Nieuport 11 (Bebe) Fighting Scout Biplane Aircraft
The Nieuport 11 Bebe had its roots in a racing aircraft and proved a major component in ending the dreaded Fokker Scourge.
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The Nieuport 11 "Bebe" (or "Baby" - known officially as the "Nieuport 11 C1") was one of the first true Allied fighters of World War 1. Developed from a prewar design intended for competition, the militarized form brought with it the expected excellent performance inherent in a racing platform. Designed in a mere four months, the Nieuport 11 - retaining the "Bebe" nickname of its predecessor - proved instrumental in ending the dominance of German Fokker-based aircraft during 1916 in what came to be known as the "Fokker Scourge". The French Nieuport series, as a whole, would end up becoming one of the best fighter lines in all of World War 1, eventually becoming collectively recognized by the name of "Nieuport Fighting Scouts".
Societe Anonyme Des Etablissements, established in 1909 and founded by Eduoard de Nie Port, had delved successfully into racing sesquiplane airframes for some time prior to World War 1. The sesquiplane approach was something of a biplane configuration though the lower wing assembly was decidedly smaller than the upper. With the war reaching its stride by August of 1914, and a growing faith in biplane winged aircraft, the Nieuport firm was charged with production of Voisan biplane aircraft which sported a "pusher" propeller arrangement, necessitated by the lack of a competent machien gun synchronization system when firing through a spinning propeller. These platforms proved adequate attempts at countering German fighter designs of the time but German offerings were seemingly always one step ahead which helped to maintain the tactical advantage for the interim.
Nieuport Chief Designer Gustave Delage began designing a new type of biplane prior to World War 1 which would have competed in the 1914 Gordon Bennett Trophy Race. The aircraft was of a sesquiplane wing arrangement and given the company designation of "Nieuport 10". However, with France's commitment to open war in the middle of 1914, thought turned to developing the single-seat Nieuport 10 into a militarized form capable of competing with German offerings on equal terms. The aircraft's staggered wing configuration required support of distinctive V-aligned struts and applicable wire bracing - the latter common to aircraft of the period. The Nieuport 10 was itself adopted as a general purpose mount (sometimes armed with an upper wing Lewis machine gun) and two-seat trainer platform by the French Air Force during the war. It garnered the nickname of "Bebe" - or "Baby" - a name that stuck with the militarized version for the span of her operational career. The Nieuport 10 was further adopted by Britain, Belgium, Brazil, Finland, Italy, Japan, Russia, Serbia, Thailand, Ukraine, the United States and the Soviet Union.
In the new militarized form, Delage attempted to retain much of the excellent performance specifications inherent in the preceding competition-minded racer. This approach would lay the foundation for a whole line of excellent French fighting aircraft still to come and make the Nieuport name a household brand by war's end. Delage's pursuit eventually realized the "Nieuport 11", a lightweight, single-seat fighter-type with the same single-bay sesquiplane wing arrangement of the Nieuport 10. The Nieuport 11 was the quintessential fighter of its time featuring a fixed two-wheel undercarriage with tail skid, an open-air cockpit and biplane wings. The aircraft owed its fine lines, smooth contours and general pedigree to the Nieuport racer prior and were fielded with a front-mounted 80 horsepower Le Rhone 9C, 9-cylinder, air-cooled rotary piston engine powering a two-blade propeller. The pilot sat positioned just behind and below the upper wing element with a generally good view out of the cockpit.