the most significant user of the EMB 312 is Great Britain, which in 1985 sought to replace its BAe Jet Prevost trainers. Choosing the Tucano was significant because it represents the first trainer since the de Havilland Chipmunk of 1950 to seat pi­lots in tandem, not side by side. The British Tucanos are manufactured in Belfast by Shorts and are fitted with a more powerful Garrett turboprop engine and other advanced avionics. Thus far, more than 600 Tucanos have been built and exported around the world. A Brazilian success story!

. Dewoitine D 520

Type: Light Bomber; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 63 feet, 11 inches; length, 65 feet, 6 inches; height, 15 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 27,950 pounds; gross, 54,950 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 7,400-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Avon turbo jet engines

Performance: maximum speed, 541 miles per hour; ceiling, 48,000 feet; range, 806 miles

Armament: 4 x 20mm cannons; up to 5,000 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1951-


he legendary Canberra was originally designed as a light bomber, but it also gained renown as a high-altitude spyplane. This superb machine was one of the most versatile aircraft ever constructed, and a handful still operate today—half a century after initial deployment.

The high performance of German jets in World War II prompted the British Air Ministry to release Specification B.3/45 in 1945 to acquire Britain’s first jet bomber. At length designer W. E.W. “Teddy” Pet – ter of English Electric decided against the very lat­est swept-wing philosophies then in vogue in favor of a conventional straight-wing design. He selected a very low-aspect wing, which was thin, broad, and ensured good fuel economy at very high cruising al­titudes. The first Canberra debuted in 1949 to the as­tonishment and delight of the Royal Air Force. It was a streamlined machine with two engines mounted midway in-between the wings. The fuse­lage was smooth and monocoque in construction,
seating two pilots under a large bubble canopy near the nose. From the onset, the new craft was amaz­ingly fast and agile at low altitude. In 1951 the first Canberra B.2s were deployed, the first of 27 distinct marks that were produced over a decade. Canber- ras were also highly successful as an export ma­chine, and they served in great numbers with Ar­gentina, South Africa, Australia, Germany, Kuwait, India, Sweden, the United States, and France. A total of 1,352 of these classic jet bombers were built.

It is not always appreciated that RAF Canber- ras conducted some of the earliest high-altitude over­flights of the Soviet Union in the early to mid-1950s. In concert with Martin RB-57s—the U. S. version— these were some of the earliest spy flights of the Cold War. The advent of Soviet surface-to-air missiles cur­tailed these activities by 1960, and RAF machines re­verted back to bombers and tactical reconnaissance until the 1980s. However, India still maintains and op­erates a large refurbished fleet of 65 Canberras.

. Dewoitine D 520

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 34 feet, 10 inches; length, 55 feet, 3 inches; height, 19 feet, 7 inches Weights: empty, 28,000 pounds; gross, 50,000 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 15,680-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Avon 302 turbojet engines Performance: maximum speed, 1,500 miles per hour; ceiling, 40,000 feet; range, 800 miles Armament: 2 x 30mm cannons; 2 x Red Top or Firestreak missiles Service dates: 1961-1988


he fabulous Lightning was England’s first super­sonic fighter, as well as the first designed as an integrated weapons system. Despite maintenance headaches, it gave the Royal Air Force world-class interception capability.

The Air Ministry announced Specification

F. 23/49 in 1949 to stimulate production of a fighter that could operate faster than the speed of sound in level flight. W. E.W. “Teddy” Petter of English Electric had already designed a research craft called the P.1A, which was being constructed for that purpose. The prototype first flew in August 1954 with good results, but further development yielded the P.1B, a dramati­cally different aircraft. The most unusual feature was the engine arrangement—one stacked atop the other—which eliminated the need for a greater frontal area. The wings were also unusual in that they, as well as the tail surfaces, terminated at right angles to the flow of air. The P.1B became the first British aircraft to fly at twice the speed of sound in March 1958, and the government decided to enter it
into production as the Lightning. The first machines became operational in 1961 and differed from the prototype in having a faired bulge on the bottom of the fuselage for housing additional fuel. In service the Lightning was fast, highly agile, and possessed twice the performance of the aging Hawker Hunters. In time it developed into a world-class interceptor. However, with high speed came high fuel consump­tion, and the first F.1s were somewhat short-ranged. They were also dogged by recurrent maintenance problems, as technology this complex was a novelty.

The Lightning was also the first British fighter to serve as an integrated weapons system and not simply as a gunnery platform. It was equipped with an advanced fire control radar that simultaneously tracked targets and fired weapons at optimum range. A total of 338 of these impressive machines were built, and they remained in service until re­placed by Panavia Tornados in 1988. Several were also exported to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. This was a superb interceptor in its day.

. О Albatros C XII

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: 47 feet, 2 inches; length, 29 feet; height, 10 feet, 8 inches Weights: empty, 2,251 pounds; gross, 3,613 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 260-horsepower Mercedes D VIa liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 109 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,405 feet; range, 300 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1917-1918


he long-serving Albatros C class was among the finest and most adaptable reconnaissance aircraft of World War I. They combined good performance and reliability into an aesthetically pleasing airframe.

The Albatros family of two-seat reconnais­sance aircraft grew out of the prewar unarmed B – series. The new C versions, introduced in 1915, were armed, more strongly built, and capable of de­fensive maneuvering. Successive models tended to be better armed and better powered, and in 1917 the trend culminated in the introduction of the C X model. This version mounted the new 260-horse­power Mercedes D IVa engine that gave it greater speed and altitude than previous versions. It capped a tendency in the reconnaissance family to incorporate more and more features of the famous D series of fighters. It also sported lengthened wings that housed flush-mounted radiators and double ailerons. The C X displayed good high-alti­tude performance and the two-man crew carried its own oxygen supply aloft along with a wireless
radio. The plane commenced field service in the summer of 1917 and proved entirely successful as a photo platform and artillery spotter. A total of 330 machines were constructed, and they served with distinction to war’s end.

In time Albatros followed up with an improved model of the C X, the C XII. From an aesthetic stand­point, this was the most pleasing aircraft of the en­tire series. The C XII was the first reconnaissance machine to directly incorporate the trademark ellip­tical fuselage cross-section of the famous D-series fighters. It also employed an enlarged, curved tailfin strongly reminiscent of the scouts, along with a tri­angular ventral fin attached to the tail skid. How­ever, the motor, wing, and landing gear of the previ­ous aircraft were retained. The overall effect of the new machine was sleek and elegant. However, for all its refinement, the C XII boasted little improve­ment over the C X in terms of performance. It was nevertheless deployed in some numbers and served alongside earlier versions until the Armistice.

. Reggiane Re 2000/2001 Falco

Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet, 1 inch; length, 27 feet, 5 inches; height, 10 feet, 2 inches

Weights: empty, 5,265 pounds; gross, 6,989 pounds

Power plant: 1 x Daimler-Benz DB 601A liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 339 miles per hour; ceiling, 39,205 feet; range, 646 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns; 2 x 12.7mm machine guns

Service dates: 1939-1945


he Falcos were a capable series of Italian fight­ers, but available in only limited numbers. They enjoyed greater success as export machines, being operated by Sweden, Hungary, and Germany.

In 1938 the new Reggiane design office rolled out its first Re 2000 Falco (Falcon), which had been designed by Roberto Longhi. Superficially resem­bling the U. S. Seversky P 35 fighter of the same pe­riod, it was stubby and possessed large, elliptical wings. However, the Italian design offered clear im­provements, being more streamlined and having re­tractable undercarriage that recessed into wing wells. Flight tests also revealed that the Re 2000 was an outstanding dogfighter and superior to the Bf 109 in a contest of slow turns. However, like all Italian fighters of the late 1930s, being driven by a low – power radial engine meant that it was relatively slow. This, and the fact that fuel was carried in unar­mored tanks near the wing roots, caused the Regia Aeronautica (Italian air force) to reject the design. However, Sweden and Hungary expressed interest,
and the Re 2000 was acquired by both air forces in considerable numbers. The Regia Marina (Italian navy) also acquired 12 for possible catapult work aboard Italian battleships.

After Italy entered World War II in June 1940, Reggiane had greater access to advanced German engine technology. Longhi wasted no time refitting the Re 2000 with a powerful Daimler-Benz 601A in­line engine—quite a feat considering the rotund fuselage—and created the Re 2001 Falco II. As pre­dicted, this version possessed superior performance to the original design. It was deployed with some success over Malta in 1941, but a shortage of Ger­man engines limited its production to only 237 ma­chines. Final development of the series culminated in the Re 2005 Sagittario (Archer) when the DB 605A engine was fitted to a totally redesigned, slender fuselage. This was quite possibly the great­est Italian fighter of the war, and the Germans co­opted all 48 machines for their own use. These air­craft actively flew in the defense of Berlin until 1945.

. Reggiane Re 2000/2001 Falco

Type: Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 35 feet; length, 29 feet, 6 inches; height, 10 feet, 2 inches

Weights: empty, 1,274 pounds; gross, 1,600 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 70-horsepower Renault liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 70 miles per hour; ceiling, 10,000 feet; range, 200 miles

Armament: up to 1 x.303-inch machine gun; 100 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1912-1918


he slow, anachronistic BE 2s were among the first British aircraft dispatched to France in World War I. Despite staggering losses, bureaucratic inertia kept them in frontline service until the end of that conflict.

The BE 2a was designed and constructed in 1912 by Geoffrey de Havilland and was Britain’s first purely military aircraft. It was a two-bay biplane constructed entirely of wood and fabric, powered by an 80-horsepower engine. Despite its obvious frailty, the BE 2a possessed good performance for its day, was inherently stable, and was pleasant to fly. It therefore entered into production and, by the advent of World War I in August 1914, equipped three recon­naissance squadrons. BE 2s were the first British air­planes dispatched to France during the war, and in August 1914 they conducted the first British recon­naissance missions.

The pace of war quickly transformed the stately BE 2s into relics, a fact painfully underscored when
the machine gun-totting Fokker Eindekker debuted in 1915. The slow-flying BE 2s, unarmed and incapable of evasive maneuvers, were shot down in droves. The Royal Aircraft Factory was cognizant of these defi­ciencies and tried numerous modifications to improve performance, but to no avail. For many months in a service career that should have terminated speedily, the BE 2 remained the staple of “Fokker fodder.”

In light of the BE 2’s demonstrated obsoles­cence, it is difficult to account for why it was kept in frontline service for so long. The British government was certainly culpable on this point. In 1916 the most numerous version, the BE 2e, was introduced with a stronger engine and better armament, but the results were the same. The aging craft was finally transferred from the front in mid-1917 and relegated to training duties. It is regrettable that this docile aircraft was responsible for more Royal Air Corps casualties than any other type. A total of 3,535 of all models were built

. Reggiane Re 2000/2001 Falco

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 47 feet, 9 inches; length, 32 feet, 3 inches; height, 12 feet, 7 inches Weights: empty, 1,993 pounds; gross, 2,970 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 120-horsepower Beardmore liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 80 miles per hour; ceiling, 9,000 feet; range, 250 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 350 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1916-1918


he venerable “Fee” was one of several capable pushers fielded by England during the World War I. It counted among many victims Max Immel – mann, the noted German ace.

The FE 2 (Fighter Experimental) evolved from a series of pusher aircraft constructed at Farnbor – ough in 1912. It was among the earliest warplanes designed in Great Britain, first flying there in 1913. The FE 2 consisted of a two-seat plywood and fab­ric-covered nacelle that also housed an engine. This unit sat suspended on struts between two wings of equal length, while four wooden booms extended rearward to a rudder and high-mounted tailplane. The forward nacelle seat contained a forward-firing machine gun and a second, telescopic-mounted weapon firing rearward over the top wing. To oper­ate this weapon, the gunner stood up inside the cockpit while the aircraft was in flight. For all its rel­ative crudeness, the FE 2 was a sound, good-han­dling machine, and a fine fighter for its day.

The first FE 2s did not reach the front until December 1915, but their impact was immediate. In concert with the de Havilland DH 2, the Fees outclassed the rampaging Fokker Eindekkers and helped eradicate them. On June 18, 1916, an FE 2 operated by No. 25 Squadron shot down and killed the famous ace Max Immelmann. Other German pilots like Karl Schaefer and Manfred von Richthofen were also injured while combating the deceptively doughty craft. The appearance of Al – batros and Halberstadt D II fighters that fall spelled the end of the FE 2’s career. However, being stable in flight and solidly built, they next took on responsibilities as night bombers. On April 5, 1917, the FE 2’s initial raid was against von Richthofen’s own aerodrome at Donai. The re­maining craft were subsequently employed as trainers and in home defense units. FE 2s contin­ued serving until the Armistice of 1918. An esti­mated 1,989 were constructed.

. Reggiane Re 2000/2001 Falco

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 42 feet, 7 inches; length, 32 feet, 7 inches; height, 11 feet, 4 inches

Weights: empty, 1,803 pounds; gross, 2,869 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 150-horsepower RAF 4a liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 103 miles per hour; ceiling, 13,500 feet; range, 400 miles

Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 250 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1917-1918


he lumbering “Harry Tate” was built in greater numbers than any other British reconnaissance craft of World War I. Intended as a replacement for the unpopular BE 2, it was equally inadequate yet re­mained in production through the end of hostilities.

By the spring of 1916, the heavy loss of BE 2 aircraft forced the Royal Air Corps to request better machines capable of defending themselves. The Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough responded with the RE 8, which in many respects was simply a scaled-up BE 2. It too was a hulking, two-bay bi­plane with staggered wings of unequal length. Con­struction was plywood and fabric throughout, save for the metal cowling, and the upward-sloping rear fuselage gave it a decidedly “broken-back” appear­ance. It also had a small tail that during service life had to be enlarged to prevent spinning. But the RE 8 was well-armed by contemporary standards, pos­sessing a synchronized Vickers machine gun for the pilot and a ring-mounted Lewis for the gunner. Like
the BE 2, the RE 8 was predictable and easy to fly, but it was inherently too stable for defensive maneu­vers. Nonetheless, more than 4,077 were con­structed over the next two years, with the first units reaching the Western Front in 1917.

Predictably, the RE 8s fended no better in com­bat than their earlier stablemates. The slow, stately craft simply lacked the agility to defend themselves against the fast, maneuverable German scouts, and they sustained heavy losses. With no suitable suc­cessor on the horizon, the RE 8s soldiered on, pro­viding useful work in reconnaissance, artillery-spot­ting, and some occasional ground-attack work. Flight crews eventually admired its reliable qualities and nicknamed it “Harry Tate” after a noted vaude­ville comedian. Despite their glaring shortcomings, RE 8s continued to provide valuable service through the end of the war. But it is unconscionable that the British Air Ministry allowed such a derelict to serve as long as it did—and at such great cost.

. Reggiane Re 2000/2001 Falco

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 26 feet, 7 inches; length, 20 feet, 11 inches; height, 9 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 1,531 pounds; gross, 2,048 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 200-horsepower Hispano-Suiza liquid-cooled radial engine Performance: maximum speed, 126 miles per hour; ceiling, 17,500 feet; range, 250 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 100 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1917-1918


he SE 5a formed half of a famous British fighter duo from World War I. Although not as maneu­verable as a Sopwith Camel, it was faster, more sta­ble, and the preferred choice of several leading aces.

In 1916 the Royal Aircraft Factory began de­signing a new fighter around the 150-horsepower Hispano-Suiza engine. It was a standard two-bay bi­plane with rather angular features, for the wings, tail surfaces, and radiator were square. But the proto­type SE 5 (Scout Experimental) successfully flew on November 16 with impressive results. It was fast, easily handled, and could dive with complete safety. Moreover, consistent with all Royal Aircraft Factory products, great emphasis had been placed on overall stability. Hence, it was an excellent gunnery plat­form, well-armed with a nose-mounted Vickers ma­chine gun and a Lewis weapon firing over the top wing.

The SE 5 entered production in the spring of 1917, flew its first operational sorties that April, and
demonstrated mastery over the German Albatros D Vs, Pfalz D IIIs, and Fokker Dr Is opposing them. It could also hold its own against the superb Fokker D VII of 1918. The SE 5 was decidedly faster and could outclimb and outdive all its adversaries with ease. These features, combined with stable flying, made it the favored mount of leading aces like Ed­ward Mannock, Albert Ball, and William Bishop. Possessing an in-line engine, it was not as maneu­verable as the famous Sopwith Camel, but for the same reason it afforded novice pilots an easier time. By the summer of 1917 a stronger version, the SE 5a, appeared with the geared 200-horsepower French – manufactured Hispano-Suiza engine. This power plant was egregiously defective at first, and a series of similar British engines were installed in its place. By the 1918 Armistice 5,205 SE 5as had been deliv­ered while another 50 were manufactured in the United States by Eberhardt. Most were retired im­mediately after the war.

. Reggiane Re 2000/2001 Falco

Type: Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 41 feet, 6 inches; length, 27 feet, 7 inches; height, 10 feet, 8 inches Weights: empty, 2,376 pounds; gross, 3,366 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 260-horsepower Mercedes D IVa liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 106 miles per hour; ceiling, 21,000 feet; range, 330 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1917-1918


he excellent Rumplers were a common sight in the skies of Europe throughout World War I. They were among the highest-flying reconnaissance machines to serve during that conflict.

Since 1915 the Rumpler Flugzeugwerke had provided the German army with numerous two-seat aircraft, both armed and unarmed. The firm’s C I was a masterpiece of aeronautical engineering that debuted in 1915 and soldiered on at the front lines three years later. Toward the end of the war Dr. Ed­mund Rumpler decided to update his long-lived de­sign with one better suited for long-range reconnais­sance work. The new version, the C IV, was a departure from earlier conceptions. A two-bay bi­plane, it possessed slightly swept, highly efficient wings constructed of wood and fabric. The fuselage was also highly streamlined and mounted a pointed spinner on the propeller hub. The tail surfaces had also been revised and lost the triangular shape that was a Rumpler trademark. But more important, this craft was fitted with an excellent Mercedes D IVa en­gine, which gave it plenty of power at all altitudes.

