Advancements of 1915

Nieuport

The year 1915 saw many improvements in aircraft design and arrangement. Aircraft were becoming faster reaching speeds of nearly 120 mph, their flying duration was growing longer, and pilots were becoming more expert at flying them. Furthermore, with most aircraft now housing a machinegun in some manner (normally above the wing or having a person man a gun behind the pilot) more emphasis was being placed on aircraft production. Despite these improvements the role of the airplane was still rather limited to air to air combat or routine reconnaissance patrols.

Burning German Fighter

Unfortunately, most pilots found that manning the top wing mounted machinegun during flight was close to impossible given they would have to allot nearly all of their attention to firing the gun when needed. Thus, aircraft manufacturers devised several different ideas to come up with a way for pilots to shoot and fly at the same time without dividing their attention too much. Ideally, most designers thought that engine mounted machineguns were the answer. The problem with this idea was that meant the machinegun could possibly shoot the pilot's own propeller off. Many different concepts came about from this including putting metal plating on the back of the propeller. However, this idea was quickly abandoned as the ricocheting rounds fired were causing damage to the attacking aircraft.

interrupter mechanism

Finally after many tests the German aircraft-maker Fokker came up with a brilliant design that would revolutionize the way aircraft operated and fought. The design was a synchronized machinegun that actually fired through the spinning propeller. The aircraft’s machinegun would have a camera that enabled it to tell when the propeller was in front of it, thus causing it to only fire when the propeller blades cleared the gun’s firing path (pictured top-left and diagram bottom-left). This innovation had an immediate impact on aircraft’s shooting accuracy. Now pilots could man the machine gun while being virtually undistracted from flying. At first, this was a great advantage to the German air force, but soon England and France would catch on and devise an identical system of their own. Ultimately, casualty rates of fighter pilots went on the rise as aircraft production and technology now started to soar (devastation pictured center-right).

first flight
german airship cruising fighter loading bombs ju87s b17 formation me262 x1 f86sabre
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