Military Factory logo
Icon of F-15 Eagle military combat fighter aircraft
Icon of AK-47 assault rifle
Icon of Abrams Main Battle Tank
Icon of navy warships
Icon of a dollar sign
Icon of military officer saluting

Sopwith Triplane

Triplane Fighter / Trainer Aircraft

Sopwith Triplane

Triplane Fighter / Trainer Aircraft


Such was the immediate success of the British Sopwith Triplane fighter in World War 1 that the Germans brought about their own triple-wing counter - embodied in the Fokker Dr.I Triplane.
National Flag Graphic
ORIGIN: United Kingdom
YEAR: 1916
STATUS: Retired, Out-of-Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Sopwith Aviation Company - United Kingdom
OPERATORS: France; Greece; Russia; Soviet Union; United Kingdom

Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Sopwith Triplane model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
LENGTH: 18.83 feet (5.74 meters)
WIDTH: 26.51 feet (8.08 meters)
HEIGHT: 10.50 feet (3.2 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 1,100 pounds (499 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 1,541 pounds (699 kilograms)
ENGINE: 1 x Clerget 9B rotary piston engine developing 130 horsepower and driving a two-bladed propeller at the nose.
SPEED (MAX): 117 miles-per-hour (188 kilometers-per-hour; 102 knots)
RANGE: 280 miles (450 kilometers; 243 nautical miles)
CEILING: 20,505 feet (6,250 meters; 3.88 miles)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 1,200 feet-per-minute (366 meters-per-minute)

1 OR 2 x 0.303 caliber (7.7mm) Vickers machine gun(s) in fixed, forward-firing position over the nose, synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades.
Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun

Series Model Variants
• Sopwith Triplane - Base Series Designation


Detailing the development and operational history of the Sopwith Triplane Triplane Fighter / Trainer Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 10/16/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
The Sopwith Triplane (dubbed "Triplehound" by her pilots) was a three-wing fighter design built by the Sopwith Aviation concern of Britain and based on the strengths of the successful Sopwith "Pup" biplane fighter (detailed elsewhere on this site). The aircraft strayed from conventional aviation design of the time, where biplanes proved the accepted norm for most major air services, and sought to combine additional lift and maneuverability by the addition of a third wing element. This resulted in the first-ever operational deployment of a triplane fighter in the Sopwith Triplane. For a short time in World War 1 (1914-1918), the Triplane had no equal though its eventual end came with the arrival of the Sopwith Camel biplane - the classic fighter aircraft of the war. Triplanes continued to see second-line service as trainers from mid-1917 onward.

First prototypes were developed during the early part of 1916 and a first-flight was recorded on May 28th, 1916. Such was the promise of the aircraft design that it was rushed to the frontlines, seeing formal service introduction as soon as December of 1916. Initial operational use was outstanding enough to warrant serial manufacture and some 147 were ultimately delivered - the primary operator being the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS).

Beyond its triplane wing arrangement, the aircraft exhibited traditional qualities of fighters of the period - a slab-sided, tapering fuselage with open-air cockpit for one, a fixed, twin-wheeled undercarriage for ground-running, and a single-finned tail unit. To brace the three wing pattern, a thick, large strut joined the planes outboard and shorter struts connected the upper wing assembly to the upper fuselage ahead of the pilot. The pilot sat just behind the wing assemblies which did hinder visibility. However it was in maneuverability and rate-of-climb that the Triplane excelled - giving the pilot a considerable advantage in aerial firefights that were close-ranged.

Sopwith Triplane (Cont'd)

Triplane Fighter / Trainer Aircraft

Sopwith Triplane (Cont'd)

Triplane Fighter / Trainer Aircraft

Armament was typically a single 7.7mm Vickers machine gun firing through the spinning propeller blades by way of a synchronizer. There were some attempts to field a twin-gunned version but it was found that a single gun approach was more effective - the weight gained from the addition of a second machine gun, along with its ammunition supply, degraded overall performance of the fighter.

Power stemmed from a single Clerget 9Z series, 9cylinder rotary piston engine driving a two-bladed wooden propeller at the nose. This allowed for speeds to reach 117 miles per hour as well as a service ceiling up to 20,500 feet. The aircraft held a mission endurance window of 2.75 hours and time to 6,000 feet was nearly six minutes.

Results for the Triplane were exceptional in the early-going - for a period in 1917 the series racked up over 100 enemy kills. However, the machines proved complicated to maintain and repair and steep diving actions often resulted in the wing elements giving way. Its single machine gun also lacked the firepower seen in other twin-gunned contemporaries. These inherent deficiencies ultimately led the Triplane to see a very short operational career over the battlefields of Europe in the war.

Nevertheless, for its time, there proved few equals. Indeed, the Germans respected the Triplane enough to put forth a reward to any German aircraft-maker that could deliver a similar fighter. Anthony Fokker responded with what would become the Fokker Dr.I Triplane (detailed elsewhere on this site). There were many other "multi-winged" creations (some simply aerial monstrosities as aircraft go) seen during this period as well though few ever saw the light of day.

Beyond its service with the British Navy, the Sopwith Triplane found homes in the inventories of France (Navy), Greece (Navy, single example) and the Russian Empire (single example). The French received seventeen examples. The sole Russian Empire example fell to the Soviet Air Force when it was captured.


General Assessment

Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
MF Power Rating
The MF Power Rating takes into account over sixty individual factors related to this aircraft entry. The rating is out of 100 total possible points.
Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 120mph
Lo: 60mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (117mph).

Graph average of 90 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Sopwith Triplane'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 (147)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

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

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
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 pioneering aircraft
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 representing modern aircraft
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 War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

Site Disclaimer  |  Privacy Policy  |  Cookies  |  Site Map Site content ©2003-, All Rights Reserved.

The "Military Factory" name and logo are registered ® U.S. trademarks protected by all applicable domestic and international intellectual property laws. All written content, illustrations, and photography are unique to this website (unless where indicated) and not for reuse/reproduction in any form. Material presented throughout this website is for historical and entertainment value only and should not to be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation. We do not sell any of the items showcased on this site. Please direct all other inquiries to militaryfactory AT

Part of a network of sites that includes GlobalFirepower, a data-driven property used in ranking the top military powers of the world.

Facebook Logo YouTube Logo