The Rumpler C IV appeared at the front in February 1917 and was strikingly successful. It was one of the few aircraft that could routinely reach al­titudes of 20,000 feet at speeds of 100 miles per hour. Consequently, Rumplers were considered among the most difficult German aircraft to shoot down. They were also ruggedly constructed and could absorb great damage. That fall work on an even better version was commenced, and the C VII emerged that winter. Externally, it was almost indis­tinguishable from the C IV but was powered by a high-compression Maybach Mb IV engine. This plane functioned as a high-altitude long-range re­connaissance platform. An even more highly spe­cialized form, the Rubild (Rumpler photographic) also materialized. It was a stripped-down C VII fit­ted with heaters and oxygen equipment for the crew. Thus rendered, it easily reached unprece­dented altitudes of 24,000 feet, where no Allied fighters could follow. The exemplary Rumpler ma­chines continued serving with distinction until the war’s end.

. Reggiane Re 2000/2001 Falco

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet, 1 inch; length, 33 feet, 2 inches; height, 12 feet, 3 inches

Weights: empty, 10,141 pounds; gross, 17,637 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 5,000-pound thrust de Havilland Ghost turbojet engine

Performance: maximum speed, 659 miles per hour; ceiling, 45,000 feet; range, 1,677 miles

Armament: 4 x 20mm cannons; up to 24 x 76mm rockets

Service dates: 1951-1976


he odd-looking J 29 set an important precedent by establishing Sweden at the forefront of mili­tary aviation. It was the first European jet with swept wings and enjoyed a lengthy service life.

Even before World War II had ended, the Swedish government resolved to enforce its long­standing policy of neutrality by acquiring modern war­planes. In 1945 Project 1001 was initiated by Saab to provide Sweden with its first jet fighter. The original design intended to mount straight wings and utilize the relatively weak de Havilland Goblin turbojet. However, awareness of German swept-wing technol­ogy, coupled with invention of the more powerful Ghost engine, caused fundamental revisions in the program. The design was modified, providing the wing with 25 degrees of sweep, and the fuselage was made more portly to accommodate the new engine. The re­sulting J 29 prototype first flew in September 1948 with excellent results. It was fast, ruggedly built in the tradition of Saab products, and highly maneuverable.

When wing-mounted air brakes were found to cause excessive flutter, they were subsequently relocated to the fuselage. The tricycle landing gear were also unique in that they inclined inward before retracting inside the fuselage. Three more years lapsed before the J 29 entered production and became operational as Europe’s first swept-wing jet fighter. Pilots took an immediate liking to the tubby craft, giving it the appro­priate nickname Tunnan (Barrel).

A total of 661 J 29s were built until 1958 in six versions, all with successively better performance and endurance. The definitive model was the J 29F, constructed for ground-attack purposes and em­ploying the effective Bofors rocket clusters. It also sported an afterburner and a sawtooth leading edge for better performance in the transonic range. The beloved Tunnans were slowly phased out after 1958, but several examples remained on active duty until 1973. In 1961 Austria obtained 30 J 29Fs and re­tained them in frontline service until 1993.

. Reggiane Re 2000/2001 Falco

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 30 feet, 10 inches; length, 50 feet, 4 inches; height, 12 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 18,188 pounds; gross, 25,132 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 12,790-pound thrust Volvo RM6C turbojet engine

Performance: maximum speed, 1,321 miles per hour; ceiling, 49,200 feet; range, 350 miles

Armament: 1 x 30mm cannon; up to 6,393 pounds of air-to-air missiles

Service dates: 1960-1999


he Draken, distinct with its double-delta config­uration, was one of the world’s most advanced aircraft. It confirmed Sweden’s reputation for con­structing high-performance aircraft with originality and flair.

In 1949 the Flygvapen (Swedish air force) is­sued stringent specifications for a new supersonic aircraft to replace the J 29 Tunnan. This evolved at a time when the only craft capable of such speeds was Bell’s famous experimental X-1. Nonetheless, the new machine had to be fast and display unprece­dented rates of climb. It was also required to pos­sess good STOL (short takeoff and landing) capabili­ties for operating off of highways and unprepared strips during dispersal. That year a Saab design teamed under Erik Bratt set about creating a minor aviation masterpiece when they opted to employ a unique double-delta. Such an arrangement promised great strength and internal volume with very little frontal area. The new machine could thus be crammed with fuel and avionics yet be difficult to ascertain head-on. It also promised excellent han­
dling at fast as well as slow speeds. Several small – scale models and mock-ups followed before the first J 35 flew in October 1955. The aircraft was an out­standing success, although its engine failed to pro­duce the Mach 2 speeds anticipated. It nonetheless entered production that year as the Draken (Dragon), reaching operational status in 1960. Pro­duction amounted to 660 machines.

Over time the Draken passed through succes­sive variants that gradually improved its perfor­mance. Conceived as a bomber interceptor, the new J 35F mounted a pulse doppler radar, automatic fire – control systems, and advanced Hughes Falcon air – to-air missiles. This model could also fly at speeds in excess of Mach 2, exhibiting performance equal to the English Electric Lightning on only one engine. Drakens served Sweden well over four decades and were retired only in 1999. As they aged, they also be­came available for export, with Denmark and Fin­land obtaining several copies. However, the biggest user was Austria, which purchased 24 machines that are still in service.

. Reggiane Re 2000/2001 Falco

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber; Reconnaissance; Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 34 feet, 9 inches; length, 53 feet, 9 inches; height, 19 feet, 4 inches

Weights: empty, 33,069 pounds; gross, 45,194 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 28,100-pound thrust Volvo RM8B turbofan engine

Performance: maximum speed, 1,321 miles per hour; ceiling, 60,040 feet; range, 621 miles

Armament: 1 x 30mm cannon; up to 13,000 pounds of missiles, rockets, or bombs

Service dates: 1971-


he racy Viggen (Thunderbolt) was history’s first canard fighter and a formidable interceptor. Until recently it formed the bulk of Swedish air strength, operating from hidden roadways deep in the woods.

In the 1960s Sweden began considering a re­placement for its aging Saab J 32 Lansens. It was de­termined to develop a totally integrated approach to aerial defense called System 37, whereby a single air­frame could be slightly modified to perform fighter, bomber, reconnaissance, and training functions eco­nomically. At length Saab took one of its usual depar­tures from conventional wisdom by designing the J 37 Viggen in 1967. It was a sophisticated design for the time by incorporating small delta canards, equipped with flaps, just behind the cockpit. This complemented the larger, conventional delta wing perfectly, affording greater lift and maneuverability at lower speeds than plain deltas enjoyed. More im­portant, canards allowed the Viggen to take off in rel­atively short distances. This was essential given the
wartime strategy of dispersing air assets into the woods and taxiing off roadways. To shorten landing distances even further, J 37s are equipped with built – in thrust reversers that automatically engage upon touchdown. This is an added safety feature for, given Sweden’s nominally icy conditions, applying airplane brakes in winter can be a chancy proposition at best. These machines became operational in 1971.

The first Viggens were optimized for ground attack, but subsequent variants successfully fulfilled interceptor, reconnaissance, and training missions. All look very similar at first glance, but the SK 37 trainer has a staggered second canopy behind the student cockpit. The final version, the JA 37, arrived in 1977 as a dedicated fighter intent on replacing the redoubtable J 35 Drakens. These are fitted with ad­vanced multimode look down/shoot down radar and an uprated RM8B engine. The total production of all Viggens is 330; they will remain in service until re­placed by superlative JAS 39 Gripens within a few years.

. Reggiane Re 2000/2001 Falco

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 26 feet, 3 inches; length, 46 feet, 3 inches; height, 15 feet, 5 inches

Weights: empty, 14,599 pounds; gross, 27,498 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 18,100-pound thrust Volvo RM12 turbofan engine

Performance: maximum speed, 1,321 miles per hour; ceiling, classified; range, 497 miles

Armament: 1 x 27mm cannon; up to 14,330 pounds of rockets, missiles, or bombs

Service dates: 1997-


he futuristic Gripen (Griffon) is the third gener­ation of advanced Saab fighters. Its lightweight, high-performance profile, coupled with digital avionics, make it one of the world’s most sophisti­cated warplanes.

By 1980 the JA 37 Viggen was showing its age, so the Swedish government initiated studies for a suc­cessor. At length stringent performance and fiscal conditions were established, which more or less en­sured that the new machine would be lighter and smaller than the Viggen but even more capable. Fur­thermore, it was expected to simultaneously fulfill fighter, bomber, and reconnaissance missions cur­rently performed by three versions of the former craft. This led to the new designation JAS (Jakt, Attack, and Sparing). Facing such requirements, Saab resurrected its previous canard-delta planform, although with some important changes. The new JAS 39 Gripen is a single-engine design with the wing moved from low – to midbody position. The small fixed canards were re­placed with completely all-moving ones above the en­
gine inlets. The new machine is constructed almost entirely of composite materials for lighter weight and greater strength. As before, the JAS 39 is designed with a fast sink rate for hard, abbreviated landings; in the absence of reverse thrusters, the canards point downward to act as air brakes. To ensure quick stops, the main wing is also fitted with a variety of flaps and elevons for additional drag. But the biggest changes are in the avionics. The JAS 39 is inherently unstable for greater maneuverability and utilizes fly-by-wire technology. Its onboard computers also allow the craft to perform any of three mission profiles by sim­ply changing the software.

The first JAS 39 prototype flew in 1988 and demonstrated excellent, cost-effective qualities but was lost to a programming error. A second proto­type also crashed in a stall, but most problems have since been rectified. The first Gripens became oper­ational in 1997 and are slated to replace the Viggen within a decade. They are among the most advanced fighters ever built.

. Reggiane Re 2000/2001 Falco

Type: Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 38 feet, 8 inches; length, 27 feet, 10 inches; height, 9 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 1,354 pounds; gross, 2,954 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 260-horsepower Salmson Canton-Unne liquid-cooled radial engine Performance: maximum speed, 115 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,505 feet; range, 300 miles Armament: 3 x 7.7mm machine guns Service dates: 1918-1920


his sturdy machine was one of the best French reconnaissance aircraft of World War I. It was a fine, if unexpected, achievement, considering how its designer was previously known for manufactur­ing engines.

In 1909 French industrialist Emile Salmson established the Societe des Moteurs Salmson firm for the express purpose of manufacturing water – cooled radial engines for aircraft. In the period prior to World War I, his products gained a reputa­tion for reliability, which was further enhanced during the war years. In 1916 Salmson tried design­ing aircraft to go along with his engines. The first attempt, the Salmson SM 1, was an awkward-look­ing craft with propellers driven by chains—and a total failure. The following year he had better luck by completing the prototype Type 2, which utilized a more conventional approach. The new machine was a standard biplane with two-bay, unstaggered wings of equal length. The fuselage was circular in cross-section, made of fabric-covered wood, and mounted a heavily louvered metal cowling. A crew
of two sat in separate cockpits, although at such distance that communication was difficult. Nonetheless, French authorities were impressed, and the airplane went into production as the Salm – son 2A2 in the fall of 1917.

In service the Salmson was not particularly fast but proved robust and mechanically reliable. It was well adapted for photo reconnaissance and ar­tillery-spotting, being sufficiently armed to defend itself. A total of 3,200 were constructed and outfitted 24 French squadrons during final phases of the war. Of this total, 705 2A2s were also purchased by the United States for the American Expeditionary Force. These machines were likewise extensively employed and won the admiration of their new own­ers. In one instance, a 2A2 flown by Lieutenant W. P. Irwin of the 1st Aero Squadron claimed eight attack­ing German fighters with his front gun! The Salmson was phased out shortly after the war, although it was subsequently exported to Japan. Others were refitted with enclosed rear cabins and flown as pas­senger ships by early European airlines.

. Reggiane Re 2000/2001 Falco

Type: Medium Bomber; Torpedo-Bomber; Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 69 feet, 6 inches; length, 51 feet, 10 inches; height, 14 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 14,991 pounds; gross, 23,104 pounds

Power plant: 3 x 780-horsepower Alfa-Romeo 126 RC34 radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 267 miles per hour; ceiling, 21,325 feet; range, 1,180 miles

Armament: 3 x 12.7mm machine guns; 2,755 pounds of bombs or torpedoes

Service dates: 1936-1952


he famous Sparviero (Sparrow) was the most capable Italian warplane of World War II. It gave excellent service as a bomber, torpedo plane, and reconnaissance craft.

The SM 79 was originally designed by Alessan­dro Marchetti as a high-speed, eight-passenger transport craft. It was a very streamlined, trimotor machine with retractable landing gear and con­structed of steel tubing, wood, and fabric covering. It first flew in 1934 and established several interna­tional speed and distance records. Eventually the Regia Aeronautica (Italian air force) expressed in­terest in it as a potential bomber, and a prototype emerged in 1935. The military Sparviero was out­wardly similar to the transport save for a bombard­ment gondola under the fuselage and a somewhat “humped” top profile to accommodate two gun tur­rets. Consequently, crew members nicknamed it Il Gobbo (The Hunchback) and several were de­ployed to fight in the Spanish Civil War. The SM 79 quickly established itself as a fast, rugged aircraft that handled extremely well under combat condi­
tions. Its reputation induced Yugoslavia to import 45 machines in 1938. The following year a torpedo – bomber version, the SM 79-II, was deployed. Italy had helped pioneer the art of aerial torpedo bom­bardment, so when their efficient weapons were paired with the Sparviero, a formidable combina­tion arose. By the time Italy entered World War II in 1940, SM 79s formed half of that nation’s bomber strength.

Early on, the SM 79 established itself as the most effective aircraft in the Italian arsenal. It per­formed well under trying conditions in North Africa and gave a good account of itself as a bomber. Sparvieros were also responsible for torpedoing several British warships in the Mediterranean. After the 1943 Italian surrender, surviving machines served both sides, with Germany developing a final version, the SM 79-III, which was deployed in small numbers. After the war, many Sparvieros reverted back to transports with the new Italian air force. These served capably until being replaced by more modern designs in 1952.

. Canadair CL 28 Argus Canada

Type: Patrol-Bomber; Antisubmarine

Dimensions: wingspan, 142 feet, 3 inches; length, 128 feet, 9 inches; height, 38 feet, 8 inches Weights: empty, 81,000 pounds; gross, 157,000 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 3,400-horsepower Wright R-3350-EA1 Cyclone radial engines Performance: maximum speed, 315 miles per hour; ceiling, 25,000 feet; range, 5,900 miles Armament: 8,000 pounds of internal ordnance; 3,800 pounds of wing-mounted ordnance Service dates: 1957-1981


t the time of its debut, the all-seeing Argus was the world’s most advanced antisubmarine pa­trol-bomber. Although partly based upon a commer­cial airliner, it flew for more than two decades with distinction.

By 1952 the Royal Canadian Air Force wished to replace its antiquated Avro Lancasters and Lock­heed P2V Neptunes with a new craft better suited for antisubmarine (ASW) warfare. Such a machine would have to conduct lengthy patrols over open ocean and carry with the latest radar and sonar equipment. The RCAF consulted closely with Canadair and agreed that the most cost-effective so­lution for a new patrol-bomber would be to utilize an existing commercial craft. For that reason, Canadair selected the Bristol Britannia as the basis for its work. The tail unit, wings, and undercarriage of the Britannia were kept intact, but the fuselage was entirely redesigned to North American stan­dards. It featured two capacious, 18-foot bomb bays, before and aft of the wings, that could house a vari­
ety of depth charges, sonobuoys, and homing torpe­does. Pressurization was also eliminated, as it was unnecessary for low-altitude maritime patrols. The first CL 28 rolled out in March 1957 and was suc­cessfully test-flown. That same year it entered pro­duction as the Argus, so named for the all-seeing, 100-eyed monster of Greek mythology. The first 12 units, designated Argus Is, utilized U. S.-built sonar and computers, but the subsequent version, the Argus II, operated more advanced British equip­ment. A total of 33 machines were constructed.

For many years the CL 28 functioned as the West’s most advanced antisubmarine aircraft. It car­ried a crew of 15, who operated in shifts to ease the burden of long flights. Successive modifications also enabled the Argus to carry a complex variety of new weapons and equipment, which further enhanced its utility. The last of these useful machines was retired in 1981 by the more advanced Lockheed P-2C Orion, itself based on a commercial airliner. The Argus was a vital but little appreciated Canadian machine.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 47 feet, 1 inch; length, 32 feet, 3 inches; height, 10 feet, 4 inches

Weights: empty, 1,323 pounds; gross, 1,918 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 100-horsepower Mercedes-Benz liquid-cooled engine

Performance: maximum speed, 71 miles per hour; ceiling, 9,840 feet; range, 240 miles

Armament: none, but small bombs could be carried

Service dates: 1914-1915


he beautiful Taube (Dove) was one of the world’s earliest effective warplanes. Despite a seemingly frail persona, it was among the very first aircraft to conduct bombing runs.

Since its inception in 1903, aviation technology continued advancing and improving in leaps and bounds. In 1910 Austrian designer Igo Etrich de­signed what was to become the first of an entire se­ries of famous warplanes. Christened the Taube, it was a sizable monoplane whose wingtips flared back in the shape of a large bird’s wing. Because ailerons had not yet been invented, the craft was turned by a process known as wing-warping in which lateral control during flight was achieved by bending the rudder and wingtips using wires. The re­sulting craft proved pleasant to fly, and in July 1914 a Taube broke the world altitude record by reaching 21,600 feet. Knowledge of Etrich’s invention led to its exportation to Italy, Turkey, and Japan. The de­sign proved so popular that the firm Rumpler also obtained a license to manufacture it in Germany.

