Sopwith Camel F.1
First flown on May 17, 1917, the Sopwith Camel F.1 was the Allies premier fighter in WWI. Designed to replace unsuccessful Sopwith "Pup", it quickly went into production and a total of 5,490 were built. The "Camel" demonstrated good handling and its armament of two 7.62 mm Maxim or two Vickers 0.030 machine guns was formidable. The name "Camel" was derived from the hump-shaped cover over the machine guns. In order to combat Zeppelins, 2F.1 Camels were flown from barges towed behind destroyers, from platforms on the gun turrets of larger ships as well as from early aircraft carriers. A 2F.1 successfully flew after being dropped from an airship, an experiment testing an airship's ability to carry its own defensive aircraft. An armored trench-fighting version was flown, but did not go into production.
Although mainly used in western Europe, Camels also served in Italy. Some Camels were assigned to home defense, with the cockpit positioned further back and guns placed on the upper wings. The Camel 2F.1 was produced for the RNAS with more powerful engines. It became one of the most famous planes of World War I, responsible for shooting down 1,294 enemy aircraft.
The Camel was strong and agile but prone to springing surprises on the inexperienced pilot. The Camel was a fighter pilot's dream come true. It was fast, maneuverable and equipped with two machine guns synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc, but it was not suitable for the novice. It could out turn any German aircraft of the time if handled without respect, would throw itself into a dangerous spin. If the pilot was experienced and adept at flying he could usually master the quirks of the Camel, if not, the pilot in training frequently died. It was a very powerful aircraft powered by a 127 hp Clerget rotary engine. The power and torque generated by the engine coupled with the masses of the motor, the pilot, guns, ammo and fuel in one small area gave the Camel a very tight turning radius to the right. Taking off was hazardous as the pilot had to apply considerable left rudder and aileron to avoid torquing the airplane into the ground once it took off. The Camel was a match for the German triplane at turning to the right, so an experienced Allied pilot could whip the Camel to the right and come onto the tail of even a Fokker Dridecker. It was said that some pilots made a 270 degree right turn rather than a left turn as it was quicker that way. The Camel and the SE5a spelled the end of the Germans in the air, even in their new Fokker DVIIs. There were just too many Camels and SE5as. Baron Manfred von Richthofen was shot down in his Dr.III probably by A.R. Brown flying a Camel.
A Canadian pilot, Major W.G. Barker, destroyed 41 enemy aircraft while flying Camels.
Country: Great Britain
Service date: June, 1917
Wingspan: 28 ft.
Length: 18' 9"
Height: 8' 6"
Empty weight: 928 lbs
Takeoff weight: 1,450 lbs
Two 7.62 mm Maxim machine guns or two belt-fed Vickers 0.303 machine
Four 20 lb bombs
Engine: 95kW Clerget 9B rotary engine 127 hp
Max. speed: 113 mph
Climb rate: 14.4 ft/sec
Ceiling: 19,000 ft
Range: 217 miles
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