The SPAD XIII:
It comes as a surprise to learn that it was the outcome of an un-successful design: the SPAD 12. The S12 was the version of the SPAD fitted with an early design of the 'moteur-canon' firing through the propeller hub. It was found that the slow reloading and excessive recoil shocks negated the advantages of shell firing armament. Also, the compact nature of the SPAD cockpit had a tendency to gather fumes which nauseated the pilot. Because of these problems, the SPAD XII was abandoned but in view of its excellent flying qualities it re-emerged as the SPAD 13, with twin synchronized Vickers machine-guns, in the late summer of 1917. The first machines were over the Western Front in August.
Both the S12 and S13 differed from the SPAD 7 in having the wing area increased to 215 sq ft and new motors fitted. The S12 and S13 also had rounded wing tips and tail assembly in place of the angular lines of the earlier model.
Two models of the SPAD 13 were built: one with the 200 hp Hisso and a later version with the 235hp Hisso. The first model reached a speed of 134.5 mph and the second 138.5mph. The later model was in the first rank of 1918 fighting scout designs, together with the British Snipe and the Fokker DVII and is given credit to have tipped the balance of air power in the Allies' favor.
The SPAD 13 was flown by such famous aces as Fonck, Nungesser, Guynemer, and Rickenbacker.
There can be no question that the SPAD scouts were the most successful French fighter aircraft of World War I. Indeed, many would say (and not only Frenchmen) that the SPAD was the finest fighter produced by any nation at that time. Yet, ike so many great aeroplanes, the SPAD twins, the VII and the XIII, had relatively humble beginnings.
Before the war the Deperdussin company's brilliant young designer, Louis B~chereau, designed a sleek, braced wing monoplane with an ultra-streamlined fuselage. Known as the Monocoque, because of its fuselage construction, the Deperdussin was planned from the outset to go fast. It did. In its first year, I 9 I 2, it won the Gordon Bennett Cup with a speed of I 73.97krrb'h and the following year the Deperdussin racer captured the world air-speed record at 204 km/h. Powering this stubby, but sleek little racer was a Gnome 4-cylinder rotary engine.
The full name of the original Deperdussin company was the Societie des Productions Armand Deperdussin, hence the name SPAD. Later, the company name was changed, but in such a way that the acronym SPAD could be retained (see specifications).
However, the first aircraft to use the name hardly distinguished themselves. The A2 and A4 rejoiced in one of the most unconventional - and least successful - configurations in aviation history. They were tractor aircraft (i.e. the propeller was at the nose of the aeroplane and pulled it forward) but the observer/gunner was seated in front of the propeller. This arrangement was hardly popular with the crew but the idea was to get over the problem of firing through the propeller. It was a freakish design and it didn't last.
In April 1916, the SPAD VII arrived. Designed by Bechereau, it was a conventional biplane in appearance, but it was immediately apparent that it could outperform the Nieuports that were then supplying the main fighter strength for the French Aviation Militaire. It was also a much stronger aircraft all round. The first contract was awarded in the spring of 1916. Production started almost immediately and SPAD Vhs began to be delivered in September.
The SPAD VII was powered by Marc Birkigt's marvellous new Hispano-Suiza water-cooled V8 engine which developed SOhp. Armament was a single 7.65mm Vickers offset to the right, using Birkigt synchronizing gear (no need to Sit in front of the propeller nowl). Fuel was carried under the lower wing in a fuselage tank specially curved to conform With the sleek fuselage lines, and a notable first for the SPAD VII was the fact that this fuel could be jettisoned in an emergency.
One of the very first SPAD VIIs to enter service was delivered to a 21 -year-old lieutenant in the Escadrille de Chasse N3. His name was Georges Guynemer. The fact that he claimed a victim on his second flight with the SPAD was remarkable: what was more unusual was that he shot down another three on a sortie only a few days later. However, this sad-looking young lieutenant was unusual. By the end of January, his total aircraft kills had reached 30, and because of this he christened his beloved SPAD La Hitrailleuse Volante, the Flying Machine Gun.
