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Nieuport 28 Biplane Fighter (1918)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 11/5/2015

The Nieuport 28 was the first operational fighter to be fielded by incoming American forces during World War 1.

Aerial combat in World War 1 (1914-1918) turned into a tit-for-tat affair as technology ruled the latest performance gains for aircraft fielded by both sides. The French concern of Nieuport made a name for itself in the war by producing a line of well-known biplane fighters that began with the early-war Nieuport 11 "Bebe". This fighter, based from a commercial racing plane, allowed for excellent performance and handling during 1915 and helped to end the dreaded "Fokker Scourge" - a period of aerial supremacy held by the Germans. From the Bebe spawned a series of like-minded biplanes built upon agility that eventually culminated with the Nieuport 28 (N.28) of 1918. Like many of the previous Nieuport offerings, this fighter's design was attributed to Gustave Delage.

As supplies of the new SPAD S.XIII were limited for the incoming Americans, the Nieuport 28 was passed on to them - becoming the first operational fighter to be flown by American airmen in the war. The N.28 was the aircraft that spawned the careers of aces like Eddie Rickenbacker (26 kills). Unlike the preceding Nieuport 17 design, the N.28 was handed a more powerful engine in the Gnome 9N rotary of 160 horsepower (over the N.17's Le Rhone 9J of 110hp). All-new wings were also fitted (the upper and lower sections of nearly the same area) as were a pair of fixed, forward-firing Vickers machine guns (the N.17 carried just one machine gun). The V-struts so common to earlier Nieuports were now replaced by a more traditional parallel strut approach which offered increased strength to the upper and lower wing spans. The fuselage took on an ever more streamlined shape from nose to tail - the engine shrouded by a curved metal assembly and the tail unit set at the extremely end of the tapered fuselage. The empennage included a single vertical fin and low-set horizontal planes. The pilot sat under and aft of the upper wing unit. The undercarriage remained fixed with wheels at the main legs and a simple skid at the tail. First flight of this product was recorded on June 14th, 1917.

297 N.28s were ultimately produced - as well as several prototypes beyond these - and a bulk of these served with the Americans. Production was eventually handled by both Nieuport and Liore et Olivier though early deliveries were seen sans their machine guns. The lack of proper armament limited the aircraft to training for the interim. In time, as the required machine guns became available, the aircraft proved went on to make its own legacy as a suitable gunnery platform. The American groups fielding the N.28 were the 27th, 94th, 95th, and 147th Aero Squadrons while a few N.28s made their way into U.S. Navy service where they were launched from USN battleships for over-the-horizon work.

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Specifications for the
Nieuport 28
Biplane Fighter

Focus Model: Nieuport 28
Country of Origin: France
Manufacturer: Societe Anonyme des Etablissements Nieuport / Liore et Olivier - France
Initial Year of Service: 1918
Production Total: 300

Crew: 1

Length: 21.33 ft (6.5 m)
Width: 26.77 ft (8.16 m)
Height: 8.20ft (2.50 m)
Weight (Empty): 1,047 lb (475 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 1,323 lb (600 kg)

Powerplant: 1 x Gnome 9N 9-cylinder air-cooled rotary engine developing 160 horsepower.

Maximum Speed: 123 mph (198 kmh; 107 kts)
Maximum Range: 217 miles (350 km)
Service Ceiling: 17,388 ft (5,300 m; 3.3 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 855 feet-per-minute (261 m/min)

Hardpoints: 0
Armament Suite:
2 x 0.303 caliber Vickers machine guns in fixed, forward-firing arrangement over nose OR 2 x .30 caliber M1895 Marlin Machine Guns

N.28 - Base Series Designation

N.28C-1 - Formal Designation

N.28A - U.S. Army designation for improved Nie.28 fighters to be used as trainers; 2 x Marlin machine guns under the fuselage; revised upper wing element; modified fuel system; 600 on order to be produced by Liore et Olivier; final production numbering 170 examples with spares for 100 more aircraft.

Argentina; France; Nicaragua; Switzerland; United States