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Bristol Scout

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mauld #1 Posted 11 October 2013 - 07:04 AM

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The Bristol Scout was a simple, single seat, rotary-engined biplane originally intended as a civilian racing aircraft. Like other similar fast, light aircraft of the period - it was acquired by the RNAS and the RFC as a "scout", or fast reconnaissance type. In the event it was one of the first single-seaters to be used as a fighter aircraft, although it was not possible to fit it with an effective forward-firing armament until the first British synchronisation gears became available, by which time the Scout's design was outmoded by later types. Single seat fighters continued to be called "scouts" in British usage into the early 1920s.

The period of service of the Bristol Scout (1914 to 1916) marked the genesis of the fighter aircraft as a distinct type, and many of the earliest attempts to arm British "tractor" aircraft with weaponry were tested in action using Bristol Scouts. These began with the arming of the second Scout B, RFC number 648, with two rifles, one per side, aimed outwards and forwards to clear the propeller arc.
Two of the Royal Flying Corps' early Bristol Scout C aircraft, numbers 1609 and 1611, flown by Captain Lanoe Hawker with the RFC's No. 6 Squadron, were each in their turn, armed with a single Lewis machine gun on the left side of the fuselage, within a mount that Capt. Hawker had designed himself, almost identically to the manner of the rifles tried on the second Scout B. When Hawker's No.1611 aircraft was used by him to down two German aircraft and force off a third on 25 July 1915 over Passchendaele and Zillebeke he was awarded the first Victoria Cross ever given for a British military pilot's actions in aerial combat.

RNAS Bristol Scout D with twin unsynchronized Lewis guns. These are fitted to mounts enabling them to be fired obliquely, outside the arc of the propeller. A number of the 24 initial production RNAS' Scout C aircraft were armed with one (or occasionally, two) Lewis machine guns, sometimes with the Lewis gun mounted atop the upper wing centre section in the manner of the Nieuport 11, and even more common was a very dubious choice of placement by some RNAS pilots, in mounting the Lewis gun on the forward fuselage of their Scout Cs, just as if it were a synchronized weapon (which it was not) firing directly forward and through the propeller arc; an action likely to result in serious propeller damage. The type of bullet-deflecting wedges as Roland Garros had tried on his Morane-Saulnier Type N monoplane were also tried on one of the RFC's last Scout Cs, No. 5303, but since this seemed, in this instance, to have also required the use of the Morane Type N's immense "casserole" spinner, which almost totally blocked cooling air from reaching this particular Scout C's 80-hp Le Rhône rotary engine, the deflecting-wedge concept for propeller protection from bullets was not pursued further with Bristol Scouts.

In the early part of the war, in attempts to down German Zeppelin airships, one unusual weapon tried from a RNAS Scout D was the Ranken Dart, a type of droppable, explosive-laden flechette with 1 lb (0.45 kg) of explosive per projectile. Scout D No. 8953, flown by Flt. Lt. C. T. Freeman, flew from the deck of the flight-deck-converted Isle of Man packet steamer HMS Vindex (formerly with the civilian name Viking), which possessed a takeoff deck on its forward half, and on 2 August 1916, Flt Lt. Freeman tried to down the Zeppelin L.17 with Ranken Darts, released from two vertically oriented internal cylindrical containers located just behind his feet, in the belly of his Scout D. None of the darts did any damage to the Zeppelin, and since Freeman's aircraft could not land back on the Vindex, and was too far from land for a safe return, he had to ditch his Scout D in the ocean after the unsuccessful attack.

Vickers-Challenger synchroniser fitted to Bristol Scout - showing the linkage between the engine and the gun.
In March 1916, the RFC Bristol Scout C No.5313 was fitted with a Vickers machine gun, synchronised to fire through the propeller by the bulky Vickers-Challenger synchronising gear, the only such gear available to the RFC at the time. Six other Scouts, both late Scout Cs and early Scout Ds, were also fitted with the same combination. Types using this particular gear successfully (including the B.E.12, the R.E.8 and the Vickers F.B.19) all mounted the gun on the port side of the fuselage. The attempt to use the gear for synchronising a centrally mounted gun on the Bristol Scout proved unsuccessful, and tests, which continued at least until May 1916, resulted in the abandonment of the idea, and no Vickers-armed Bristol Scout was ever used on operations.

None of the RFC or RNAS squadrons operating the Bristol Scout was ever entirely equipped with this aircraft, and by the end of the summer of 1916, no new Bristol Scout aircraft were being supplied to the British squadrons of either service, the early fighter squadrons in RFC service being equipped instead with the Airco DH.2 single seat "pusher" fighter. A small number of Bristol Scouts were sent to the Middle East (in Egypt, Macedonia, Mesopotamia, and Palestine) in 1916 with the last known Bristol Scout in military service being the former RNAS Scout D No. 8978 in Australia, which was based at Point Cook, near Melbourne, as late as October 1926.
Once the Bristol Scouts were no longer required for front line service they were officially classed as "trainers". In fact most were not sent to training units, however, but retained by senior officers as personal "run-abouts".

Bristol Scout Type D static reproduction A1742/BAPC38. Built in 1962 by the apprentices at RAF Weeton, Lancs No.8 School of Technical Training. The Bristol Scout was originally fitted with a genuine Gnome Rotary engine of 80hp. The aeroplane was issued to RAF Colernes station museum and used as a travelling exhibit, later being transferred to the Collection at St.Athan,

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