Nieuport, later Nieuport-Delage, was a French aeroplane company famous for racers before World War I and fighter aircraft during World War I and between the wars.
Originally formed as Nieuport-Duplex
in 1902 for the manufacture of engine components (and for which it developed a good reputation), it was reformed in 1909 as the Société Générale d'Aéro-locomotion
, and its products (including ignition components) were marketed to the aviation industry. During this time, their first aircraft were built, starting with a small single-seat monoplane, which was destroyed in a flood. A second design flew before the end of 1909 and had the essential form of the modern aircraft, including a non-lifting tail (where the lifting force pushed it down, as opposed to up as on the Bleriots
- a much safer system) and an enclosed fuselage with the pilot fully protected from the elements.
In 1911, the company was reformed specifically to build aircraft (though it continued to build all of the other components including propellers) with the name Nieuport et Deplante. In 1911, Edouard Nieuport (one of several brothers) died after being thrown from his aircraft, and the company was taken over by Henri Deutsch de la Meurthe, a famous supporter of aviation development. With his financing, the name was changed to Société Anonyme des Établissements Nieuport, and development of the existing designs was continued, though in 1913 and 1914 the company began to lag behind and was setting fewer and fewer records, especially after Charles Nieuport (brother no. 2) had died in another accident (he stalled and spun in) in 1912, and the position of chief designer was taken over by Franz Schneider, who would later have his next employer, L.V.G., build illegal copies of the (then hopelessly obsolete) Nieuport and have a long-running fight with Anthony Fokker over machine gun interrupter / synchronizer patents.
Gustave Delage and World War I
With Schneider's departure, Gustave Delage (no connection to the Delage automobile company) took over as chief designer, and major changes occurred immediately - including updates to the majority of the company's design lineup to bring them up to 1914 standards. He began work on a sesquiplane racer - a biplane whose lower wing was much narrower than its top wing and relied on a single wing spar instead of the usual two. This aircraft was not ready to fly until after World War I had begun but, as the Nieuport 10, the type saw extensive service with the Royal Naval Air Service (R.N.A.S.) of the United Kingdom and with the French and Russian Flying Services. The performance of the Nieuport 10, and the more powerful Nieuport 12, which also served with the Royal Flying Corps (R.F.C.) was such that they were used as fighters. Nieuport developed an improved design specifically intended as a fighter - the Nieuport 11, which was regarded as the "baby" (bébé) of the 10, which it closely resembled, except in size.
Until the end of 1917, most of the companies' aircraft would be successive developments of this one design, with bigger engines, longer wings, and more refined fuselages, until the line ended with the Nieuport 27. The "V-strut" Nieuports suffered from the inherent weakness of the sesquiplane wing form, and required careful piloting to avoid the risk of wing failures. By March/April 1917 the design was technically outclassed by the newer Albatros D.III, and was already in the process of replacement in the French Air Service with the SPAD S.VII. Most of the later Nieuport single seaters were employed as advanced trainers rather than operational fighters, although a few pilots, notably Albert Ball and Charles Nungesser preferred the Nieuport.
The next design, the Nieuport 28 was the first Nieuport type with two spars to both upper and lower wings, although the basic structure remained very lightly built. The French had already chosen the SPAD S.XIII to replace the SPAD S.VII by the time production examples of the Nieuport 28 were available, and it seemed destined to a career as a trainer. Due to a shortage of SPAD S.XIIIs, the first fighter squadrons of the United States Army Air Service (USAAS), used the Nieuport 28 on operations. During its short time in operational service with the USAAS, the Nieuport 28 became the first fighter used on operations by a U.S. Squadron.
Post-World War I
By the end of 1918, Nieuport had two new fighter types flying, the Nieuport 29 and the Nieuport 31. The 29 differed from earlier Nieuports in having a streamlined wooden monocoque
fuselage, a Hispano-Suiza
engine, and a strongly-braced two bay biplane wing. The 31 was a monoplane that had evolved from the same fuselage as the 28. Specially modified Nieuport 29 and 31 aircraft set speed and height records, and the 31 was the first aircraft to exceed in level flight (in the hands of Joseph Sadi-Lecointe).
At this time, Nieuport became Nieuport-Astra, with the absorption of Astra, a company known for aerial balloons, though this name would not be used for long, before becoming Nieuport-Delage, in honour of the work of the chief designer, Gustave Delage, who had been running the company throughout the war years. Also at this time, Tellier (who built seaplanes) was also absorbed.
Despite the many successes achieved with 29 and 31 in setting speed and altitude records, Delage
quickly embarked on a new design (The Nieuport-Delage NiD.42) that was to provide the basis for a family of aircraft that would remain in service until the fall of France during World War II.
This design first saw light as a shoulder wing racer (42S), then as single seat (42 C.1) and two seat fighters (42 C.2) for the French Air Force though none of these would see service.
The Nieuport-Delage 52 entered service with Spain, and remained in service well into the Spanish Civil War, although by that time it was obsolete and was retired before the end of the conflict. The French then bought large numbers of the 62 series (620, 621, 622, 629) which equipped the bulk of the French fighter units until replaced by newer designs in the late 30's. Despite being hopelessly obsolete by this stage, several French second-line escadrilles were equipped with them during the invasion of France. Other types were developed, the majority of which were one-offs or did not result in significant development.
The final aircraft developed by Nieuport saw much of their development done by successor companies, as Nieuport was first merged with Liore to form Nieuport-Liore, and then reformed as SNCAO during the mergers in the French aircraft industry. Only one of these, a single seat, single engine monoplane dive bomber with an inverted gull wing and a similarity to the Junkers 87 saw service.
