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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.

Detailing the development and operational history of the Vickers FB.5 (Gunbus) Scout Biplane Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 6/15/2016. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
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.


YEAR: 1915
MANUFACTURER(S): Vickers Limited - UK
LENGTH: 27.17 ft (8.28 m)
WIDTH: 36.52 ft (11.13 m)
HEIGHT: 11.52 ft (3.51 m)
EMPTY WEIGHT: 1,224 lb (555 kg)
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

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.

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
Hi: 100mph
Lo: 50mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (70mph).

Graph average of 75 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Vickers FB.5 (Gunbus)'s operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
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Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (224)
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
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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.

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