Morane-Saulnier Type N Fighter Aircraft
The Morane-Saulnier Type N was of an advanced aerodynamic design for the time.
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The Moraine-Saulnier Type N (or simply "Moraine-Saulnier N") was a French fighter aircraft of the First World War. It appeared in limited production numbers (just 49 total aircraft) and was quickly replaced by more advanced platforms. The aircraft was in itself a great aerodynamic triumph utilizing an air-deflecting spinner at the front of the design and wing-warping (a Wright Brothers patented design technique) instead of moving surface planes more common in other aircraft of the war.
The Type N entered service in 1915. It appeared as an advanced aerodynamic monoplane design with most of the fuselage width dedicated to the Le Rhone 9C rotary piston engine of 110 horsepower. Wings were held well-forward in the design and mounted high. Landing gear were made up of two bicycle type wheels, also held forward. The pilot sat directly aft of the engine placement in an open-air cockpit with a clean look over the nose and under the wings, nothing but a small windshield to deflect oncoming debris. The distinct propeller spinner was the most notable part of the Type N's design as it lent the aircraft a design look well ahead of its time. Unfortunately for posterity's sake, it was soon found that the large metal spinner was actually the cause of engine overheating and was removed from future deliveries. This effectively solved all engine heating issues for the Le Rhone but removed one of the most ingenious parts of the aircraft in the process. Interestingly enough, the removal of the component did little in the way of enhancing or decreasing the aircraft's overall performance specs.
Armament consisted of a single .303 caliber machine gun which could be interchangeably of a Vickers or Hotchkiss design. At this time, synchronized or interrupted firing of machine guns through the propeller blades was generally still being reviewed and developed, forcing the Type N to take make-shift approach developed by Raymond Saulnier himself. The machine gun fired directly into the spinning propeller blades with each blade mounting deflector wedges. The wedges were known to decrease the performance of the spinning blade somewhat but allowed for firing of the machine gun nonetheless.
In essence, the operator could fire his machine gun at leisure though the actual amount of projectiles getting through the spinning blades would seemingly become random and hardly practical in a dogfight - still, the idea fared better than carrying rifles and pistols aloft. Though both sides inevitably released their synchronized firing mechanisms into the war, the Germans would get credited with first use of the concept via their Fokker platform in 1915. Interruptible machine gun systems would see use up until the Korean War, to which the jet age revolutionized every facet of dog fighting from there on.
The Morane-Saulnier Type N was utilized by French Air Forces (as the MS.5C.1) along with the British (referring to it as the "Bullet" for its spinner attachment) and the Imperial Russian Air Service. In practice, the aircraft proved to be a handful to fly and land. The wing-warping approach no doubt added to the operational dangers and it would take a well-trained pilot to fly the machine for any length of time. A high landing speed was reported, adding yet another element of danger for the man at the controls.