Sunday, February 26, 2012

Poland - 1920 Ansaldo A.1

Italy's Contribution to the Polish/Bolshevik War

Early days of the Polish Air Service saw a wide range of second hand aircraft filling its ranks. The cash-strapped combative nations involved in the Great War were left with a surplus of military hardware. The newly independent nations fighting fo hold on to their recent independence needed the armament to achieve their goals. Needless to say many countries saw an opportunity to cash in on what was seen as a win/win situation. It was more than economically attractive. Many nations saw the Communist evolution as a threat to the world order. Arming and supporting the nations to the west of Russia was seen as a way to create a buffer zone to contain Soviet expansion.

This example was purchased from the Italians and entered service in July of 1920. The command strip and the number "1" indicate it as the aircraft of the unit commander. It was flown by the American aviator Maj.Fauntleroy.

This was the personal aircraft of kpt.Merian Cooper, Lwow, July 1920. When flying this aircraft M.Cooper fell into Bolshevik hands after he crash on 13th July 1920. The wooden fuselage has not been repainted. The aircraft still has the original Italian factory markings which have been over-painted with a black "5" and Polish s/n number of 16.5.

This was the personal aircraft of kpt. Merian Cooper during July-October of 1920. The wooden fuselage has not been repainted. The aircraft still has the original Italian factory markings which have been over-painted with a black "10" and Polish s/n number of 16.4.

A Brief History of the Ansaldo A.1 Balilla

The Ansaldo A.1, nicknamed "Balilla" after the Genoan folk-hero was Italy's only domestically-produced fighter aircraft of World War I. Arriving too late to see any real action, it was however used by both Poland and the Soviet Union in the Polish-Soviet War.

The A.1 resulted from continued efforts by the Ansaldo company to create a true fighter. Their SVA.5 had proved unsuitable in this role, although it made an excellent reconnaissance aircraft and had been ordered into production as such. Ansaldo engineer Giuseppe Brezzi revised the SVA.5 design, increasing the size of the lower wing, and redesigning the interplane strut arrangement. While this produced more drag, it increased the stiffness of the wing structure and reduced stresses in the airframe. Engine power was increased to 150 kW (200 hp) and a safety system to jettison the fuel tank through a ventral hatch (in case of on-board fire) was installed.

The first prototype was completed in July 1917, but acceptance by the air force did not occur until December. Test pilots were not enthusiastic in their evaluation. While they found a marked increase in performance over the SVA.5, the A.1 was still not as maneuverable as the French types in use by Italy's squadrons. This resulted in a number of modifications, including a slight enlargement of the wings and rudder, and a further 10% increase in engine power. This initially proved satisfactory to the air force, and the modified A.1 (designated A.1bis) was ordered into service with 91 Squadriglia for further evaluation.

Reports from pilots were mixed. While the fighter's speed was impressive, it proved unmaneuverable and difficult to fly. Nevertheless, with a need to clear a backlog of obsolete fighter types then in service, the air force ordered the A.1 anyway.

The first of an original order of 100 machines entered service in July 1918. The A.1s were kept away from the front lines and mostly assigned to home defense duties. In the four months before the Armistice, A.1s scored only one aerial victory, over an Austrian reconnaissance aircraft. It was during this time that Ansaldo engaged in a number of promotional activities, including dubbing the aircraft as Balilla, flying displays in major Italian cities, and in August donating an example to Italian ace Antonio Locatelli as his personal property amidst a press spectacle. (This latter publicity stunt backfired somewhat when one week later a mechanical fault in the aircraft caused Locatelli to make a forced landing behind enemy lines and be taken prisoner). Despite all this, the air force ordered another 100 machines, all of which were delivered before the end of the war. At the armistice, 186 were operational, of which 47 aircraft were ordered to remain on hand with training squadrons, and the remainder were to be put into storage and some were sold to Poland.


  1. From Wikipedia Ansaldo A1 Balilla, ""
  2. Taylor, Michael J. H. (1989). "Jane's Encyclopedia of Aviation". London: Studio Editions. pp. 62.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Russia - 1915 Sikorsky S-16

One Of The Best Russian Designed Fighters of WWI

Even though early Russian Aviation design never had the resources to produce enough aircraft for their needs during the Great War, They did design some effective aircraft. Igor Sikorsky proved himself as one of the truly great Russian aircraft designers. His career is marked by innovation and a firm grasp of the fundamentals of Aerodynamics

This is an early version of the S-16. It has the pendant version of the Russian colors on the fuselage and rudder. The wings have the roundel type national insignias. The aircraft is finished in varnished cloth. As with all the examples I have seen the wheels do not have covers.

