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Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.8

United Kingdom (1916)

Detailing the development and operational history of the Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.8 Biplane Fighter Aircraft.

 Entry last updated on 2/13/2018; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com



  Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.8  
Picture of Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.8 Biplane Fighter Aircraft


The single-seat RAF F.E.8 biplane fighter as no match for German aircraft as the pilot was charged with flying his aircraft, scanning for enemy, aiming and shooting the machine gun all on his own.

The Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.8 ("FE" = "Fighter Experimental") recorded a first-flight in September of 1915 and adopted for service with the Royal Flying Corps of Britain on August 2nd, 1916. To this point, the British military machine had been committed to total war in Europe for the period of two years and aircraft design was just one part of the very complicated formula to victory. The F.E.8 followed much of the design philosophy seen in the earlier F.E.2 model, continuing the arrangement which sat the engine behind the sole pilot.

As the British still lacked any sort of viable "interrupter" gear for their machine guns when mounted behind a spinning propeller blade, it was required that the engine simply be located behind the pilot. This forced the "pusher" arrangement in which the propeller spun behind the engine itself. The major benefit to this was that the frontal section of the aircraft was now unobstructed for the pilot in both vantage point and firing arcs and her was positioned much further ahead of the center of gravity of his aircraft.

Unlike the earlier R.E.2 of September of 1915, which sat a crew of two to handle the workload, the F.E.8 forced a single crewman to manage the functions of the aircraft as well as the weaponry. This meant the pilot needed to keep his aircraft in the air, scan for targets and engage with accuracy all the while keeping his cool under fire. Problems with this arrangement were further compounded when the machine gun would inevitably jam requiring the pilot to now give the weapon his full attention.

Beyond the excellent visibility given to the pilot, the overall design of the aircraft yielded some very deadly results in some cases as the aircraft required specialized training to recover from a spin. Though the F.E.8 proved a more maneuverable and a lighter aircraft design than the preceding F.E.2 series, it was immediately outclassed by the German Albatros D.I and D.II biplane fighters, putting most F.E.8's at a major disadvantage in direct combat. Baron von Richthofen's group, the famous "Red Baron" of Germany, downed no fewer than nine F.E.8s in a single sortie, showing just how outclassed the type was.
Introduced in August of 1916, the F.E.8 managed a frontline service life up until the middle of 1917 by which point total production yielded just 295 examples. In comparison, the R.E.2 was built in nearly 2,000 examples from 1914 until 1918 (the final year of the war). beyond the Royal Aircraft Factory (RAF), Darracq Motor Engineering and Vickers were involved in the manufacture of the F.E.8.

Operators included Nos. 5, 29, 40 and 41 Squadrons of the Royal Flying Corps. The type was not exported.

The F.E.8 had an overall length of 23.7 feet, a wingspan of 31.5 feet and a height of 9 feet. Empty weight was 960lb against a loaded weight of 1,470lb. Power was from a single French-made Le Rhone 9-cylinder air-cooled rotary engine outputting 110 horsepower and driving a two-bladed wooden propeller. Maximum speed reached over 93 miles per hour and its service ceiling was 14,500 feet. Mission endurance was about 2.5 hours. Beyond its single .303 Lewis Gun (on a trainable mounting over the nose), the aircraft could carry a light load of drop bombs. The wing mainplanes were equal-span showcasing two bays with parallel struts. The main landing gear element sat under center mass with a skid unit seated under the tail. The tail was joined to the wing mainplanes by way of thin booms.
Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.8 Specifications
National Flag Graphic
United Kingdom
Year: 1916
Status: Retired, Out-of-Service
Type: Biplane Fighter Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Royal Aircraft Factory - UK
Production: 295
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
Structural
Crew: 1
Length: 23.65 ft (7.21 m)
Width: 31.50 ft (9.60 m)
Height: 9.15 ft (2.79 m)
Empty Weight: 895 lb (406 kg)
MTOW: 1,345 lb (610 kg)


Installed Power
1 x Gnome Monosoupape rotary piston engine developing 100 horsepower.

Standard Day Performance
Maximum Speed: 94 mph (151 kph; 82 kts)
Service Ceiling: 14,501 ft (4,420 m; 2.75 mi)


Armament
STANDARD:
1 x 7.7mm (0.303 caliber) Lewis machine gun on a trainable mounting at the nose.

OPTIONAL:
Lightweight bomb load.


Operators List
United Kingdom (retired)

Series Model Variants
• F.E.8 - Single-Seat Fighter Designation


Supported Weapon Systems
Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition