Nieuport-Delage NiD 52
Biplane Fighter Aircraft
The Nieuport-Delage NiD 52 biplane fighter found more interest abroad than at home in France - serving in the Spanish Civil War with both sides.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
The French concern of Nieuport was founded in 1908 prior to World War 1 (1914-1918) as a raceplane maker. It eventually produced some of the better known biplane fighters of the conflict and helped to ensure victory for the Allies - some of the conflict's top pilots flying Nieuports at one time or another in their careers included Frenchman Charles Nungesser, Englishman Albert Ball, American Eddie Rickenbacker and Canadian Billy Bishop, all aces from the war.
Gustave Delage, a French naval officer, aviator and engineer, joined the company in early 1915 and began work on a new airplane type utilizing a "sesquiplane" wing arrangement - where the lower plane of a biplane configuration is decidedly smaller than that of the upper span. His first attempt became the two-seat Nie.10 which went on to sell 1,000 units. His greatest contribution to the war effort was the classic Nieuport 11 - or "Bebe" - whose production totals reached 7,000 with deliveries spanning several of the top air services of the period.
In the decade following the war, the company rewrote their naming convention which resulted in the "Nieuport-Delage" name being used for future product designations beginning with the NiD 32 of 1920. Towards the end of the decade, the company was at work with another biplane fighter design, again relying on the sesquiplane wing arrangement, and the type featured metal skinning with a very well-streamlined fuselage. It became known as the "NiD 52".
As was the case with many fighters of this interwar period, the NiD 52 still retained many features common to World War 1 fighters - an open-air cockpit, biplane wing configuration and fixed, wheeled undercarriage. A pointed spinner was affixed to the two-bladed propeller unit tied to the front-mounted engine. The cockpit was set slightly ahead of midships, under and behind the upper wing assembly. The wings were joined to one another by way of Vee-shaped struts. The empennage was traditional with a single vertical fin and body-mounted horizontal planes. A strut network connected the main landing gear wheels to the fuselage and a simple skid was fitted under the tail. The engine was wholly enclosed in a metal cover with only a few select features showing through the metal skin. The wings featured fabric skinning. As a fighter, the NiD 52 carried the standard biplane armament of 2 x 7.7mm Vickers machine guns synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades.
Before the end of 1927, the prototype NiD 52 made it airborne for the first time. The product was showcased to French authorities but did not find favor. Instead, the Spanish government placed an order in 1928 through 125 examples. The aircraft were also to be manufactured locally by Hispano-Suiza. First deliveries came in 1930.
Spanish lines produced the fighter into 1933 and several frontline squadrons were equipped with the type. In service, the aircraft was a handful to the rather untested Spanish pilots and found few supporters. Slow and somewhat plodding, the NiD 52 failed to live up to its fighter design and accidents were commonplace which reduced serviceable numbers in Spanish service.
In 1936, war broke out between the Spanish government (the Republicans) and the Nationalists. The former was supported by nations like the Soviet Union and Mexico while the latter was strengthened by Italian, Portuguese and German involvement. Of the 25 originally ordered by the Spanish government, less than half were available to fight. Even then, some ten or so aircraft were confiscated by Nationalist forces which further restricted available numbers for the government. As such, both sides fielded the fighter during the war which led to much confusion in the air battles that followed.
The German and Italian interference complicated the Spanish government response as those countries supplied the Nationalists with much more modern aircraft as the fighting wore on. This clearly left the NiD 52 at a disadvantage and worsened the survivability of the Spanish State in the long term. The NiD 52 was finally relieved of service come 1937 and were used in second-line roles like maritime patrolling and basic training. Amazingly, not one NiD 52 airframe survived the bloody civil war - all being lost in the fighting or to continuing accidents.
The NiD 72 was brought about by Nieuport-Delage as an improved version of the NiD 52. This found broader interest globally for it was taken on in evaluation form by the air services of Belgium, Brazil and Romania. The Brazilian Air Force used these in anger during he Constitutional Revolution of 1932.
Beyond this, the NiD 52 line ended with the NiD 82, another related fighter design outfitted with a Hispano-Suiza 12Lb series engine of 600 horsepower. It achieved prototype form only and was not adopted by any one party
As finalized, the NiD 52 exhibited an overall length of 7.6 meters with a wingspan of 12 meters and height of 3 meters. Empty weight reached 3,000 pounds while Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) was rated at 4,000 pounds. The twin 7.7mm machine gun armament was all that was ever fitted to the fighter in terms of offense. Performance included a maximum speed of 162 miles per hour, a range out to 250 miles, a service ceiling of 26,900 feet and a rate-of-climb equaling 1,215 feet per minute.