Military Factory logo

Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.8

United Kingdom (1916)
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.


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

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.






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: 100mph
Lo: 50mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (94mph).

    Graph average of 75 miles-per-hour.
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 Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
295
295


  * 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  
National Flag Graphic
Origin: United Kingdom
Year: 1916
Type: Biplane Fighter Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Royal Aircraft Factory - UK
Production: 295
Status: Retired, Out-of-Service
Global Operators:
United Kingdom (retired)
Historical 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 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 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
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.8 model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
1


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
23.65 ft


Meters
7.21 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
31.50 ft


Meters
9.6 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
9.15 ft


Meters
2.79 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
895 lb


Kilograms
406 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
1,345 lb


Kilograms
610 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x Gnome Monosoupape rotary piston engine developing 100 horsepower.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
94 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
151 kph


Knots
82 kts


Performance
CEILING


Feet
14,501 ft


Meters
4,420 m


Miles
2.75 mi

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Armament - Hardpoints (4):

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

OPTIONAL:
Lightweight bomb load.
Variants: Series Model Variants
• F.E.8 - Single-Seat Fighter Designation