Aviation in World War I, Talk:Aviation in World War I
by the Allied air forces. The Royal Flying Corps
suffered losses so severe it came close to being annihilated. However, they managed to keep the German Air Force on the defensive, largely preventing them from from using their planes on bombing or reconnaissance missions to assist their troops on the ground.
Shortly after "Bloody April", the Allies re-equipped their squadrons with new planes such as the Sopwith Pup
, and SE5a
which helped tip the balance back in their favor. The Germans responded with new fighters as well, such the Fokker Dr.I
but these were countered by the British Sopwith Camel
and French SPAD S.XIII
. As a result, neither side managed to take a clear technological advantage for the remainder of the war, but eventually the Allies would gain the advantage in numbers and material toward the end of the year.
Up to 1918: the final years of war
The final year of the war (1918) saw increasing shortages of supplies on the side of the Central Powers. Captured Allied planes were scrounged for every available material, even to the point of draining the lubricants from damaged engines just to keep one more German plane flyable.Manfred von Richthofen
, the famed Red Baron credited with around 80 victories, was killed in April, possibly by an Australian anti-aircraft machinegunner (although Royal Air Force pilot Captain Arthur Roy Brown
was officially credited), and the leadership of Jagdgeschwader 1
eventually passed to Hermann Göring
, future head of Nazi
Germany introduced the Fokker D.VII
, both loved and loathed to the point that surrender of all surviving examples was specifically ordered by the victorious allies.
This year also saw the United States increasingly involved. While American volunteers had been flying in Allied squadrons since the early years of the war, it wasn't until 1918 when all-American squadrons begin patrolling the skies above the trenches. At first, the Americans were largely supplied with second-rate weapons and obsolete planes, such as the Nieuport 28
. But as American forces began arriving in large numbers, they received better equipment, including the SPAD S.XIII
, one of the best French planes in the war.
Anti-aircraft weaponryright|thumb|A German observation balloon being bombed by an allied aircraft.
Though aircraft still functioned as vehicles of observation, increasingly it was used as a weapon in itself. Dog fight
s erupted in the skies over the front lines - planes went down in flames and heroes were born. From this air-to-air combat, the need grew for better planes and gun armament. Aside from machine guns, air-to-air rocket
s were also used like the Le Prieur rocket
against balloons and airships
This need for improvement was not limited to air-to-air combat. On the ground, methods developed before the war were being used to deter enemy planes from observation and bombing. Anti-aircraft
artillery rounds were fired into the air and exploded into clouds of smoke and fragmentation
, called archie
by the allies, providing enemy aircraft with an obstacle course to fly around.
Anti-aircraft artillery defenses were increasingly used around observation balloons, which became frequent targets of enemy fighters equipped with special incendiary
bullets. Attacks on balloons were so frequent that observers were given parachutes, enabling them to jump to safety. Ironically, only a few aircrew had the luxury of parachutes, due in part to a mistaken belief they inhibited aggressiveness (and in part to early aircraft being unable to lift their significant weight).
Bombers and Recon Planes
As the stalemate developed on the ground, with both sides unable to advance even a few miles without a major battle and thousands of casualties, planes became greatly valued for their role gathering intelligence on enemy positions and bombing the enemy's supplies behind the trench lines. Large planes with a pilot and an observer were used to recon enemy positions and bomb their supply bases. Because they were large and slow, these planes made easy targets for enemy figher planes. As a result, both sides used fighter aircraft to both attack the enemy's two-seat planes and protect their own while carrying out their missions.
While the two-seat bombers and Recon planes were slow and vulnerable, they were not defenseless. Two-seat planes had the advantage of both forward and rear firing guns. Typically, the pilot controlled fixed guns behind the propeller, similar to guns in a fighter plane, while the observer controlled a mounted machine gun that he could aim with a 180 arc at incoming fighters behind the plane. Furthermore, two-seat planes could dive at very high speeds due to their excessive weight, allowing them to put some distance between them and enemy fighters. Also, pursuing a diving two-seater was hazardous for a fighter pilot, as it would place the fighter directly in the rear-gunner's line of fire. Several high scoring aces of the war were shot down by "lowly" two-seaters, including Raoul Lufbery
and Robert Little
The first ever aerial bombardment of civilians was during World War I
. On January 19
, two German Zeppelin
s dropped 24 fifty-kilogram high-explosive bombs and ineffective three-kilogram incendiaries on Great Yarmouth
, King's Lynn
, and the surrounding villages. In all, four people were killed, sixteen injured, and monetary damage was estimated at £7,740, although the public and media reaction were out of proportion to the death toll.
