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AirCo DH.9

United Kingdom (1917)

Detailing the development and operational history of the AirCo DH.9 Light Bomber Biplane Aircraft.

 Entry last updated on 6/7/2017; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ©

  AirCo DH.9  
Picture of AirCo DH.9 Light Bomber Biplane Aircraft
Picture of AirCo DH.9 Light Bomber Biplane Aircraft Picture of AirCo DH.9 Light Bomber Biplane Aircraft

The planned successor to the Airco DH.4, the Airco DH.9 failed in most respects.

The AirCo DH.9 was a further revision of the DH.4 bomber - again headed by famous aviation engineer Geoffrey de Havilland. Design of the new aircraft was handled by the de Havilland company with serial production managed through the Aircraft Manufacturing Company, better known under the acronym of "AirCo" or "Airco". The model was first flown in July of 1917 and introduced into service that same year. It managed only a short post-war career as it was retired from notable service in 1920. 4,091 of the type were ultimately produced.

The DH.9 shared a few of the major design qualities found on the preceding DH.4 including the undercarriage, tail unit, and wings. The DH.9 differed from the DH.4 in that it positioned the gunner and pilot closer together to better communications between the two and was fitted with a more powerful engine. The new fuselage was also intended to streamline the aircraft and take away stresses from the engine. Initial tests revealed that the base DH.9 was simply too underpowered and not much of an upgrade over the DH.4 (which it was meant to replace) thus the system was redesigned as the DH.9A. The DH.9A model attempted to address performance issues and defensive drawbacks by incorporating a lengthened wingspan and a fixed forward-firing machine gun for the pilot. A trainable machine gun was found at the rear gunner/observer's cockpit for protecting the aircraft's critical "six" position.
Picture of the AirCo DH.9 Light Bomber Biplane Aircraft
Picture of the AirCo DH.9 Light Bomber Biplane Aircraft

Not a spectacular aircraft in any one regard, the DH.9 managed a rather poor service record in World War 1 with more losses due to mechanical and performance issues than actual enemy fire. Notable deficiencies in the series lay in its limited service ceiling, fuel consumption at altitudes higher than 10,000 feet, and general engine reliability. If there was one role that the DH.9 proved at least somewhat adequate in was in coastal patrol assignments when hunting down German U-boats - there was a reduced chance of running into enemy aircraft or ground-based fire in this role. Though generally inadequate over most fronts, the DH.9 was naturally more successful in poorly defended areas during the course of the war, this to be true in the Middle East Theater over Palestine and also over Macedonia.

The DH.9 series saw some life after the war in the civil transportation market with many countries. Final production of the DH.9 extended into 1920 - the United States manufactured the DH.9 with the help of the Engineering Division and designated the aircraft as "USD-9" (1,415 were produced by the U.S.). An American-produced engine - the 400 horsepower Packard "Liberty" - was used to power these DH.9A models.
AirCo DH.9 Specifications
National Flag Graphic
United Kingdom
Year: 1917
Type: Light Bomber Biplane Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Aircraft Manufacturing Company Ltd (AirCo) / de Havilland - United Kingdom
Production: 4,091
Supported Mission Types
Ground Attack
Close-Air Support
Airborne Early Warning
Electronic Warfare
Aerial Tanker
Passenger Industry
VIP Travel
Business Travel
Special Forces
Crew: 2
Length: 30.41 ft (9.27 m)
Width: 65.35 ft (19.92 m)
Height: 11.29 ft (3.44 m)
Empty Weight: 2,235 lb (1,014 kg)
MTOW: 3,799 lb (1,723 kg)

Installed Power
1 x Armstrong Siddeley Puma water-cooled inline piston engine developing 230 horsepower.

Standard Day Performance
Maximum Speed: 113 mph (182 kph; 98 kts)
Maximum Range: 503 mi (810 km; 437 nm)
Service Ceiling: 15,518 ft (4,730 m; 2.94 mi)
Rate-of-Climb: 540 ft/min (165 m/min)

1 x .303 Vickers machine gun in fixed, forward-firing mounting.
1 OR 2 x .303 Lewis machine gun(s) in rear cockpit position on trainable Scarff ring mounting.

External bomb load up to 460 lb (209 kg).

Operators List
Afghanistan; Australia; Belgium; Bolivia; Canada; Chile; Denmark; Estonia; Greece; India; Ireland; Latvia; Netherlands; New Zealand; Paraguay; Peru; Poland; Romania; Saudi Arabia (Kingdom of Hejaz); Spain; South Africa; Soviet Union; Switzerland; Turkey; United Kingdom; United States

Series Model Variants
• DH.9 - Base production model based on the earlier DH.4 with decreased area between pilot and gunner positions of which over 3,000 produced.
• DH.9A - Improved powerplant
• DH.9B - Civilian Conversion Model to accommodate pilot and two passengers.
• DH.9C - Civilian Conversion Model to accommodate pilot and three passengers.
• DH.9J - Updated powerplant (Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar III radial piston engine generating 385-hp); Pilot trainer.
• DH.9J M'pala I - Conversion for South Africa fitted with Bristol Jupiter VI radial piston engine generating 450hp.
• M'pala II - Conversion model for South Africa fitted with Bristol Jupiter VIII radial piston engine generating 480hp.
• Mantis - Conversion model for South Africa fitted with Wolseley Viper piston engine generating 200hp.

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