Despite its lovely appearance and gentle char­acteristics, the Taube was immediately pressed into military service. On November 1, 1911, Lieutenant Giulio Gavotti conducted the first bombing raid in history when he tossed hand grenades out of his cockpit during the Italian-Turkish War in Libya. On August 13, 1914, Lieutenant Franz von Hiddeson flew from the Marne River and unloaded four small bombs on Paris for the first time. This was followed up by a Taube flown by Max Immelmann, a future ace, who dropped leaflets on the city demanding its immediate surrender! On the other side of the world, a Taube formed part of the German garrison defending Tsing – tao (Qingdao), China, during a siege by Japanese and British forces. In that instance Lieutenant Gunther Plutschow dropped several bombs and fought off at­tacks by Japanese-manned Nieuport and Farman fighters. Despite this auspicious combat debut, the Taube had been replaced in 1915 by better machines and relegated to training functions. Around 500 had been constructed by six different firms.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Torpedo-Bomber; Dive-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 49 feet, 2 inches; length, 39 feet, 9 inches; height, 12 feet, 3 inches Weights: empty, 10,818 pounds; gross, 14,250 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,640-horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin 32 liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 240 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,600 feet; range, 1,150 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 1,600 pounds of bombs or torpedoes Service dates: 1943-1953


he Barracuda was the Royal Navy’s first mono­plane torpedo-bomber. Underpowered and somewhat ungainly in appearance, it nonetheless fulfilled a wide variety of missions.

In 1937 the Air Ministry issued Specification S.24/37 to secure a new torpedo-bomber to replace the seemingly obsolete Fairey Swordfish biplanes. The new craft was envisioned as a three-seat, all­metal monoplane with good speed and carrying ca­pacity. Fairey drew up plans for such a craft early on, but developmental problems with the new Rolls-Royce Exe engine delayed production by three years. Eventually, another low-powered sub­stitute had to be fitted, and the prototype Bar­racuda did not take flight until December 1940. It emerged as a distinctive-looking machine with shoulder wings that sported broad Youngman flaps on the trailing edge and a very high tail. For its size and weight, the craft handled exceedingly well. But when additional production delays ensued, the first Barracudas did not reach the Fleet Air Arm until the spring of 1943. Nonetheless, they represented
the first monoplane torpedo-bombers employed by that service.

The Barracuda was a welcome addition to the fleet, for it proved extremely adaptable when fitted with a succession of stronger power plants. In service they were mounted with a bewildering array of radars, weapons, and other devices. And although the Barracuda was designed as a torpedo-bomber, the lack of Axis shipping meant they were more actively deployed as dive-bombers. Their most famous action occurred on April 3, 1944, when 42 Barracudas were launched against the German battleship Tirpitz at Kaafiord, Norway. Appearing suddenly at dawn, they successfully negotiated the steep-sided fjord, scoring 15 direct hits. Subsequent strikes were also orches­trated throughout May-August of that year. The Bar­racuda received its Pacific-theater baptism of fire on April 21, 1944, when several raided Japanese-held is­lands in Sumatra. Most Barracudas were retired im­mediately after the war, but several were retained for antisubmarine duty until replaced by Grumman Avengers in 1953. Production totaled 2,602 machines.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 54 feet; length, 42 feet, 4 inches; height, 15 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 6,647 pounds; gross, 10,792 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,030-horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin I liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 257 miles per hour; ceiling, 25,000 feet; range, 1,000 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; 1,000 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1937-1945


he Battle marked great aeronautical advances and was vastly superior to biplane contempo­raries. However, it was hopelessly outdated in World War II and suffered severely during the Battle of France.

The Fairey Battle evolved out of Specification P.27/32, which was issued in 1932 to replace older Hawker Harts and Hind biplane bombers with more modern aircraft. The prototype Battle debuted in 1936, the very model of aerodynamic efficiency. It was a streamlined, all-metal, low-wing monoplane with retractable undercarriage and sheeted skin. A crew of three sat in a long greenhouse canopy. Test flights revealed that it carried twice the bomb load of the older planes at 50 percent higher speeds. Ap­preciably, the Air Ministry accepted it gleefully, and the first Battle squadrons began forming in 1937. It became one of the major types produced during ex­pansion of the RAF in the late 1930s. By the advent of World War II, the RAF possessed more than 1,000 Battles in frontline service.

The Battle enjoyed a brief and rather tragic wartime career with the Advanced Air Striking Force in France. There, on September 20, 1939, a Battle tailgunner shot down the first German air­craft claimed in the West. However, this jubilation dissipated 10 days later when five Battles on a re­connaissance flight were jumped by Bf 109s and only one survived. The German invasion of France then commenced in May 1940, and casualties in­creased exponentially. On a daylight mission against the Maastricht bridges on May 10, 1940, the Battles lost 13 of 32 unescorted aircraft. This tragedy also occasioned the first Victoria Cross awarded, posthumously, to an RAF crew. An even bigger disaster occurred four days later when Ger­man fighters clawed down 32 of 63 Battles intent on hitting bridgeheads at Sedan. The surviving craft were immediately withdrawn from service and spent the rest of the war in training duties. Others performed useful service as target tugs in Canada and Australia.

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Type: Fighter; Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 44 feet, 6 inches; length, 37 feet, 7 inches; height, 13 feet, 7 inches Weights: empty, 9,750 pounds; gross, 14,020 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,730-horsepower Rolls-Royce Griffon IIIB liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 316 miles per hour; ceiling, 28,000 feet; range, 1,300 miles Armament: 4 x 20mm cannons; up to 2,000 pounds of bombs or rockets Service dates: 1943-1956


he fearsome Firefly was the Royal Navy’s most capable two-seat fighter of World War II. It was the first British plane to overfly Japan and later saw service during the Korean War.

Designed to fulfill Naval Specification N.5/50, the Fairey Firefly arose from the need to replace the relatively modern yet obsolete Fulmar two-seat fighter. The prototype first flew in December 1941 and greatly resembled the earlier machine. The Firefly was a low-wing, all-metal monoplane, with folding wings for carrier storage. The pilot sat up front near the leading edge while the radio opera – tor/observer was located some distance aft. Like the earlier Barracuda, it employed broad Youngman flaps on the wings’ trailing edges, and these were mechanically recessed into the wing when not in use. The powerful Rolls-Royce Griffon 61 engine also required a large “chin” radiator that gave the craft a distinctly pugnacious profile. Tests were en­tirely successful, and the Firefly exhibited lively performance that belied its size. The first units
reached the Fleet Air Arm in the summer of 1943 and served with distinction in both the European and Pacific theaters. Its armament of four 20mm cannons was regarded as particularly hard-hitting.

Perhaps the Firefly is best remembered for a reconnaissance flight that resulted in the sinking of the German battleship Tirpitz in July 1944. It also harassed Japanese aircraft and ground installations throughout the East Indies, and in July 1945 a Fire­fly became the first British aircraft to overfly Tokyo. After the war a more powerful version was intro­duced, the Mk IV, which featured a Rolls-Royce Grif­fon 74 engine without the distinctive radiator; it had a four-blade propeller and clipped wings. This ver­sion fought in Korea with the Royal Navy and Aus­tralian forces. Successive modifications kept this craft in frontline service as an antisubmarine air­craft until the appearance of the Fairey Gannet in 1956. Over the course of a 13-year career, 1,638 Fire – flys were built and operated by the navies of En­gland, Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands.

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Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 29 feet; length, 22 feet, 10 inches; height, 10 feet Weights: empty, 2,038 pounds; gross, 3,028 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 410-horsepower Armstrong-Siddeley Jaguar IV radial engine Performance: maximum speed, 134 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,000 feet; range, 263 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 80 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1923-1934


he homely but capable Flycatcher was among the Fleet Air Arm’s longest-serving airplanes. For nearly a decade it constituted the only fighter craft available to British carriers.

Designed to a 1922 Air Ministry specification, the Fairey Flycatcher enjoyed an illustrious career unique in the annals of naval aviation. The prototype materialized as a single-bay biplane of singularly grotesque appearance. The wood and metal fuselage was covered in fabric and terminated in a long, low rudder. Significantly, it canted upward just aft of the cockpit, giving the craft a decidedly “bent” look. The two wings were of equal length, but the upper one displayed dihedral, and both were fitted with a de – vice—the Fairey Patent Camber Gear—across the trailing edges, which was an extended flap that could be lowered for greater lift during takeoff and for braking upon the landing approach. The Fly­catcher was also the first British carrier aircraft to utilize hydraulic brakes. All told, it was an ugly but functional machine that was strong and could dive
steeply in complete safety. But what pilots remem­ber most was its superlative maneuverability. The Flycatcher was forgiving, easy to fly, and outturned anything with wings. This extraordinary aircraft joined the Fleet Air Arm in 1923 and remained its star performer for nearly 11 years.

During the 1920s, the rugged Flycatchers demonstrated their utility as carrier aircraft by launching without the benefit of catapults. They alighted so readily that the 60-foot tapered runway situated below the main carrier flight deck could be utilized to shoot out over the bow. Flycatchers per­formed similar feats while flying off platforms at­tached to the turrets of capital ships. They also helped pioneer a tactic known as “converging bomb­ing” whereby three aircraft simultaneously swooped down on a target from three different directions. The versatile Flycatcher was a common sight on car­rier decks until 1930, when it was gradually replaced by Hawker Nimrods. A total of 192 of these classic fighters were built.

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Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 46 feet, 4 inches; length, 40 feet, 2 inches; height, 10 feet, 8 inches Weights: empty, 7,051 pounds; gross, 10,200 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,080-horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin VIII liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 272 miles per hour; ceiling, 27,200 feet; range, 780 miles Armament: 8 x.303-inch machine guns; 500 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1940-1945


he Fulmar was the Fleet Air Arm’s first eight – gun fighter. Although slower than land-based German adversaries, it performed useful service against the Regia Aeronautica (Italian air force).

By 1938 the British Admiralty felt a pressing need for more modern fighter craft, one mounting eight machine guns like the Hawker Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfires then coming into service. However, unlike the land-based fighters, Fleet Air Arm requirements necessitated inclusion of a second crew member to act as navigator. This was deemed essential for ensuring that the aircraft could safely return to a carrier at night or in bad weather. It was recognized from the onset that the basic attributes of the new machine would be range and firepower, not speed. In 1938 a Fairey deign team under Marcel Lo – belle took the existing P.3/34 light bomber prototype and converted it into a two-seat fighter. The new Ful­mar prototype first flew in 1940, exhibiting many fine qualities. It was maneuverable, easy to handle, and functioned well on the deck. But as anticipated, the
added weight of a second crew member rendered its performance somewhat disappointing. Nevertheless, the Fleet Air Arm needed an immediate replacement for its aging Blackburn Skuas and Rocs, so the craft entered production that year.

Fulmars debuted aboard the carrier HMS Ark Royal in the summer of 1940 and fought extensively during the defense of Malta. Its somewhat slow speed was considered no great disadvantage while tangling with lower-powered Italian aircraft, and its heavy armament made it lethal to enemy bombers. In an attempt to improve performance a new ver­sion, the Fulmar II, was introduced in 1943, featur­ing the more powerful Merlin 32 engine. By this time, however, Fulmars were being replaced by infi­nitely better Sea Hurricanes and Sea Spitfires. They subsequently completed additional useful work as night fighters before being phased out by 1945. De­spite their sometimes sluggish performance, Ful­mars performed well on balance and frequently under trying circumstances.

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Type: Reconnaissance; Liaison

Dimensions: wingspan, 45 feet, 9 inches; length, 35 feet, 6 inches; height, 14 feet Weights: empty, 3,923 pounds; gross, 6,300 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 570-horsepower Napier Lion X1A liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 130 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,000 feet; range, 400 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 550 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1928-1940


he venerable Fairey IIIF was the most numerous aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm between the wars. Deployed from every British carrier, it served exten­sively around the world.

The famous Fairey III series first flew in 1917, although it was developed too late for combat in World War I. For 10 years thereafter, these capable aircraft, built in both land and seaplane configura­tions, saw widespread service with the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.

In 1924 the Air Ministry announced Specifica­tion 19/24, which called for a new two-seat general purpose aircraft for the RAF and a three-seat ver­sion of the Fleet Air Arm. Consequently, Fairey took a standard IIID model and made numerous modifica­tions to the point where it was virtually a new air­plane. Like all Fairey IIIs, this craft was a conven­tional biplane with equal-span two-bay wings made of wood and fabric. The IIIF version differed by hav­ing a metal-framed fuselage, covered in fabric as be­fore but also sporting an extremely tight-fitting, streamlined cowling. The various changes greatly
enhanced its performance, and in 1927 the first Fairey IIIFs became operational.

The RAF employed Fairey IIIFs as general-pur­pose communications aircraft, and they were also capable of long, record-breaking flights. As an exam­ple, several Capetown-to-Cairo flights were per­formed throughout the early 1930s, including one headed by Lieutenant Commander A. T. Harris (who later became famous as “Bomber Harris”). In naval service, many Fairey IIIFs were fitted with twin floats and operated off of capital ships. Others, with landing gear, were flown from every carrier in the Royal Navy, with service as far afield as Hong Kong. They also supplanted the aging fleet of Avro Bisons, Blackburn Blackburns, and Blackburn Ripons sta­tioned there. Toward the end of a long service life, three Fairey IIFs were converted into radio-con­trolled target drones known as Fairey Queens. The RAF machines were phased out of service beginning in 1935, but naval versions were not declared obso­lete in 1941. A total of 622 of these efficient aircraft were constructed.

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Type: Torpedo-Bomber; Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 45 feet, 6 inches; length, 35 feet, 8 inches; height, 12 feet, 4 inches

Weights: empty, 4,700 pounds; gross, 7,510 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 750-horsepower Bristol Pegasus radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 138 miles per hour; ceiling, 10,700 feet; range, 1,030 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 1,680 pounds of bombs, rockets, or mines Service dates: 1936-1945


uring World War II, the archaic-looking “String – bag” sank more Axis tonnage than any other British aircraft. It successfully accomplished a wide variety of tasks and actually outlived the aircraft in­tended to replace it.

The legendary Swordfish evolved in response to a 1933 Air Ministry specification calling for a new torpedo/reconnaissance aircraft. Fairey Aviation en­joyed a long tradition of building excellent naval ma­chines, and its prototype TSR 2 was no exception. It was a two-bay biplane of metal structure, covered in fabric throughout. The upper wing was slightly swept back, and provisions were made for a crew of three in open cockpits. When accepted for service in 1936, the Swordfish looked somewhat out of place— even obsolete—in an age where monoplanes were the future. The new craft, however, was strong, eas­ily handled, and could accurately deliver a torpedo. By the time World War II erupted in 1939, Swordfish equipped no less than 13 Fleet Air Arm squadrons.

Nobody in aviation circles could have antici­pated what happened next, for the anachronistic

Stringbags emerged as one of the outstanding warplanes of aviation history. Commencing with action in Norwegian waters, Swordfish success­fully directed naval gunfire and even scored the first U-boat sinking credited to the Fleet Air Arm. On November 11, 1940, 20 Swordfish made a sur­prise attack on the Italian fleet anchored at Taranto Harbor, severely damaging three battle­ships and sinking a host of lesser vessels. In May 1941, these aircraft also scored a damaging hit on the German superbattleship Bismark that re­sulted in its eventual destruction. Moreover, a handful of Swordfish operating out of Malta de­stroyed an average 50,000 tons of enemy shipping throughout most of 1942. These impressive tallies continued throughout the war. A new aircraft, the Fairey Albacore, arrived in 1942 to replace the old warrior, but it proved inferior in performance and popularity. The Swordfish was finally mustered out after 1945 with a production run of 2,391 ma­chines. The Swordfish was a legendary warplane in every respect.

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Type: Heavy Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 118 feet, 1 inch; length, 70 feet, 8 inches; height, 16 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 23,122 pounds; gross, 39,242 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 860-horsepower Gnome-Rhone GR1Kbrs radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 199 miles per hour; ceiling, 26,250 feet; range, 1,240 miles

Armament: 3 x 7.5mm machine guns; 9,240 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1935-1944


he ugly Farman F 222 was the largest French bomber of the interwar period. Its service was undistinguished, but the type mounted the first Al­lied air raid against Berlin.

The design concept for the Farman family of heavy bombers originated with a 1929 requirement calling for a five-seat aircraft to replace the obsolete LeO 20s. The prototype, designated the F 220, first flew in May 1932 and had all the trappings of a French bomber of this period. It was a high-wing monoplane with wings of considerable chord and thickness, braced by large struts canting inward to­ward the fuselage. The fuselage itself was very boxy and angular, sporting pronounced nose and dorsal turrets and a smaller ventral position. The four en­gines were mounted in tandem pods below the wing in pusher/tractor configuration and secured to the fuselage by means of a pair of small winglets. The overall effect was an unattractive, if capable, craft and, being entirely constructed from metal, a signal improvement over earlier bombers. With some re­
finements it entered production as the F 221 in 1934 and was acquired in small batches. These repre­sented the first four-engine bombers produced by the West at that time.

Looks aside, the Farman F 220 series was strong, reliable, and continually acquired in a series of updated models. The most important was the F 222 of 1938, which featured a redesigned nose section, di­hedral on the outer wing sections, and retractable landing gear. However, the Farman aircraft were readily overtaken by aviation technology and ren­dered obsolete by 1939. They spent the first year of World War II dropping propaganda leaflets over Ger­many. After the Battle of France commenced in May 1940, several groups of Farman aircraft made numer­ous nighttime raids against industrial targets in Ger­many and Italy. It was a Navy F 223, the Jules Verne, that conducted the first Allied raid on Berlin that June. Many subsequently escaped to North Africa and were employed as transports by various regimes until

1944. Total production reached 45 units.

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Type: Patrol-Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 95 feet, 7 inches; length, 46 feet, 3 inches; height, 17 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 7,900 pounds; gross, 10,978 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 345-horsepower Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 95 miles per hour; ceiling, 9,600 feet; range, 700 miles Armament: 4 x.303-inch machine guns; 920 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1917-1927


he F2A was a British-American hybrid design and highly effective as a patrol craft. Its career closely paralleled the Short Sunderland of a later date and firmly established the reputation of flying boats as weapons.

