The Sopwith 9700 Type 1 ½ Strutter was a single-seat bomber version of the standard two-seat 1 ½ Strutter fighter-reconnaissance aircraft, produced for the RNAS and intended to operate as a strategic bomber. It was produced by removing the rear cockpit and replacing it with an internal bomb bay, capable of carrying four 65lb bombs. The French would later use it to carry up to 18 120mm calibre bombs. RNAS guidelines show that the Strutter bomber could be used with four bombs, one machine gun and 26 gallons of petrol, four bombs and no gun with more petrol or two bombs, no gun and 47 gallons of petrol.
The first delivery of a 9700 Type 1 ½ Strutter was made to RNAS Dover on 19 June 1916, and the first unit to use the aircraft was No.3 Wing, RNAS. This unit had been set up to carry out strategic bombing alongside the French, and was the first such unit ever created, but it had a short lifespan. The wing began the move to France on 16 May 1916, but the RFC was desperately short of aircraft in advance of the battle of the Somme, and asked the Admiralty for Strutters. Eventually 70 1 ½ Strutters were transferred from the RNAS to the RFC.
As a result the first attack in which the Strutter single seat bomber was definitely used was an attack on the Mauser factory at Oberndorf on 12 October 1916. This attack was made with a mixed force of older French aircraft and a squadron and a half of the Sopwith bomber. Red Squadron, equipped entirely with the Strutter, found its target. The Sopwith aircraft outperformed the French aircraft used by such a margin that a massive programme of production was put in place in France, for both single and two seat aircraft. No.3 Wing flew a series of raids with limited numbers of aircraft over the winter of 1916-17, but the RNAS was running short of pilots. No.3 Wing was run down during 1917, and its last mission was an attack on Freiburg on 14 April 1917. The surviving aircraft went to the French.
The single seat 1 ½ Strutter was also used in small numbers by a number of other RNAS units in Europe, before being phased out in favour of the D.H.4. It was also used in the Aegean by No.2 and No.6 Wings, RNAS and by F Squadron, RAF.
The 9700-Type 1 ½ Strutter was also used by the French. Early missions used ex-RNAS aircraft, but the type was also produced in France. Notable missions included a raid on Essen on 24 September 1916 and an attack on Munich on 17 November after which the bombers flew across the Alps to land near Venice. Eventually twelve French firms were involved in the construction of the Strutter bomber, but by the time the aircraft was available in large quantities during 1917 it was becoming obsolescent. Despite this it was used by a large number of French squadrons in 1917 and early 1918, before more modern aircraft became available.
Engine: 110hp Clerget 9Z or 130hp Clerget 9B
Length: 25ft 3in
Width: 33ft 6in
Height: 10ft 3in
Max Speed at 10,000ft: 98.5mph with 130hp engine, 94mph with 110hp engine
Fixed forward firing 0.303in Vickers gun
Four 65lb bombs (British) or 18 120mm calibre bombs (French)