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Vickers FB.5 (Gunbus)

Scout Biplane Aircraft

The Vickers type FB.5 armed biplane scount originally was unveiled through the Type 18 Destroyer at the London Aero Show in 1913.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Edited: 6/15/2016
National Flag Graphic


Year: 1915
Manufacturer(s): Vickers Limited - UK
Production: 224
Capabilities: Reconnaissance (RECCE);
Crew: 2
Length: 27.17 ft (8.28 m)
Width: 36.52 ft (11.13 m)
Height: 11.52 ft (3.51 m)
Weight (Empty): 1,224 lb (555 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 2,050 lb (930 kg)
Power: 1 x Gnome Monosoupape 9-cylinder rotary engine developing 100 horsepower.
Speed: 70 mph (113 kph; 61 kts)
Ceiling: 8,999 feet (2,743 m; 1.7 miles)
Range: 249 miles (400 km; 216 nm)
Rate-of-Climb: 310 ft/min (94 m/min)
Operators: Denmark; France; United Kingdom
The FB.5 (also known as the "Gunbus") was of a biplane type design for the scouting role. What set the system apart from earlier examples was that this aircraft was the first scout type to be armed. In that way alone, one could argue that the FB.5 was aviations first "real" fighter aircraft. The design proved solid by 1913 standards and evolved from the showcase Type 18 "Destroyer" (later redesignated to EFB.1 "Experimental Fighting Biplane No. 1") to the FB.5 and FB.9 models.

The FB.5 was powered by a rotary pusher Monosoupape engine of 100 horsepower mounted to the rear of the nacelle. The system was crewed by two personnel seated in tandem though interestingly enough arranged with the pilot in the middle of the design and the observer to the front (later aircraft would be of traditional front engine design with the observer/rear gunner seat behind the pilot who, in turn, sat behind the front-mounted engine). Naturally this forward positioning of the observer was necessitated by the placement of the engine but it also afforded the individual a grand view of happenings to the front of the aircraft, not to mention a great field of fire for his single or twin machine guns. Armament generally consisted of a single 7.7mm drum-fed Lewis machine gun though a dual 7.7mm machine gun array was also reportedly used.

The FB.5 was fielded with the No.11 Squadron stationed in France in mid 1915, effectively making them the world's first true "fighter" squadron. The system displayed a fair amount of success and lasted long enough to be unseated by the ever-advancing hordes of German fighter aircraft. The FB.9 was an attempt to improve the FB.5 model series to a new standard and featured rounded wingtips and tailplane along with a more aerodynamic nose design. Production consisted of 309 examples of both FB.5 and FB.9 types being produced in the United Kingdom while 99 further types were produced in France under license.


1 OR 2 x 7.7mm machine gun(s) in front observer's cockpit

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun

Variants / Models

• Type 18 "Destroyer" - Design as debuted in the 1913 Aero Show in London.
• EFB.1 "Experimental Fighting Biplane No. 1) - Redesignation of the Type 18 model.
• FB.5 "Gunbus" - Production Model Designation
• FB.9 - "Improved FB.5" model variant; tailplane and wingtips rounded; redesigned nose section.
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