Nieuport 11

The Nieuport 11 was a single seat scout that entered French service at the start of 1916 and that helped defeat the 'Fokker scourge', the period of German air dominance won by the famous Fokker monoplanes.

The Nieuport 11 may have been based on a pre-war design for an aircraft to enter the 1914 Gordon-Bennett Trophy (although the same is said about the Nieuport 10).

In 1913 Nieuport offered two monoplanes for sale - the two-seat Model X and the smaller single-seat Model XI. The Model X became the basis of the Nieuport 10, originally a two-seat reconnaissance aircraft, but often used as a single seat fighter. The Nieuport 11 may have taken some elements from the Model XI, but in every significant way it was a development of the Nieuport 10. The Model XI used wing warping controls on the mid-mounted single wing and had a semi-circular horizontal tail. In contrast the Nieuport 11 had very similar wings to the Nieuport 10, with a lower wing of about half the area of the upper wing and angular horizontal tail surfaces. It also used aileron controls. The lower wing was mounted at the base of the fuselage.

The Nieuport 11 had a wood fuselage with fabric covering. The upper wing had two spars, the lower wing a single spar, and the wings were connected by V-struts. The fuselage had flat sides, a straight top and curved base. The lower wing was the main weakness of the aircraft, and could twist at high speeds. The wing was strengthened on the Nieuport 17, but remained a weakness.

The Nieuport 11 was armed with a single gun mounted on the upper wing to fire over the propeller disc (A Lewis gun in British service or a Hotchkiss gun in French service). It could also carry eight Le Prieur rockets, which were mounted on the wing struts and were for use against balloons. Later on some aircraft were given synchronised Vickers machine guns.

The aircraft was powered by an 80hp Le Rhône rotary engine, the same engine that was used on the heavier Nieuport 10, so the new aircraft was slightly faster. It also had a high rate of climb for the period and was very manoeuvrable, making it an effective fighter aircraft.

The Nieuport 11 was also known as the 'Bébé' or 'Baby', either because of its small size compared to the Nieuport 10 or because one of its designations was as the B.B-XI (class B light single-seat fighter, biplane XI), also pronounced as 'Bébé'.

The Nieuport 11 was followed by the Nieuport 16, which had a more powerful engine but the same basic layout and was less manoeuvrable and then by the redesigned Nieuport 17, which had a larger wing area and was perhaps the most successful entry in the series.

Service Record

The Nieuport 11 was used by the French, Italian, Russian and Dutch air services and by the British RNAS.

The Nieuport 11 entered service with Escadrille N3 in January 1916 (although some sources say N65 at Nancy), and by 1 February 1916 about 90 Nieuport 11s had reached French front line units.

The Nieuport 11 formed part of the equipment of the first true French fighter unit, which was created to gain control of the air over Verdun in the spring of 1916. Amongst the pilots to use it there was Jean Navarre, the 'Eagle of Verdun', who flew a red-painted Nieuport 11 (alongside a Nieuport 16).

The Nieuport 11 was also one of the earlier aircraft used by Charles Nungesser.

The Nieuport 11 served as the initial equipment of the Escadrille Américaine (N124), better known by its later name of the Escadrille Lafayette. This squadron was formed on 18 April 1916 and was manned by American volunteers (amongst them Sergeant Lawrence Rumsey). 

Later in 1916 the French formed the Groupe de Combat de la Somme, combining Nieuport equipped N3, N26, N73 and N103 units. This become Groupe de Combat 12 (GC 12 or the Groupe des Cignones, after the stork motif of N3 squadron). This was followed by the formation of GC 13 in the autumn of 1916. These large groups and improved Allied fighters helped lead to a period of Allied domination in the air.

The RNAS received a batch of 21 (serial numbers 3974-3994), starting in November 1915. They were split between No.1 Wing at St. Pol, where they claimed at least nine victories, and with No.3 Wing in the Aegean.

Almost 700 were built under licence in Italy by Macchi as the Nieuport 11000. Of these 646 served with the Italian air arm and it remained in use as a standard fighter until the summer of 1917, serving over the Isonzo front.

The Nieuport 11 was used by the Belgian air force, where it was used by the aces Willy Coppens and Jan Olieslagers.  

It was built under licence in Russia by Dux, and saw extensive service there.

Engine: La Rhône rotary
Power: 80hp
Crew: 1
Span: 24ft 9in
Length: 19ft 0.75in
Height: 8ft 0.5in
Empty weight: 772lb
Maximum take-off weight: 1,058lb
Max speed: 97mph at sea level
Service ceiling: 14,765ft
Endurance: 2 hours
Armament: One Lewis gun on upper wing

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (16 October 2014), Nieuport 11 ,

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