Thursday, July 6, 2017

The British Bristol F.2 Fighter

A two-seat biplane fighter and reconnaissance aircraft of the First World War developed by the Bristol Aeroplane Company. The aircraft's design came about as a result of Frank Barnwell's brief experience as a front-line pilot with the Royal Flying Corps.

In March 1916 he started work on the aircraft but engines of desired horsepower and availability delayed production until the new 190 hp Rolls-Royce Falcon inline engine became available, and Barnwell designed a new aircraft around it. It was designated the Type 12 F.2A.

Work was started on two prototypes in July 1916; on 28 August a contract was awarded for 50 production aircraft, and the first prototype flew on 9 September 1916. The F.2A was armed in what had by then become the standard manner for a British two-seater: one synchronised fixed, forward-firing .303 Vickers machine gun, and one flexible .303 Lewis Gun mounted on a Scarff ring in the observer's rear cockpit.

The F2a fighters made their operational debut on 5 April 1917 with the RFC 48 Squadron was somewhat less than successful. The pilots of the 48th thought it to be structurally unsound and, despite its name, flew them in a rather sedately manner similar to two seat reconnaissance aircraft, slow and steady as a platform for the rear gunner.

Not surprisingly they were shot down just like slow and steady reconnaissance aircraft. It was soon realized that Bristol’s fighter was actually a very sturdy aircraft that could, and should, be maneuvered as if it were a single seat fighter with rear protection. And a fighter it was, with over 240 pilots and gunners achieving ace status in the type before the end of the Great War.

Further refinements to the design plus more powerful Rolls Royce engines, resulted in the F.2B started appearing at the front in April 1917. When equipped with the 275 hp Falcon III engine and could reach a maximum speed of 123 mph. The F.2B was over 10 mph faster than the F.2A and was three minutes faster at reaching 10,000 feet.

Despite being a two-seater, the F.2B proved to be an agile aircraft that was able to hold its own against opposing single-seat fighters, the F.2B's robust design ensured that it remained in military service into the 1930s, and surplus aircraft were popular in civil aviation.

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