P.Hare Royal Aircraft Factory (Putnam)
Yet another uncompleted project, this big two-seater night-fighter was designed during 1917. Many of its major components, including the undercarriage, tailbooms and centre-section, were F.E.9 components, possibly derived from the cancelled production of that machine. The nacelle was basically an F.E.9 unit with the crew positions reversed, presumably with the intention of providing the pilot with the best possible view of his intended target and also to facilitate landing at night. Like the F.E.9, it was to have been powered by the 200hp Hispano-Suiza.
Armament was to have been a Vickers rocket gun, and two searchlights were to have been fitted, one in the extreme nose and the other fixed to the gun. Power for these lights was to be provided by a wind-driven generator.
Before completion the design was modified to become the N.E.1, and is further described under that designation.
Powerplant: 200hp Hispano-Suiza V-8
span 50ft 0in;
chord 6ft 0in;
gap 5ft 6in;
wing area 550 sq ft;
dihedral 4 1/2°;
length 28ft 1 1/2in;
height 9ft 9in.
Weight: 2,700lb (estimate).
Developed from the F.E.12, the N.E.1, or Night-flying Experimental, employed a number of standard F.E.9/F.E.12 components, including the tailbooms, undercarriage legs, rudder and tailskid. The three-bay wings were of equal span, and had generous dihedral outboard of the centre section. Ailerons were fitted to upper and lower mainplanes. Heeding the lessons learned from the development of the F.E.9, the ailerons were plain and unbalanced. The tailbooms were parallel in plan, and followed what had become normal Factory practice by meeting at the tailplane spar, the tailplane itself being positioned on the thrust line. The elevators incorporated large horn balances, and the semi-circular fin was symmetrical about the tailplane. The undercarriage had a very wide track, the wheels being outboard of the innermost pairs of interplane struts, to facilitate landing at night. Therefore, unusually for the period, the two undercarriage legs were entirely separate, with no transverse axle. Power was provided by a 200hp Hispano-Suiza driving a four-bladed pusher propeller. The intended armament was the Vickers rocket gun or the one-pounder Coventry Ordnance Works gun, with which an element within the Factory seems to have been obsessed. As in the F.E.12, a searchlight was included in the nose of the nacelle, powered by a wind-driven generator.
Six prototypes, B3971-3976, were ordered, the first of which was inspected on 3 September 1917 and made its initial flight five days later. On 14 September it was damaged, most probably in a landing accident, and the nacelle was rebuilt with the crew positions reversed, moving the pilot to the rear cockpit, where a Lewis gun was mounted on the starboard cockpit coaming for his use, in the manner suggested for the F.E.9. The searchlight was not refitted. Test flying resumed on 4 October.
Service trials started on 6 November at Martlesham Heath, and the resulting report cast doubts upon the adequacy of the N.E.1's performance compared with that of its contemporary 'rivals'. While it was considered to be a slight improvement on the F.E.2b, which it was thought most likely to replace, and while the view from either cockpit was described as excellent, it was found to be heavy and awkward, although generally easy to fly. As the N.E.1 was neither smaller nor much better streamlined than the F.E.2b, it was hardly surprising that its performance, with similar power, was so little better.
The general lack of enthusiasm on the part of its intended users was sufficient to ensure that the N.E.1 did not enter volume production. Nevertheless, all six prototypes were completed, most probably because they were already well advanced. In fact the second, B3972, was completed by 14 November and, after acceptance trials, was handed over to the RFC, serving with No 78 (Home Defence) Squadron at Sutton's Farm. It is probable that this machine was built without the searchlight or rocket gun, and it may have had the modified nacelle then fitted to B3971.
A redesigned fin, with increased ventral area, was fitted to B3973, which was completed on 23 November. Early in the new year this aircraft was fitted with bomb racks under the lower centre-section, and throughout February and March it took part in bomb-dropping trials at the experimental station at Orfordness.
The fourth prototype was not flown, being used exclusively for static experiments, and may eventually have been tested to destruction. The fifth example, B3975, was completed late in December 1917 and flown by the experimental station at Orfordness and at the Isle of Grain, but for what purpose is not known. Although the final machine, B3976, was completed, it was never fitted with its engine and obviously was not flown.
Powerplant: 200hp Hispano-Suiza V-8
span 47ft 10 1/2in;
chord 6ft 0in;
gap 5ft 5 1/2in;
wing area 555 sq ft;
dihedral 4 1/2°;
length 28ft 6in (30ft 2in with searchlight);
height 10ft 0in.
max speed 95mph at sea level;
H.King Armament of British Aircraft (Putnam)
N.E.1. The N.E.1 was first constructed late in 1917 as a specialised night fighter. It had a counterpart in the Vickers F.B.25 and was developed from a design bearing the designation F.E. 12. In this design the pilot was in the front cockpit and was provided with a Lewis gun. The primary armament, however, was a Vickers rocket gun, manned by a gunner at the rear. For this gun two mountings were provided, one for frontal fire and one for firing rearwards above the top wing. Provision was made for two searchlights, one in the nose of the nacelle and one on the forward mounting for the rocket gun.
As first flown in 1917 the N.E.1 had no searchlight on the forward rocket-gun mounting, and later the light in the nose was discarded. This enabled the gunner to be brought forward to the front cockpit, where he was afforded a wider field of fire. The rocket gun was on a bipod mounting at the front tip of the cockpit, and on the starboard side of the fuselage was a fixed Lewis gun. Provision may also have been made, or intended, for a pillar-mounted Lewis gun for rearward fire.
Early in 1918 one N.E.1 was used for bombing experiments.