In this example you can see some variation in the construction of the S-16. The tail fin has a different shape and additional panels are added to the metal forward section and cowling. The wheel is more robust than in the earlier version.

This later version has a change to the fuselage. The wheels have been replaced with pontoon like skis for use on snow and muddy improvised runways. The pendant insignia has been over-painted in red. The wings have the white circle and red star style markings.

A Brief History Of The Sikorsky S-16

The Sikorsky S-16 (named after its designer) or RBVZ S-XVI (named after its manufacturer) was a Russian equi-span single-bay two-seat biplane designed by Igor Sikorsky in 1914-15. Conceived in response to demand for an escort fighter for the Ilya Muromets bombers. The prototype S-16 made its first flight on February 6, 1915. This prototype was fitted with an 80 hp air-cooled 7 cylinder, Gnome rotary engine instead of the intended 100hp because of supply problems. The S-16 was the first Sikorsky fighter to be equipped with a synchronized machine gun firing through the propeller. However, the synchronization left much to be desired. The S-16, with slight modifications from batch to batch survived the Revolution and were operational with the Red Air Force through the Civil War.

On 17 December 1915, the Russian government placed an order for 18 aircraft, these being delivered in early 1916.Although highly maneuverable, the S-XVI possessed a comparatively poor performance due to insufficient power. A further small batch were completed in 1917, with the aircraft being used during the Russian Revolution and staying in service until 1923.


  1. From Wikipedia Sikorsky S-16, ""
  2. Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. "The Complete Book of Fighters". Colour Library Direct, Godalming, UK: 1994. ISBN 1-85833-777-1.

Monday, February 20, 2012

France - 1917 Nieuport 24

The First Round Body Nieuport

In 1917 the Nieuport 17 and the improved N.23 were seen as a dead end. Aviation technology development had rendered it less able to perform as a front line fighter. Gustave Delage took what was learned from previous models and created a new design with a new rounded shape and improvements to make Nieuport aircraft viable again. Even though the new design had some problems it served in several nations well after the end of the Great War.

William Wellman was an American flying with the French Black Cat Squadron. The paint scheme is the standard aluminum finish with the squadron insignia on the fuselage. The numbers on the rudder are missing. The wing roundels are the standard 4 point scheme. I am not sure if the number ten was painted on the upper wing or not. I assume it was not, however I may be wrong.

This example has a four color camouflage pattern. I have not seen references for the wing pattern. The insignia is a not a squadron one, but a personal one chosen by the famous French ace Roland Garros. The rudder markings are just the serial number.

The red rear section adds a lot of sizzle to the standard aluminum finish. The insignia is the late version used by the 501st squadron. The rudder markings include the tare and loaded weights.

This example does not carry the squadron insignia (A circle quarter red and dark blue). However the wide tri-color bands add a lot of visual impact. Sané was flying this plane when he was credited with bringing down a Gotha bomber assigned to Kaghol 1 in 1917.

A Short History of the Nieuport 24

The Nieuport 24 introduced a new fuselage with improved aerodynamic characteristics. Other changes included rounded wingtips, and a tail unit incorporating a small fixed fin and a curved rudder. The tail skid was sprung internally and had a neater appearance than that on earlier Nieuports. Power was provided by a 130 hp Le Rhône rotary engine .

In the event, there were problems with the new tail, most production aircraft of the type were of the Nieuport 24bis model, which retained the fuselage and wings of the 24, but reverted to the Nieuport 17 type tailplane, tail skid and rectangular balanced rudder. The new tail design was finally standardized on the Nieuport 27.

A batch of Nieuport 24bis were built at British Nieuport and General Aircraft Co. in England for the Royal Naval Air Service.

The standard armament of the Nieuport 17 (a synchronized 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers in French service - a 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis gun on a Foster mounting on the top wing in British service) was retained to save weight and retain a good performance, although many 24s were used as advanced trainers and normally flown without guns.

In the summer of 1917, when the Nieuport 24 and 24bis. were coming off the production line, most French fighter squadrons were replacing their Nieuport 17s with SPAD S.VIIs - and many of the new fighters went to fighter training schools, and to France’s allies, including the Russians, and the British, who used theirs well into 1918, due to a shortage of S.E.5as. A few French units retained the Nieuport through late 1917 - the type was actually preferred by some pilots, especially the famous Charles Nungesser.

