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Sopwith 1-1/2 Strutter (One-and-One-Half Strutter)

United Kingdom (1916)
Picture of Sopwith 1-1/2 Strutter (One-and-One-Half Strutter) Fighter / Reconnaissance / Light Bomber

The Sopwith Strutter was the first British aircraft to feature synchronized firing machine guns.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Sopwith 1-1/2 Strutter (One-and-One-Half Strutter) Fighter / Reconnaissance / Light Bomber.  Entry last updated on 5/3/2016. Authored by Captain Jack. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

Like other Sopwith Aviation Company aircraft, the wartime Sopwith 1-1/2 Strutter owed its existence to the arrival of the Sopwith Tabloid, a boxy, competition aircraft that sat two in a side-by-side arrangement constructed while being constructed of canvas and wood. The Tabloid design proved a success, earning speed and performance accolades that pushed it to the attention of the British military Despite its limited value as a military mount, the Tabloid nonetheless paved the way for more capable Sopwith designs to come. The 1-1/2 Strutter held two British aviation "firsts" when it was adopted for service - becoming its first "puller" engine arrangement (the engine mounted at the front of the fuselage) two-seater and its first to implement an effective machine gun synchronizer.

Britain went to war in the summer of 1914 and all manner of aircraft were sought for the initiative. This included the Sopwith Tabloid and its floatplane derivatives, the Sopwith Baby and Sopwith Schneider. While these aircraft proved adequate for their given roles of scout (sometimes being armed for the role, sometimes not), they were hardly military-grade end -products built for the rigors of war time abuses. As such, Sopwith engineers took to designing a whole new biplane fighter in the same mold though with changes to incorporate the latest in construction methods while attempting to fulfill the military requirements of a rapidly evolving war in Europe.

Company founder, Thomas Sopwith, along with engineers R.J. Ashfield and Herbert Smith ironed out a new aircraft fuselage with a biplane wing arrangement and inline seating for two - a pilot and an observer/gunner. The powerplant of choice was the French Clerget 9Z rotary engine of 110 horsepower. A single .303 machine gun was fitted in a fixed, forward-firing emplacement, synchronized to fire through the two-bladed spinning propeller blade via a Vickers-Challenger interruptor. For the rear observer, a .303 Lewis machine gun was mounted along a Scarff No. 2 Ring Mounting for trainable fire along the airframe's crucial "six". The wings were supported by struts in a conventional way through full-length, staggered parallel struts making single bays - though half-length struts were used to connect the upper wing assembly to the fuselage (known as cabane struts) and, thusly, this garnered the aircraft the nickname, and ultimately its formal designation, of "1-1/2 Strutter" (One-and-One Half Strutter"). An adjustable rudder surface was added to the vertical tail fin and the wings proved notable in their implementation of pivoting surfaces which were essentially equivalent to later dive brakes. Testing of the 1-1/2 Strutter was undertaken in December of 1915.

The Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) found interest in this newer dedicated Sopwith military development and procured the type in number with deliveries beginning in February of 1916. Requiring a steady stable of airplanes all its own, the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) joined in procurement of the type, eventually fielding it across nine complete squadrons - No. 37, No. 39, No. 43 (bomber), No. 44, No. 45 (bomber), No. 46, No. 70 (bomber), No. 78 and No. 143. RNAS No. 5 Wing, operating in France, became the first 1-1/2 Strutter squadron in April of 1916. The 1-1/2 Strutter was eventually in such great demand that other British concerns were charged with its production and license manufacture was also handled overseas in factories across France and Imperial Russia. The aircraft would prove to be a commercial success for Sopwith in that operators ultimately spanned the globe in wartime and post-war use - Afghanistan, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Estonia, France, Greece, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia (then later as the Soviet Union), Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States. For the United States, the 1-1/2 Strutter stocked the inventories of its US Signal Corps, the United States Navy and the American Expeditionary Force (the latter in action across Europe during World War 1). Civilian use extended to Argentina, France, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