Georges Guynemer flew in good company. His fellow pilots in Escadrille N3 - the renamed SPA.3 but always known as Les Cigognes, or The Storks - included such aces as Capitaine Armand Pinsard (with 27 victories). Sous-Lieutenant Rend Dorme (with 23), Capitaine Alfred Hertaux (with 21) and Capitaine Albert Deullin (with 20).
The SPAD VII was so successful during this period that the other Allies all clamoured to use it. Many companies began to manufacture the VII under licence, including two British-based companies, the British Bl~riot and Spad Company at Brooklands and Mann Egerton in Norwich, Most of these British-built SPADs never found their way to the Westerr~ Front. Nevertheless, the SPAD served with great distinction in the Middle East, Belgium and Italy, where Maggiore (Major) Francesco Baracca of the Gia Squadriglia achieved 23 of his 34 victories in SPADs, before he was killed in action on 19 june 1918.
However back in the spring of 1917, a new SPAD was demonstrated to the Escadrilles de Chasse. The SPAD XIII was fitted with a more powerful Hispano-Suiza V8 engine which delivered 200hp. It also carried two Vickers 7.65mm guns mounted above the engine.
Georges Guynemer took delivery of one of these aircraft during the summer. His inevitable toll of victories seemed set to continue, but on II September 1917 he disappeared while on a patrol over Poelcapelle. The great French ace of the war had claimed his last victim, with an amazing total of 54 confirmed kills. But as always, someone was ready to take his place. Rend Fonck, who was by now also flying a SPAD XIII, had already shot down over 30 German aircraft, He went on to achieve a total score of 75 victories, making him the leading Allied ace. Eleven of his kills were gained with a SPAD fitted with a 37mm cannon, firing through the hub of the propeller. Guynemer gained four victories with a similar aircraft.
By March 1918, after Birkigt had made some hurried improvements to the new engine, which had proved somewhat unreliable, SPADs were being turned out at a remarkable rate and in fact, total French production of the aircraft reached 8472 by the time it stopped in 1919. Around 14,700 were manufactured in total, outnumbering all other World War I fighters. American interest in the SPAD was spearheaded by the successes of their two great aces, Eddie. Rickenbacker and Frank Luke, Rickenbacker scored the majority of his 26 victories in the SPAD XIII, at~d the good reports he and his fellow Americans sent backyesulted in the ambitious decision to build no less than 6000 SPADs in the United States.
The Armistice, of course, intervened in 918. Notwithstanding, the two SPAD's overall contribution to the Allies' fortunes cannot be overstated. They rank, along with the S.E.5 and the Camel, as the greatest Allied fighters of the entire war.
Country of origin: France.
Manufacturer: SPAD (Societie Anonyme pour 'Aviation et ses Derives).
Type: Single-seat fighteri
Engine: 150hp Hspano-Suiza 8Aa water-cooled V8.
Wingspan: 7.77m (25ft 6in).
Length: 6.13m (20ft I in).
Height: 2.13m (7ft).
Weight: 703kg (1550lb).
Maximum speed: 192km/h (119mph) at 200Gm (6560ft).
Ceiling: 5485m (18.OOOft).
Range: 298km (185 miles).
