P.Hare Royal Aircraft Factory (Putnam)
Designed during 1917 and probably intended for ground attack, the Armoured Experimental No 2 was to have been a tractor biplane with an armour plated forward fuselage intended to afford the crew, engine and fuel tanks a measure of protection against retaliatory small-arms fire. It is believed it had been based upon the B.E. series of machines, but it is almost certain that the project never progressed beyond the initial stages of design, for no records exist of it having been built, and no drawings of it survive.
Wingspan: 42ft 7in
This armoured two-seater, which was almost certainly the last aeroplane to be designed at Farnborough, has the obscure distinction of being the only Royal Aircraft Factory type to bear an official name. Under the system of nomenclature which was adopted by the Royal Air Force towards the end of the war it became the Farnborough Ram.
Intended primarily for ground attack, the A.E.3 was a pusher biplane developed from the N.E.I, with which it shared its undercarriage, outer wing panels and horizontal tail surfaces. Its nacelle, containing the crew and engine, was protected by steel armour plate, the floor having two skins, the inner being 5 gauge and the outer 10 gauge. The armament comprised three Lewis guns, two firing forward and a third on a telescopic mounting for defence against attack from behind. The forward-firing pair were coupled together and aimed with the aid of an Aldis optical sight mounted between them. Provision was made for no fewer than thirty-two double Lewis drums, each holding ninety-seven rounds, giving the crew what was, at that time, an immense store of ammunition.
It was originally intended that the A.E.3 should be powered by the geared 200hp Hispano-Suiza, but, owing to the almost unending delivery problems with that engine, the first prototype, B8781, which was completed on 28 March 1918, was equipped with a Sunbeam Arab of similar power. The radiator was initially installed between the rear centre-section struts, but was soon repositioned above the centre-section, alongside the overwing gravity tank.
A second example, B8783, had its nacelle modified to accommodate a 230hp Bentley B.R.2 rotary engine. Designated Ram II, it was completed by the end of May. The third machine, B8782, another Arab powered Ram I, was completed a few days later.
The flight trials of B8783, which began on 4 June, revealed that the control response was barely adequate, and by the 30th, when the machine went to France for service trials, the rudder and ailerons had been replaced by surfaces of increased area. The aircraft was tested by crews from both 201 and 209 squadrons before returning to Farnborough on 20 July. At the same time B8781 underwent armament trials at the testing station at Orfordness.
In common with many of the Factory's less-inspired designs, the A.E.3 found little favour with its intended users, service reports being best described as 'unenthusiastic'. No production orders were placed, especially as its intended role would clearly be better filled by more conventional designs such as the Sopwith Salamander.
The design of a further version, the Ram III with wings of increased chord, for which the more plentiful 150hp B.R.I had been suggested as a powerplant, was not completed.
span 47ft 10in; length 27ft 9in; height 10ft 0in; chord 6ft 0in; gap 5ft 6in; wing area 560sq ft; dihedral 5°.
maximum speed 95mph (estimated).
H.King Armament of British Aircraft (Putnam)
Royal Aircraft Factory
A.E.3 (Ram). Among the unusual features of this two-seat armoured ground-attack aircraft of 1918 was the use (or evident intended use) of a tubular optical sight in conjunction with the primary armament of two Lewis guns. This installation was probably devised at Farnborough, although, as will be noted in Volume 2, A. C. W. Aldis designed a gun mounting with which an Aldis sight was used. The guns were yoked together in the extreme nose of the nacelle and the sight was mounted between and above them. Vertical downward fire was possible, though field of fire was limited, and the provision of thirty-two double drums of ammunition was specified. These would be shared by a third Lewis gun on a pillar mounting, for rearward fire above the top wing. The pillar was apparently capable of transverse movement, as on the first Sopwith Buffalo.
The armoured nacelle of the A.E.3 was of structural type, as were the forward fuselage sections of the Sopwith Salamander and Buffalo. The floor and front were of double thickness (10-gauge outer, 5-gauge inner).
P.Lewis The British Fighter since 1912 (Putnam)
Although by 1918 the pusher formula with the propeller revolving between tailbooms had been more or less abandoned as a proposition for projected fighters, the Royal Aircraft Factory proceeded to construct three examples of the A.E.3 Farnborough Ram, a pusher biplane carrying two and intended for use as a trench-strafer. The A.E.3’s antecedent was the N.E.1 of the previous year but, as protection for its crew, armour plating 1/4 in. thick clad the angular nacelle which housed a pair of Lewis guns, pivoted for firing vertically into enemy troops, and carried also another Lewis gun for firing to the rear. The two versions of the A.E.3 were the 200 h.p. Sunbeam Arab Ram Mk.I and the 230 h.p. Bentley B.R.2 Ram Mk.II. A Mk.III version of the Ram was considered as a project and would have used the lower-powered 150 h.p. Bentley B.R.I.
