Thursday, June 30, 2011

Britain - 1918 Sopwith TF.2 Salamander

I know it is that standard dull British paint scheme. I am working on the more exuberant tan, pink and green experimental camouflage scheme and I promise to post it when I have finished it.

Britain's Late War Ground Attack Plane

Sopwith Salamander - 1918
Sopwith Salamander - 1918

The Sopwith TF.2 Salamander was a British World War I ground attack aircraft which first flew in April 1918. The war ended before the type could enter squadron service, although two were in France in October 1918.

By 1917, the use of close support aircraft had become an essential part of an infantry attack. On the German side, specialist aircraft were designed specifically for the task, such as the Halberstadt CL.II and the armored Junkers J.I – the British however relied for this work on ordinary fighters such as the DH 5, and the Camel, and general purpose two seaters such as the F.K.8. Ground fire took a heavy toll of aircrew involved, and an equivalent to the armored German machines was sought. The first British aircraft to be built specifically for "ground strafing", as close support was known, was an armored version of the Camel, known by the company as the "TF.1" (for "trench fighter"). This did not go into production, but information gained in testing it was used for the Salamander design.

Design of the Salamander, conceived as an armored version of the Sopwith Snipe, began in January 1918. The forward portion of the fuselage was a 650 lb (295 kg) box of armor plate. The rear portion was a generally similar structure to the Snipe's, but flat sided, to match the forepart. The wings and tail unit were identical with the Snipe, and the same Bentley BR2 rotary engine was fitted. This was protected by a standard (unarmored) cowling – the foremost armor plate forming the firewall.

Originally an armament of three Lewis guns was planned, as for the TF.I. Two would have fired forward and downwards through the cockpit floor, while a third would have fired upwards. In the event a conventional battery of two synchronized Vickers guns was mounted in front of the cockpit, as on the Snipe, although they were staggered, the starboard gun being mounted a few inches forward of the port one.

The prototype underwent its initial trials in April 1918, and was sent to France for evaluation on 9 May, but subsequently crashed on 19 May during test program while with No. 65 Squadron when the pilot had to avoid a tender crossing the aerodrome responding to another crash. . By this time four prototypes were flying, undergoing many of the same modifications to the tail and ailerons as the Snipe in order to correct the initially rather heavy and unresponsive controls.

Production was intended to be on a very large scale – The Air Navigation Co., Glendower Aircraft, and Palladium Motors all signed contracts to supply Salamanders, as well as the Sopwith company itself. By the end of the war, however, only 37 Salamanders were on RAF charge, and only two of these were in France. None had as yet been issued to an operational squadron.

With the Armistice, the immediate need for a specialist close support aircraft evaporated, and no squadron was ever fully equipped with the type, which had disappeared from RAF service altogether by the mid 1920s. The type was not developed, but was used in trials of various patterns of disruptive camouflage in the early post war years. One example went to America, and was apparently still in existence at McCook Field in 1926.


  1. Sopwith Salamander. (2011, April 3). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 05:15, June 30, 2011, from
  2. Bruce, Jack M., "The First British armoured Brigade", AIR International, Bromley, Kent, UK, April 1979, Volume 16, Number 4, page 185.
  3. "Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War I". New York, New York: Military Press. 1990. pp. 87. ISBN 0-517-03376-3.
  4. Bruce, J.M. (1969). "War Planes of the First World War" (Vol.2). London: Macdonald. ISBN 0-356-01490-8.


The Angry Lurker said...

I love that firing through the cockpit floor, obviously made sense.

W. I. Boucher said...

A lot of the ground attack planes had downward firing guns ranging from machine guns to light cannons. There were some planes where the downward firing guns removed in the field due to visibility issues which made firing them highly inaccurate.

They would rely on small bombs and grenades as their primary anti personnel weapons.

Jon said...

Why were the final guns staggered?

W. I. Boucher said...

Good Question Jon. The design originally called for two forward-downward firing Lewis guns mounted at an angle adjustable between 35 and 55 degrees for use as anti-personnel weapons. The weapon for anti-aircraft use consisted of a single fixed forward firing Vickers gun. Pilots preferred two forward-firing Vickers guns to bring more fire power to bear against enemy aircraft. This resulted in the weapon mix being changed well after the initial design limited available space. On production aircraft the guns were staggered, This allowed the ammunition boxes for the twin guns to fit in the space available.