In 1915, foreseeing that the rotary engine was reaching the limit of its development, Marc Birkigt, Swiss-born chief designer of Hispano-Suiza, developed a new water-cooled V8 stationary engine promising an initial I5Ohp. Around such an engine, Louis BAchereau produced a tractor biplane known as the Spad S V in 1915. From this, BAchereau developed the Spad S VII, whose prototype flew at Villacoublay in April 1916 powered by a l4Ohp HispanoSuiza; it was aimed with a forward-firing Vickers gun, offset slightly to starboard, with synchronising gear also designed by Birkigt. The French authorities immediately ordered 268S VIIs. Delivery began on 2 September 1916, and ultimately 5,600 5 VIls were built in France by eight manufacturers. Early aircraft had the lSOhp Hispano-Suiza SAa, later models being given increased wing span and rudder area as the l8Ohp and 200hp models became available. The British Bleriot and Spad Co built 100, and Mann, Egerton built 120, for the RFC and RNAS respectively but the RNAS exchanged its S VIIs for Sopwith triplanes on order for the RFC. Although less manoeuvrable than the Nieuports, the S VII was a strong, stable gun platform, with a first-rate turn of speed and an excellent climb to 12,000ft (3,660m). It filled a dire need when the British air forces in particular were equipped with vulnerable pusher types. On the Western Front it served with numerous escadrilles de chasse, including the famous SPAS, Les Cigogj,es. From October 1916 it equipped Nos 19 and 23 Sqdns RFC, and IS were supplied to Escadrilies 5 and JO of the Belgian Aviation Mi)itaire. Another 19, some fitted in the field with a wing-mounted Lewis gun in addition to the Vickers, were supplied to three RFC squadrons in Mesopotamia, and others went to training units in the UK. Italy was supplied with 214 S VIls which equipped five squadriglie including the celebrated 91a commanded by Francesco Baracca; a number were delivered to Russia. where they sometimes carried Le Prieur rockets in addition to gun armament; and in December 189 5 VIls were bought by the USA, which allocated a proportion of them to seven squadrons of the AEF in Europe and sent the remainder home to serve as trainers. French squadrons began to reequip with S XIlls during mid-1917. The S XII, inspired by Guynemer, was virtually an S VII with a single-shot 37mm gun mounted- between the engine-blocks. After the war about I005 VIls, many of them rebuilds, were supplied to the Ecoie Bleriot at Buc, and many others were sold to air forces all over the world.
The SPAD. XlII was perhaps the most famous French fighter to be utilized in combat during World War I. Designed dunng the last few months of 1916 by M. Becherau, it was an evolutionary development of his earlier, successful S.P.A.D. S.VII, but differed in having unequalchord ailerons, rounded tall surface tips, and other refinements. Additionally, inverted vee. shaped front center section struts were added between the wing and fuselage. Like its smaller predecessor, the S.P.A.D. XIII was powered by the dependable Hispano.Suiza V-a producing from 200 to 235 hp.
The S.P.A.D. XIII began replacing the S.VII in frontline service during the summer and fall of 1917. By the beginning of the following year, it had become the standard French single-seat pursuit. It also was becoming quite popular with U.S. pilots of the American Expeditionary Forces as it was rugged, fast, and well armed. The most famous U.S. pilot, Capt. Edward Rickenbacker, was quick to put the S.P.A.D. XIII to work on his way to a total of 26 aerial victories.
French. Italian, and Belgian units eventually flew the S.P.A.D. XIII in combat. It remained in French service until 1923 before being replaced by newer and more advanced fighters.
The S.P.A.D. XIIIs armament package usually consisted of two synchronized 'dickers machine guns mounted just ahead of the cockpit and firing forward through the propeller disk.
The SPAD is generally considered the best pursuit plane represented in force in the Allied military aviation during World War 1: In its day the SPAD can even be said to have represented the culmination of 'traditional' aeronautical technology as developed during the course of the conflict and it was only when the enemy introduced the Fokker D.VII that the building of combat aircraft took a new turn.
The SPAD was designed by Louis Bechereau, the creator of the fast Deperdussin monoplanes. The Deperdussin factory had closed down for financial reasons, but the pioneer Bleriot had reorganized it as the Societe pour l'Aviation et ses Derives (which made it possible for him to retain the acronym SPAD, which had originally stood for the Societe Provisoire des Aeroplanes Deperdussin). and Bechereau had stayed on as head of the engineering department, assisted by Mons. Herbemont, who was eventually to be his successor in the postwar period.
The first fighter plane produced by the SPAD was the two-seat A.2, an original design which was characterized by a special cabin for the machine gunner positioned in front of the engine. This aircraft was used for certain missions by the French Aviation Militaire and (much more extensively) by the Russians, but it was too complicated and not exceptionally brilliant in performance. When the technology had advanced to the point where it was possible to synchronize permanently mounted machine guns on fighting aircraft, Bechereau redesigned the A.2 as a single-seater with a fixed (instead of rotary) engine. From this design, known as SPAD V, and one of the first to use the fine new Hispano-Suiza engine, came an entire generation of first-rate fighter planes.
