Curtiss Wanamaker Triplane
The Wanamaker Triplane or Curtiss Model T, retroactively renamed Curtiss Model 3 was a large experimental four-engined triplane patrol flying boat of World War I. It was the first four-engined aircraft built in the United States. Only a single example was completed. At the time, the Triplane was the largest seaplane in the world. In 1915, the American businessman Rodman Wanamaker who, prior to the outbreak of the First World War commissioned the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company to build a large flying boat, America to win the £10,000 prize put forward by the British newspaper Daily Mail for the first aircraft to cross the Atlantic, commissioned Curtiss to build a new larger flying boat for transatlantic flight that became known as the Wanamaker Triplane, or Curtiss Model T. Early press reports showed a large triplane, 68 ft and with equal-span six-bay wings of 133 foot span; the aircraft, to be capable of carrying heavy armament, was estimated to have an all-up weight of 21,450 pounds and was to be powered by six 140 hp 104 kW) engines driving three propellers, two of which were to be of tractor configuration and the third a pusher.
The British Royal Naval Air Service placed an order for 20 Triplanes. The first one was completed at the Curtiss factory, New York in July 1916; this was the first four-engined aircraft to be built in the United States and one of the largest aircraft in the world. The finished Model T differed from the aircraft discussed in the press in various points. Size and weight were similar, with the upper wing having a span of 134 feet, but the other wings had different spans, it was planned to be powered by four tractor 250 hp Curtiss V-4 engines installed individually on the middle wing, unusual for the time. The crew of two pilots and a flight engineer were provided with an enclosed cabin, similar to the Curtiss Model H. To reduce the forces a pilot would need to use on the controls, small windmills could be connected to the aileron cables by electrically operated clutches to act as a form of power assisted controls; as the planned Curtiss V-4 engines were not available when the prototype was completed, it was decided not to fly the aircraft in the United States, but to take it to England by ship.
Where it was reassembled at the naval air station Felixstowe. It was fitted with four 240 hp Renault engines, but these were soon exchanged for four 250 hp Rolls-Royce Eagles; as the aircraft was damaged beyond repair on the maiden flight it was considered unsuccessful, the order for the remaining nineteen cancelled. The Wanamaker Triplane did however, provide the inspiration for John Porte of the Seaplane Experimental Station to build a massive five-engined flying boat of similar layout, the Felixstowe Fury. United KingdomRoyal Naval Air Service RNAS Felixstowe Data from Curtiss Aircraft 1907–1947General characteristics Crew: 6 Length: 58 ft 10 in Upper wingspan: 134 ft Mid wingspan: 100 ft Lower wingspan: 78 ft 3 in Height: 31 ft 4 in Wing area: 2,815 sq ft Empty weight: 15,645 lb Gross weight: 22,000 lb Powerplant: 4 × Renault 12F V-12 water-cooled piston engines, 240 hp eachPerformance Maximum speed: 100 mph Range: 675 mi at cruise speed of 75 mph Endurance: 7 hr Time to altitude: 10 minutes to 4,000 ft American Trans-Oceanic Company Curtiss NCRelated development Felixstowe Fury Gosport G9Aircraft of comparable role and era Sikorsky Ilya Muromets
In a vehicle with a pusher configuration, the propeller are mounted behind their respective engine. According to British aviation author Bill Gunston, a "pusher propeller" is one mounted behind the engine, so that the drive shaft is in compression. Pusher configuration describes this specific thrust device attached to a craft, either aerostat or aerodyne or others types such as hovercraft and propeller-driven snowmobiles."Pusher configuration" describes the layout of a fixed-wing aircraft in which the thrust device has a pusher configuration. This kind of aircraft is called a pusher. Pushers have been designed and built in many different layouts, some of them quite radical; the rubber-powered "Planophore", designed by Alphonse Pénaud in 1871, was an early successful model aircraft with a pusher propeller. Many early aircraft were "pushers", including the Wright Flyer, the Santos-Dumont 14-bis, the Voisin-Farman I and the Curtiss Model D used by Eugene Ely for the first ship landing on January 18, 1911.
