The Nieuport 11, often nicknamed the Bébé, was a French World War I single seat fighter aircraft, designed by Gustave Delage. It is famous as one of the aircraft that ended the 'Fokker Scourge' in 1916.
Design and development
The Nieuport 11 was basically a smaller, neater version of the Nieuport 10 - designed specifically as a single-seat fighter. Like the "10" the "11" was a sesquiplane, a biplane with a full-sized top wing with two spars, and a lower wing of much narrower chord and just one spar. A "Vee" interplane strut joined the lower wing with the broader upper wing on each side. The main drawback of this particular layout is that unless it is very strongly built, the narrow lower wing is prone to twist and bend under stress. This was a problem with all the "Vee-Strut" Nieuports, as well as the German Albatros D.III,V and Va, which adopted a generally similar wing design.
Nieuport 11s were supplied to the Aéronautique Militaire, the Royal Naval Air Service, the Dutch air service, Belgium, Russia and Italy. 646 were license produced by the Italian Macchi company. Although its own operational career was short, it was the first in a line of single seat "Vee-Strut" Nieuport fighters - the most important being the Nieuport 17, 24bis. and 27.
In 1916 an improved version appeared as the Nieuport 16 which was a Nieuport 11 airframe powered by the 110 hp (92 kW) Le Rhone 9J rotary engine. Visible differences included a larger aperture in front of the "horse shoe" cowling and, at least in some cases, a pilot headrest fairing. Later versions had a deck-mounted synchronized Vickers gun, but in this configuration the combined effect of the heavier 9J engine and the heavier Vickers gun compromised maneuverability and made the craft decidedly nose-heavy. The next variant, the slightly larger Nieuport 17 C1, was designed from the outset for the heavier engine, and remedied the 16's c.g. problems, as well as providing an improved performance..
This small, lightly loaded sesquiplane outclassed the Fokker Eindecker in practically every respect. Among other features it had ailerons for lateral control rather than the obsolete wing warping of the Fokker - and its elevator was attached to a conventional tail plane as opposed to balanced "Morane type" elevators, making it much easier to fly accurately. The Fokker's success had largely been due to its synchronized machine gun which fired forward through the arc of its propeller. At the time, the Allies did not possess a similar system, and the Nieuport 11's Lewis or Hotchkiss machine gun was mounted on the top wing to fire over the propeller, achieving similar results. There were however problems with clearing gun jams and replacing ammunition drums in flight, which were eventually solved in British service with the invention of the Foster mounting, and in French service by the adoption of the Alkan synchronization gear, which was applied to Nieuport fighters from the Nieuport 17 onwards.
During the course of the Battle of Verdun in February 1916, the Nieuport 11 inflicted heavy losses on the enemy, forcing a radical change in German tactics.
By March 1916 the Bébé was being replaced by the improved Nieuport 17. This type was in turn replaced by SPAD S.VII in most French squadrons early in 1917, and by the Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5a in British squadrons later in the year. Thereafter the Nieuport single seat types were widely used as trainers.
Specifications (Nie 11)
Data from "The Worlds Greatest Aircraft"
Comparable aircraft Fokker Eindecker
Related lists List of military aircraft of France
Published - July 2009
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