Aircraft were used for the first time in large-scale combat in the First World War. Little over a decade after the historic flight of the Wright Brothers in 1903, aircraft became an important arsenal in aerial war. About 70 different types of planes were used in the WW1 war. Initially, aircraft were not considered important for warfare and were first used for reconnaissance to observe enemy bases and spot weak links. Later on, they were developed for bombing strategic enemy locations. Pilots began fighting in the air, throwing grenades and firing pistols but found it ineffective. Aircraft fitted with machine guns using synchronized gear to allow firing without blocking the propeller blades were developed first by the Germans. Aerial combats were named dogfights and the top pilots came to be known as aces. Here is the list of 10 Aircrafts used in World War 1
10. Nieuport 12
The Nieuport was a French twin seat biplane fighter. It was larger and faster version of the earlier single seat Nieuport 10. It was a sesquiplane, with a lower wing that was half the size of the upper wing (roughly the same length but with half the chord). The Nieuport proved to be a prominent aircraft during the war. The aircraft was fitted with a .303 Lewis machine gun at the rear cockpit. A second Lewis gun was also at times fitted over the upper wing element, within reach of the rear gunner. This allowed frontal offensive punch.
The Nieuport 12 series were produced in a number of countries but primarily by the French and the British during wartime. The aircraft was built in 1915 and entered service in 1916. In the French service, the aircraft was originally used as reconnaissance aircraft (for aerial survey and military observation) but also used as an escort fighter. It was used by some 32 known escadrilles (French squadron of aircraft).
9. Gotha G V
The Gotha G V was a heavy bomber aircraft used by the German side during the First World War. It entered service during the August of 1917. The Gotha G V was used for long-range service and mainly used as a night bomber. The Gothaer produced the G.V, which housed its fuel tanks inside the fuselage to avoid the spill of fuel onto hot engines in events of a crash landing. The outer design of the Gotha included large four bay, swept biplane wing arrangement with parallel struts that sat over and under the fuselage.
The “gun tunnel” was an important innovation in the Gotha, where the underside of the rear fuselage was arched. Early versions allowing placement of a rearward-facing machine gun protecting from attack from below, removed the blind spot. From 1917 till the end of the war about 205 examples of the G V were produced. During the entire course of the war, the G V bomber netted 83 tons of artilleries dropped on England.
8. Handley Page Type O
The Handley Page Type O was one of the early biplane bomber used by the British during the First World War. During the time of its introduction, it was the largest aircraft built in the UK and one of the largest in the world. It was built in two versions: Type O/100 and Type O/400. Type O/100 entered service in a night attack on March 1917, when the single aircraft attacked a German railway station at Moulin-lès-Metz in the then occupied France. Improved version of the O/100, Type O/400 was introduced in 1918.
Even after the events of the war for many years any large aircraft came to be known by the name of Handley Page. Some 663 Type O/400 aircraft were produced which included the 107 built under license in the United States by the Standard Aircraft Corporation (SAC). The Type O-bomber was built specifically to bomb Germany. The Type O/400 flew many successful mission over Germany and dropped the largest number of Allied bombs of the war.
7. Siemens-Schuckert IV
The Siemens-Schuckert D.IV is considered to be the best fighter design of the First World War. The D.IV offered tremendous climbing capacity and service ceiling was also good. It included twin 7.92mm LMG 08/15 series machine gun. It was powered by Siemens-Halske Sh. III 11 cylinder geared rotary engine of 160 horsepower. It could reach the speed of up to 120 mph.
While it was a capable aircraft it reached service very late and was produced in small numbers to have any reasonable impact on the war. The D.IV came into service during August 1918, just a few months before the defeat of Germany. After the war when the armistice was signed Germany was banned from producing future aircraft, but the production of D.IV continued till 1919. Switzerland purchased many of these aircrafts in post-war years.
6. Bristol Type 22 F.2B
Developed by the Bristol Airplane company, the Bristol Type 22 F.2B was a two seat biplane fighter. The type 22 F.2B was the modified version of the F.2A. The first flight of the Type 22 F.2B took place in October 1916. The F.2A was armed with the then standard manner for a British two-seater: one synchronized fixed, forward-firing .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine gun, and one flexible .303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis Gun mounted on a Scarff ring in the observer’s rear cockpit.
Some 5,329 F.2B were built which continued service in army cooperation and light bombing throughout the British Empire even after the end of the World War. It was withdrawn from the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1932. F.2B flew with an array of air forces around the world including Belgium, Canada, Ireland, Greece, Mexico, and others.