Henri Farman's pusher Farman III and its successors were so influential in Britain that pushers in general became known as the "Farman type". Other early pusher configurations were minor variations on this theme; the classic "Farman" pusher had the propeller "mounted behind the main lifting surface" with the engine fixed to the lower wing or between the wings forward of the propeller in a stub fuselage called a nacelle. The main difficulty with this type of pusher design was attaching the tail; the earliest examples of pushers relied on a canard but this has serious aerodynamic implications that the early designers were unable to resolve. Mounting the tail was done with a complex wire-braced framework that created a lot of drag. Well before the beginning of the First World War this drag was recognized as just one of the factors that would ensure that a Farman style pusher would have an inferior performance to an otherwise similar tractor type; the U. S. Army banned pusher aircraft in late 1914 after several pilots died in crashes of aircraft of this type, so from about 1912 onwards the great majority of new U.
S. landplane designs were tractor biplanes, with pushers of all types becoming regarded as old fashioned on both sides of the Atlantic. However, new pusher designs continued to be designed right up to the armistice, such as the Vickers Vampire, although few new ones entered service after 1916.. At least up to the end of 1916, pushers were still favoured as gun-carrying aircraft by the British Royal Flying Corps, because a forward-firing gun could be used without being obstructed by the arc of the propeller. With the successful introduction of Fokker's mechanism for synchronising the firing of a machine gun with the blades of a moving propeller, followed by the widespread adoption of synchronisation gears by all the combatants in 1916 and 1917, the tractor configuration became universally favoured and pushers were reduced to the tiny minority of new aircraft designs that had a specific reason for using the arrangement. Both the British and French continued to use pusher configured bombers, though there was no clear preference either way until 1917.
Such aircraft included the Voisin bombers, the Vickers F. B.5 "Gunbus", the Royal Aircraft Factory F. E.2, however these would find themselves being shunted into training roles before disappearing entirely. The last fighter to use the Farman pusher configuration was the 1931 Vickers Type 161 COW gun fighter. During the long eclipse of the configuration the use of pusher propellers continued in aircraft which derived a small benefit from the installation and could have been built as tractors. Biplane flying boats, had for some time been fitted with engines located above the fuselage to offer maximum clearance from the water driving pusher propellers to avoid spray and the hazards involved by keeping them well clear of the cockpit; the Supermarine Walrus was a late example of this layout. The so-called push/pull layout, combining the tractor and pusher configurations — that is, with one or more propellers facing forward and one or more others facing back — was another idea that continues to be used from time to time as a means of reducing the asymmetric effects of an outboard engine failure, such as on the Farman F.222, but at the cost of a reduced efficiency on the rear propellers, which were smaller and attached to lower-powered engines as a result.
By the late 1930s the widespread adoption of all-metal stressed skin construction of aircraft meant, at least in theory, that the aerodynamic penalties that had limited the performance of pushers, were reduced. During World War II, experiments were conducted with pusher fighters by most of the major powers. Difficulties remained that a pilot having to bail out of a pusher was liable to pass through the propeller arc; this meant that of all the types concerned, only the conventional Swedish SAAB 21 of 1943 went into series production. Other problems related to the aerodynamics of canard layouts, used on most of the pushers, proved more difficult to resolve. One of
The Curtiss NC was a flying boat built by Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company and used by the United States Navy from 1918 through the early 1920s. Ten of these aircraft were built, the most famous of, the NC-4, the first airplane to make a transatlantic flight; the NC-4 is preserved in the National Museum of Naval Aviation, at NAS Pensacola, Florida. Manufacture of the "NC"s began in 1918 during World War I; the U. S. Navy wished for an aircraft capable of long ocean flights, both for Anti-submarine warfare patrol, if possible with capability to fly across the Atlantic Ocean under their own power to avoid having to be shipped through ocean waters menaced by German submarines; this was a ambitious undertaking, given the state of aviation at the time. The Navy and Curtiss came up with one of the largest biplane designs yet produced, equipped with sleeping quarters and a wireless transmitter/receiver, it was powered by three V12 Liberty engines, of 400 hp each. The fourth engine was added to the midline in a pusher configuration.
The maximum speed was 90 mph and the estimated maximum range was 1,500 mi. Called NC boats, with the "N" for Navy and "C" for the builder Curtiss, they were nicknamed "Nancys"; as completed the NC-1 had three tractor engines in nacelles located midway between the mainplanes, the centre nacelle housing the cockpit for two pilots. Due to a lack of power the centre nacelle was raised, elongated forwards and a pusher engine added. With this engine arrangement the pilots cockpit was moved to the hull in a more conventional position. NC-2 differed in having the centre engine, of its complement of three, fitted as a pusher, retaining the pilots cockpit in the centre nacelle. Suffering from a lack of power, the NC-2 was modified with four engines in tandem outer nacelles; the centre cockpit nacelle was retained but this was soon removed and a similar conventional cockpit to NC-1 was added. NC-3 onwards continued with the NC-1 arrangement of 3x tractor/1x pusher engines and conventional cockpit in the hull.