The end of Nieuport
In 1932, as a result of the forced amalgamations taking place in the French aviation industry, Delage retired and Nieuport-Delage reverted back to Nieuport, albeit only briefly before becoming Loire-Nieuport, then disappearing completely into SNCAO
. Without a skilled chief designer, the company was unable to produce any memorable aircraft and had pretty much disappeared before World War II
. SNCAO would eventually be merged into the massive conglomerate known as Aérospatiale
; however, the companies' records were destroyed during World War II, when they were burned to prevent their falling into German hands. This step didn't prevent the Germans from charging several employees with espionage, as the last aircraft to carry the Nieuport name looked remarkably like a Junkers 87 -- albeit as a single-seater with retractable gear.
(AR = Arriere - passenger sat in rear seat, AV = Avant passenger sat in front seat)
(C.1 = single seat Chasseur/Fighter, A.2 = two seat reconnaissance, E.2 = ecole/trainer)
Nieuport II (variants include III)
Single-seat racer, 18-28 hp, beat Blériot
in pylon race.
Nieuport IV (variants include VI, VII, VIII, IX, X)
Two/Three-seat racer, set many height, distance, and speed records. The Nieuport IV was also manufactured under license in Russia by DUX.
Nieuport 10 (variants include 10 AR, 10 AV, 10 A.2, 10 C.1, 10 E.2 and 83 E.2)
The Nieuport 10
was the company's first production biplane, initially designed as racer, later used as fighter, trainer, bomber, photo recon, artillery spotter, and barnstormer. The one-seater and two-seater Nieuport X versions were also manufactured under license in Russia by DUX.
Nieuport 11 C.1 (variants include 16 C.1)
The Nieuport 11
, Nieuport's first purpose-built fighter, ended the Fokker
monoplane menace. The Nieuport 11 was powered by the Le Rhone 9c rotary engine that was slightly throttleable, from 900 to 1200 rpm. Initially equipped with one non-synchronized, 47-round Lewis machine gun mounted on the top wing, above the propeller arc, it could use its overall superior maneuverability to quickly despatch the Fokker Eindecker, even those armed with twin synchronized Maxim guns.
Nieuport 12 A.2 (variants include 12bis A.2, 13 A.2, 20 A.2, 12 E.2, 80 E.2 81 E.2)
The Nieuport 12
was a two-seat artillery spotting aircraft, a development of the Nieuport 10. Also built in United Kingdom by Beardmore. Used until end of war and after as trainer.
The Nieuport 16 was essentially a Nieuport 11 airframe powered by the Le Rhone 9J engine. Visible differences included a pilot headrest fairing and larger aperture in front of the "horse shoe" cowling. Later versions had a deck-mounted synchronized Vickers gun, but in this configuration the combined effect of the heavier 9J engine and the heavier Vickers gun compromised the maneuverability and made the craft decidedly nose-heavy. This disadvantage was remedied in the next variant, the slightly larger Nieuport 17 C1.
Nieuport 17 C.1 (variants include 17bis C.1, 21 C.1, 23 C.1)
The Nieuport 17
was similar to the earlier Nieuport 11, but had a more powerful engine, larger wings, and a more refined structure in general. First equipped with a 110-hp (82 kW) engine, later upgraded to a 130-hp (97 kW) engine. It had outstanding maneuverability, but was the first to suffer from the problems mentioned above with the lower wing. Widely used during World War I. The Nieuport 17, Nieuport 21
and Nieuport 23 versions were also manufactured under license in Russia by DUX. Top scoring Commonwealth ace William Avery (Billy) Bishop
scored many victories in a Nieuport 17.
Nieuport 24 C.1 (variants include 17bis C.1, 24bis C.1, 25 C.1, 27 C.1)
Cleaned up version of the Nieuport 17, with stringers fairing in the fuselage sides and some minor mods to the wings. Some versions featured a new plywood empennage
and a new wing section was introduced.
Used by France, the RFC (Royal Flying Corps
), RNAS (Royal Naval Air Service
), IRAS (Imperial Russian Air Service
), United States Army Air Service
and postwar in Japan and several other countries. The Nieuport 24 bis.
version was also manufactured under license in Russia by DUX.
The Nieuport 27
was the last and best of the Nieuport "V-strut" aircraft to see service during World War I. Based on the Nieuport 17 and 24 fighters, it incorporated a large plywood vertical tail and a redesigned, rounded horizontal tail to improve stability.
Nieuport 28 C.1
The Nieuport 28
was the first single-seat biplane fighter used by the United States Army Air Service
in World War I. It was more maneuverable than the sturdier SPAD S.XIII
that replaced it, but also had a reputation for fragility and a tendency to shed its upper wing fabric in a dive.
Nieuport 29 C.1
Single-seat biplane fighter that entered service as World War I ended, used by France, Japan, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Argentina, Italy, and others. One example was flown by Lindberg
for lengthy aerobatic display for Paris crowds after crossing Atlantic.
Nieuport 31 C.1 (variants include 42S, 42 C.1, 52 C.1, 62 C.1, 622 C.1, 623 C.1, 72 C.1)
See also: Nieuport Ni-52
Monoplanes and parasol monoplanes, design frequently copied. Used by Spain in Civil War
Loire-Nieuport LN.40 (variants include LN.401, LN.402, LN.411, LN.42)
See also: Loire-Nieuport LN.40
Last Nieuport to see operational service. Single engine, single seater dive bomber with inverted gull wing. Lack of air superiority resulted in these attack aircraft largely being shot down.