Commander John C. Porte of the Royal Navy was a longtime advocate of flying boats for naval ser­vice. In 1914 he ventured to the United States at the behest of aircraft builder Glenn Curtiss to work on American designs. Following the onset of World War I he returned home, firmly convinced that England could benefit by such craft. However, as commander of the Felixstowe station, he found Curtiss H.4s op­erating there unsatisfactory and set about modifying them. His subsequent F1 was found to be a better performer, so in 1917 he scaled up the new hull and fit it to the wings of a very large Curtiss H-12 Large America. The resulting hybrid was a superb aircraft for the time. It easily operated off the rough water conditions inherent in Northern Europe and, despite
its bulk, was relatively maneuverable once airborne. This new craft was christened the Felixstowe F2A, and it arrived in the spring of 1917 just as Germany’s infamous U-boat campaign was peaking.

The Felixstowe flying boat acquired a well – earned reputation as the best flying-boat design of the war. Heavily armed with bombs and machine guns, it destroyed submarines and Zeppelins on sev­eral occasions. Moreover, it could readily defend it­self against the numerous German floatplane fight­ers encountered over the North Sea. This fact was underscored on June 4, 1918, when four F2As beat off an attack by 14 Hansa-Brandenburg W.29s, shooting down six with no loss to themselves. In an attempt to improve the Felixstowe’s performance, a new version, the F3, was developed. It featured longer wings and twice the bomb load but handled poorly and was never popular. The excellent F2As, meanwhile, remained on active duty for a decade following the war.

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Type: Medium Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 70 feet, 9 inches; length, 52 feet, 9 inches; height, 15 feet, 7 inches Weights: empty, 14,770 pounds; gross, 22,046 pounds Power plant: 2 x 1,000-horsepower Fiat A.80 radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 264 miles per hour; ceiling, 22,145 feet; range, 1,710 miles Armament: 4 x 7.7mm machine guns; up to 3,527 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1936-1943


he lumbering Cignona was the best-known Ital­ian bomber of the 1930s and a potent symbol of fascist rearmament. Slow and poorly armed, it suf­fered heavy losses in World War II.

During the early 1930s, the fascist regime under Benito Mussolini strove mightily to acquire a first-rate air force for military as well as propaganda purposes. In 1935 the invasion of Ethiopia high­lighted Italy’s great need for modern bombers. The following year, noted engineer Celestino Rosatelli conceived a new design that, at the time it appeared, was the most advanced in the world. The BR 20 was a low-wing, twin-engine monoplane featuring a metal framework fuselage and wings, twin rudders, and retractable undercarriage. The craft employed stressed skin throughout save for the aft fuselage, which retained a fabric covering. Given the name Cignona (Stork), it became operational in 1936, and several were dispatched to Spain to fight alongside Franco’s Nationalist forces. The BR 20s gave a good account of themselves, but glaring weaknesses in ar­mament were addressed in subsequent versions. Cu­
riously, Japan purchased 100 Cignonas to serve as an interim bomber until the Mitsubishi K 21 arrived. Their performance in China confirmed earlier defi­ciencies, and they were quickly phased out. In 1939 the BR 20M (Modificato) appeared and introduced a cleaned-up fuselage, broader wings, and heavier de­fensive armament. Several hundred were deployed by June 1940, when Italy declared war on France and Great Britain.

Despite its prior celebrity, the service record of the BR 20 in World War II was mediocre at best. Two groups were dispatched to Belgium that fall with the Corpo Aereo Italiano (the Italian air corps) and participated in latter phases of the Battle of Britain. They suffered heavy losses at the hands of Royal Air Force fighters and were withdrawn in weeks. BR 20s next fought in Greece, Malta, Yu­goslavia, and North Africa and performed well when unopposed. Unfortunately, they remained vulnera­ble in the face of determined resistance. By 1943 only a handful remained in service. A total of 602 were constructed.

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Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 31 feet, 1 inch; length, 24 feet, 5 inches; height, 8 feet, 7 inches Weights: empty, 3,086 pounds; gross, 4,343 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 800-horsepower Fiat RA bis (improved) liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 205 miles per hour; ceiling, 26,245 feet; range, 485 miles Armament: 2 x 12.5mm machine guns; 2 x 7.7mm machine guns Service dates: 1935-1941


he Chirri was one of the finest biplane fighters ever designed. It proved so good that Italian avi­ators were reluctant to abandon such craft long after they had become obsolete elsewhere.

In 1932 Italian aircraft designer Celestino Rosatelli unveiled his CR 30, a defining moment in biplane evolution. As a fighter, the CR 30 was breathlessly acrobatic for its day, but Rosatelli was determined to wring out even better performance with continuing refinement. The ensuing CR 32 was a slightly smaller, cleaned-up version of the earlier craft and the most significant Italian fighter plane of the 1930s. Like its predecessor, the CR 32 was a metal-framed, fabric design with a distinctive chin – type radiator. The wings were strongly fastened by “W”-shaped Warren interplane struts and trusses throughout. Consequently, the CR 32 could literally be thrown about the sky and was capable of the most violent acrobatics. This rendered it superbly adapted as a dogfighter, a point well taken by Italian pilots. In 1936 CR 32s entered into service and by
1939 a total of 1,212 machines had been built in four versions.

The Chirri, as it became known, was instantly popular with fighter pilots around the world. The Chinese imported several and used them effectively against the Japanese in 1937. Hungary also bought them for its air force, but the most important cus­tomer was Spain. CR 32s were flown by both Span­ish and Italians during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1938), and they proved formidable adver­saries to the Russian-supplied Polikarpov I 15 bi­planes and I 16 monoplanes. However, success car­ried a price. Because of their experience with the Chirri, Italians became so enamored of biplane dog – fighters that they continued producing them long after they were obsolete. By the time Italy entered World War II in 1940, the CR 32 and CR 42 biplanes constituted nearly 70 percent of Italian fighter strength. Nevertheless, some CR 32s were success­fully employed in East Africa before assuming trainer functions in 1941.

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Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 31 feet, 10 inches; length, 27 feet, 1 inch; height, 11 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 3,929 pounds; gross, 5,060 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 840-horsepower Fiat A.74 RC.38 radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 267 miles per hour; ceiling, 33,465 feet; range, 482 miles Armament: 2 x 12.7mm machine guns Service dates: 1939-1945


he superb-handling Falco (Falcon) was the last military biplane manufactured in quantity and the last to see wartime service. Despite obvious ob­solescence, it was actively employed throughout World War II.

Celestino Rosatelli’s successful CR 32 biplane fighter prompted him to extend the life of the series with a newer version. This was undertaken at a time when most nations were discarding biplanes in favor of faster monoplane aircraft. Nevertheless, in 1939 Fiat unveiled the CR 42, possibly the finest ex­pression of biplane technology ever constructed. Like the CR 32, the new craft consisted of metal frames and fabric covering. It was also the first Rosatelli design to use a radial engine, which was covered in a long chord cowling. The usual Warren struts were present, as were fixed, spatted landing gear. Unquestionably, the CR 42 continued Fiat’s tra­dition of robust fighters, being fast for a biplane, wonderfully acrobatic, and delightful to fly. The Regia Aeronautica (Italian air force) adopted it as its
last biplane fighter, and by 1940 the Falcos were a major service type. The prevailing prejudice against biplanes notwithstanding, CR 42s were also ex­ported abroad to Belgium, Hungary, and Sweden.

The CR 42 was history’s last combat biplane, and it campaigned extensively throughout World War II. They were initially engaged in the defense of Belgium and, after Italian entry into the war by 1940, flew missions against southern France. A large num­ber subsequently arrived in Belgium to participate in the Battle of Britain, where they took heavy losses and were withdrawn. In secondary theaters the Fal – cos had better success, and they fought well in the Greek campaign, over Crete, and against a host of obsolete British aircraft in East Africa.

CR 42s formed the bulk of Italian fighter strength throughout the North African campaign and, although failing as fighters, performed useful work in ground support. Only a handful survived the Italian surrender in 1943, and Germans operated them as night intruders in northern Italy until 1945.

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Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet, 1 inch; length, 27 feet, 2 inches; height, 11 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 4,442 pounds; gross, 5,511 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 840-horsepower Fiat A.74 RC.38 radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 302 miles per hour; ceiling, 35,269 feet; range, 621 miles Armament: 2 x 12.7mm machine guns Service dates: 1938-1943


he much-maligned Freccia was Italy’s first all­metal monoplane fighter. Like many contempo­raries, it was underpowered, underarmed, and out­classed by competing British and German designs.

By the mid-1930s Italy’s aircraft industry felt in­creasing pressure to develop new and more modern aircraft. In 1935 Giuseppe Gabrielli of Fiat conceived that country’s first all-metal monoplane fighter, the G 50 Freccia (Arrow). It was a midsized machine with a fully enclosed canopy, retractable landing gear, and rather appealing lines. However, it was powered by a bulky radial engine because suitable in-line power plants were unavailable. Tests successfully concluded by 1937, and the following year a preproduction batch of 12 machines was deployed to fight in the Spanish Civil War. There pilots enjoyed the G 50’s outstanding maneuverability but disliked the closed canopy, which impeded all-around vision. Subsequent models fea­tured an open cockpit reminiscent of World War I-era fighters. The Freccia entered production in 1939 with the Regia Aeronautica (Italian air force), and several were also obtained by Finland. Production remained
slow, and when Italy entered World War II in June 1940, only 97 G 50s were on hand.

The decision to build the Freccia seems even more absurd in light of events that followed. As a fighting platform, it offered performance nowhere comparable to the Spitfire, Hurricane, or Me 109, being slower and underarmed. Accordingly, when the first G 50s were deployed in Belgium to fight in the Battle of Britain, most fighter pilots deliberately avoided combat against their better English counter­parts. In September 1940 the G 50 bis (improved) appeared, featuring increased fuel capacity, a re­designed tail, and glazed cockpit side panels but oth­erwise little enhancement of performance. Others were fitted with bomb racks and fulfilled ground-at­tack missions. Freccias fought throughout the Greek and North African campaigns with mediocre results and were largely discarded following the September 1943 Italian surrender. Curiously, in Finnish hands the aging fighters did valuable work against Soviet forces and remained in frontline ser­vice until 1947! A total of 774 Freccias were built.

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Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 29 feet, 6 inches; length, 38 feet, 3 inches; height, 14 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 8,117 pounds; gross, 17,196 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 2,725-pound thrust General Electric J85 turbojet engines

Performance: maximum speed, 690 miles per hour; ceiling, 41,000 feet; range, 740 miles

Armament: 2 x 30mm cannons; up to 4,000 pounds of bombs or rockets

Service dates: 1959-1998


he G 91 was the North Atlantic Treaty Organiza­tion’s first attempt to build and deploy a stan­dard warplane for use by member nations. Small and easy to operate, it served as a frontline strike fighter for many years.

In 1954 NATO announced competition for a modern tactical strike aircraft. The new machine had to be fast, well-armed, and capable of operating off short, unprepared landing strips. Moreover, it was to be built and deployed by NATO member na­tions in an attempt to standardize equipment and ca­pabilities. In 1956 a Fiat design team headed by Giuseppe Gabrielli unveiled the prototype G 91, which bore strong resemblance to the larger F-86Ks then built under license. It was modestly sized with swept wings, tricycle gear, and a spacious bubble canopy. In flight the G 91 was light, responsive, and could carry a variety of weapons. Evaluation trials held in 1957 demonstrated that it was superior to several French contenders, so the decision was
made to adopt the craft for German and Italian forces. France angrily refused to have anything to do with the diminutive craft, but 756 G 91s were ulti­mately produced. For Germany, G 91s were the first fighters manufactured in that country since 1945. Moreover, whatever G 91s lacked as dogfighters, they more than compensated for as strike aircraft.

By 1965 the original G 91 design had grown somewhat long in the tooth, so an updated version was proposed. This was the G 91Y, or Yankee, which differed from earlier models by having two General Electric engines instead of the single Orpheus turbo­jet. The result was nearly 60 percent more thrust and very little additional weight. The G 91Y was a far more capable attack craft and could carry all the lat­est NATO ordnance, including nuclear weapons. A total of 75 were built for the Italian air force, and they were widely employed in their intended role until 1998. The German machines had been retired a decade earlier by the Dassault/Dornier Alphajet.

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Type: Liaison; Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 46 feet, 9 inches; length, 32 feet, 5 inches; height, 9 feet, 10 inches Weights: empty, 2,500 pounds; gross, 2,910 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 240-horsepower Argus As 10C liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 109 miles per hour; ceiling, 17,060 feet; range, 205 miles Armament: 1 x 7.92mm machine gun Service dates: 1937-1945


he ungainly Storch was one of the earliest STOL (short takeoff and landing) airplanes. It served in large numbers across Europe and Africa wher­ever the German army fought.

In 1935 the German Air Ministry announced competition for an army cooperation aircraft, one specifically designed to operate from very confined areas. A prototype entered by Fieseler beat out two airplanes and a helicopter to win the contest in 1936. The Fi 156 was a high-wing, cabin monoplane with exceptionally long undercarriage to kept the nose highly elevated. It was conventionally constructed of steel tube, wood, and fabric covering. The wing surfaces were also braced and the cabin extensively glazed to afford the crew of two excellent vision. But the secret of the Storch (Stork) lay in the config­uration of its main wing. The front portion sported full-span Handley Page wing slats while the trailing edge had slotted flaps and ailerons. Fully deployed, this arrangement allowed the diminutive craft to lift off in only 200 feet. Army officials were very im­
pressed with the Fi 156 and in 1937 production com­menced. By 1945 a total of 2,834 had been built.

In service the Storch acquired a legendary repu­tation for its uncanny ability to operate where most aircraft could not. The slow-flying craft could even hover motionless while flying into a gentle headwind! This made it an ideal army cooperation craft, and hundreds were deployed with military units from the frozen fringes of the Arctic to the burning sands of North Africa. Storches were also widely employed to serve as medevac, liaison, reconnaissance, and staff transport. Moreover, Field Marshals Erwin Rommel and Albert Kesselring employed Fi 156s as personal transports throughout campaigns in North Africa and Italy. Perhaps its most notorious episode was in help­ing rescue Benito Mussolini from his mountainous prison in September 1943. Two years later, noted avia – trix Hanna Reitsch flew one of the Storch’s last mis­sions by touching down in the ruins of Berlin with General Robert Ritter von Greim, newly appointed head of the nearly defunct Luftwaffe.

. 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.

. 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.

. Canadair CL 41 Tutor

Type: Trainer; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet, 6 inches; length, 32 feet; height, 9 feet, 4 inches

Weights: empty, 4,895 pounds; gross, 7,778 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 2,950-pound thrust Orenda J85-CAN J4 turbojet engine

Performance: maximum speed, 480 miles per hour; ceiling, 42,200 feet; range, 1,340 miles

Armament: none, or up to 4,000 pounds of bombs and rockets

Service dates: 1963-


he diminutive Tutor remains Canada’s standard jet training craft. As part of the famed Snow­birds demonstration team, it has thrilled thousands of spectators with precision acrobatics.

In 1958 Canadair began investigating the possi­bly of constructing Canada’s first jet trainer. This was regarded as essential for familiarizing students with the flight characteristics of jet aircraft then en­tering service in ever greater numbers. However, even when the Canadian government expressed no interest, Canadair continued with a private, com­pany-funded project. The prototype CL 41 took flight in 1960 following a short gestation. It was a low – wing, all-metal monoplane with straight wings and an upward-opening canopy. Pilot and student were seated side by side in a spacious cockpit. The craft also employed a high “T” tail, retractable tricycle landing gear, and air brakes. The CL 41 performed well, and, in parallel with developments in the United States and England, the Canadian govern­ment acquired it in numbers. Since 1963, 190 CL 41s, under the official designation CT 114 Tutor, have
been purchased. These are all deployed at the No. 2 Flying School at Moosejaw, Saskatchewan, where pilots are trained up to wing standard and beyond. Other Tutors are employed by the Central Flying School, where instructor-pilots are taught. Their most famous unit, the Snowbirds, is an internation­ally renowned precision flying group composed en­tirely of instructors from that school. They operated stock but highly painted CL 41s outfitted with smoke generators for effect.

In the wake of various insurgency movements throughout Asia, the Malaysian government in 1967 needed to acquire an inexpensive strike aircraft. It approached Canadair to produce a militarized ver­sion of the Tutor, the CL 41G, which featured more powerful engines and hardpoints for hauling ord­nance. Malaysia acquired 20 such machines as the Tebuan (Wasp), which have since been retired due to metal fatigue and corrosion. Canada maintains a fleet of about 100 machines, and they will remain its standard jet trainer well into the twenty-first century.

. Canadair CL 41 Tutor

Type: Patrol-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 73 feet, 10 inches; length, 46 feet, 10 inches; height, 14 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 8,466 pounds; gross, 15,510 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 900-horsepower Isotta-Fraschini liquid-cooled inline engine Performance: maximum speed, 171 miles per hour; ceiling, 22,965 feet; range, 1,490 miles Armament: 3 x 7.7mm machine guns; up to 1,404 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1936-1950


he Z 501 was a record-breaking flying boat that saw widespread service with Italian forces. De­spite obvious obsolescence, it fought actively in World War II and was utilized by both sides.