On 4 October 1918, the first of these aircraft, the NC-1, made its first test flight with the early three-engine configuration. On 25 November, it flew again, with a world record 51 people on board. Armistice Day, signaling the end of the war in Europe, came before testing of the first NC and construction of the other three of the Navy's initial order had been completed; the NC-2 was cannibalized for spare parts. The other three NCs, NC-1, NC-3, NC-4, set out on what was intended as the first demonstration of transatlantic flight, via Newfoundland and the Azores, on 8 May 1919; as junior officer, allotted to one of the commands, lost his command when NC-2 had to be broken up for parts. He went on the flight as one of the pilots of the NC-1; the group met heavy fog off the Azores, making flight in the crudely instrumented aircraft dangerous. Without a visible horizon it was difficult to keep the aircraft in level flight. NC-1 tried different altitudes and soldiered on for several hours before putting down just short of the Azores and was damaged beyond repair in the rough seas.
Only the NC-4 made it through. The crew of NC-1 was rescued at sea. Attempts to tow the aircraft to the Azores failed. NC-3 was forced to land some 205 mi distance from the Azores, but the crew, led by Commander John Henry Towers, managed to sail her to Ponta Delgada unaided; the Navy had two more sets of NCs constructed, numbered NC-5 to NC-8, NC-9 and NC-10, up to 1921. United StatesUnited States Navy Data from Curtiss Aircraft 1907-1947General characteristics Crew: 5 Length: 68 ft 3 in Wingspan: 126 ft Height: 24 ft 5 in Wing area: 2,441 sq ft Empty weight: 16,000 lb Gross weight: 28,000 lb Max takeoff weight: 27,386 lb Powerplant: 4 × Liberty L-12A V-12 water-cooled piston engines, 400 hp eachPerformance Maximum speed: 85 mph Stall speed: 62 mph Range: 1,470 mi Endurance: 14.8 hours Service ceiling: 4,500 ft Rate of climb: 220 ft/min Wing loading: 11.5 lb/sq ft Power/mass: 0.06 hp/lb Armament Guns: Machine guns in bow and rear cockpits Charles M. Olmsted Curtiss Model T Felixstowe FuryRelated development Curtiss Model E Curtiss Model H
A supercharger is an air compressor that increases the pressure or density of air supplied to an internal combustion engine. This gives each intake cycle of the engine more oxygen, letting it burn more fuel and do more work, thus increasing power. Power for the supercharger can be provided mechanically by means of a belt, shaft, or chain connected to the engine's crankshaft. Common usage restricts the term supercharger to mechanically driven units. In 1848 or 1849, G. Jones of Birmingham, England brought out a Roots-style compressor. In 1860, brothers Philander and Francis Marion Roots, founders of Roots Blower Company of Connersville, patented the design for an air mover for use in blast furnaces and other industrial applications; the world's first functional tested engine supercharger was made by Dugald Clerk, who used it for the first two-stroke engine in 1878. Gottlieb Daimler received a German patent for supercharging an internal combustion engine in 1885. Louis Renault patented a centrifugal supercharger in France in 1902.
An early supercharged race car was built by Lee Chadwick of Pottstown, Pennsylvania in 1908 which reached a speed of 100 mph. The world's first series-produced cars with superchargers were Mercedes 6/25/40 hp and Mercedes 10/40/65 hp. Both models had Roots superchargers, they were distinguished as "Kompressor" models, the origin of the Mercedes-Benz badging which continues today. On March 24, 1878 Heinrich Krigar of Germany obtained patent #4121, patenting the first screw-type compressor; that same year on August 16 he obtained patent #7116 after modifying and improving his original designs. His designs show a two-lobe rotor assembly with each rotor having the same shape as the other. Although the design resembled the Roots style compressor, the "screws" were shown with 180 degrees of twist along their length; the technology of the time was not sufficient to produce such a unit, Heinrich made no further progress with the screw compressor. Nearly half a century in 1935, Alf Lysholm, working for Ljungströms Ångturbin AB, patented a design with five female and four male rotors.
