In 1917 Mr. Birdseye B. Lewis formed an aircraft business with the Vought group, becoming the Lewis & Vought Corporation in the United States. The Vought VE-7 Bluebird, named for Lewis himself, was a biplane designed that same year. Lewis & Vought produced this initial offering as a 2-seat trainer for the United States Army. While being tested and used by the Army, Brigadier General Billy Mitchell commented favorably on the aircraft's flying abilities, rating them as good as or even better than any current fighters of the day. The selected powerplant was the Wright Hispano-Suiza engine designated as HS-8A. With a compression ratio listed from 4.7 to 5.3, Swedish engineer Marc Birkigt increased the power output to 180 horsepower (132 kW) at 2,100 rpm. 49,800 of these engines were eventually produced and made itself a legacy as one of the best engines of its type. Wright-Hispano engines also powered the fabled French SPAD biplane fighters in World War 1.
After World War 1, the US Army cancelled its order for 1,000 aircraft but the US Navy was still very interested in the VE-7 concept and received an evaluation machine in May of 1920. Testing the aircraft proved it sound for USN operational requirements and the adopted the VE-7 as its very first fighter aircraft. Full rate production orders soon followed and demand proved more than the young Vought organization was capable of. The US government had anticipated this and formed the Naval Aircraft Factory (NAF). The factory was established by the United States Navy in 1918 in Philadelphia to assist such companies in solving the problem of aircraft supply versus demand. The Navy Department surmised that it was necessary to build a Navy-owned aircraft factory to guarantee a constant supply of aircraft and to help in obtaining cost data for the comparison against private manufacturing firms. Some 128 VE-7s were ultimately built and the single-seat fighter version of the VE-7 was further designated as VE-7S complete with a faired over front cockpit and room for a single Vickers-brand .30 caliber machinegun off-set left and synchronized to fire through the two-bladed propeller.
The Navy created its first two fighter squadrons in VF-1 and VF-2 and equipped them both with these VE-7s. Fighter Squadron VF-1 was originally established on July 1s, 1922, and operated as VF-1 until July 1, 1934 . Squadron VF-2 was originally established as Combat Squadron Four on September 23rd, 1921, making its home base at Naval Air Station San Diego, California. The squadron was re-designated Fighter Squadron VF-2 on July 1st, 1922 and were assigned these Vought VE-7 biplanes. The squadron, also known as the "Flying Chiefs," operated from the carrier USS Langley.
Lieutenant Virgil C. Griffin made history on October 17, 1922 when he took off in a VE-7 biplane from the deck of the new USS Langley (CV-1) marking the first such action completed from an American Navy carrier.
Status Retired, Out-of-Service
Production 128 Units
Lewis & Vought Corporation - USA
- Navy / Maritime
24.44 ft (7.45 m)
34.35 ft (10.47 m)
8.63 ft (2.63 m)
1,391 lb (631 kg)
1,938 lb (879 kg)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Vought VE-7 Bluebird production model)
1 x Wright Hispano E-3 engine developing 180 horsepower and driving two-bladed wooden propeller.
106 mph (171 kph; 92 kts)
15,092 feet (4,600 m; 2.86 miles)
290 miles (467 km; 252 nm)
738 ft/min (225 m/min)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Vought VE-7 Bluebird production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
1 x 7.7mm (.30) Vickers machine gun synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller by way of interrupter gear.
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Vought VE-7 Bluebird production model)
VE-7 - Appearing in 1918; produced for the US Army Air Service (14) and the US Navy (39).
VE-7F - Appearing in 1921; 29 examples produced for the US Navy.
VE-7G - Appearing in 1921; 23 VE-7's converted for the US Navy while 1 VE-7 converted for the USMC.
VE-7GF - Appearing in 1921; single example converted from a VE-7.
VE-7H - Appearing in 1924; 9 examples produced for the US Navy.
VE-7S - Appearing in 1925; single example converted from VE-7.
VE-7SF - Appearing in 1925; 11 examples produced for the US Navy.
VE-8 - Appearing in 1918; fitted with Wright-Hispano H engine of 340 horsepower; 2 x Vickers 7.7mm machine guns; decreased wingspan, wing area and overall length performance and MTOW increases; only two produced from original four ordered by the US Army.
VE-9 - Appearing in 1921; 2 examples converted from VE-7 for the US Army; increased performance specs in top speed (119 mph) and ceiling (18,840 ft).
VE-9 - Appearing in 1927; 22 examples produced for the US Army while 17 examples were produced for the US Navy.
VE-9H - Appearing in 1927; observation floatplane aircraft variants for use on USN battleships; sans armament; catapult provision; revised vertical tail section.
VE-9W - Proposed variant; never produced.
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
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