Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 91.djvu/92

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Fighting in the Air

The new machines that have been evolved and the way they fight four miles above the ground

By Waldemar Kaempffert

(The following article is based upon facts which have been kindly supplied by Major W. L. B. Rees of the British Commission. Major Rees was sent to this country as a member of the British Commission to give to our army officers the benefit of the British experiences on the battlefield with flying machines. He is an officer of the Royal Flying Corps who has seen active service in the air and who, single-handed, brought down ten German flyers. — Editor)

��THE General Staff of every European army knew five years ago that the airplane would prove a potent factor in war. Germans, English, French, Ital- ians, all had tried to evolve a system of air- scouting in their annual maneuvers. The Italian campaign against the Turks in Tripoli and the Balkan wars had proved clearly enough that a man in the air could see more than could a man on horseback.

And yet all the European generals entered this war without even a dim realiza- tion of the terrible demands that would be made of aircraft; of their utter dependence on a handful of dauntless men ready to vault into the air and brave not only the unseen whirlpools and maelstroms of a turbulent atmosphere, but bursting shells hurled from the ground and the machine- gun fire of an adroit enemy air-fighter; of the inadequacy of the airplane as it was built before that fateful month of August, 1914, when all Europe was plunged into carnage; and of the frightful wastage of machines and lives. Even the Germans were unprepared.

New Types Had to Be Evolved for the Exigencies of Battle

Every army had machines — the French and Germans hundreds of them. But no one knew that airplanes would have to be built for very special military purposes; that the same machine could not be effect- ively used for scouting and fighting; that the acrobatic performances of Pegoud and his imitators in "looping-the-loop" and diving tail-first would be elevated to the dignity of military tactics with which every fighting airman would have to be familiar. In two years the whole art of airplane con- struction has been almost miraculously improved, and the art of flying, too. Be- fore the war, some effort was made to adapt the machine to the man; now the man must adapt himself to the machine. Where are the elaborate, automatic stabiliz- ing devices with which all governments

��experimented before the war? Where are the machines advocated for their inherent stability? The machine of 1917 is only out- wardly identical with the machine of 19 13. About six types of machines have been developed as the result of war experience:

1. There is the fighter — a 150-mile-an- hour, single seater, which is armed with a machine gun; which has limited fuel- carrying capacity, and which serves to find, fight and destroy the enemy.

2. There is the two-seated fighter. It car- ries a fixed machine-gun at the front and a machine gun on an "all-around" mounting for the observer in the rear It is not so fast as the single-seated fighter. It also finds and fights the enemy; but it also escorts patrols into the enemy country and protects machines engaged in fire-control. It has more fuel-carrying capacity than the single-seat fighter, because it must stay up longer.

3. The reconnaissance machine is armed like the two-seated fighter; but it is not so fast and does not climb so rapidly. For short distances over the line it is amply able to protect itself. If it goes far, however, it must be protected by two-seated and even single-seated fighters. It is equipped with a built-in stereoscopic camera. The pictures taken are studied by staff officers to note changes in enemy positions and to discover concealments.

4. The fire-control machine directs the batteries by means of wireless. A recon- naissance machine when fitted with wireless apparatus may be used for fire-control.

5. The bomb-dropper resembles the two- seated fighter, although bombs can be carried by various machines. Bomb- carriers, being weight-carriers, are large.

6. Night-flyers resemble either the recon- naissance machines or two-seated fighters.

All Europe Was Aeronautically Unprepared — Even the Germans

It was a very heterogenous collection of machines that took the air at the outbreak


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