He patented the method for machining the compressor rotors. There are two main types of superchargers defined according to the method of gas transfer: positive displacement and dynamic compressors. Positive displacement blowers and compressors deliver an constant level of pressure increase at all engine speeds. Dynamic compressors do not deliver pressure at low speeds. Positive-displacement pumps deliver a nearly fixed volume of air per revolution at all speeds. Major types of positive-displacement pumps include: Roots Lysholm twin-screw Sliding vane Scroll-type supercharger known as the G-Lader Positive-displacement pumps are further divided into internal and external compression types. Roots superchargers, including high helix roots superchargers, produce compression externally. External compression refers to pumps that transfer air at ambient pressure. If an engine equipped with a supercharger that compresses externally is running under boost conditions, the pressure inside the supercharger remains at ambient pressure.
Roots superchargers tend to be mechanically efficient at moving air at low pressure differentials, whereas at high pressure rations, internal compression superchargers tend to be more mechanically efficient. All the other types have some degree of internal compression. Internal compression refers to the compression of air within the supercharger itself, which at or close to boost level, can be delivered smoothly to the engine with little or no back flow. Internal compression devices use a fixed internal compression ratio; when the boost pressure is equal to the compression pressure of the supercharger, the back flow is zero. If the boost pressure exceeds that compression pressure, back flow can still occur as in a roots blower; the internal compression ratio of this type of supercharger can be matched to the expected boost pressure in order to optimize mechanical efficiency. Positive-displacement superchargers are rated by their capacity per revolution. In the case of the Roots blower, the GMC rating pattern is typical.
The GMC types are rated according to how many two-stroke cylinders, the size of those cylinders, it is designed to scavenge. GMC has made 2–71, 3–71, 4–71, the famed 6–71 blowers. For example, a 6–71 blower is designed to scavenge six cylinders of 71 cubic inches each and would be used on a two-stroke diesel of 426 cubic inches, designated a 6–71. However, because 6–71 is the engine's designation, the actual displacement is less than the simple multiplication would suggest. A 6–71 pumps 339 cubic inches per revolution. Aftermarket derivatives continue the trend with 8–71 to current 16–71 blowers used in different motor sports. From this, one can see that a 6–71 is twice the size of a 3–71. GMC made 53 cu in series in 2–, 3–, 4–, 6–, 8–53 sizes, as well as a "V71" series for use on engines using a V configuration. Dynamic compressors rely on accelerating the air to high speed and t
Bell YFM-1 Airacuda
The Bell YFM-1 Airacuda was an American heavy fighter aircraft, developed by the Bell Aircraft Corporation during the mid-1930s. It was the first military aircraft produced by Bell. Designated the Bell Model 1, the Airacuda first flew on 1 September 1937; the Airacuda was marked by bold design advances and considerable flaws that grounded the aircraft. The Airacuda was Bell Aircraft's answer for a "bomber destroyer" aircraft. Although it did see limited production, one operational squadron was formed, only one prototype and 12 production models were built, in three different versions. In an effort to break into the aviation business, Bell Aircraft created a unique fighter concept touted to be "a mobile anti-aircraft platform" as well as a "convoy fighter." Created to intercept enemy bombers at distances beyond the range of single-seat fighter interceptors, the YFM-1 was an innovative design incorporating many features never before seen in a military aircraft, as well as several never seen again.
Using a streamlined, "futuristic" design, the Bell Airacuda appeared to be "unlike any other fighters up to that time."According to Major Alexander De Seversky's 1942 book, Victory Through Air Power, the Bell Airacuda "represents a great engineering achievement. But its designation as ′convoy fighter′ is erroneous, since that requires different disposition of armament. With its maximum firepower directed forward, it offers a preview of an effective long-range interceptor fighter."A forward-firing 37 mm M4 cannon with an accompanying gunner was mounted in a forward compartment of each of the two engine nacelles. Although capable of aiming the cannons, the gunners' primary purpose was to load them with the 110 rounds of ammunition stored in each nacelle; the crew of five included gunners. An unusual feature of the Airacuda was the main door for entry; the door was opened and pulled down and hinges folded in on three steps for the crew to climb into the aircraft. The Airacuda was plagued with problems from the start.