Cantiere Navale Triestino (CANT) was formed in 1923 to design and build water-based aircraft for civilian and military applications. In 1931 fascist dic­tator Benito Mussolini dispatched his famous air marshal, Italo Balbo, to lure Filippo Zappata, one of Italy’s finest aircraft designers, back from France. The entreaties worked, and in 1934 Zappata designed his first CANT aircraft—the Z 501. It was a single-en­gine flying boat constructed entirely of wood and fabric. A study in contrasts, its beautifully stream­lined fuselage and gracefully elliptical wings were offset by unsightly bracing. It seated five crew mem­bers, including pilot and copilot in the cabin, two gunners, and a flight engineer stationed behind the nacelle to monitor the engine and man a machine gun. In 1934 noted pilot Mario Stoppani flew the pro­totype on a record-breaking 2,560-mile flight from

Monfalcone to Eritrea. The French subsequently broke the record in 1935, but Stoppani won it back again when his Z 501 ranged 3,080 miles from Mon – falcone to British-held Somalia. Such excellent per­formance pleased Italian authorities, and in 1936 the Gabbiano (Gull) entered production as the only fly­ing boat in the Regia Aeronautica (Italian air force).

In service the Z 501 was well-liked, being easy to fly and maintain. It initially fought in the Spanish Civil War by conducting bombing missions from Ma­jorca. The Gabbiano flew well, but as a wood and fabric machine it was hopelessly outclassed for the rigors of World War II. Z 501s flew missions through­out the Mediterranean and suffered heavy losses. The craft was also deployed in squadron strength by Romania, which operated on the Black Sea against Soviet forces. By the time of the 1943 Italian surren­der, only a handful remained in service, equally di­vided between pro – and antifascist forces. Several surviving Gabbianos were maintained in service until 1950.

. Canadair CL 41 Tutor

Type: Torpedo-Bomber; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 81 feet, 4 inches; length, 60 feet, 2 inches; height, 17 feet, 1 inch Weights: empty, 19,338 pounds; gross, 30,029 pounds

Power plant: 3 x 1,000-horsepower Piaggio P. XI bis (improved) radial engines Performance: maximum speed, 280 miles per hour; ceiling, 24,600 feet; range, 1,370 miles Armament: 2 x 7.7mm or 12.7mm machine guns; up to 4,410 pounds of bombs or torpedoes Service dates: 1937-1945


he Z 506 was one of the most versatile float­planes ever built and set several world records. It functioned throughout the Mediterranean in World War II as torpedo and reconnaissance craft.

In 1936 Filippo Zapata designed the CANT Z 506A, an all-wood trimotor float transport aircraft. Streamlined and ruggedly built, several were ac­quired by the airline Ala Littoria and established a reputation for good handling and reliability. That year test pilot Mario Stoppani helped establish 16 world distance and payload records in the Z 506A. Such excellent performance caught the attention of the Regia Aeronautica (Italian air force), and CANT was persuaded to develop a bomber/reconnais – sance version for the military. The prototype emerged in 1937 sporting a long ventral gondola under the fuselage and a dorsal turret. Like its civil­ian counterpart, the new craft exhibited outstand­ing aerial and water characteristics. The large streamlined floats were specially designed to en­able the craft to take off and land in water as rough
as Force 5 conditions. These excellent seaplanes, designated the Airone (Heron), became operational in 1937, and several campaigned during the closing stages of the Spanish Civil War. By the time Italy en­tered World War II in 1940, Z 506Bs outfitted two re­connaissance groups.

Airones were initially employed as torpedo – bombers, and against relatively weak aerial opposi­tion they attacked numerous French and Greek tar­gets. They proved less successful facing determined resistance from the Royal Navy, and the slow-flying floatplanes sustained serious losses. Thereafter, most Z 506Bs conducted coastal reconnaissance, convoy escort, and antisubmarine operations. Once the Italian armistice was signed in 1943, 28 Airones managed to reach Allied lines. They were employed as rescue craft in southern Italy until the end of the war. A handful were also operated by the Luftwaffe, and it was a Z 506B that successfully evacuated Mussolini to safety. A total of 563 were built; a hand­ful performed air/sea rescue operations until 1959.

. Canadair CL 41 Tutor

Type: Medium Bomber; Torpedo-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 81 feet, 4 inches; length, 60 feet, 2 inches; height, 17 feet, 1 inch Weights: empty, 19,338 pounds; gross, 30,029 pounds

Power plant: 3 x 1,000-horsepower Piaggio P. XI bis (improved) radial engine Performance: maximum speed, 280 miles per hour; ceiling, 24,600 feet; range, 1,370 miles Armament: 4 x 7.7mm or 12.7mm machine guns; up to 4,410 pounds of bombs or torpedoes Service dates: 1939-1945


he graceful Alcione was Italy’s second most im­portant bomber of World War II. Despite wooden construction and weak defensive arma­ment, it rendered useful service on many fronts.

In 1935 Filippo Zapata’s success with the Z 506 floatplane inspired him to explore the possibility of a similar land-based bomber, the first such craft pro­duced by CANT. Two years later the prototype Z 1007 flew as a low-wing monoplane of trimotor configura­tion. The reason for three motors was that Italian en­gines produced decidedly lower horsepower. In fact, a competing two-engine design, the Z 1011, was rejected by the Regia Aeronautica (Italian air force) as under­powered. The Z 1007 also employed outdated wooden construction, but that kept its overall weight down. One possible weakness was the armament, which was restricted to four 7.7mm machine guns in dorsal, ven­tral, and beam-hatch positions. Test pilots nonetheless enjoyed its fine flying characteristics, and in 1939 it en­tered production as the Alcione (Kingfisher). When

Italy joined World War II in 1940, only 55 Z 1007s were available. Many were the bis (improved) model, fea­turing heavier guns and better engines. Curiously, the Alciones were built in both single – and twin-rudder configurations, without differing designations, flying side by side in the same squadrons.

In service the Alcione was Italy’s most impor­tant bomber after the SM 79 Sparviero. They ranged the length of the Mediterranean and performed bombing missions in Greece, France, North Africa, and Russia. The Z 1007 was also quite adept at anti­shipping functions and could be outfitted with a pair of 1,000-pound torpedoes. Even though a good basic design and easy to fly, the Alcione remained poorly defended and suffered heavy losses at the hands of Royal Air Force fighters. This resulted in curtail­ment of daylight operations over Malta in favor of night bombing. After the Italian surrender of 1943, Alciones continued serving both sides up through the end of the war. A total of 563 were constructed.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: rotorspan, 39 feet, 4 inches; length, 21 feet, 6 inches; height, 7 feet, 2 inches

Weights: empty, 1,411 pounds; gross, 2,205 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 140-horsepower Siemens-Halske air-cooled engine

Performance: maximum speed, 68 miles per hour; ceiling, 12,992 feet; range, 106 miles

Armament: none

Service dates: 1943-1944


he diminutive Kolibri was the first combat-capa­ble helicopter to reach mass production. Despite primitive appearances, it was perfectly functional and a harbinger of things to come.

Anton Flettner, one of Europe’s most accom­plished helicopter pioneers, built his first functioning machine in 1932. A succession of prototypes culmi­nated in his Fl 184 autogyro of 1935, which was or­dered by the German Kriegsmarine (navy) for evalu­ation. It was driven by a single three-blade rotor, with two smaller antitorque propellers on either side. Around this time, however, Flettner developed inter­est in counter-rotating, intermeshed, twin-rotor de­signs. Such a machine would cancel out the effects of torque and the need for other stability devices. In 1939 he perfected his Fl 265 Kolibri (Hummingbird), which was a small yet perfectly functional helicop­ter. The fuselage was made of steel tubing covered with metal skin and possessed a large rudder with di­hedral tailplanes. The craft was driven by two shafts, spread apart from each other at divergent angles be­hind the pilot’s seat. Both blades, made from steel
tube and plywood covering, were closely inter – meshed with each other at all speeds for greater sta­bility. Reputedly, a pilot could hover indefinitely with his hands off the controls. The Fl 282—designed with maritime reconnaissance in mind—carried a back­ward-facing observer behind the shafts. By 1941 sev­eral prototypes had flown with impressive results, and that year it entered into production.

It was the Kriegsmarine’s intention to obtain up to 1,000 Fl 282s for antisubmarine work from the decks of warships. However, less than two dozen were actually completed, but they saw extensive service in the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas. As fly­ing platforms, the tiny helicopters were impressive because they could alight safely in all kinds of weather conditions. One even landed on a pitching turret top of the cruiser Koln during a storm. By war’s end, only three examples of the Fl 282 sur­vived intact. Two of these visionary machines were shipped off to the United States for evaluation, and one remains on display at the U. S. Air Force Mu­seum in Dayton, Ohio.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 47 feet, 7 inches; length, 46 feet, 9 inches; height, 17 feet, 7 inches

Weights: empty, 8,900 pounds; gross, 14,991 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 988-horsepower Turbomeca XVIG turboprop engines

Performance: maximum speed, 311 miles per hour; ceiling, 31,825 feet; range, 2,305 miles

Armament: 4 x.30-caliber machine guns; 2 x 20mm cannons; 3,307 pounds of ordnance

Service dates: 1976-


he famous Pucara is a versatile counterinsur­gency aircraft and the first to originate from a Latin American country. It failed to accrue distinc­tion during the 1982 Falkland Islands War and has since been declared surplus.

During the late 1960s, South America was rocked by numerous revolutionary groups, inspired and frequently financed by the communist bloc. In 1969 the Argentine government approached Fabrica Militar de Aviones in Cordoba to devise a heavily armed light strike aircraft capable of dealing with fast-moving guerillas. After some preliminary testing with glider models, the first prototype lifted off in August 1969, at which point the Fuerza Aerea Ar­gentina (Argentine air force) ordered it into produc­tion as the FMA IA 58 Pucara. The name refers to a stone stronghold erected by indigenous Indians of the Andes. The Pucara is an extremely handsome craft with a low-mounted wing and a high-“T” tail section. It is entirely made of metal and seats two crew members under a spacious canopy, with the
pilot enjoying excellent frontal vision over a sharply downswept nose. It is also heavily armed, mounting two cannons, four machine guns, and a host of un­derwing ordnance. The first IA 58s became opera­tional in 1974 and were deployed with good effect against communist guerillas operating in the Tu – cuman region of the country. Its impressive per­formance led to small orders from neighboring Co­lumbia and Paraguay for similar purposes.

The Pucara is best known for the limited role it played during the 1982 Falkland Islands War with England. Once those islands had been seized in 1981, a force of no less than 24 IA 58s was deployed there to defend them. However, counterattacking British forces shot down several, and more were de­stroyed in nighttime raids by the Special Air Service. One Pucara was captured intact and is currently displayed at the Imperial War Museum in London. After this episode, Argentina lost interest in the craft, and most have been laid up in surplus. Around 100 have been built.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 60 feet, 4 inches; length, 39 feet, 4 inches; height, 10 feet, 2 inches Weights: empty, 5,930 pounds; gross, 8,708 pounds Power plant: 2 x 465-horsepower Argus air-cooled engines

Performance: maximum speed, 217 miles per hour; ceiling, 23,950 feet; range, 416 miles Armament: 3 x 7.92mm machine guns; up to 440 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1940-1945


he unattractive Uhu was the “eyes” of the Ger­man army in campaigns from Finland to Africa. Despite appearances, the craft was strong, maneu­verable, and difficult to shoot down.

Since its inception, the Luftwaffe was basically viewed as a tactical appendage to the Wehrmacht, and reconnaissance aircraft were consequently an essential commodity. In 1937 the German Air Min­istry issued specifications for a new short-range re­connaissance craft to replace its aging fleet of Heinkel He 46s. Of three firms to respond, the Focke – Wulf Flugzeugbau firm under Dr. Kurt Tank submit­ted an unorthodox design that was initially greeted with skepticism. The Fw 189 was a low-wing, twin – boom design of metal construction. A crew of three sat in a spacious, glazed fuselage pod affording them excellent visibility. Each of the thin booms mounted a single engine, and they were joined together aft by a single tailplane. Twin-boomed aircraft were not un­known in military circles, but German authorities ini­tially viewed Tank’s creation with suspicion. How­ever, flight-testing proved extremely successful, and
the big craft demonstrated ample strength and ma­neuverability for the tasks at hand. Production com­menced in 1939, and a total of 846 Fw 189s were built. Crew members unofficially dubbed it the Uhu (Owl), but Nazi propagandists touted it as Die Fliegender Auge, or “The Flying Eye.”

In 1940 the Fw 189 saw its baptism of fire along the Eastern Front, where most were sta­tioned. At least one squadron of Uhus also served in North Africa. The big craft was completely success­ful as a reconnaissance platform, possessing range, stability, and ease of handling to facilitate its tasks. Not particularly fast, the Fw 189 was extremely agile and, at low altitude, could outturn most fight­ers with ease. Failing this, it could also absorb con­siderable damage, and was known to survive direct ramming attacks by Russian aircraft. By war’s end, improved Allied fighters made reconnaissance work untenable, so Fw 189s were reassigned to liai­son and casualty evacuation work. A handful also flew with Hungarian and Slovakian forces for simi­lar purposes.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 34 feet, 5 inches; length, 28 feet, 10 inches; height, 12 feet, 11 inches Weights: empty, 6,393 pounds; gross, 8,700 pounds Power plant: 1 x 1,700-horsepower BMW 801 radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 391 miles per hour; ceiling, 34,775 feet; range, 497 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns; 2 x 20mm cannons; up to 2,200 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1940-1945


he aptly named “Butcher Bird” was one of the deadliest German fighters of World War II and, possibly, of all time. It was produced in huge num­bers and became the chosen mount of many high – ranking aces.

In 1937 the German Air Ministry issued speci­fications for a new fighter as a hedge against the new and heretofore untried Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter. Dr. Kurt Tank of the Focke-Wulf Flugzeug – bau firm broke with tradition by conceiving a ra­dial-engine design. This was a dicey departure from aerodynamic norms, given the Luftwaffe’s stated preferences for in-line liquid-cooled motors. Tank, however, expertly streamlined the craft with a close-fitting cowl, a spacious canopy, and wide – track landing gear. The new Fw 190 underwent test flights throughout 1939, where it demonstrated marked superiority in handling over the Bf 109 and virtually every fighter then extant. It was fast, highly maneuverable, and ruggedly built and en­tered production in 1940. When first encountered over the English Channel in the summer of 1941,

Fw 190s had little trouble mastering the opposing Spitfire Vs. For once, German pilots enjoyed a qualitative—if short-lived—superiority over their enemies. But the Fw 190 also proved adept as a ground-attack craft and a dive-bomber. By 1944 they had almost completely displaced the previ­ously vaunted Stuka in those roles.

Because the Fw 190’s performance faltered at high altitude, in 1943 Tank began development of a radically different version. The new Fw 190D was powered by a liquid-cooled in-line engine, although its annular radiator preserved the radial appearance of the series. The fuselage was also lengthened and heavier armament fitted. “Long-nose Dora,” as it was called, became the best German fighter of the war, easily capable of tangling on equal terms with P-51D Mustangs and late-model Spitfires. An even better high-altitude version, christened the Ta 152, exhib­ited superb performance, but only a handful were constructed, and none saw combat. By war’s end, no less than 20,087 Fw 190s were constructed in vari­ous models.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Patrol-Bomber; Transport


Dimensions: wingspan, 107 feet, 9 inches; length, 76 feet, 11 inches; height, 20 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 37,478 pounds; gross, 50,044 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 1,000-horsepower BMW 323R-2 radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 224 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,685 feet; range, 2,211 miles Armament: 4 x 13mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon; up to 4,630 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1940-1945


umbering Condors were so adept at sinking ships that Winston Churchill dubbed them the “scourge of the Atlantic.” Their success is even more remarkable considering that they were commercial aircraft adopted for military purposes.

In 1936 Deutsche Lufthansa requested designs for a 26-passenger airliner capable of nonstop ser­vice between Berlin and New York. Dr. Kurt Tank complied in 1937 with his beautiful Fw 200, an all­metal, low-wing monoplane with double wheels that retracted into streamlined nacelles. That year the Fw 200 established many world records for dis­tance, including a 48-hour flight to Tokyo. The Japa­nese were so impressed that they requested a mar­itime reconnaissance version to be developed for their military. The onset of World War II in 1939 fore­stalled any such development, and various proto­type and commercial Fw 200s were hastily im­pressed into service as transports. In this capacity they achieved only limited success as, being non – stressed for military service, they proved struc­turally weak. In fact, they acquired a bad reputation
for breaking their backs after a hard landing. But by 1940 the Fw 200 found its niche as a long-range anti­shipping bomber.

The Fw 200 Condor frequently operated in close cooperation with roving packs of U-boats. These machines had been refitted with a long ven­tral gondola beneath the fuselage, where bombs were housed. Having identified an enemy convoy, Condors would attack and cripple merchant ves­sels, leaving the submarines to finish them off. Within a year Fw 200s accounted for several thou­sand tons of Allied shipping and were justly feared as the “scourge of the Atlantic.” Eventually, the de­velopment of long-range fighters like the Bristol Beaufighter and ship-launched disposable Hawker Hurricanes spelled the end of its maritime roles. The Fw 200s next pioneered antishipping missiles, but success proved elusive, and by 1944 most had been reconverted back into transports. Signifi­cantly, both Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler used Condors as their personal transports. A total of 276 were constructed.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 41 feet; length, 31 feet, 2 inches; height, 11 feet, 5 inches Weights: empty, 2,756 pounds; gross, 4,079 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 336-horsepower Hispano-Suiza liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 140 miles per hour; ceiling, 18,045 feet; range, 478 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns; up to 441 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1924-1940


he Fokker C V was one of the most popular and widely exported aircraft of the interwar period. It could be fitted with a wide variety of engines or wingspans depending upon its intended use.

