Friday, May 6, 2011

France 1914-1916 Voisin Bombers

Voisin Light Bombers 1914-1916

The need for aircraft which could attack ground assets was known since the early days of the Great War. French designers were quick to develop dedicated purpose designed bombers and ground attack planes. The Voisin brothers designed several successful aircraft which served with distinction for many of the allied nations.

Voisin III Light Bomber and Ground Attack Aircraft - 1914

Voisin III (LA) - 1914
Voisin III (LA) - 1914

The Voisin III (or Voisin 3) was one of the first two-seat bomber and ground attack aircraft of World War I. It was a pusher biplane, developed by Airplanes Voisin of Gabriel Voisin in 1914 as a more powerful version of the 1912 Voisin I (Voisin 1) design. It also incorporated a light steel frame which made it survivable in the temporary airfields of wartime military aviation.

The Voisin III became the standard Allied bomber in the early years of the war. The main users were the French Air Force and the Imperial Russian Air Force. Russia ordered over 800 in France and built a further 400 under license at DUX in Moscow. Around 100 were built in Italy, and 50 in the United Kingdom, while smaller numbers were purchased by Belgium and Romania.

Voisin VIII Night Bomber - 1916

Voisin VIII - 1916
Voisin VIII - 1916

The Voisin VIII entered service in November 1916 as a French night bomber. Gabriel and Charles Voisin designed the Voisin VIII to replace the Voisin VII. The more powerful, and more successful Voisin VIII, was also known as the Type LAP and Type LBP. This was the French army's main night bomber in 1916-1917, with over one thousand built.

The Voisin VIII flew in a wide range of environments, from the freezing Russian steppes to Mesopotamia. The Voisin VIII operated by the Imperial Russian Air Service substituted skis for the rubber wheels used by other operating nations . Equally adaptable to desert conditions, the sturdy Voisin VIII was used by the British Royal Flying Corps in the Middle East.

The original engine choice for the Voisin VIII was a Hispano-Suiza, however there were not sufficient quantities available for the demand, resulting in the installation of Peugeot engines. The change in power plant forced a redesign of the Voisin VIII. The engine compartment was widened and the airframe was strengthened to accommodate the engine.

The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum has a beautifully restored example of a Voisin VIII on display. NASM's Voisin Type 8, serial number 4640, is the oldest surviving aircraft that was specifically designed as a bomber. When manufactured in February 1916, it was equipped as a night bomber, with internal bomb racks, cockpit lights, and provision for landing lights. Painted in the markings of French bombing squadron VB 109, it is the sole survivor of the 1,100 Type 8s produced.


Jon said...

I look forward to looking for this aircraft next time I am at the Air and Space Museum.

W. I. Boucher said...

@Jon you can find their posting about the Voisin Type 8 at:
FYI: The NASM's Voisin Type 8 is on display in the Legend, Memory and the Great War in the Air exhibition at the National Mall building.