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Sopwith Dragon

United Kingdom (1918)
Picture of Sopwith Dragon Biplane Fighter

The Sopwith Dragon became a further evolution of the Sopwith Snipe and ordered at the close of World War 1.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Sopwith Dragon Biplane Fighter.  Entry last updated on 5/11/2016. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

The Sopwith "Snipe" single-seat, single-engine biplane fighter appeared during the latter stages of World War 1 (1914-1918) and nearly 500 of its kind were produced before the end - the last example operating into 1926. During April of 1918, the sixth prototype of the line was pulled aside and re-engined with the ABC "Dragonfly" 9-cylinder radial of 320 horsepower output which promised considerable performance gains. This form - lengthened nearly two feet to accommodate the new, heavier engine - became the Snipe Mk II for a time.

Despite the design showcasing engine issues early on, Royal Air force (RAF) authorities were convinced of its performance potential amidst the ongoing war and, in May-June of 1918, an order for thirty Dragonfly-engined Snipes was delivered. Before long, a new engine fit - the ABC Dragonfly IA radial of 360 horsepower was used - the 30-strong order for modified Snipes was cancelled and an order for three-hundred of the new "Dragonfly" fighters took their place.

As it stood, the Dragon was a conventional biplane fighter design for the period. It fitted its engine installation at the nose driving a two-blade propeller with the pilot seated directly aft. The tail unit consisted of a single vertical tail fin with low-mounted horizontal planes. The mainplanes were equal-span assemblies and connected to one another by way of parallel struts producing a twin bay configuration. The wings were fitted ahead of midships (with the area at the pilot's position cut-out) driving the aircraft's center-of-gravity forward. The main landing gear legs were wheeled and affixed to the fuselage by way of struts. Armament became the standard British fighter configuration of 2 x 0.303 Vickers machine guns synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades.

The aircraft held a maximum speed of 150 miles per hour with a service ceiling of 25,000 feet. Dimensions included a length of 21.8 feet, a wingspan of 31 feet, and a height of 9.5 feet.

A first-flight involving a prototype was had in 1918 and the early production stock became a mix of converted Snipe aircraft and new-build Dragons - the latter given horn-balanced upper ailerons for improved control and carried the aforementioned Dragonfly IA series engine. Eventually an order for three-hundred Dragonfly aircraft arrived while work was ongoing to alleviate the engine issues.

The end of the war came in November of 1918 and the original 300-strong production order was reduced to 200 examples. The engine troubles were never truly ironed out and the series managed an existence until April 1923 at which point it was deemed obsolete - many Dragonfly airframes remaining engine-less. It never formed a single RAF squadron despite its status as a standardized fighter design and eventually fell to the pages of military aviation history.

Any available statistics for the Sopwith Dragon Biplane Fighter 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.

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Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 150mph
Lo: 75mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (149mph).

    Graph average of 112.5 miles-per-hour.
Aviation Era Impact
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Pie graph section
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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
200
200


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

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


Altitude Visualization
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Supported Mission Types:
Air-to-Air
Interception
Unmanned
Ground Attack
Close-Air Support
Training
Anti-Submarine
Anti-Ship
Airborne Early Warning
MEDEVAC
Electronic Warfare
Maritime/Navy
Aerial Tanker
Utility/Transport
Passenger Industry
VIP Travel
Business Travel
Search/Rescue
Recon/Scouting
Special Forces
X-Plane/Development
National Flag Graphic
National Origin: United Kingdom
Service Year: 1918
Classification Type: Biplane Fighter
Manufacturer(s): Sopwith Aviation Company - United Kingdom
Production Units: 200
Global Operators:
United Kingdom
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Sopwith Dragon model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
1


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
21.65 ft


Meters
6.6 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
31.07 ft


Meters
9.47 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
9.84 ft


Meters
3 m


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
2,138 lb


Kilograms
970 kg

Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x ABC Dragonfly IA radial piston engine developing 360 horsepower while driving a two-bladed propeller in the nose.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
149 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
240 kph


Knots
130 kts


Performance
CEILING


Feet
24,934 ft


Meters
7,600 m


Miles
4.72 mi

Armament - Hardpoints (0):

STANDARD:
2 x 0.303 (7.7mm) Vickers machine guns in fixed, forward-firing position over the nose.
Visual Armory:

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Variants: Series Model Variants
• "Dragon" - Base Series Name; based on the original Sopwith Snipe biplane fighter; 200 examples completed.