In 1924 Anthony Fokker’s genius for innova­tion was never more evident than in his C V air­craft. Outwardly, it was a conventional biplane with unequal wings, fixed landing gear, and a highly streamlined nose. The fuselage was con­structed of steel tubing and fabric-covered throughout, while the wings employed wood in their construction. It flew exceptionally well, was fast for its day, and, in the tradition of Fokker air­planes, proved exceptionally rugged. The C V was marketed to the Dutch military as a light bomber, but Fokker had in mind a multipurpose aircraft. He accomplished this by enabling the C V to be fit­ted with differing sets of wing shapes and spans ac­cording to the mission desired, and all could be in­terchanged in under an hour. Engines were also easily replaced for the same purpose. The C V en­
tered the Dutch air force in 1924 and was immedi­ately popular with both flight and ground crews. For almost a decade and a half it reigned as the most successful aircraft of its class. Fokker con­structed more than 400 machines, which proved so well built that few ever returned for recondition­ing. He later complained that this happy predica­ment led to acute work shortages at his factory!

The high performance, reliability, and supreme flexibility of the C V made it ideal for export pur­poses, and it was acquired by Bolivia, Denmark, Fin­land, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Hungary, and Switzer­land. Once manufacturing licenses were granted, total production of C Vs worldwide exceeded 1,000 machines. The most popular variants proved the C V-D and C V-E, which functioned as fighters and light bombers, respectively. In 1928 it was a Swedish C V skiplane that rescued Admiral Umberto Nobile when his airship crashed in the Arctic. Several Dutch machines were still in service and actively flown during the German invasion of 1940.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 29 feet, 2 inches; length, 22 feet, 9 inches; height, 9 feet

Weights: empty, 1,477 pounds; gross, 1,984 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 185-horsepower BMW IIIa liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 117 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,685 feet; range, 200 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.62mm machine guns

Service dates: 1918-1926


he legendary Fokker D VII was one of history’s greatest fighter aircraft. Its reputation was so for­midable that the 1918 Armistice terms specifically authorized confiscation of all D VIIs by Allied forces.

By December 1917 the German High Com­mand witnessed control of the air slipping irrevoca­bly back into Allied hands. The following January they announced competition for a new fighter craft to employ the excellent Mercedes D III engine. No less than 60 prototypes appeared at Aldershof as planned, but events were dominated by a machine entered by Anthony Fokker. His D VII model, de­signed by Reinhold Platz, was a conventional bi­plane of exceptionally graceful lines. Its wings were constructed from wood, and the fuselage consisted of a tube steel structure covered by fabric. But first and foremost, the D VII was extremely maneuver­able, especially at high altitudes. With such striking performance, it was decided to rush Fokker’s inven­tion immediately into production without further delay. An estimated 1,000 were constructed by Fokker, in concert with Albatros and AEG.

The first Fokker D VIIs appeared over the front in the spring of 1918 and were an unpleasant sur­prise to Allied pilots. Although slower than many ad­versaries, D VIIs could outturn and outclimb a host of excellent airplanes, including the SE 5a, Sopwith Camel, and SPAD XIII. Moreover, it had a remark­able ability to briefly “hang” on its propeller, firing upward. Allied casualties soared correspondingly, and it looked like the formidable Fokker might single-handedly regain control of the skies for Ger­many. The war ended in November 1918 before that transpired, but the Allies acknowledged the D VII’s formidable reputation with a direct compliment. They demanded outright confiscation of all surviv­ing D VII’s as part of the Armistice conditions!

No sooner had hostilities ceased than Anthony Fokker smuggled about 160 D VIIs over the border into neutral Holland, where he sold them to the Dutch air force. These fine aircraft were subse­quently exported globally and remained in the Bel­gian service until 1926. The D VII was a classic fighter design.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 27 feet, 6 inches; length, 19 feet, 3 inches; height, 9 feet, 3 inches

Weights: empty, 848 pounds; gross, 1,238 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 110-horsepower Oberursel UR II rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 115 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,669 feet; range, 150 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1918


he “Flying Razor” was the last and among the finest German fighters to appear in World War I. Had fighting continued into 1919, it would have ulti­mately replaced the already formidable Fokker D VII.

In the spring of 1918, the German High Com­mand authorized a second fighter flyoff at Aldershof. Among the many prototypes represented was a new monoplane designed by Reinhold Platz, the Fokker V 26/28. From an appearance standpoint, it pos­sessed a steel-tube and fabric-covered fuselage, a cowling borrowed from the Dr I triplane, and the tail section of the D VII. The single wing was made from wood and possessed a thick chord with tapering tips, and numerous struts secured it to the fuselage. This parasol machine represented the last German application of rotary-engine technology since the obsolete Eindekker of 1915. More important, it was fast and extremely agile, and for a second time the Fokker design totally dominated the competition. Consequently, it was decided to rush the new craft immediately into production as the Fokker E V. An
estimated 400 of these machines, subsequently re­designated D VIIIs, were constructed over the inter­vening months.

The first batches of D VIIIs reached the front in April 1918 for further evaluation. Pilots marveled at the new fighter’s climb and maneuverability, but when three were lost to unexplained crashes, the program was suspended. Investigations revealed that poor workmanship and imperfect timber were the cause, which were corrected, but much valuable time had been lost. It was not until September 1918 that production could resume. The first combat – ready D VIII’s arrived at the front in late October, just three weeks prior to the end of the war. Never­theless, they fully upheld the formidable reputation acquired by the famous Fokker D VIIs and were flown with considerable success. In one skirmish on November 6, 1918, Flying Razors claimed three SPAD XIIIs in a matter of minutes. The war con­cluded in November before the D VIIIs had a chance for further distinction, but they were the last combat aircraft fielded by Imperial Germany.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet, 1 inch; length, 26 feet, 10 inches; height, 9 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 3,197 pounds; gross, 4,519 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 830-horsepower Bristol Mercury VIII radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 286 miles per hour; ceiling, 36,090 feet; range, 590 miles

Armament: 4 x 7.92mm machine guns

Service dates: 1938-1944


he Fokker D XXI saw widespread service in three European air forces before and during World War

II. It marked a transitional stage between fabric-cov­ered biplanes and stress-skinned monoplanes.

The Fokker D XXI evolved in response to a 1935 specification laid out by the Netherlands East Indies Army Air Service, which sought a new mono­plane fighter to replace the antiquated biplanes then employed. Fokker, which enjoyed a tremendous in­ternational reputation for effective and innovative designs, responded with a rather conservative ma­chine, but it was well-suited to simplicity and ease of operation. The Fokker D XXI first flew in 1938 as a low-wing monoplane with fixed, spatted undercar­riage. True to company tradition, it consisted of steel tubing and wooden wings and was covered by fabric. The only modern aspect was the fully en­closed cockpit. Test flights revealed the craft to be underpowered but also responsive and highly ma­neuverable. During one flight an altitude of 37,250 feet was reached—a Dutch record. In 1938 the Dutch air force obtained 36 examples. These were
followed by two imported by Denmark, which con­structed another 10 under license, and 40 for Fin­land. The Republican government in Spain also ex­pressed interest in the D XXI as its standard fighter, but Nationalist forces overran the factory intended to produce them. Worse still, the D XXI was verging on obsolescence when World War II broke out in September 1939.

Dutch Fokkers enjoyed a brief but useful wartime career. On May 10, 1940, they intercepted a formation of 55 Junkers Ju 52 transports, shooting down 37 with heavy loss of life. Several Me 109s were also claimed before ammunition stocks were exhausted and the planes grounded. Denmark, which had been experimenting with a 20mm can­non-armed version, offered no resistance, and its D XXIs were confiscated by Germany. However, Fin­land put the fighter to excellent use during the 1939 Soviet invasion, and D XXIs scored the first aerial kill of that conflict. When war resumed in 1941, Fin­land constructed an additional 50 D XXIs and flew them with great effect until 1944.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 23 feet, 7 inches; length, 18 feet, 11 inches; height, 9 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 904 pounds; gross, 1,289 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 110-horsepower Oberursel rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 103 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,013 feet; range, 150 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1917-1918


he career of the famous triplane is indelibly linked to that of Manfred von Richthofen, the in­famous “Red Baron.” In his hands the diminutive Fokker was a deadly weapon whose reputation long survived his passing.

German authorities were shocked by the ap­pearance of the Sopwith Triplane in the spring of 1917, which induced them to develop aircraft of sim­ilar design. A total of 14 different machines were eventually constructed and flown, but the most ef­fective proved Fokker’s Dr I Dreidecker, designed by Reinhold Platz. The resulting prototype was com­pact and initially lacked interplane struts. The sur­face area of three wings afforded it marvelous pow­ers of maneuver and climb. The middle section vibrated excessively in a dive, however, so struts were subsequently added between them. Several preproduction craft were then dispatched to be eval­uated under combat conditions. One of them was flown by leading ace Werner Voss, who scored 20 victories in only 24 days. In fact, the Dr I was a dan­gerous weapon in the hands of experienced pilots—
and equally dangerous and unforgiving for the novice. Nonetheless, in the summer of 1917 Fokker commenced full-scale production of the Dr I, which terminated at 320 machines.

One of the earliest Jadgeschwaders (fighter groups) to receive the diminutive craft was the fa­mous “Flying Circus” of Manfred von Richthofen. The Red Baron excelled in flying the Fokker Dr I, and increased his already impressive tally to 80 kills before he himself was killed in action on April 21,

1918. The other leading Dreidecker ace, Voss, met his demise earlier, on September 23, 1917, when he dramatically and single-handedly dueled an entire patrol of British SE 5s. Despite uniform success in combat, several unexplained crashes were attrib­uted to structural weaknesses. The Dr I was conse­quently grounded for several months pending re­pairs and did not return to combat until late 1917. Thereafter newer allied aircraft minimized its effec­tiveness, and by the spring of 1918 the heyday of the triplane had passed. The Dr I was superceded by Fokker’s other superb design, the D VII.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 31 feet, 4 inches; length, 23 feet, 7 inches; height, 9 feet, 2 inches

Weights: empty, 878 pounds; gross, 1,342 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 100-horsepower Oberursel U. I rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 81 miles per hour; ceiling, 11,500 feet; range, 100 miles Armament: 1 x 7.92mm machine gun Service dates: 1915-1916


n the autumn of 1915, the anachronistic-looking Eindekker reigned as the world’s best fighter air­craft. Its superiority over contemporary French and English machines ushered in a period known as the “Fokker scourge”—and the dawn of modern aerial warfare.

April 19, 1915, signified a turning point in the history of military aviation when the French-built Morane-Saulnier L aircraft piloted by Roland Garros crashed behind German lines. German investigators combing through the wreckage discovered that Gar­ros had clandestinely mounted a machine gun fixed so as to fire through the propeller arc. The propeller itself was fitted with metal wedges to deflect any un­synchronized projectiles, but the Germans recog­nized the advantages an improved system would bring. The brilliant aircraft designer Anthony Fokker was contacted, whose firm was familiar with the concept, and within two weeks a completely synchronized interrupter gear was devised. This al­lowed bullets to shoot through a moving propeller by being deliberately timed to miss it. This technol­
ogy was then grafted onto a Fokker M 5 monoplane, a design that had been flying since 1913, for trials. Thus was born the Fokker E I, the world’s first true fighter craft. A total of 400 of all models were built, and their tactical implication was immense.

At a time when Allied craft were either un­armed or simply carried rifles and other sidearms for defense, the new Fokker Eindekkers represented a quantum leap in firepower. Throughout the fall and winter of 1915, they sawed through nearly 1,000 al­lied reconnaissance craft, chiefly lumbering British Be 2cs. The Fokkers also stimulated the evolution of new fighter tactics as pioneered by Germans aces like Max Immelmann and Oswald Boelcke. For sev­eral months the “Fokker scourge” dominated the skies of Western Europe until the spring of 1916, when superior fighters like the Nieuport 11 Bebe and the de Havilland DH 2 pusher debuted. The days of the ugly, ungainly Eindekkers were numbered in weeks, but a corner had been turned. Hereafter, war­planes ceased being frail-looking contraptions and evolved into machines of increasing deadliness.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 56 feet, 3 inches; length, 37 feet, 9 inches; height, 11 feet, 2 inches

Weights: empty, 7,410 pounds; gross, 10,582 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 830-horsepower Bristol Mercury VIII radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 295 miles per hour; ceiling, 30,500 feet; range, 870 miles

Armament: 9 x 7.92mm machine guns; up to 882 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1938-1940


he hulking G I was the Netherlands’s most com­bat-capable aircraft of World War II. Despite great potential, nearly all were destroyed after heroic and futile resistance.

In 1935 Fokker initiated a company-funded project to produce a large interceptor that could also double as a ground-attack craft. Christened the G I, it was secretly developed and not publicly unveiled until the 1936 Paris Salon. The G I was un­like any aircraft previously seen and generated considerable interest. It was a twin-boomed craft with pilot, crew, and armament housed in a large central nacelle. The two booms mounted Hispano – Suiza radial engines and were joined aft of the fuse­lage by a single stabilizer. Construction was mixed, consisting of steel tubing and fabric covering. But the most significant feature was the armament: no less than eight 7.92mm machine guns were concen­trated in the nose while the tailgunner operated a single weapon. The G I first flew in March 1937 to the satisfaction of company officials, and it was
next offered to the Luchtvaartafdeling (army air service). An order for 36 machines resulted, with initial deliveries arriving the following year. In the quest for engine standardization, however, the army required that the more common Bristol Mer­cury radial engine be mounted. At the time of its appearance, the G I was probably the most ad­vanced warplane of its kind in the world. It seemed so promising that orders from Sweden, Spain, and Denmark were also forthcoming. Given its formi­dable armament, the G I was unofficially dubbed the Faucheur (Mower).

When Germany attacked the Netherlands in May 1940, only 23 G Is had been deployed, and these were assigned to the 3rd and 4th Fighter Groups of the 1st Air Regiment. Several were caught on the ground and destroyed during the initial onslaught, but a handful continued fighting over the next sev­eral days. All were destroyed save one. The Ger­mans then confiscated several G Is still on the as­sembly line for completion and use as trainers.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber; Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 24 feet; length, 31 feet, 9 inches; height, 9 feet, 7 inches Weights: empty, 5,140 pounds; gross, 8,630 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 4,230-pound thrust Hawker-Siddeley Orpheus turbojet engine Performance: maximum speed, 636 miles per hour; ceiling, 48,000 feet; range, 1,151 miles Armament: none Service dates: 1962-1979


he lively little Gnats would have made excellent low-cost fighters, but the Royal Air Force pre­ferred them as trainers instead. For many years they thrilled thousands as part of the Red Arrows preci­sion acrobatic team.

The rising costs inherent to modern jet tech­nology persuaded W. E.W. Petter to develop a new lightweight fighter. By 1955 this had become practi­cal with the advent of smaller, more powerful jet en­gines, and the concept was pursued as a company – funded venture. That year Folland unveiled the Midge, a high-performance aircraft that was a foot shorter and 1,000 pounds lighter than the Messer – schmitt Me 109! This was a high-wing monoplane with highly swept wings and control surfaces. The RAF, however, expressed no interest in the Midge as a combat aircraft, and they entreated Petter to de­velop a similar craft for training purposes. The pro­totype flew in 1956 and was similar to the Midge, save for an extended nose to house an additional pilot and broader wings to slow down landing speeds. The RAF was impressed by the little craft
and authorized a preproduction batch of six ma­chines. By 1965 it had acquired no less than 105 Gnats for their inventory.

The Gnat was destined to replaced the Vam­pire T.11 as an advanced jet trainer and be the next instructional step after the slower Hunting Jet Provost. In service it possessed all the flight charac­teristics of modern jet fighters and could break the sound barrier in a shallow dive. Gnats also proved overly complex and difficult to maintain, but they nonetheless rendered useful service for nearly two decades before being replaced by BAe Hawks. They also performed useful recruiting service in the thrilling exhibitions by the famous Red Arrow acro­batic team. The Gnat also received friendly recep­tion from Finland and India. The former bought a handful rigged as fighters and operated them as such until 1972. India, meanwhile, manufactured several hundred under license as the HAL Ajeet. In numerous wars with Pakistan they proved to be agile targets and difficult to hit. Many Gnats remain operational to this day.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Heavy Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 77 feet, 11 inches; length, 42 feet, 1 inch; height, 12 feet Weights: empty, 5,929 pounds; gross, 8,646 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 260-horsepower Mercedes D IVa liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 87 miles per hour; ceiling, 14,764 feet; range, 400 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns; 1,102 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1916-1918


he Friedrichshafen G III was a capable German heavy bomber that combined good range with respectable bomb loads. In concert with the Gotha V, it ranged across the Western Front and inflicted considerable damage.

The firm Flugzeugbau Friedrichshafen had been founded by the famous Count Ferdinand Zep­pelin prior to World War I and was best known for producing naval seaplanes. In 1914 chief engineer Theodor Kober began designing the company’s first heavy bomber for the land service. The G I emerged in 1915 as a twin-engine, three-bay biplane of pusher configuration. It failed to go into production, and the following year a second variant, the G II, was con­structed. This was a two-bay pusher design whose wings contained steel center-section spars for added strength. It also carried a pilot and two gunners who sat in the fore and aft positions. The G II was de­ployed in 1916, but because of limited range and payload it served only in small numbers.

The final Friedrichshafen bomber of the war was the G III. Like the earlier G I, it was a three-bay
biplane pusher whose lengthy wings also sported double ailerons. The fuselage was constructed of wood, covered by fabric, and unique in that the cen­tral section served as an integral unit housing the crew, fuel, engines, and bombs. The landing gear were large, set in pairs, and also contained a large nosewheel to prevent overturning on rough terrain. The final product functioned well and entered pro­duction in 1917. Precise figures are not known, but at least 330 machines were assembled by various contractors.

In service the G III flew mostly from bases in Northwestern Europe and conducted long-range bombing raids against British positions at Dunkirk, along with several nighttime raids against Paris. There is, however, no proof that they raided En­gland alongside the more famous Gotha Vs. In 1918 a final version, the G IV, was deployed, which dif­fered from earlier variants in being snub-nosed and having engines mounted in tractor configuration. All were tough, reliable machines.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Glider; Transport

Dimensions: wingspan, 110 feet; length, 68 feet; height, 20 feet, 3 inches Weights: empty, 18,400 pounds; gross, 36,000 pounds Power plant: none

Performance: maximum speed, 150 miles per hour Armament: none Service dates: 1944-1945


he giant Hamilcar was the largest transport glider employed by Allied forces in World War II. It was the first such craft to convey tanks and other armored vehicles directly into combat.