In their general structure, SPAD aircraft were a fairly conventional design for their day. The sole exception was the tie-struts at the midpoint of the wing span, so positioned as to prevent the flying and landing brace wires from whipping in flight. This innovation gave the SPAD the appearance of a two-bay biplane, although it was actually a single-bay job.
This solution, unusual but not rare in aircraft technology at the beginning of the war, gave the plane its proverbial ruggedness, which was also enhanced by other structural characteristics, such as the wing construction featuring close-set ribs, the size of the engine bearers, which extended aft to support the pilot's seat, and the strong fuselage structure. These were acquired, however, only with the trade-off of a rather high empty weight.
Aerodynamicallythe SPAD showed good general lines, with its almost conical fuselage and the neat rounded radiator. The machine had remarkable climbing qualities, better than those of the best British and German planes of the day, although this advantage was offset to some extent by the reduced maneuverability. The SPAD was not, basically, an 'easy' aircraft to fly, especially at reduced speed, and was apt to stall suddenly owing to its rather thin wings. But its extraordinary ruggedness permitted sudden extended dives, which could be repeated with complete confidence. Thus it could maneuver vertically in a way that the Germans could not attempt until the appearance of the Fokker D.VII.
All things considered, the SPAD could give a very good account of itself, even in dogfights. Another advantage was that it provided a stable firing platform.
The upper wing was a one-piece structure, with a slightly longer span and chord than the lower, two-section wing. The spars, which formed a box structure, were built up of a number of sections joined by linen-wrapped scarfing, probably because of the difficulty of obtaining sufficiently long spruce sections in France. The leading edges were wholly of spruce, and the trailing edges were cable, tightened and doped to give a slightly scalloped effect. Both wings were without dihedral.
The fuselage was of wood, with transverse bulkheads of heavy-gauge sheet steel with lightening holes. There were four longerons joined by transverse elements, the whole structure braced diagonally with piano wire. Top and bottom deckings were rounded.
The undercarriage legs were formed in a single piece built up from laminated poplar. The axle was articulated at the center. The function of shock absorbers was performed by elastic cord -'bungee' -between the wheels and on the steel-bound wooden tail skid. If necessary, the wheels could be replaced by skis or floats.
All variants of the SPAD were powered by 8-cylinder 90° V-type Hispano-Suiza engines, ranging in various models from 140 to 300 hp, and cooled by a nearly circular radiator with vertical shutters for temperature control. The main fuel tank was fitted beneath the main fuselage structure and connected to a fuel feed well suspended from the upper wing center section; the smaller secondary tank was fed by a pump run by the engine, which also drove the oil and water pumps.
Development of the SPAD Xlll
It was the SPAD V, built towards the end of 1915, that served as the prototype for the first production machine, the SPAD Vll, which was first flown in the spring of 1916 by Mons. Bequet at Villacoublay. The Vll still had the 140-hp engine without supercharger and a Galia or Bloch propeller. It could reach 196 km/hr at sea level and could climb to 3000 m in 15 minutes. It was armed with a Vickers machine gun mounted above and slightly to the right of the engine which had a Birkigt synchronizer, invented by the Swiss engineer, Mark Birkigt, who had also designed the engine.
The SPAD Vll was put into production at once, with an initial order calling for 268 aircraft earmarked for the French Escadrilles. Other orders flowed in from abroad, while in Great Britain two firms, British Bleriot and Mann & Egerton, tooled uo to build the Vll under a licensing agreement. Deliveries began on September 2, 1916, but the fighter had its baptism of fire a month before when one SPAD Vll had been sent to the front for evaluation under operational conditions where, piloted by Lieut. Pinsard, it had taken part in actions on the Somme.
The first production series were powered by the15O-hp Hispano-Suiza 8Aa. By August 1917, 495 of these new fighters had come from the factories, enough to replace the Nieuport sesquiplanes in the 'elite' squadrons.