P.Lewis The British Fighter since 1912 (Putnam)
Contemporary with the ill-fated F.B.25 and similar in layout and purpose was the N.E.1, six of which were built by the Royal Aircraft Factory. Intended for night interception, the N.E.1 carried a searchlight in the nose of its crudely-shaped box-like nacelle, which was suspended between three-bay wings of fairly high aspect ratio. The 200 h.p. Hispano-Suiza provided the power to enable the machine to take aloft its main offensive armament of a Coventry Ordnance Works quick-firer or a Vickers rocket gun. In addition, a forwards-firing Lewis gun was mounted on the starboard side of the nacelle. Reports on the N.E.1’s handling and performance were not favourable towards its use as a night fighter so that it remained but an experimental design.
F.Mason The British Fighter since 1912 (Putnam)
Conceived with the same purpose in mind as the slightly earlier Vickers F.B.25, the Royal Aircraft Factory’s lanky N.E.1 (Night Experimental) made little pretence at elegance. Intended initially as a night anti-airship fighter, it was a three-bay biplane powered by a 200hp Hispano-Suiza engine driving a four-blade pusher propeller in the best Gunbus tradition. The tailbooms, parallel in plan, converged in side elevation to the mainspar of the tailplane, to which was hinged a heavily horn-balanced elevator. A semi-circular fixed fin was mounted symmetrically and centrally on the tailplane and forward of an unbalanced rudder.
The nacelle was located within the wing gap, clear of the lower wing, but the space between nacelle and upper wing was occupied by the engine’s radiator. The divided undercarriage was of very wide track to assist night landing, the oleo struts being anchored directly below the inboard interplane struts.
The starkly functional nacelle mounted a ten-inch searchlight in the extreme nose, and would be operated by the pilot who occupied the front of the cockpit, with the gunner behind him. The principal armament was proposed as being either the Coventry Ordnance Works quick-firing gun or the Vickers Crayford rocket gun, supplemented by either one or two spigot-mounted Lewis guns. An unusual piece of equipment was a radio telephony installation.
A total of six N.E.1s was built, and the first, B3971, is believed to have flown in mid-September 1917. Despite its cumbersome gait, it was found to be simple to fly and land, though its speed was far from outstanding. The aircraft underwent official trials in November that year.
A number of design variations appeared in subsequent examples. The fin shape was revised on at least one aircraft, and the searchlight was omitted from others in which the bow position was occupied by the gunner, with the pilot aft. All aircraft were confined to experimental flying, with the last pair being completed in 1918.
Type: Single pusher engine, two-seat, three-bay biplane night fighter.
Manufacturer: The Royal Aircraft Factory, Farnborough, Hampshire.
Powerplant: One 200hp Hispano-Suiza engine driving four-blade pusher propeller.
Dimensions: Span, 47ft 10in; length, 30ft 2in; height, 9ft 2in; wing area, 555.1 sq ft.
Weights: Tare, 2,071lb; all-up, 2,946lb.
Performance: Max speed, 95 mph at 10,000ft; climb to 10,000ft, 16 min 10 sec; service ceiling, 17,500ft; endurance, 2 3/4 hr.
Armament: One Vickers Crayford rocket gun or one Coventry Ordnance Works quick-firing gun; either one or two spigot-mounted Lewis guns.
Prototypes: Six, B3971-B3976. First flight by B3971 believed to have been in mid-September 1917. No production.
W.Green, G.Swanborough The Complete Book of Fighters
ROYAL AIRCRAFT FACTORY N.E.1 UK
As a derivative of the F.E.9 (which see), the RAF planned to develop a dedicated night fighter as the F.E.12. This was to have used the same 200 hp Hispano-Suiza eight-cylinder Vee-type water-cooled engine, the same undercarriage, tailbooms, tail unit and wing centre section as the F.E.9, and basically the same nacelle, but with the crew positions reversed. New equi-span, three-bay wings were planned, with plain unbalanced ailerons. The pilot, in the front cockpit for the best possible view during unaided nocturnal operations, was to have a forward-firing 0.303-in (7,7- mm) Lewis gun, whereas the observer was to be armed with a Vickers rocket gun for which two mounts were to be provided for firing forwards or aft. Provision was to be made for a searchlight in the nose, and another on the forward mount for the rocket gun, with a wind-driven generator under the nacelle. Six prototypes were planned, but before construction began the designation was changed to N.E.1 (for ‘‘Night-flying Experimental”) and some changes were made. These eliminated the second searchlight, increased the span of the wing centre section, changed the tail unit design, moved the boom attachment points on the tailplane outwards, and introduced a wide-track undercarriage with a divided axle arrangement. Flown early in September 1917, the first N.E.1 was almost immediately damaged and was then modified, before resuming flying on 4 October, to accommodate the observer in the front cockpit with the rocket gun and the pilot behind with a fixed Lewis gun. In this form, the N.E.1 was submitted to official trials at Martlesham Heath in November 1917, but was not thought to have adequate performance to serve as a night fighter. The other five prototypes were all completed by January 1918, but one was used only for static testing, another probably remained unflown and only one was issued to an RFC squadron for home defence.
Max speed, 95mph (153 km/h) at 10,000 ft (3050 m), 85mph (137 km/h) at 16,500 ft (5 030 m).
Time to 1,000 ft (305 m), 1.6 min.
Service ceiling, 17,500 ft (5335 m).
Endurance, 2.75 hrs.
Empty weight, 2,071 lb (939 kg).
Loaded weight, 2,946 lb (1336 kg).
Span, 47 ft 10 in (14,57m).
Length, 30 ft 2 in (9,19 m).
Height, 9 ft 8 in (2,94 m).
Wing area, 555.1 sq ft (51,57 m2).