Monday, May 11, 2015

Russian Fighter and Attack Aircraft

Morane-Saulnier Type L monoplane

Like Italy, Russia relied almost exclusively upon foreign-built or licensed-built aircraft, including fighters. The biggest handicap that Russian manufacturers faced was Russia’s limited domestic engine industry. As a result, even though Russian factories, such as the Dux Company (Aktsionyernoye Obschchestvo Vozdukhoplavania), had the potential for a higher productive capacity, they were handicapped by their reliance upon French engines, which could not easily be shipped into Russia after Turkey entered the war. Although the Russians attempted to copy French engine designs, their performance was generally poor. Nevertheless, Russian companies produced almost 700 Nieuport fighters (the Nieuport 10 accounted for 325 of these and the Nieuport 11 accounted for 200). Dux would also build approximately 400 Morane-Saulnier Type L monoplanes, which were used as both armed reconnaissance aircraft and fighters, and approximately 100 SPAD VII fighters.

Having designed the world’s first large, multiengine aircraft—the Ilya Muromets bomber—just prior to the war, Igor Sikorsky began work on a two-seat armed reconnaissance and escort fighter to work alongside it, eventually producing a successful prototype in early 1915. Production of the resulting Sikorsky S.16 began later in the year at the Russko-Baltiisky Vagon Zaved (R-BVZ, or Russo-Baltic Wagon Factory). With a wingspan of 27 ft 6 in., a length of 20 ft 4 in., and a loaded weight of 1,490 lbs, the S.16 was rather compact and lightweight for the time; unfortunately, it was underpowered because Russia lacked sufficient 100 hp Gnôme Monosoupape rotary engines, forcing it to be produced with an 80 hp Gnôme Monosoupape rotary motor, which was capable of producing a maximum speed of just 73 mph and reaching a service ceiling of 3,500 m (11,483 ft). Despite these deficiencies, it was one of the first Allied aircraft to be fitted with a forward-firing, synchronized machine gun, in this case a Colt machine gun. Because the Russian-designed synchronization gear had a high failure rate, most pilots rigged their own top-wing mounted gun. A total of 34 were produced prior to the Russian Revolution. Those that remained in place after the Bolsheviks seized power in the October Revolution of 1917 were soon pressed into service during the ensuing Russian Civil War, serving as fighters, reconnaissance aircraft, or as trainers.

Approximately 600 Morane-Saulnier Type L and LA aircraft were produced in France and an additional 400 were licensed-built by the Dux works in Russia.

Approximately 7,200 Nieuport 10s and 12s were produced in France and saw service with the French and their British, Russian, and Italian allies. An additional 240 Nieuport 10s were produced in Italy by Societa Nieuport- Macchi and approximately 325 were built in Russia by the Dux and the Lebedev firms.

Approximately 2,000 Nieuport 11s and 16s saw service with the Allies, including approximately 540 that were licensed-built in Italy and approximately 200 that were licensed-built in Russia.

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