There were a further nineteen raids in 1915, in which 37 tons of bombs were dropped, killing 181 people and injuring 455. Raids continued in 1916. London was accidentally bombed
in May, and, in July, the Kaiser
allowed directed raids against urban centres. There were 23 airship raids in 1916 in which 125 tons of ordnance were dropped, killing 293 people and injuring 691. Gradually British
air defences improved. In 1917 and 1918 there were only eleven Zeppelin raids against England, and the final raid occurred on August 5 1918
, which resulted in the death of KK Peter Strasser
, commander of the German Naval Airship Department. By the end of the war, 51 raids had been undertaken, in which 5,806 bombs were dropped, killing 557 people and injuring 1,358. The Zeppelin raids were complemented by the Gothaer
bomber, which was the first heavier than air bomber to be used for strategic bombing
. It has been argued that the raids were effective far beyond material damage in diverting and hampering wartime production, and diverting twelve squadrons and over 10,000 men to air defences. The calculations which were performed on the number of dead to the weight of bombs dropped would have a profound effect on the attitudes of the British authorities
and population in the interwar years.
multi-video item|filename=Bombers of WW1.ogg|title=Bombers of WWI|description= Video clip of allied bombing runs over German lines.|format=
Manned observation balloons floating high above the trenches were used as stationary reconnaissance points on the front lines, reporting enemy troop positions and directing artillery fire. Balloons commonly had a crew of two personnel equipped with parachutes: upon an enemy air attack on the flammable balloon the balloon crew would parachute to safety. Recognized for their value as observer platforms, Observation balloons were important targets of enemy aircraft. To defend against air attack, they were heavily protected by large concentrations antiaircraft guns and patrolled by friendly aircraft. Blimps and balloons helped contribute to the stalemate of the trench warfare of World War I, and the balloons contributed to air to air combat among the aircraft to defend the skies for air superiority because of their significant reconnaissance value.
In order to encourage their pilots to attack enemy balloons whenever they were found, both sides counted downing an enemy balloon as an "air-to-air" kill, with the same value as shooting down an enemy plane. Some pilots became particularly distinguished by their prowess at shooting down enemy balloons. Perhaps the most well known was American ace Frank Luke
. 14 of his 18 kills were enemy balloons.
(Complete list: List of World War I flying aces
|width="15%"|Manfred von Richthofen
|"The Red Baron", Pour le Mérite
|Top Allied ace, and all-time Allied Ace of Aces in all conflicts.
|Top scoring United Kingdom
|Top-scoring British Empire
|Top Royal Naval Air Service
|Second highest scoring German ace.
, Croix de Guerre. One of the longest serving aces (from 1913 to 1918)
|First French ace to attain 50 victories.
|One time friendly rival of Manfred von Richthofen
|George Edward Henry McElroy
|Highest-scoring Irish-born ace.
|align="center"|Australia (serving under Britain)
, Médaille Militaire
|Lothar von Richthofen
|Pour le Mérite, brother of Manfred.
|Pour le Mérite Legendary German air hero, killed in 1916.
|align="center"|38 (32 in WWI, 6 in WWII)
|Pour le Mérite
|Top-scoring Italy ace.
|Pour le Mérite
|Leading New Zealand ace, flying with Australia. Croix de Guerre
|A. H. "Harry" Cobby
|Once thought to be highest scoring
|Top US ace of WW I.|-
|Pour le Mérite, later a main leader of Nazi Germany and commander of the Luftwaffe
|William C. Lambert
|Second highest scoring American ace.
|Top-scoring Russia ace.
|Medal of Honor
"Arizona Balloon Buster"
|align="center"|United States and France
|Leader of the Lafayette Escadrille
|Pour le Mérite
|align="center"|United States, served under Britain
|Indra Lal Roy
|India's only ace.
. Britain's first ace.
|"The Mad Major". Croix de Guerre
|First nonstop flight across the Mediterranean Sea
(1913). Attached metal deflectors to propellor in order to have a forward-firing gun.
† Died during Service
* Aircraft of the Entente Powers
* Aircraft of the Central Powers
See also :Category:World War I aircraft
* Aviation history: 1914-1918
* Flying ace
*The Great War
, television documentary by the BBC
*Pearson, George, Aces: A Story of the First Air War
, historical advice by Brereton Greenhous and Philip Markham, NFB
, 1993. Contains assertion aircraft created trench stalemate.
*Winter, Denis. First of the Few
. London: Allen Lane/Penguin, 1982. Coverage of the British air war, with extensive bibliographical notes.
*Morrow, John. German Air Power in World War I
. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1982. Contains design and production figures, as well as economic influences.
*Editors of American Heritage
. History of WW1
. Simon & Schuster, 1964.
* http://members.shaw.ca/flyingaces/ Rosebud's WWI and Early Aviation Image Archive
* http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Air_Power/WWI_Bombing/AP3.htm Bombing during World War I
* http://www.flyboysthemovie.com Flyboys - World War I aviation movie
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_baron_3d Red Baron 3D - WWI Combat Flight Simulator
* http://www.alexanderpalace,org/aerialrussia/ - Aerial Russia - the Romance of the Giant Airplane - aviation in Russian before and during WWI - online bookItalian Aircraft:
* http://www.worldwar1.com/dbc/caproni3.htm Aircraft of the AEF - Caproni Ca.3
* http://www.aerei-italiani.net/SchedeT/aereoca2.htm Aerei Italiani
(Italian)Category:Aviation historyCategory:World War I aviation