5. De Havilland DH.9A
The DH.9A was used in combat by the Royal Air Force. Its first mission was against a German airfield in September 1918. The De Havilland DH.9A was the improvised version of DH.9. It was used as a light bomber. It had a maximum speed of 123 mph and could stay in the air for about 5.25 hours. It had forward facing Vickers machine gun and one or two rear Lewis guns on a scarf ring. It could carry a maximum of 336 Kgs of bombs in its wings and fuselage racks.
Before production was closed down in 1919, a total of 1,730 DH.9A were built during wartime contract. The aircraft was retired in 1931. It was also known as Ninak from its name nine-A. While it was used for a very short span of time in the First World War, it formed the backbone of the colonial bombing force postwar in the Middle East.
4. Sopwith Dolphin
The Sopwith Dolphin was a British fighter aircraft manufactured by the Sopwith Aviation Company. The Dolphin was a formidable fighter during the First World War but was retired after the war and not retained in inventory. The Dolphin was a two bay single seat biplane. About 2,072 examples were produced. To maintain the center of gravity the lower wings of the Dolphin were placed 13 inches forward of the upper wings, giving it the distinctive look of backward stagger. Since the aircraft was open on the top, it made the pilot vulnerable to events of overturning when landing or during a crash. Crash pylons were added to the center section and later modifications were made so that the pilot could escape in events of the crash.
In February 1918, the Dolphin Mk I became operational. The initial days were marred by unfortunate accidents where British and Belgian pilots attacked the new aircraft mistaking it for the German aircraft. The pilot sat with his head raised from the frame and that gave an excellent view of the field. Despite early problems, the aircraft gained popularity with pilots due to its speed, maneuverability, and ease in flight.
3. Martinsyde G100
Martinsyde G100 was a British fighter and bomber plane used in the First World War manufactured by Martinsyde. The aircraft was also called “Elephant” because of its large size and difficulty in maneuverability. It was originally intended for long range single seat fighter and escort aircraft but was later used as a day bomber, based on its size and weight. The G100 had a single 0.303 in drum-fed Lewis Gun mounted on the center section.
Starting in 1916, a total of 270 Elephants were manufactured. The G102 was a better variant of the G100 with a more powerful engine. The aircraft performed poorly due to agility problems but was effective as a long range bombing aircraft. It could carry up to 120 Kg of bomb load. The G100 and G102 were mainly used in France and the Middle East. While the aircraft was not much of a fighter, it was praised by its pilots as an aircraft with many qualities like the tendency to float during landing.
2. Sopwith Camel
The Sopwith Camel, was perhaps the most successful aircraft of the First World War from the side of the Allies. Produced by the British, the single sear biplane aircraft was used in combat beginning in June 1917. The aircraft got its name “Camel” from the hump-shaped protective covering for its machine guns. The aircraft proved lethal for novice pilots because its center of gravity was very far forward with more than 90% of the aircraft weight placed in a seven feet section. The aircraft was operable with experience and required a special mixing of fuel when it stalled in flight. Two .303 Vickers machine guns were mounted directly in front of the pilot and they fired directly at the front.
The Camel shot down more enemy aircraft than any other from the allies side with a total of 1,294 with an average of 76 per month. About 413 Camel pilots were shot down in combat, 385 were lost in noncombat due to the difficultly in handling the aircraft. The rotary effect of the Clerget engine made left turns during flight awkward but it was twice as fast as any other aircraft while turning right and most Camel pilots turned to the right and then took a full circle when they needed to turn left.
1. Fokker Scourge
The Fokker Scourge was initially named Fokker Eindecker E.I. The Eindecker was one of the first true fighter planes developed during the war. The aircraft was so efficient in destroying the enemy aircraft that it came to be known as Fokker Scourge, or Fokker Scare. The monoplane was developed by the Germans. Some of the famous Eindecker flyers included German’s ace flyers Max Immelmann and Oswald Boelke. Using the improved E.III variant, the Eindecker flyers developed new sets of tactics for air combat, which is still used in present day.
The specialty of the Eindecker was that it seemed specifically engineered to destroy aircraft. It was the first aircraft to use the synchronized gear which had a machine gun that fired through the arc of the propeller even without striking its blades. This gave the German pilots an unprecedented edge in aerial combat and dominated the aerial war. Eindeckers preferred to fly from higher altitude firing concentrated bursts of machine guns. The Eindecker was a dominant force for the Central Power and Germany till early 1916. This had already destroyed the morale of the allies pilots.
The First World War, which is also known as the Great War saw many quick developments in aircraft. For the first time in history, it was possible to go beyond the ground artillery and observe and attack enemy bases. The civilians were no longer safe from the effects of the war as it took to the skies. The war escalated the needs of aircraft, and more of them were developed during wartime. By 1918, when the war ended, the development of aircraft was nothing compared to how it was when the war began. Air tactics developed during wartime became a base for the strategies to follow in the coming years.