The second series of the SPAD Vll had the 175 to 180-hp Hispano-Suiza 8Ac engine. These aircraft had a slightly larger span (by about 25 cm) and rudder. This was the SPAD series with the largest number of planes registered about 6000, and the Vll remained in production even after its successor, die SPAD Xlll, had joined it in the assembly shops. There were not less than eight French factories busy mming out the SPAD Vll (total production: 5600 machines), besides the two British firms mentioned above. The British Bleriot & SPAD produced 100 SPAD Vll s for the Royal Flying Corps, and Mann & Egerton built 120 aircraft for the Royal Naval Air Service. The RFC also had a good supply from French sources. This enormous output sufficed to equip. in addition to the French and British units. five Italian, one Belgian and several Russian squadrons. In December 1917 the United States procured 189 SPAD Vlls and used them to equip seven squadrons, sending the surplus back to America for training purposes. The Russians also built a nurnber of SPAD Vlls under license at the 'Dux' factory in Moscow.
The final Vlls were powered by a 200-hp engine, and in 1917 two machines were completed fitted with Renault 12D engines of the same power (but slightly larger dimensions) equipped-with a Hispano 8Bc moteur-canon. The first of these machines remained in the experimental stage, but the second, numbered S382, flew for the first time on July 17 and served as prototype for the SPAD Xll. Three hundred Xlls were manufactured by the Bleriot, Janoir and Levasseur factories. The SPAD Xll was designed at the behest of the French fighter ace Georges Guynemer, who requested a highly destructive plane capable of operating over long distances. His personal aircraft was armed with a 37-mm cannon firing through the propeller hub and a Vickers machine gun. Guynemer was thus made into a highly dangerous combatant, but an uncomfortable one. His cannon had a slow rate of fire and spewed cordite fumes into the cockpit at every shot.
Eventually the SPAD Xll was fitted with the 220-hp Hispano-Suiza 8Bec, and was followed by a seaplane version dubbed the SPAD XIV, of which 40 were manufactured-mainly for the Royal Naval Air Service but also for the Channel-based French Forces Aeriennes de la Mer. A parallel conversion of the SPAD Vll to seaplane configuration, built in 1916 and designated SPAD X, remained in the experimental stage.
In April 1917 the prototype of the SPAD Xlll, bearing the serial number S392, flew for the first time; the test pilot was Sous-lieutenant R. Dorme. This new version of the French fighter plane had the larger dimensions of the SPAD Xll and featured more rounded wing and stabilizer tips, together with a curved rudder trailing edge and an increased aileron chord. The engine was a 220-hp HispanoSuiza 8Ba with reduction gear, which was eventually replaced by the 8Be developing 235 hp. The armament consisted of two synchronized Vickers machine guns. Beginning in May 1917 this new fighter gradually replaced the SPAD Vil in the French squadrons, although the initial deliveries were slowed down owing to certain troubles with the engine. It was not until the spring of 1918 that production got into full swing and sufficient aircraft became available to equip new units formed specifically for this new fighter. Eventually there were 81 squadrons flying the SPAD Xlils. Before the war was over 8440 machines of this type had been built by the Bleriot, Bernard, De Margay. Kellner and Levasseur factories, and a further 10000 were canceled when the war ended. A number d SPAD Xlils were also made available to Frarme's allies: Two units of the Royal Flying Corps (Nos. 19 and 23 Squadrons) and at least two Italian units (Squadriglie 77 and 91) were equiped with SPAD Xllls, while 37 aircraft went to the Belgians and not less than 893 to the Americans.
A single SPAD XXVI, a land version of the SPAD XIV intended for use on an aircraft carrier, was built and test-flown on November 5, 1918, a week before the Armistice. An updated and strengthened version of previous SPAD fighters was the SPAD XVII, designed by Herbemont who had succeeded Bechereau in the works.
This new machine flew for the first time in June 1918 and was powered by a 300-hp HispanoSuiza 8Fb. The XVII was a fighter photo-reconnaissance plane and carried a single synchronized Vickers machine gun and two cameras.