The development of airborne forces by 1940 gave armies unprecedented mobility and tactical sur­prise. Now it was possible to insert military power at any point on a map. However, paratroopers remained essentially light infantry because all their requisite supplies were carried on their backs. They were thus at a disadvantage when fighting well-armed ground forces possessing greater firepower and ammunition. The British Air Ministry contemplated this fact in 1940 when it undertook development of airborne forces in the wake of Germany’s dazzling successes in Belgium. It also issued Specification X.27/40, calling for creation of a large glider craft capable of hoisting small tanks, trucks, or artillery pieces to assist para­chutists wherever they landed.

In March 1942 General Aircraft responded with a glider transport called the Hamilcar, a huge and rather sophisticated craft. This was a high – wing monoplane of all-wood construction flown by
a crew of two. The canopy was placed on top of the fuselage just forward of the wing’s leading edge and was accessed by ladder. The wing itself was fit­ted with pneumatically actuated slotted trailing edges and slotted ailerons to facilitate short land­ings. The fuselage, meanwhile, was a boxy, rectan­gular affair with a cavernous cargo hold measuring 25 feet by 8 feet. No less than two armored Bren – gun carriers, a 40mm Bofors gun and a tow truck, or a seven-ton Locust or Tetrarch tank, could easily be accommodated. Furthermore, the entire nose of the craft was hinged to afford ease of loading and unloading. Up to 17,600 pounds of cargo could be towed aloft by a Halifax bomber and landed safely where needed.

Hamilcars experienced their baptism of fire on June 6, 1944, when 70 of these huge planes were successfully launched over Normandy in support of Allied paratroopers. They subsequently rendered useful service at Arnhem that fall, and during the Rhine crossings in 1945. A total of 390 were manu­factured, including several powered Mk X versions intended for eventual use against Japan.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 32 feet, 9 inches; length, 26 feet, 2 inches; height, 10 feet, 4 inches

Weights: empty, 2,775 pounds; gross, 3,970 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 645-horsepower Bristol Mercury radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 230 miles per hour; ceiling, 33,500 feet; range, 460 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns Service dates: 1934-1943


ast of the open-cockpit British biplanes, the Gauntlet was probably the world’s best fighter of its day. Fast and maneuverable, it even conducted the first-ever radio-controlled intercept.

In 1929 the unexpected performance of the Fairey Fox bomber, which could outpace any British fighter then in service, was disconcerting to the Air Ministry. Consequently, it released specifications for a new craft capable of exceeding 250 miles per hour in level flight.

In 1933 a Gloster design team under H. P. Fol – land responded with Model SS.19B, the updated ver­sion of an aircraft first flown in 1928. This machine had earlier lost out to the superb Bristol Bulldog, but the company refined it over time at its own ex­pense. The new design was a two-bay biplane with staggered wings, and extreme attention being paid to streamlining. For example, all bracing-wire fit­tings were carefully sunk into the wings, leaving only the wires themselves exposed, and these, too, were specially streamlined. Moreover, all external control levers were deleted, and the bottom wing
was carefully faired into the fuselage. The fuselage itself was oval in cross-section, constructed of metal frames, and covered in fabric. The new machine was highly maneuverable and demonstrated a 40 mile – per-hour advantage over the same Bulldog that had bested it five years earlier. In 1934 it entered produc­tion as the Gauntlet I; 24 machines were purchased.

In 1935 a new version, the Gauntlet II, arrived. These differed mainly in construction techniques, as the Hawker firm had absorbed Gloster and imposed its own design philosophy. Some of these craft sported a new three-blade metal propeller in place of the standard two-blade wooden one. They were also built in relatively large numbers—204 ma­chines—and equipped no less than 14 squadrons of RAF Fighter Command. In 1937 three Gauntlets were successfully vectored to an oncoming civilian airliner, thereby concluding history’s first radio-con­trolled intercept. These versatile fighters were su­perseded by Hawker Hurricanes and Gloster Gladi­ators by 1938, although some flew combat missions in East Africa as late as 1943.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 32 feet, 3 inches; length, 27 feet, 5 inches; height, 11 feet, 7 inches

Weights: empty, 3,444 pounds; gross, 4,864 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 830-horsepower Bristol Mercury IX radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 257 miles per hour; ceiling, 33,500 feet; range, 440 miles

Armament: 4 x.303-inch machine guns

Подпись: The doughty Gladiator was the last biplane fighter operated by the Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm. More temperamental than the Gauntlet, it nonetheless gave a good account of itself during the early days of World War II. The Gladiator began as a Gloster-funded company venture to improve its existing Gauntlet fighter. Using that aircraft as the basis, a new, more refined version was constructed and flown in 1934. It was a single-bay biplane with fixed landing gear; the fuselage was of an oval cross-section. The basic outlines of its predecessor were present, being metal-framed and fabric-covered, but it sported a number of refinements more associated with monoplanes. These included a fully enclosed cockpit, hydraulically operated flaps, and four machine guns. The new craft was faster than the Gauntlet but also less forgiving to fly, and it displayed a tendency to spin. Nonetheless, the Air Ministry authorized production to commence in 1936, and the first Gladiator Is arrived in 1937. They were followed by the Gladiator II, possessing a stronger engine and a three-blade propeller. A total of 747 were constructed. Подпись: When it debuted, the Gladiator represented the culmination of three decades of biplane evolution. However, it was a tactical anachronism once the newer, more capable monoplanes began to arrive. By 1939 most Gladiators had been supplanted by infinitely better Hawker Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfires. However, several were actively engaged in the early days of World War II and gained a public reputation rivaling another biplane holdover, the Fairey Swordfish. Gladiators performed well in Norway by operating off of frozen lakes. They also gained a measure of immortality when four Royal Navy machines (three of them named Faith, Hope, and Charity) briefly defended Malta against the Italian Regia Aeronau- tica (Italian air force) in June 1940. Others performed useful work in the Western Desert before fading from the combat scene entirely. By 1944 only a handful of Gladiators survived, being re-stricted to communications and meteorological work. They were capable machines but unable to adapt to modern times.

Service dates: 1937-1944

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter; Night Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 52 feet; length, 56 feet, 9 inches; height, 16 feet Weights: empty, 38,100; gross, 43,165 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 12,300-pound thrust Armstrong/Siddeley Sapphire turbojet engines Performance: maximum speed, 702 miles per hour; ceiling, 52,000 feet; range, 930 miles Armament: 4 x 30mm cannons; 4 x Firestreak missiles Service dates: 1956-1968


he mighty Javelin was the world’s first twin-jet delta fighter and also the Royal Air Force’s first all-weather interceptor. Mounting numerous radars and computer systems, it operated at day and night under any weather conditions.

Technological strides made during World War II badly blurred the distinction between daytime and nighttime fighters. By 1945 the state of bom­bardment aviation allowed such craft to perform military missions in any kind of weather or time of day. Clearly, new all-weather fighters, equipped with radar to peer through the overcast, were be­coming necessary to intercept them. In 1948 the British Air Ministry proclaimed Specification F.4/48 to obtain a swept-wing jet-powered interceptor. The new machine was required to operate at great heights under all meteorological conditions and in the dark. A Gloster design team under Richard W. Walker then submitted plans for the world’s first twin-engine delta fighter. After lengthy gestation, the prototype emerged in November 1951 with a spectacular appearance. The Gloster craft was a 138 _ large delta configuration, with its twin engines
buried in the flattened fuselage. A crew of two sat in a teardrop canopy behind an extremely pointed nose housing a large radar system. Delta wings promised good performance at high speeds and high altitudes, but they were inherently dangerous to land owing to the high angle of attack on ap­proach (that is, it approached the runway with its nose in the air). Because this was impractical for nighttime and poor-weather operations, the new craft was consequently fitted with a high “T” tail to allow landing at safer angles. After additional test­ing, the machine finally became operational in 1956 as the Javelin. It was England’s first attempt at building a modern all-weather fighter.

During the next decade the Javelin passed through seven distinct models, each offering succes­sive improvements in performance and capability. The most significant of these was the FAW.7, which deleted cannon armament in favor of Firestreak missiles for the first time. A total of 428 Javelins were built, equipping no less than 14 squadrons. Ex­cellent craft all, they were finally mustered out by 1968 after a distinguished service career.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter; Night Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 37 feet, 2 inches; length, 44 feet, 7 inches; height, 13 feet Weights: empty, 8,140 pounds; gross, 15,700 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 3,500-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Derwent 8 turbojet engines Performance: maximum speed, 598 miles per hour; ceiling, 43,000 feet; range, 980 miles Armament: 4 x 20mm cannon Service dates: 1944-1957


he Meteor was the first jet operated by the Royal Air Force and the only Allied jet to see action during World War II. It proved surprisingly adapt­able and spawned several postwar variants.

By 1940 the nascent technology of jet propul­sion seemed promising, so the British Air Ministry issued Specification F.9/40, calling for the creation of a functioning jet fighter. Gloster, which had de­signed and operated the G.40, Britain’s first jet, was selected for the task. A design team under George Carter constructed a prototype that first flew in March 1943. This craft, the Meteor, was a twin-engine machine with straight wings, a bubble canopy, and tricycle landing gear. Two engines were chosen over one due to the relatively weak thrust of British engines at that time. The plane was otherwise conventionally constructed of sheeted metal skin and flew surprising well. The first Meteors became operational in July 1944, only weeks after the German Messerschmitt Me 262 had debuted, and commenced downing V-1 rocket bombs. Several improved Mk Ills, with Rolls-

Royce Derwent engines, were also committed to Europe during the last weeks of the war, perform­ing ground-attack missions. Afterward better en­gines became available, and in 1946 Meteors estab­lished two absolute speed records of 606 and 616 miles per hour respectively.

The Meteor’s basic design was sound and rather adaptable, which gave rise to several versions throughout the postwar era. These included two – seat trainer, photo-reconnaissance, and night-fight­ing variants. The most numerous fighter, the Mk 8, flew in 1947 and constituted the bulk of RAF jet strength through the early 1950s. Several fought in the Korean War with Australian forces, although they were outclassed by Russia’s more modern MiG 15s. The most important night fighter, the NF 11, was built by Armstrong-Whitworth in 1950. This craft employed two crew members and a totally re­designed and lengthened nose section. Meteors of every stripe served with impressive longevity and rendered excellent service with the RAF and other air forces up through the late 1950s.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Heavy Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 77 feet, 10 inches; length, 40 feet; height, 12 feet, 8 inches Weights: empty, 6,041 pounds; gross, 8,763 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 260-horsepower Mercedes D IVa liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 87 miles per hour; ceiling, 21,325 feet; range, 311 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns; up to 1,061 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1917-1918


he mighty Gotha symbolized German strategic bombing in World War I. Their attacks on Lon­don did relatively little damage but great psychologi­cal harm and were harbingers of what would tran­spire two decades later.

By 1916 Zeppelin attacks on England could not be mounted without intolerable losses to those giant lighter-than-air craft. The German High Command thereupon announced specifications for a Gross- flugzeug (large bomber) capable of hitting these same targets. It so happened that the firm Gothaer Waggonfabrik had been experimenting with a series of large aircraft for such purposes. The first three models, G I through G III, were variations on a basic theme and suffered from inadequate range and bomb loads. The first production version, the G IV, proved an entirely different matter. This was a large, three – bay, twin-engine aircraft, with propellers mounted in pusher configuration. A crew of three was required, consisting of a pilot and two gunners. Made entirely of wood and fabric-covered, the G IVs were some­
what fatiguing to fly, owing to a poorly located center of gravity, and were also prone to damage if roughly landed. About 230 Gotha G IVs were acquired in 1917.

The first daylight Gotha raid against England occurred on May 25, 1915, when the city of Folke­stone suffered 95 casualties. This was followed by a major attack against London on June 13, 1917, whereby 162 people were killed and 432 injured. From a strategic standpoint these raids were mere pinpricks, but public outrage necessitated redeploy­ing several fighter squadrons from France for home defense. When the Gothas began taking losses, they switched to night attacks after August 1917. The British initially experienced difficulty coping with such tactics, but by dint of searchlights and pluck they managed to bring down several more bombers. Consequently, Gotha night raids were suspended after May 1918. A more powerful model, the G V, was in service by then, and surviving Gothas re­stricted their activities to bombing targets on the continent.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Glider

Dimensions: wingspan, 80 feet, 4 inches; length, 51 feet, 10 inches; height, 15 feet, 5 inches Weights: empty, 11,243 pounds; gross, 17,196 pounds

Power plant: none or 2 x 700-horsepower Gnome-Rhone 14M radial engines Performance: maximum speed, 180 miles per hour; ceiling, 24,605 feet; range, 373 miles Armament: 4 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1942-1944


he Go 242 was the most widely used German glider during the letter half of World War II. It saw active use in the Mediterranean and Russian the­aters, and a powered version also became available.

In 1941 the startling success of the DFS 230 as­sault glider prompted the German Air Ministry to re­quest larger, more capable craft. It devolved upon Albert Kalkert of the Gothaer Waggonfabrik firm to design a radical solution to the problem of bigger gliders. His Go 242 was unique in being a high­winged craft with three times the troop-carrying ca­pacity as the DFS 230. Constructed of metal frame­work, wood, and fabric, the Go 242 consisted of a large fuselage pod with a hinged rear section to per­mit ease of entry and exit. It was centered between twin booms joined together by a single tailplane and twin rudders. While being towed for takeoff, the Go 242 would drop a jettisonable wheeled dolly and land on a semiretractable noseskid and fixed rear wheels. Jeep-type vehicles could easily be accom­modated in its capacious fuselage. German authori­
ties were highly pleased with the prototype, so in 1941 they authorized immediate production. A total of 1,528 were constructed.

The Go 242 became operational in the spring of 1941 and was initially deployed in the Aegean and Mediterranean theaters. However, they were used heavily along the Russian front and specialized in bringing supplies and reinforcements to isolated Ger­man detachments. An amphibious version, the Go 242C, was specially developed for an attack upon the British battle fleet at Scapa Flow. This craft pos­sessed a watertight hull with flotation bags and car­ried small powered assault boats. Once landed, the boats would disgorge, move alongside a moored war­ship, and attach a 2,600-pound charge to the hull. This intriguing plan never materialized owing to a lack of aviation fuel. The final version was the Go 244, unique in being powered by captured Gnome-Rhone radial engines. A total of 144 machines were converted to this standard but, slow and vulnerable, were with­drawn from combat and assigned training duties.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: 44 feet, 8 inches; length, 22 feet, 8 inches; height, 11 feet

Weights: empty, 2,046 pounds; gross, 2,730 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 220-horsepower Benz Bx. IV liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 106 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,405 feet; range, 350 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns

Service dates: 1918


he Halberstadt C V was among the last recon­naissance aircraft acquired by Germany during World War I. It possessed excellent high-altitude performance and performed doggedly until the end of hostilities.

In 1916 the firm Halberstadter Flugzeugwerke manufactured its first two-seat aircraft, the C I, which was rotary-powered and failed to enter production. However, the firm enjoyed greater success the follow­ing year by introducing the C III, designed by Karl Theiss, as a Fernerkunder (long-range reconnais­sance craft). It possessed the familiar traits of most Halberstadt machines: sleek lines, rounded, almost el­liptical tail surfaces, and a fuselage short in relation to the wingspan. The lower wings were also somewhat unique in being attached to a large keel along the fuse­lage bottom. A 200-horsepower Benz Bz. IV engine provided adequate power and respectable speed, and the C III was successfully employed for many months. By the spring of 1918, the onset of faster Allied fight­ers prompted the company to develop a more power­ful, aerodynamically refined version.

The C V was a new craft that appeared very much in the mold of Halberstadt two-seaters. For better performance at high altitude there were high – aspect wings of considerable length, as well as a proportionally longer fuselage. It also differed from the C II in discarding the large communal cockpit in favor of separate seats for pilot and gunner. The craft utilized a stronger, higher-compression version of the Benz Bz. IV motor, developing 220-horse­power. Consequently, the C V displayed even better high-altitude performance than its lighter forebear, an essential defensive trait in the waning days of the war.

This final Halberstadt aircraft reached forward units in late summer. Its arrival coincided with the final overland drive by Allied forces, and the aircraft was constantly employed in photography to keep headquarters abreast of the latest enemy move­ments. Throughout a rather brief service life, the C V upheld the Halberstadt tradition for excellent and reliable two-seaters. After the war many of them ended up in the Swiss air force as trainers.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 35 feet, 4 inches; length, 24 feet; height, 9 feet Weights: empty, 1,701 pounds; gross, 2,493 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 160-horsepower Mercedes D III liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 103 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,730 feet; range, 300 miles Armament: 3 x 7.92mm machine guns; up to 100 pounds of bombs or grenades Service dates: 1917-1918


he Halberstadt CLs were the first machine con­structed for the new Germany category of multi­purpose aircraft. Although intended as an escort fighter, they found their niche as a ground-attack plane.

By 1917 the expanding size of C-series recon­naissance aircraft rendered them more vulnerable to enemy aircraft, so a new category—CL (for “light C”)—was adopted. These two-seaters were intended to act as speedy, lightweight escort fighters for the slower C class and to fulfill reconnaissance duties if necessary. The first aircraft so designated was the Halberstadt CL II, an equal-span, two-bay biplane of exceptionally streamlined design. It was conven­tionally constructed from wood and fabric but dif­fered from most German two-seaters by having a communal cockpit housing both pilot and gunner. The CL II was powered by the excellent 160-horse­power Mercedes D III engine, and the resulting craft was both fast and maneuverable.