Some of the Nieuport advanced trainers bought by the Americans for their flying schools in France in November 1917 may very well have been 24s or 24bis.

Both Poland and Russia continued to use the Nieuport 24 into the the early 1920's. There are many examples where the same plane fought on both sides of the Polish Russian War of 1919-1921. In some cases it was due to defection of the pilot, or the aircraft was captured by the opposing side.


  1. Nieuport 24. (2010, July 13). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 10: 18, July 23, 2010, from http: //
  2. Escadrille 501
  3. Nieuport Fighters in Action published by Squadron/Signal Publications.
  4. Escadrille 501
  5. Nieuport Gallery
  6. Bruce, Jack M. More Nieuport Classics. Air Enthusiast, Number Five, November 1977-February 1978. Bromley, Kent, UK: Pilot Press. pp. 14-28.
  7. Cheesman E.F. (ed.) Fighter Aircraft of the 1914-1918 War Letchworth, Harletford Publications, 1960 pp. 96-97

Friday, February 17, 2012

Russia - 1920 Sopwith 7F.1 Snipe

Red Stars and a very Red Nose.

In spite of a nasty cold I have been busy working up illustrations for Project X. I will be posting some details in March. I have been jumping between the Great War and the Inter-war period. My focus has shifted to aircraft flown by the Bolshevik forces. Research on the era is very problematic due to lack of records and the language barrier. With the passing of the last witnesses to events during World War One the task has become even more challenging.

The Mysterious Bolshevik Sopwith Snipes

By the late war The British needed a replacement for the aging Sopwith Camel.The new fighter to take up the fight was the Sopwith 7F.1 Snipe. Delivery of the new aircraft to the RAF began in the early Autumn of 1918. The Snipe was faster, easier to fly and structurally stronger than the Camel. These traits helped the Snipe become the preferred front-line RAF fighter during the early postwar era.

Documents show three Snipes were known to have served with the Soviet Air Service. One of the unsolved mysteries is how these aircraft were acquired. Records show no Royal Air Force units supplied with Snipes operating in Russia. The same can be said for the Polish squadrons opposing the Bolshevik forces. Two of the Snipes are fairly well known, almost nothing is known about the third example.

The Two Faces of Nelly

The most famous of the Soviet Snipes was serial number E6351 which was assigned to the 1st Fighter Detachment. The pilot G. S. Sapozhnikov had the name “Nelly” painted on the starboard side of the fuselage behind the cockpit.

The paint scheme was basically the standard PC-10 finish with light gray panels around the cockpit and a natural metal cowl, under-sufaces are clear doped linen. National markings were red stars painted over the British RAF roundels. The rudder was still painted in the standard British tri-color stripes.

Sapozhnikov's Snipe was repainted. All of the British markings were removed. The new national markings were only applied to the bottom surfaces of the lower wing. Some profiles show the stars as red, however latest research state they are in fact black. A black Ace of Spades cover the fuselage roundels. The rudder is painted blue with a curved black arrow. Sapozhnikoz was killed in this aircraft when his engine failed on takeoff on December 8, 1920.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Germany - 1916-1918 Assorted Aircraft

Some New German Profiles

I woke this weekend with a cold. Needless to say it has slowed me down a bit. I took a break from working on interwar aircraft to work up a few new German WWI profiles.

The candy cane paint scheme made this Albatros a must do profile.The upper wing surfaces and both sides of the tail plane are painted in white and red stripes running forward to aft. This was one of the German Jastas sent to bolster Austrian operations against Italy. The three Jastas were № 1, № 31, and № 39.

This is another controversial profile. Some sources claim the nose section is bare metal, others claim it was a dark blue. The lozenge colors I used are probably inaccurate. I expect to do a new version once my new master files are completed.

I have seen sources for this Junker CL.I and liked the atypical mustard and green paint scheme. The sources I have found show a different landing gear strut arraignment for this aircraft.

This is a highly conjectural profile based on elements seen in other sources. It depicts one of the approximately finished Zeppelin Lindau Do-I reputed to be hidden by Germany after the Armistice.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Germany - 1918 Junkers CL.I

A Life of Controlled Chaos

Things have been hectic in the studio recently. The Polish Project is moving along with new additions to the galleries. New master files are in work and new references have been found. In addition to this I have started a collaboration with a writer like and respect on an upcoming project. I will give more details on the project when I can. All I will say at the moment is it will be a very interesting read.