F.Mason The British Fighter since 1912 (Putnam)
R.A.F. A.E.3 Farnborough Ram
The Royal Aircraft Factory’s A.E.3, whose initials are believed to have signified Armed (or Armoured) Experimental, was a derivative of the N.E.1 night fighter, but developed for the role of trench strafing in answer to a B.E.F. requirement. It retained the same or similar unstaggered, three-bay wings, tail booms and undercarriage of the N.E.3, but featured a crew nacelle constructed of quarter-inch armour plate.
It is unlikely that the A.E.3 was designed to the same B.E.F. Specification as the Sopwith Salamander trench fighter for, whereas the latter’s armament was appropriate for a trench fighter capable of both air-to-air and air-to-ground combat, the A.E.3 was intended to pour a stream of fire into enemy trenches as it flew relatively slowly, straight and level overhead. For this purpose it was armed in the nose of the nacelle with double-yoked Lewis guns which could be depressed, as well as a third Lewis gun on a telescopic mounting between the cockpits, capable of firing aft and abeam for self-defence.
Three aircraft were ordered, and the first flew at the beginning of April 1918, and all three were flying by June. During this period the Factory at Farnborough was renamed an Establishment (becoming the RAE), and a ruling issued whereby aircraft designed by the former Factory should be referred to as Farnborough products. Thus named the Ram, the A.E.3 was therefore the only Factory aircraft bestowed with an official name.
The Ram Mk I was powered by a 200hp Sunbeam Arab eight-cylinder inline engine, and the Mk II a 230hp Bentley B.R.2 rotary. A Mark III was proposed with a B.R.1 engine and wings of greater chord, but it is assumed that this was not built.
Type: Single pusher engine, two-seat, three-bay biplane trench fighter.
Manufacturer: The Royal Aircraft Factory (Establishment), Farnborough, Hampshire.
Specification: British Expeditionary Force Requirement of 1917.
Powerplant: Mk I, 200hp Sunbeam Arab; Mk II, 230hp Bentley B.R.2 rotary engine.
Dimensions: Span, 47ft 10 1/2 in; length, 27ft 8 1/2 in; height, 10ft 0in.
Performance: Max speed, 95 mph at sea level.
Armament: Two Lewis guns in extreme nose of nacelle and one Lewis gun on telescopic mounting offset to port between cockpits.
Prototypes: Three, B8781-B8783, all built; first flown in April 1918. No production.
W.Green, G.Swanborough The Complete Book of Fighters
ROYAL AIRCRAFT FACTORY A.E.3 RAM UK
The last aircraft type to emerge from the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough, before its change of name in June 1918 to Royal Aircraft Establishment, the A.E.3 was itself an extrapolation from the N.E.1 (which see). Designated as an "Armoured Experimental" type, the A.E.1 was intended as a specialised ground-attack fighter, for which purpose it was to mount a pair of 0.303-in (7,7-mm) Lewis guns in the nose, with a limited degree of movement in azimuth and depression. A third Lewis was to be pillar-mounted in the front, observer’s, cockpit for self-defence. Like the N.E.1, the A.E.3 was a large three-bay equi-span biplane, differing principally in the construction and shape of the nacelle, which was armoured with steel plate and provided stowage for 32 ammunition drums. Intended to be powered by the 200 hp Hispano engine as used in the N.E.1, the A.E.3 prototype emerged at the end of March 1918 with a 200 hp Sunbeam Arab, whilst the second, eight weeks later, had a 230 hp Bentley B.R.2 rotary. Flight testing of the latter began on 4 June, and larger ailerons and rudders were fitted before this A.E.3 went to France for service trials, which aroused little enthusiasm. The third aircraft, also completed in June 1918, had an Arab engine like the first and in this form the A.E.3 was named the Ram I, whilst the B.R.2 version became the Ram II. A proposed derivative, the Ram III, was not built and no production ensued, other, better, types having become available . The following speed is estimated with a 200 hp Hispano engine.
Max speed, 95 mph (153 km/h).
Span, 47 ft 10 1/2 in (14,59m).
Length, 27 ft 8 1/2 in (8,44 m).
Height, 10 ft 0 in (3,05 m).
Wing area, 560 sq ft (52,02 m2).