Later versions of the basic SPAD included the XXI, which remained on the drawing board, the number being re-allocated to a SPAD seaplane entered in the 1919 Schneider Cup race; and a two-seat fighter designated SPAD XXIII C2 which appeared in April 1918 and served as prototype for the SPAD XX, which was basically the same aircrah except for the moteur-canon; 120 SPAD XXs were built. Towards the end of the war there was also a SPAD XXII derived from the XVII with a slightly swept-back upper wing (which was to become a Herbemont trade-mark) and two pairs of struts on each side.
The long list of SPAD models would not be complete without mentioning the SPAD 62 and 72 training aircrah of two-resp. single-seat layout, derived from the SPAD Vll.
How the SPADs were used in the War
War pilots, accustomed to the agility of the Nieuports, were reluctant to accept the SPAD Vll; but as soon as the new aircraft had a chance to demonStrate its performance and reliability, airmen understood that here they had a plane which might enable them to achieve once again a balance with the Germans, whose new machines had outstripped theirs. This happened during the critical period of de Battle of the Somme. French squadrons which reaerved the new SPADs included the SPA.3 of the group known as Les Cigognes ('The Storks') which featured such aces as Georges Guynemer Rene Fonck, and the SPA. 8, 12, 23 and 124. DV . By October 1916 Nos. 19 and 23 Squadrons of the RFC on the Western front were similarly oquiwed. as were other British units operating in Mesopotamia. The latter received 19 SPADs, some with an additional Lewis machine gun mounted on the upper wing. The Belgian 5th Squadron received 15 SPADs. The British Admiralty had also ordered some SPAD Vlls but turned them over to the Royal Flying Corps in 1917 in exchange for Sopwith Triplanes.
The first deliveries of SPADs to the Italian air arm began in March 1917, and some aircraft of the first series, powered by 150-hp engines, were assigned to the 77th and 91st Squadriglie. These were used chiefly for training and photo reconnaissance on the Isonzo front, but as other aircrah were delivered it became possible to equip-at least in part-the 71st, 75th and 76th Squadriglie. Shortly before the battles which flared on the Italian-Austrian front from the Isonzo to the Piave Rivers in October and November 1917, the 78th and 80th Squadriglie received several SPAD Vlls and the 72nd and 73rd were also supplied in part shortly thereafter. The first victory with this fighter was achieved by Maj. Francesco Baracca, one of the greatest of Italian aces, on May 13, 1917. Other Italian pilots who distinguished themselves with the SPAD included Ranza, Ruffo, Ferreri, Parvis, Olivari and Oliva: the last two also performed notable feats of photoreconnaissance.
The SPAD Vll was not built under license in Italy, although the engines were manufactured by the SCAT and Itala firms. A total of 214 SPADs were used operationally by the Italians, together with 26 SPAD Xlils, which began arriving early in 1918. Some Xlil s were not uncrated and assembled until after the war had ended, and these were supplied the new Regia Aeronautica.
In France the SPAD Xlil became the backbone of the French fighter aviation, where it continued in active duty until 1923. Even the SPAD Xll, although smaller in numbers, won honors for itself, especially in the capable hands of Georges Guynemer and Rene Fonck.
Almost all of the few SPAD XVlls built were assigned to the SPA.3 of the Cigognes group.
On the Western front the SPAD Xlils were also the mainstay of the United States Army Air Service fighter force: 16 Squadrons were equipped with them, including the glorious 94th, whose hero was Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, and the 27th, with another great American ace, Frank Luke. Apparently the British did not use this aircraft in combat, although their Nos. 19 and 35 Squadrons were equipped with it. The Belgians delivered it to a single squadron, the 10th, before the war ended.
After the war 37 SPAD Xlils were sent to Belgium (for the Belgian 3rd, 4th and 10th Squadrons); 40 went to Poland and others were shipped to Czechoslovakia, Japan (which had already secured a license for manufacturing the SPAD XX), Persia, Portugal, Spain and Thailand. A few SPAD Vlls were also exported to Brazil, Greece, Poland, Portugal, Rumania and Thailand.
After the Armistice 893 SPAD Xlils belonging to the US Army Air Service in France were shipped back to the United States. These machines were re-engined with 180-hp Wright-Hispano Es and used as trainers.