The Nieuport 11 (or Nieuport XI C.1 in contemporary sources), nicknamed the Bébé, was a French World War I single seat sesquiplane fighter aircraft, designed by Gustave Delage. It was the primary aircraft that ended the Fokker Scourge in 1916. The type saw service with several of France's allies, and gave rise to the series of "vee-strut" Nieuport fighters that remained in service (latterly as trainers) into the 1920s.
|A replica Nieuport 11 in Italian colours|
|Introduction||5 January 1916|
|Primary users||Aéronautique Militaire (France)|
Corpo Aeronautico Militare (Italy), Imperial Russian Air Service
Design and development
The Nieuport 11 was a smaller, simplified version of the Nieuport 10, designed specifically as a single-seat fighter. Like the "10" the "11" was a sesquiplane, a biplane with a full-sized top wing with two spars, and a lower wing of much narrower chord and a single spar. Interplane struts in the form of a "Vee" joined the upper and lower wings. The sesquiplane layout reduced drag and improved the rate of climb, as well as offering a better view from the cockpit than either biplane or monoplane, while being substantially stronger than contemporary monoplanes. Unfortunately, the narrow lower wing was sometimes subject to aeroelastic flutter at high air speeds, a problem that manifested itself on the later "vee-strut" Nieuport fighters, as well as the German Albatros D.III. Nieuport 11s were supplied to the French Aéronautique Militaire, the British Royal Naval Air Service, the Imperial Russian Air Service, Belgium, and Italy. 646 Nieuport 11s were produced by the Italian Macchi company under licence, When Romania suffered military setbacks and needed aircraft, several RNAS Nieuport 11s, along with Nieuport 12s were provided.
In 1916 an improved version appeared as the Nieuport 16, which was a strengthened Nieuport 11 airframe powered by a 110 hp (82 kW) Le Rhône 9J rotary engine. Visible differences included a larger aperture in front of the "horse shoe" cowling and a headrest for the pilot. The Nieuport 16 was an interim type pending the delivery of the slightly larger Nieuport 17 C.1 whose design was begun in parallel with the 16, and remedied the 16's balance problems, as well as improving performance.
The Nieuport 11 reached the French front in January 1916, and 90 were in service within the month.
This small sesquiplane outclassed the Fokker Eindecker in every respect, including speed, climb rate and maneuverability. It featured ailerons for lateral control rather than the Fokker's wing warping, giving lighter, quicker roll response, and its elevator was attached to a conventional tail plane which provided better pitch control as opposed to the all-moving, balanced "Morane type" elevators of the Fokker.
The Fokker's sole remaining advantage was its synchronized machine gun, which fired forward through the arc of its propeller. At the time, the Allies lacked a similar system, and the Nieuport 11's Lewis machine gun was mounted to fire over the propeller, allowing uninterrupted forward fire. The Lewis was not synchronizable, due to its open bolt firing cycle design which resulted in an unpredictable rate of fire. Clearing gun jams and replacing ammunition drums in flight were challenging though, and the drums limited ammunition supply.
During the course of the Battle of Verdun in February 1916, the combination of the Nieuport 11s technical advantages and its concentration in dedicated fighter units allowed the French to establish air superiority, forcing radical changes in German tactics. The impact of the Nieuport was so dramatic that in mid to late 1916 several captured examples were repaired, rearmed with a synchronised "Spandau" gun, and flown at the front. One of these was N1324, briefly flown by Kurt Student in August 1916. Others were supplied by Idflieg to a number of manufacturers, requesting copies be built which had considerable direct and indirect influence on German fighter design.
By March 1916 the Bébé was being replaced by both the Nieuport 16 and the much improved Nieuport 17, although Italian-built examples remained in first line service longer, as did Russian examples. Thereafter the Nieuport 11s continued to be used as trainers.
- Nieuport 11 C.1
- Single-seat fighter/scout biplane. Also known as the Nieuport Bébé or Nieuport Scout although these were used for any Nieuport fighter.
- Nieuport-Macchi 11000 or 11.000
- Variant built under licence in Italy with some detail modifications.
- Nieuport 16 C.1
- Improved version powered by a 110 hp (92 kW) Le Rhone 9J rotary piston engine.
- Aviation Militaire Belge
- Aéronautique Militaire
- Escadrille N3
- Escadrille N12
- Escadrille N15
- Escadrille N23
- Escadrille N26
- Escadrille N31
- Escadrille N37
- Escadrille N38
- Escadrille N48
- Escadrille N49
- Escadrille N57
- Escadrille N65
- Escadrille N67
- Escadrille N68
- Escadrille N69
- Escadrille N73
- Escadrille N102
- Escadrille N103
- Escadrille N112
- Escadrille N124
- Escadrille 92
- Escadrille N387
- Escadrille N391
- Corpo Aeronautico Militare - built under licence by Nieuport-Macchi
- Supreme Command
- 9th Gruppo (1 Armata)
- 2nd Gruppo (2nd & 4th Armata)
- 3rd gruppo
- 7th Gruppo (6th & 1st Armata)
- 10th Gruppo
- Luchtvaartafdeling (1 example captured, and 5 copies built by NV at Trompenburg)
- Corpul Aerian Român - 28 aircraft transferred from RNAS.
- Royal Naval Air Service - operated 18 Nieuport 11s. The RFC did not operate the Nieuport 11.
Survivors and reproductions
- the Musée de l'Air at le Bourget in Paris has the sole original surviving Nieuport 11, currently marked as N556 with the personal markings of Commandant Charles Tricornot de Rose, holder of the first military pilot licence. It had previously been marked as N976.
- Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome has had a reproduction Bébé flying in many of their airshows in past years, finished in Victor Chapman's colors, and powered with an original 80 hp Le Rhône 9C rotary engine. Following a crash landing, it is undergoing a rebuild to return n to flying condition.
Specifications (Nieuport 11 C.1)
Data from Davilla, 1997, pp.360 & 364, and Pommier, 2002, p.169
- Crew: 1
- Length: 5.500 m (18 ft 1 in)
- Upper wingspan: 7.520 m (24 ft 8 in)
- Upper Chord: 1.200 m (3 ft 11.2 in)
- Lower wingspan: 7.400 m (24 ft 3 in)
- Lower Chord: 0.700 m (2 ft 3.6 in)
- Wing sweep: 3° 30'
- Height: 2.400 m (7 ft 10 in)
- Wing area: 13.3 m2 (143 sq ft)
- Airfoil: Type N
- Empty weight: 320 kg (705 lb)
- Gross weight: 480 kg (1,058 lb)
- Undercarriage Track: 1.600 m (5 ft 3.0 in)
- Powerplant: 1 × Le Rhône 9C nine-cylinder air-cooled rotary engine, 60 kW (80 hp)
- Propellers: 2-bladed Levasseur 450 wooden fixed-pitch propeller
- Maximum speed: 162 km/h (101 mph, 87 kn) at 2,000 m (6,600 ft)
- Range: 250 km (160 mi, 130 nmi)
- Endurance: 2.5 hours
- Service ceiling: 5,000 m (16,000 ft)
- Time to altitude:
- 8 minutes 30 seconds to 2,000 m (6,600 ft)
- 15 minutes 25 seconds to 3,000 m (9,800 ft)
- Circa Nieuport 11 (replica)
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nieuport 11.|
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- Fitzsimons 1967/1969, p. 1989.
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- Davilla, 1997, p.361
- Davilla, 1997, p.363
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- Rimell, 1990, p.86
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