The CL II saw its baptism of fire in the summer of 1917 and rendered useful service in its appointed
role. However, the craft also demonstrated suitability for the more dangerous business of ground attack, which entailed flying over enemy trenches at low alti­tude, strafing positions, and lobbing small bomblets. The CL II’s fast speed, robust construction, and rela­tively compact size rendered it difficult to shoot down, despite the fact it was totally unarmored. CL IIs distinguished themselves in fighting around Cambrai and greatly assisted the successful German counterat­tack of November 30, 1917. These handsome ma­chines remained in service until the end of the war.

At length it was decided to introduce an im­proved version of the CL II, the CL IV. This new craft sported similar lines to its predecessor but was three feet shorter, had repositioned wings closer to the fuselage, and sported totally redesigned tail sur­faces. Consequently, it possessed even greater agility at low altitudes and admirably fulfilled its es­cort and attack missions. Eventually both types were culled into special formations called Schlact – staffeln (battle flights) that specialized in close-sup­port missions.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 28 feet, 10 inches; length, 23 feet, 11 inches; height, 8 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 1,234 pounds; gross, 1,696 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 120-horsepower Mercedes D II liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 90 miles per hour; ceiling, 13,000 feet; range, 155 miles Armament: 1 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1916-1917


he distinctive Halberstadt D II was Germany’s first biplane fighter and the first equipped with a synchronized machine gun. An interim design at best, it fought well for several months before trans­ferring to secondary theaters.

By the end of 1915, the balance of aerial power above the Western Front had shifted to the Allies due to the appearance of de Havilland’s DH 2 pusher fighters. These proved superior to the heretofore un­stoppable Fokker EIII monoplanes and sent the Ger­mans scrambling for superior designs of their own. By the spring of 1916 a design team under Karl Theiss began lightening and modifying a Halberstadt B II two-seater into a single-seat biplane fighter— Germany’s first. The new D II was quite unlike any previous fighter to appear thus far. It possessed an extremely tapered fuselage made of wood and metal tubing. The two bay wings were highly staggered and nearly oblong in shape, with straight trailing edges. But the craft’s most distinctive feature was the tail unit: The rudder was triangular, the horizontal stabi­
lizers square. Moreover, neither of these control sur­faces was directly affixed to the fuselage; instead, they were joined together by tubing and braced for greater strength. The D II’s seemingly frail appear­ance belied its robustness and maneuverability. Al­though lightly armed with one machine gun, it proved more than a match for the redoubtable DH 2.

Throughout the spring of 1916, the Halberstadt D II, alongside the equally new Albatros D IIs, wrested aerial supremacy back to the Central Pow­ers. In combat, this small scout was an agile per­former and displayed an uncanny ability to survive long, steep dives. This maneuver was unthinkable for most aircraft at that time. In 1916 D IIs also be­came the first German fighters equipped with small rockets for balloon-busting. However, within a year the lightly armed yet nimble Halberstadts were su­perceded by newer Albatros scouts and Allied de­signs. Only 100 were built, and most spent their final year of operations over Macedonia, Palestine, and other secondary theaters.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Heavy Bomber; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 104 feet, 2 inches; length, 71 feet, 7 inches; height, 20 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 39,000 pounds; gross, 68,000 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 1,800-horsepower Bristol Hercules radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 312 miles per hour; ceiling, 24,000 feet; range, 1,260 miles

Armament: 9 x.303-inch machine guns; 13,000 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1941-1952


he Halifax was the second member of Britain’s famous trio of “heavies.” Like its famous Lan­caster rival, it began as a twin-engine design and un­derwent extensive modifications throughout a long service life.

The Halifax originated with Air Ministry Spec­ification B. 13/36, issued for a new twin-engine bomber to be powered by the Rolls-Royce Vulture engines. When it became apparent that better power sources were needed, Handley Page extended the wingspan of its prototype to accommodate four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. The Halifax first flew in October 1939, and it succeeded completely for such a large craft hastily assembled. It was a midwing bomber of all-metal construction with three pow­ered gun turrets. The Halifax was not quite the race­horse that the latter Avro Lancaster became, but it was a marked improvement over the earlier Short Stirling in terms of altitude and payload. Halifaxes commenced active operations in the spring of 1941 and soon jointly formed the backbone of England’s nighttime strategic offensive against Germany. By
1945 it had flown 75,532 sorties and dropped 255,000 tons of bombs.

In service the Halifax was nominally a heavy bomber, but it proved itself extremely adaptable to other chores. These included maritime patrol, radar­mapping, and transportation duties. Halifaxes were also responsible for destroying Germany’s V-1 launch­ing sites, dropping off agents in Central Europe, and becoming the only heavy bomber assigned duty in the Middle East. Rounding out this impressive service record was parachute-dropping and long-range recon­naissance. Moreover, it was the only airplane capable of towing the large General Aircraft Hamilcar trans­port glider and did so in large numbers by 1945. To up­grade overall performance, the new Mk III version fea­tured four Bristol Hercules radial engines, extended wingspan, and a totally redesigned nose section. Sev­eral models were also fitted with large radomes on their bellies and performed the first radar-based ground-mapping missions. After the war, this useful plane remained in service with the RAF Coastal Com­mand until 1952. A total of 6,176 were built.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Medium Bomber; Torpedo-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 69 feet, 2 inches; length, 53 feet, 7 inches; height, 14 feet, 11 inches

Weights: empty, 11,780 pounds; gross, 18,756 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,000-horsepower Bristol Pegasus radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 254 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,000 feet; range, 1,885 miles

Armament: 6 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 4,000 pounds of bombs or torpedoes

Service dates: 1938-1942


he unsung Hampden was an outstanding medium bomber during the early campaigns of World War II. Although vulnerable to fighters, it was faster and carried nearly as many bombs as compet­ing designs.

The Hampden design arose in response to Air Ministry Specification B.9/32 for a twin-engine bomber. Both Handley Page and Vickers submitted winning designs, with the former prototype becoming the Hampden and the latter the Wellington. The Hand­ley Page creation was one of the most unique looking bombers ever flown. It possessed a deep forward fuse­lage joined to an extremely narrow aft section. The arrangement invariably led to nicknames like “Frying Pan” and “Tadpole.” Looks aside, however, the Hamp­den proved itself a most capable aircraft. Being fitted with Handley Page leading-edge slats, it could touch down at extremely low speeds. Moreover, it was faster than its two main rivals, the Wellington and the Arm – strong-Whitworth Whitley, and could carry nearly as heavy a bomb load over the same distance. As combat would demonstrate, the main deficiency of the Hamp­
ton was its weak defenses. Nonetheless, by the advent of World War II in 1939, they constituted a major part of RAF Bomber Command.

Initial operations by Hampdens were re­stricted to reconnaissance and naval interdiction, as bombing Germany was forbidden. When a flight of 11 Hampdens was roughly handled on September 29, 1939, and five aircraft more were shot down on a reconnaissance mission, the craft were restricted to nighttime leaflet dropping. Hampdens were also uti­lized for mining operations off the German coast and made respectable torpedo-bombers. By 1940, however, daylight bombing missions were resumed during the Battle of France, and serious loss ensued. Hampdens were consequently fitted with heavier defensive armament and committed to nighttime bombing of German targets. Two squadrons were then dispatched to Murmansk for that purpose as well and were ultimately turned over to the Rus­sians. Hampdens also managed to bomb Berlin on several occasions and successfully fulfilled various secondary capacities before retiring in 1942.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Heavy Bombers

Dimensions: wingspan, 75 feet; length, 58 feet; height, 17 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 9,200 pounds; gross, 16,900 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 550-horsepower Rolls-Royce Kestrel liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 142 miles per hour; ceiling, 21,000 feet; range, 920 miles Armament: 3 x.303-inch machine guns; 3,500 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1933-1939


ne of the stranger sights in the sky, the ungainly Heyford was the Royal Air Force’s last biplane bomber. It proved a fine machine and constituted a link between lumbering giants of the 1930s and the fast monoplane weapons of World War II.

In 1927 the Air Ministry issued Specification B.19/27, calling for a new heavy night bomber to re­place the rapidly aging Vickers Virginia. Handley Page, where heavy bombers were a company spe­cialty, submitted one of the most usual designs ever flown by any air force in the world. Simultaneously elegant yet grotesque, the Heyford was a biplane configuration with two wings of equal length fitted to a long, attenuated fuselage, with the tail unit sporting double rudders. What made the craft so unique was placement of the fuselage under the top wing, while the bottom span sat several feet below on struts! The center section of the bottom wing was also twice the thickness of the outboard ones to accommodate the bomb bay. Being low to the ground, this placement facilitated access by ground crews, and the entire
plane could be rearmed in under 30 minutes. It also featured a retractable “dustbin” turret to protect the underbelly. The Heyford was otherwise convention­ally constructed of metal framework and canvas cov­ering. The big craft flew well and proved easy to op­erate. Accordingly, in 1933 Heyfords entered the service as the last biplane bombers of the RAF.

At length 124 Heyfords were constructed in three models, and they equipped a total of 11 bom­bardment squadrons. They proved popular craft, strongly built, and during the 1935 RAF display at Hendon, one was actually looped! Commencing in 1937, following the appearance of Armstrong-Whit – worth Whitleys, the gangly Heyfords were slowly phased out of frontline service. By 1939 they had been completely displaced by Vickers Wellingtons, although several performed secondary functions like training and gilder-towing. The surviving ma­chines were finally struck off the active list in 1941. Just prior to that, Heyfords served as testbeds for autopilots and experiments with radar navigation.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Heavy Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 100 feet; length, 62 feet; height, 22 feet Weights: empty, 8,502 pounds; gross, 13,360 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 250-horsepower Rolls-Royce Mk II liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 97 miles an hour; ceiling, 8,500 feet; range, 800 miles Armament: 3 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 2,000 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1916-1920


he O/400 was Britain’s first strategic bomber and, for many months, the largest aircraft as­sembled on the British Isles. It flew successful mis­sions over Germany and also dropped the largest Al­lied bombs of the war.

Sir Frederick Handley Page established the first English factory solely dedicated to manufactur­ing airplanes in 1909. Six years later, the Admiralty issued specifications for a large two-engine patrol­bomber, which they deemed “a bloody paralyzer.” In the spring of 1916, Handley Page responded with his model O/100. This giant craft was a three-bay bi­plane and powered by two tractor engines mounted in nacelles between the wings. The long, boxy fuse­lage was of conventional construction but featured a large biplane tail section. The craft was also unique for its time in that bombs were carried in a rudimen­tary bomb bay. That summer the O/100 entered pro­duction, with 42 being built. The Royal Navy initially employed them for maritime reconnaissance, but losses forced them to switch to nighttime bombing.

In the spring of 1917 a more refined version, the O/400, was introduced. This differed mainly in pos­sessing more powerful engines and a fuel system that was relocated from the nacelles to the fuselage. This version was issued to the RAF’s Independent Force and equipped its very first strategic bomber units. In response to the various Gotha raids over London, the Air Board ordered the O/400s to hit back at the Ger­man mainland. On the evening of August 25, 1918, two machines from No. 215 Squadron did exactly that by staging a successful low-altitude (200 feet) raid that severely damaged a chemical factory in Mannheim.

Commencing that September, O/400s were dis­patched over German targets in groups of 40 or so, both at day and night, with good effect. Some of these aircraft unloaded a 1,650-pound bomb—En­gland’s biggest—on industrial targets in the Rhineland. By the time of the Armistice, 440 O/400s had been manufactured and were being supplanted by an even bigger craft, the V/1500. Both were re­placed in turn by Vickers Vimys during the 1920s.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Strategic Bomber; Tanker; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 120 feet; length, 114 feet, 11 inches; height, 28 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 91,000 pounds; gross, 233,000 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 20,600-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Conway turbofan engines

Performance: maximum speed, 640 miles per hour; ceiling, 55,000 feet; range, 2,300 miles

Armament: 35,000 pounds of conventional or nuclear bombs or missiles

Service dates: 1958-1984


he graceful Victor was the last of Britain’s fa­mous V-bombers. Technologically advanced when conceived, it was quickly outdated and per­formed more useful service in tanker and reconnais­sance roles.

After World War II, and anticipating the tech­nological trends of the day, Britain determined to maintain a strategic bombing force that would be jet-powered and carry atomic weapons. Specifica­tion B.35/46 was thus issued in 1946 to secure such aircraft, and Handley Page responded with a unique design quite different from its competitor, the Avro Vulcan. First flown in 1952, the Victor was a grace­ful, high-wing monoplane of rather sophisticated lines. The wing was crescent-shaped with decreas­ing degrees of sweep toward the tips. This arrange­ment allowed a constant critical Mach number over the wing for fast speed and high-altitude perform­ance. The front fuselage was also unusual in that the front cabin was slightly podded and drooping while the rear was crowned by a high “T” tail, also of cres­cent design. The object of the Victor’s construction
was to enable higher speed and altitude than con­temporary fighters. However, by the time it debuted in 1958, the Russians had perfected Mach 2 fighters and surface-to-air missiles. Thus, the first-model Victor, the B Mk 1, was obsolete as a nuclear strike craft from the onset. By 1964 several had been con­verted into K Mk 1 tankers to replace the aging and ailing Vickers Valiant.

The final version of the Victor, the B Mk 2, was redesigned as a low-altitude bomber and, hence, was fitted with a stronger, redesigned wing. It also possessed trailing-edge fairings to improve low-alti­tude maneuvering. With manned bombers being sup­planted by guided missiles, however, it was decided to convert these aircraft into tankers as well. Sev­eral were also subsequently modified into SR Mk 2 strategic reconnaissance craft capable of photo­graphing the entire Mediterranean in only seven hours. Four such craft could also cover the entire North Sea region in only six hours! These graceful machines were finally withdrawn from service in


. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 38 feet, 5 inches; length, 24 feet, 10 inches; height, 9 feet, 2 inches Weights: empty, 1,581 pounds; gross, 2,381 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 180-horsepower Argus As III liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 103 miles per hour; ceiling, 24,600 feet; range, 300 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1918


uring the final stages of World War I, the Han­nover CL III was one of Germany’s best ground- attack aircraft. A distinctive biplane tail unit gave its gunner a wide field of fire, making it extremely dan­gerous to approach.

The firm Hannoversche Waggonfabrik AG was long employed in the manufacture of wooden rolling stock for railroads. Consequently, the firm was well situated to commence building wooden airplanes when so instructed by the German government in 1915. At first it manufactured Aviatik, Rumpler, and Halberstadt designs under license, but in 1917 lead engineer Hermann Dorner initiated the company’s first two-seat aircraft. This came in response to a new classification of aircraft, the CL, intended to act as fighter escorts to the slower, vulnerable C-series machines. This was undertaken in response to the growing effectiveness of Allied fighters.

The new aircraft, the Hannover CL III, was among the most unique German two-seaters de­ployed in the war. Constructed of wood and fabric, it featured a deep, plywood-covered fuselage that ta­
pered to a knife-edge. The wings were of average span but closely placed to the fuselage, so the pilot enjoyed excellent vision forward and upward. Pilot and gunner sat in closely spaced tandem cockpits to facilitate communication. However, the CL III’s most notable asset was the unique biplane tail. This feature was usually associated with multiengine aircraft, but here it served a distinct purpose. The biplane struc­ture enabled smaller tail surfaces to be utilized, grant­ing the gunner unobstructed fields of fire.

The CL III entered service in the spring of 1918 and was extremely successful as an escort fighter and a ground-attack craft. It was fast, maneuverable, and could absorb tremendous damage. Moreover, the “Hannoveranas,” as they were dubbed by the British, were extremely tough customers to tackle. Being small and compact, they were frequently mis­taken for single-seat fighters—until the gunner popped up and unleashed a hail of bullets. Nearly

1,0 of these excellent machines were constructed in three slightly differing versions before hostilities ceased.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 28 feet, 6 inches; length, 19 feet, 2 inches; height, 8 feet, 4 inches

Weights: empty, 882 pounds; gross, 1,334 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 120-horsepower Le Rhone rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 114 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,670 feet; range, 250 miles Armament: 1 x 7.7mm machine gun Service dates: 1917-1926


he nifty, compact HD 1 was one of World War I’s most agile fighters. Overlooked in France, it found fame in the service of Belgian and Italian forces.

Pierre Dupont had manufactured airplanes for several years prior to World War I and subsequently spent several months building Sopwith 1 1/2 Strut­ters under license. In 1916 he teamed with chief en­gineer Emile Dupont to design a new fighter to re­place the aging French Nieuport scouts. The HD 1 emerged as a trim, handsome design with decidedly Sopwith overtones. It sported highly staggered wings, the top one exhibiting a pronounced dihe­dral. The fuselage was rectangular in cross-section, being made of wood and fabric-covered. This was then faired into a round metal cowling that housed a 120-horsepower rotary engine. The resulting craft was extremely maneuverable and highly responsive to controls. A potential weakness of the design was the armament, restricted to a single machine gun to save weight.

The French military liked the HD 1 but was al­ready committed to building the bigger, more pow­erful SPAD VII and displayed no interest. Fortu­nately, an Italian military deputation tested it during the winter of 1916 and, delighted by its performance, placed an immediate order for 100 machines. As de­mand for HD 1s proved insatiable, the Italian firm Nieuport-Macchi began producing them under li­cense. The little fighter enjoyed tremendous success along the Italian front, and a leading ace, Tenente Scaroni, scored most of his victories flying it. HD 1s were also exported to Belgium, where they likewise became highly popular. Noted Belgian ace Willy Coppens scored most of his 37 kills in an HD 1. Moreover, when the British offered to replace them with formidable Sopwith Camels in 1918, the Bel­gian pilots refused. Their beloved HD 1s remained in frontline service until 1927. Several were also ex­ported to the United States and Switzerland, where they functioned as trainers. A total of 1,145 of these nimble aircraft were produced in France and Italy.

. 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.