In practice, the 1-1/2 Strutter compared favorably to the offerings of the Imperial German and Austro-Hungarian air services of the time. The type was utilized initially as a bomber escort and became an effective scout platform all its own. When armed with conventional drop ordnance, the 1-1/2 Strutter proved equally effective as a light two-man bomber. The fuselage eventually came in two flavors for its required roles - produced in twin-seat and single-seat fuselage forms. In 1916, the original Vickers-Challenger interrupter gear was replaced by the more effective Scarff-Dobovsky system. When utilizing a two-man crew, the aircraft was a capable "fighting scout" and benefitted from the "two heads are better than one" mentality. In its single-seat form, construction was simplified and the aircraft lightened to an extent, though more responsibility fell to the single operator now. Within time, a dedicated night-fighter form emerged to combat German incursions over British soil after dark and made up a critical portion of homeland defense squadrons.

Production of 1-1/2 Strutters included 1,439 built for British forces and an additional 4,200 to 4,500 examples built in France brining the combined reported total to nearly 6,000 units.

While quickly brought about to fight in a frontline role, the 1-1/2 Strutter suffered the fate of many-a-World War 1 aircraft - the evolution of technology in the period often led to once-proud mounts being quickly outmoded by arriving enemy designs. 1-1/2 Strutters were superseded by Sopwith Pups and Triplanes beginning to come online throughout 1916 and Strutters were therefore pressed into second-line roles thereafter. All of these designs eventually laid the groundwork for the war-winning Sopwith Camel of mid-1917. 1-1/2 Strutters proved a modest ace-maker as well, Englishman Geoffrey Cock leading the way with 13 confirmed kills.

Any available statistics for the Sopwith 1-1/2 Strutter (One-and-One-Half Strutter) Fighter / Reconnaissance / Light Bomber 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.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 120mph
Lo: 60mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (102mph).

    Graph average of 90 miles-per-hour.
Relative Operational Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the Sopwith 1-1/2 Strutter's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era Impact
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 Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
5939
5939


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

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


Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
  Compare this entry against other aircraft using our Comparison Tool  
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: 1916
Classification Type: Fighter / Reconnaissance / Light Bomber
Manufacturer(s): Sopwith Aviation Company - UK
Production Units: 5,939
Global Operators:
Afghanistan; Argentina; Australia; Belgium; Brazil; Estonia; France; Japan; Latvia; Lithuania; Mexico; Netherlands; Poland; Romania; Imperial Russia; Soviet Union; Sweden; Switzerland; Ukraine; United Kingdom; United States
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Sopwith 1-1/2 Strutter model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
1 or 2


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
25.23 ft


Meters
7.69 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
33.50 ft


Meters
10.21 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
10.24 ft


Meters
3.12 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
1,257 lb


Kilograms
570 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
2,150 lb


Kilograms
975 kg

Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x Clerget 9B rotary engine developing 130 horsepower.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
102 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
164 kph


Knots
89 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
351 mi


Kilometers
565 km


Nautical Miles
305 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
12,992 ft


Meters
3,960 m


Miles
2.46 mi

Armament - Hardpoints (2):

STANDARD:
1 x 7.7mm Vickers machine gun in fixed forward-firing position.
1 x 7.7mm Lewis machine gun in rear cockpit mounting.

OPTIONAL:
Up to 224lbs of external ordnance.
Visual Armory:

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Variants: Series Model Variants
• Sopwith Type 9400 - Initial Admiralty Designation.
• Sopwith Type 9700 - Initial Admiralty Designation.
• Sopwith Type Two-Seater - Initial RFC Designation.
• Sopwith 1-1/2 Strutter - Fighter-Scout/Bomber/Reconnaissance Variant; produced in single and twin-seat versions.
• Sopwith Comic - Home Defense Variant
• Ship Strutter - Naval Version
• SOP. 1 - French Production Designation
• SOP. 1A2 - French Two-Seat Reconnaissance Variant.
• SOP. 1B2 - French Two-Seat Bomber Variant.
• SOP. 1B1 - French Single Seat Bomber Variant.