Friday, June 3, 2011

Britain - 1916 Sopwith one and a Half Strutter

Britain was slow to use tractor aircraft with synchronized machine gun. Most British fighters up to this time were pusher aircraft. Even with introduction of the Sopwith 1½ Strutter, Pup and Triplane , the British fought at a serious disadvantage during The Battle of Arras and Bloody April of 1917. It would take the introduction of the Sopwith Camel and the RAF SE.5a to turn the tide of battle.

Britain Begins Using the Synchronized Machine Gun

Sopwith one and a Half Strutter - 1916
Sopwith one and a Half Strutter - 1916

The Sopwith 1½ Strutter was a British one or two-seat biplane multi-role aircraft of the First World War. It is significant as the first British-designed two seat tractor fighter, and the first British aircraft to enter service with a synchronized machine gun. It also saw widespread but rather undistinguished service with the French Aéronautique Militaire.

The first British fighter equipped with a fixed, forward firing, synchronized machine gun, the Sopwith 1½ Strutter was built in both one and two-seat models. In the latter version, the gas tank was dangerously positioned between the pilot and observer.

This design flaw prompted some airmen to joke that the designer of the aircraft must surely have been German. Not long after its introduction, the 1½ Strutter was replaced by the Sopwith Pup.


  1. From Wikipedia Sopwith 1½ Strutter ""
  2. Bruce, J.M. "The Sopwith 1½ Strutter: Historic Military Aircraft No. 14 Part I." Flight, 28 September 1956, pp. 542-546.
  3. Bruce, J.M. "The Sopwith 1½ Strutter: Historic Military Aircraft No. 14 Part II." Flight, 5 October 1956, pp. 586-591.
  4. "
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The Angry Lurker said...

Excellent stuff as usual but a tractor and pusher aircraft?

W. I. Boucher said...

@Fran, It refers to the method of propelling an aircraft. A pusher plane has the prop to the rear and it pushes the aircraft forward. It was primarily used before there was an interrupter gear. a pusher configuration allowed the pilot or gunner to cover the forward firing arc without shooting off the propeller.

A tractor aircraft has an engine mounted forward of the cockpit with the propeller in the front the engine. It pulls the aircraft forward which is why a prop is sometimes called an air-screw.

Initially it was the method used by most unarmed reconnaissance aircraft. This was the preferred method of locomotion. Once the synchronization gear came online all fighters were tractor planes.

Cheer My friend.


kingsleypark said...

Gas tank between the crew???? Yup must have been an agent provocateur who thought that one up!!

W. I. Boucher said...

@KP, It was probably a good thing that it had a short service run. The frightening thing is this was not the last time fuel tanks were mounted in a less than safe location on an aircraft.

The AIRCO DH-4 was sometimes called the Flaming Coffin, because its huge fuel tank was dangerously positioned between the pilot and observer, hindering communication.

Another irony is the same people who approved the contracts for these fire traps were the same people who refused to give pilots parachutes because they thought it would dampen their fighting spirit.