Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Sopwith Aeroplanes, Part II -- January 3, 2017

The 29-September-1919 issue of Aerial Age Weekly featured the second of two parts of "The Sopwith Aeroplanes," an article about the products of the Sopwith Aviation Company.  Part one is here. 


The Sopwith "Snipe"

THIS machine, brought out March 17, 1917, was produced primarily with a view to the attainment of a very high performance and exhibits characteristic of both the "Camel" and '"Dolphin." From the latter it differs in point of stagger and plane dimensions, and also in having a 200 h.p. B. R. engine in place of the Hispano-Suiza. As in the "Dolphin," the rudder is of large size and balanced, and the "Snipe," as might be expected from its general lines and arrangement of weights, was highly maneuverable. The pilot's head, owing to the deep fuselage and small gap, is on a level with the top plane, the centre of which is partly cut away and partly slotted. A double-bay system of struts is used, giving, with the relatively small span, great constructional strength. Owing to the large diameter of the B. R. 2, the rectangularity of the fuselage only appears towards the tail, and the body is more pronouncedly circular than in previous Sopwith designs. The "Snipe" did not make its appearance until well on in the middle of 1918, and had thus very little chance of introducing its qualities to the German Flying Corps. In the short time at its disposal, however, it made an enviable reputation for itself. In four days a single "Snipe" squadron accounted for 36 enemy aeroplanes, and downed 13 in one day. At this rate German aerial personnel would have become rapidly exhausted. An outstanding feat was that performed by Major Barker, who, on a Sopwith "Snipe," when attacked by 60 hostile machines, crashed four of them and drove down no less than 10 out of control.

In addition it might be mentioned that a "Snipe" fitted with an A.B.C. engine attained a speed of 156 m.p.h. and climbed to 10,000 ft. in 4'/2 minutes.

The Sopwith "Dolphin"

Two principal objects were borne in mind in the design of this single-seater fighter—firstly, to make good use of the 200 h.p. Hispano-Suiza engine (which had reached a productive stage), and, secondly, to afford the pilot a range of vision greater than that of any other existing aeroplane. The former necessitated a departure from the usual lines of the Sopwith fuselage, the upper surface of which in the rear of the cockpit is more pronouncedly arched than in previous types. The span of the planes was increased beyond that of the "Camel," and a double-bay arrangement of struts adopted in order to provide great structural strength. At the same time the gap was slightly diminished, and, what forms a srong characteristic of the type, a negative stagger was adopted, with the object of placing the main spar extensions of the top plane in such a position as not to interfere with the complete freedom of movement of the pilot, who occupies the rectangular space formed by them. On these tubular steel spar extensions—which are supported by four short vertical struts from the fuselage—arc mounted two Lewis guns, capable of being aimed independently of the direction of the machine. Two fixed Vickers' guns firing through the propeller are arranged along the top of the engine, and are partially covered in by this cylinder fairing. The general arrangement of the front part of the fuselage is particularly neat, and its formidable appearance is well supported by the "Dolphin's" offensive capabilities. The radiator is divided into two portions, each carried on one side of the fuselage level with the pilot's cockpit. In front of each radiator is arranged an inclined and adjustable deflector, allowing the whole or any part of the cooling surface to be obstructed. Among other features of the "Dolphin"' will be noted an empennage design differing markedly from that of previous Sopwith types. The fin is of a more upright shape and the rudder is balanced.

The 300 h.p. "Dolphin"

In connection with this type it is of considerable interest to note that at the signing of the Armistice it was being built in quantities by the French Government, for themselves and the American Government in France. It is fitted with the 300 h.p. Hispano-Suiza, and an adjustable tail plane is employed, since the variable load is considerable, the French and American Governments calling for a very large quantity of petrol to be carried. The machine was reinforced in certain respects to allow for the considerable addition of power, and it had every promise of being an extremely formidable proposition.

In general outline it was very similar to the 200 h.p. Hispano-Suiza "Dolphin." The guns were completely concealed under the cowling, being fitted in tunnels, and the air intake of the carburetor was fitted with a telescopic-type gas tube direct into the front cowl, considerably diminishing the risk of carburetor fire.

The Sopwith "Cuckoo"

There is a genuine humor in all the Sopwith type-names, and in none more so than in the ''Cuckoo," which was encouraged to lay a very splendid egg in any German nest that could be located above the surface of the sea. The egg in this case was a special 18-in. torpedo, which the "Cuckoo" carried strung underneath her fuselage and between the wheels of the landing carriage, which, it will be observed, consists of two independent wheels, each separately mounted, and not, as is usual, united by a common or articulated axle.

This machine was built at thec request of Commander Murray Sueter, R.N., and was of considerable dimensions. The treble-bay arrangement of struts will be noted, as also the installation of the 200 h.p. Hispano-Suiza geared engine, with the elliptical radiator surrounding the propeller shaft.

The "Buffalo"

This machine, fitted with a B. R. 200 h.p. engine, was designed primarily for reconnaissance and contact patrol work, with a view to armouring the pilot, observer and fuel tanks against enemy attack. The construction of the fore part of the fuselage was similar to the "Salamander." It was fitted with one synchronized gun firing forward and one Lewis gun on a Scarfe ring mounting firing aft. The experiments with this machine were highly successful, and it was on the point of being put into quantity production when the Armistice was signed.

The "Salamander"

In general lines this formidable aeroplane is modelled upon its prototype, the "Snipe," but its function is of a totally different character, as it was designed primarily as a trench fighter, for which purpose it is armed with two fixed machine guns and protected with armor plating. The latter forms the front of the fuselage from a point immediately in the rear of the engine (a B. R. of 200 h.p.), and extends to the rear of the pilot's cockpit. This plating was not added to an existing frame, but had a structural as well as a protective function, and itself formed the front portion of the fuselage. It will be noticed that the faired cowling behind the engine is added above the armor. A small variation from "Snipe" detail is seen in the tapering spine serving to fair off the pilot's head. The being bullet-proof, gave him a considerable means of protection against attack from the rear. The total weight of the armor is 650 lbs., and, in addition to this extra load, 2,000 rounds of ammunition were carried for the guns.

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