1913: World’s First Fighter Aircraft, the Vickers EFB1
World’s First Fighter Aircraft
The British Admiralty began the search for a viable fighter before the start of the Great War. One of the companies approached to design them was the Vickers Ltd Aviation Department. Even though Vickers was unsuccessful in developing a real fighter aircraft at that time, the research lead to the development of the E.F.B.5 and F.B.5 Gunbus which proved to be an effective aircraft for its time.
Vickers received a contract from the Admiralty on November 19, 1912 for an experimental fighting biplane armed with a machine gun. Vickers investigated various configurations before deciding on placing the gunner in the extreme nose of the aircraft, in order to achieve a clear field of fire and avoid the still unsolved problem of firing a machine gun through the propeller’s arc. Designated E.F.B. or Experimental Fighting Biplane 1 the aircraft was also known as the “Destroyer”. Even though the prototype was unsuccessful; the Vickers E.F.B.1 was, if not the first, then one of the earliest dedicated fighter aircraft ever built.
The design choice required a fuselage nacelle carrying an 80 hp (60 kW) Wolseley Vee-eight-cylinder engine driving a pusher propeller mounted in the rear. The nacelle was built from steel tubing with a duralumin skin. This nacelle was mated with an unequal-span heavily-staggered biplane configuration. Wing warping was employed for lateral control. The airframe of the E.F.B.1 was primarily an all metal construction. The tail surfaces were carried by a pair of vertically disposed booms attached to the upper and lower rear wing spars on each side of the engine. The Vickers E.F.B.1 was armed with a single 7.7mm Maxim machine gun on a mount allowing a 60° range of elevation and lateral traverse.
Prior to its first flight, the E.F.B.1 was displayed at the Aero Show held at Olympia, London, in February 1913. The gun was fitted for the first flight test, made at Joyce Green, but this rendered the aircraft so nose-heavy that it briefly left the ground, then nosed down, struck the ground and turned over.
Max take-off weight: 2661 lb
Empty weight: 1759 lb
Wingspan: 40 ft 0 in
Length: 28 ft 6 in
Height: 12 ft 11 in
Wing area: 385.02 sq ft
Max. speed: 70 mph