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Lebed Type XII

Russia (1915)
Picture of Lebed Type XII Reconnaissance Aircraft

The Lebed XII reconnaissance biplane was one of the few indigenous Russian aircraft designs to emerge during World War 1.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Lebed Type XII Reconnaissance Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 1/20/2014. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

The Russian Empire did not field many indigenous aircraft designs during World War 1, instead relying on purchase or local production of foreign-born types. One locally-designed system, however, became the oft-forgotten Lebed Type XII, a practical two-seat reconnaissance biplane that saw only a few hundred produced do to lingering issues. The Lebed manufacturing facility was based in St. Petersburg, Russia and previously handled reconstitution of captured/recovered Imperial German aircraft as well as license production of British Sopwith Tabloids. The Lebed Type XII, therefore, attempted to put into practice the methodology and techniques displayed by competing foreign examples.

World War 1 began in the summer of 1914 with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria by Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip in Serbia on June 28th. Austria-Hungary then declared war on Serbia on July 28th which prompted Russia to mobilize its forces. Germany followed this mobilization by declaring war on Russia on August 1st. Russia joined the Triple Entente which included France and Britain while Germany joined Austria-Hungary and Italy to form the Central Powers (though Italy did not enter the war at this time).

Fully committed to the great gamble by 1915, the Russian concern of Lebed began work on a new reconnaissance biplane to which a prototype was made ready by December. The prototype was powered by a 130 horsepower engine. The aircraft underwent testing throughout the early part of 1916 and proved satisfactory enough to warrant a production order for 400 units in February. However, in April the contract was amended to reduced the count to 225 aircraft. It was also suggested that a more powerful 150 horsepower engine be fitted to offset handling issues encountered during evaluation which necessitated some considerable changes to the aircrafts design while also delaying production. Testing of a revised form continued into October before production-quality systems were delivered in early 1917.

The Type XII included seating for two crew, a pilot in the front open-air cockpit and an observer/gunner in a rear open-air cockpit (tandem seating). Its structure consisted of wood and fabric construction while steel tubing was used in the tail section. The method was essentially garnered from the captured German examples and utilized to good effect by Russian engineers. The general layout was conventional with the engine fitted to a forward-most compartment, the cockpits aft of the engine and a traditional tail unit sporting a single tail fin and a pair of horizontal planes. The undercarriage consisted of two landing wheels affixed to struts in the usual fashion. The tail was supported by a simple skid. As a biplane aircraft, the Type XII made use of an upper and lower wing assembly, these joined by a network of parallel struts and cabling.

Power for the series was through a French-designed Salmson water-cooled radial engine outputting at 150 horsepower. The engine operated in a "puller" configuration, leading the airframe through the skies while driving a two-bladed wooden propeller. Performance specifications included a maximum speed of 84 miles per hour, a service ceiling of 11,500 feet and an endurance time of 3 hours.

When armed, the Type XII was modestly fitted with a single 7.7mm machine gun on a trainable mount at the rear cockpit intended to protect both aircraft and crew from marauding scouts.

The Type XII was fielded across four Russian army air divisions operating along the East Front. The hastily modified aircraft soon exhibited several faulty (and at times lethal) issues including engines prone to bursting into flames and general structural weaknesses. Russian authorities then delayed further deliveries of the Type XII until a formal resolution was realized. However, by the time the military completed its findings, the Type XII was all but a moot design in the grand scope of the war - already severely outclassed by newer mounts appearing over the West Front. The Type XII was now regarded as a limited, underpowered and unreliable platform - neither suitable for frontline service nor for the training of new Russian pilots. Regardless, the Type XII was retained in service and deliveries continued in an effort to shore up the fledgling Russian aircraft inventory. Many were therefore relegated to training groups while a reliance on foreign aircraft for frontline service persisted. Of the 225 aircraft originally ordered by the government, only 214 were ultimately delivered - bringing total production output to 216 units.

After Russia formally removed herself from the war due to the internal upheaval caused by the revolutions of 1917 and the rise of the Bolsheviks, an armistice was signed with Germany in December and this was then followed by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk which was signed in March of 1918 (World War 1, itself, ended in November of that year). When the Russian Empire transitioned to become the "Soviet Union" in 1922, all Type XIIs still in service were inherited by the new Soviet Air Force. Estonia became the only foreign operator of the Type XII and this with only a single example used by its air force.

Any available statistics for the Lebed Type XII Reconnaissance Aircraft are showcased in the areas immediately below. Categories include basic specifications covering country-of-origin, operational status, manufacture(s) and total quantitative production. Other qualities showcased are related to structural values (namely dimensions), installed power and standard day performance figures, installed or proposed armament and mission equipment (if any), global users (from A-to-Z) and series model variants (if any).






Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 100mph
Lo: 50mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (84mph).

    Graph average of 75 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
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  NYC
Graph showcases the Lebed Type XII's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
216
216


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.


Altitude Visualization
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  Compare this entry against other aircraft using our Comparison Tool  
National Flag Graphic
Origin: Russia
Year: 1915
Type: Reconnaissance Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Lebed - Imperial Russia
Production: 216
Global Operators:
Estonia; Imperial Russia; Soviet Union
Historical Commitments / Honors:

Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Lebed Type XII model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
2


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
26.12 ft


Meters
7.96 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
43.14 ft


Meters
13.15 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
10.66 ft


Meters
3.25 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
1,808 lb


Kilograms
820 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
2,976 lb


Kilograms
1,350 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x Salmson water-cooled radial piston engine developing 150 horsepower.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
84 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
135 kph


Knots
73 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
249 mi


Kilometers
400 km


Nautical Miles
216 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
11,483 ft


Meters
3,500 m


Miles
2.17 mi

Supported Weapon Systems:

Armament - Hardpoints (0):

1 x 7.7mm machine on trainable mount in rear cockpit.
Variants: Series Model Variants
• XII - Base Series Designation
• XIIbis - Two prototype airframes, first fitting Hispano-Suiza engine with second fitting Green engine.
• XIII - Proposed high-speed development