Long term readers know my opinion on the question of what makes a forward thinking airplane design during the First World War. It is no secret that I think designs with more than a single set of wings was a paradigm which needed to be cast aside. In most cases triplanes were a waste of time and material. Successful triplanes were light weight and small. Ironically this type of airframe was what made the Fokker E.V-D.VIII a great plane.

Junkers's Dream Machine

Hugo Junker was an inspired visionary who did the groundwork for modern aviation. He championed the idea of metal skinned monoplane aircraft in spite of what some saw as common wisdom, but was just another manifestation of lack of vision. Junker went beyond the envelope and saw the shape of things to come. His ideas were picked up by Anthony Fokker, who was always quick to assimilate the work of others, during their joint venture producing the J.10 late in the war.

This is an example of the long body version of the CL.I (J.8 or J.10) painted in a relatively common camouflage scheme.

As with many aircraft a seaplane version was tested for feasibility. This example has an unpainted body and struts with a streaked camouflage on the floats. The rudder on the J.11 was altered as well as the exhaust system.

Overview of the Junkers CL.I

The Junkers CL.I was a ground-attack monoplane aircraft developed in Germany during World War I. Its construction was undertaken by Junkers under the designation J 8. as proof of Hugo Junkers' belief in the monoplane, after his firm had been required by the Idflieg to submit a biplane (the J 4) as its entry in a competition to select a ground-attack aircraft.

The J 8 design took the J 7 fighter as its starting point, but had a longer fuselage to accommodate a tail gunner, and larger wings. The prototype flew in late 1917 and was followed over the next few months by three more development aircraft.

The Idflieg was sufficiently impressed to want to order the type, but had misgivings about Junkers' ability to manufacture the aircraft in quantity and considered asking Linke-Hoffmann to produce the type under license. Finally, however, Junkers was allowed to undertake the manufacture as part of a joint venture with Fokker, producing a slightly modified version of the J 8 design as the J 10. Like the other Junkers designs of the period, the aircraft featured a metal framework that was skinned with corrugated duralumin sheets. 47 examples were delivered before the Armistice, including three built as float planes under the designation CLS.I (factory designation J 11). After the war, one or two CL.Is were converted for commercial service by enclosing the rear cockpit under a canopy.


  1. From Wikipedia Junkers CL.I ""
  2. Green, W; Swanborough, G (1994). "The Complete Book of Fighters. New York: Smithmark. ISBN 0-8317-3939-8.
  3. Gray, Peter; Thetford, Owen (1962). German Aircraft of the First World War". London: Putnam.
  4. Taylor, Michael J. H. (1989). "Jane's Encyclopedia of Aviation". London: Studio Editions. pp. 536.
  5. "World Aircraft Information Files". London: Bright Star Publishing. pp. File 897 Sheet 01.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Poland 1920-1293 Morane-Saulnier A-1 MoS-30

Polish Advanced Trainers

When Poland became an independent nation, one of the important needs was the creation of an effective air force. In the beginning the core was composed of veterans serving with the Germans and Austrians during the First World War. Soon aviators from many nations joined them to create a formidable fighting force. Still more aviators were needed to defend the promise of independence for this fledgling nation. To meet this need flight schools were created to swell the ranks of combat pilots who would defend their country and eventually fight for freedom during the Second World War.

The Morane-Saulnier A-1 had very modern lines and was very streamlined. Even though 1,210 were produced it never made a big impact at the front during the Great War. By mid-May 1918 it was withdrawn to serve as an advanced trainer, designated MoS 30. When France began aiding Poland in their efforts for independence the Morane-Saulnier A-1 was a perfect fit for use in the Polish Advanced Flying Schools.

When the MS A1 was deployed in Poland many of them retained their French markings. I am not sure if they retained the roundels on the wing or if they carried Polish markings.

This is another example of the standard French camouflage pattern. Notable it the lack of wheel covers and color change of the MS logo on the cowling.

In ths profile you see the French camouflage scheme still in use but there is a the shift to use of Polish national insignias.

This example has the dark green color we associate with interwar aircraft. One obvious change is the wide pale blue area on the fuselage. This is fairly atypical. Most late Polish aircraft use gray on the lower surfaces.