The lofty performance estimates were unobtainable as, despite its sleek looks, the Airacuda was heavy and was slower than most bombers. In the event of interception by enemy fighters, the Airacuda was not maneuverable enough to dogfight, while the meager 600 lb bombload was of little use in the intended fighter-bomber role; the 37 mm cannons were of less value than predicted. The cannons had a tendency to fill the gun nacelles with smoke whenever fired and, fears persisted as to how the gunners would escape in an emergency, with the propellers directly behind them. An emergency bailout would have required both propellers to be feathered, though additional provision was made with the use of explosive bolts on the propellers to jettison them in the event of a bailout; as with other types armed with the 37mm M4, the low muzzle velocity of the weapon made it difficult to use as an aerial weapon, limiting the useful range significantly. The Allison V-1710-41 engines, though trouble-free in other types, had insufficient cooling systems installed.
Like many pusher designs, they were prone to overheating while on the ground, since there is no propwash blowing over the engines to cool them. On the ground, the aircraft had to be towed to and from the runway and could only be started when the Airacuda was able to take off immediately. In the air it was not uncommon to experience overheating problems. Although designed for turbo-supercharging, the first flights were made with V-1710-9 single-stage supercharged engines that only delivered 1,000 hp each. Despite the 5 ft -long shaft extensions, there were no problems with this feature; when the turbos were fitted to the YFM-1, they were plagued by cranky turbo regulators that backfired continuously. An explosion during a September 1939 test flight made it apparent that the teething engine troubles would not be solved easily. Additionally, Marshall Wainwright notes that other sources indicate the first eight aircraft were to have been powered by Allison V-1710-13 engines fitted with GE Type B-6 turbo-superchargers.
These aircraft were delivered with improved V-1710-23 engines. Wainwright further states that two of the YFM-1 airframes were changed on the production line to accept the V-1710-41 without turbo-supercharging, becoming YFM-1Bs; this is noted in a contract change dated 19 October 1939 which shows that aircraft 38-489 and 38-490 had their turbos, all associated ducting, controls removed and V-1710-41 "Altitude Rated" engines installed instead. The was a -23 with higher supercharger gear ratios, which allowed the motor to develop around 1,090 horsepower up to 13,200 ft ASL, they used the same ratings and components as the Altitude Rated V-1710-33 Allison fitted to the original Curtiss XP-40. Allison was paid $1,690 to modify each engine. Initial flight testing by Lt. Ben Kelsey proved the Airacuda impossible to control with only one engine, as the aircraft would go into an immediate spin. Problems with stability in pitch were encountered, had to be corrected by reducing power. Test pilot Erik Shilling described his experiences in a book, Dest
Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company
Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company was an American aircraft manufacturer formed in 1916 by Glenn Hammond Curtiss. After significant commercial success in the'teens and 20s, it merged with the Wright Aeronautical in 1929 to form Curtiss-Wright Corporation. In 1907, Glenn Curtiss was recruited by the scientist Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, to be among the founding members of Bell's Aerial Experiment Association, with the purpose of helping establish an aeronautical research and development organization. According to Bell, it was a "co-operative scientific association, not for gain but for the love of the art and doing what we can to help one another."In 1909, the AEA was disbanded and Curtiss formed the Herring-Curtiss Company with Augustus Moore Herring on March 20, 1909, renamed the Curtiss Aeroplane Company in 1910. The Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company was created on January 13, 1916 from the Curtiss Aeroplane Company of Hammondsport, New York and Curtiss Motor Company of Bath, New York.
Burgess Company of Marblehead, became a subsidiary in February 1916. With the onset of World War I, military orders rose and Curtiss needed to expand quickly. In 1916, the company moved its headquarters and most manufacturing activities to Buffalo, New York, where there was far greater access to transportation, manufacturing expertise, much needed capital; the company housed an aircraft engine factory in the former Taylor Signal Company-General Railway Signal Company. An ancillary operation was begun in Toronto, Ontario, involved in both production and training, setting up the first flying school in Canada in 1915. In 1917, the two major aircraft patent holders, the Wright Company and the Curtiss Company, had blocked the building of new airplanes, which were needed as the United States was entering World War I; the U. S. government, as a result of a recommendation of a committee formed by Franklin D. Roosevelt Assistant Secretary of the Navy, pressured the industry to form a cross-licensing organization, the Manufacturer's Aircraft Association.
Curtiss was instrumental in the development of U. S. Naval Aviation by providing training for pilots and providing aircraft; the first major order was for 144 various subtypes of the Model F trainer flying boat. In 1914, Curtiss had lured B. Douglas Thomas from Sopwith to design the Model J trainer, which led to the JN-4 two-seat biplane trainer; the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company worked with the United States' British and Canadian allies, resulting in JN-4 trainers being built in Canada. In order to complete large military orders, JN-4 production was distributed to five other manufacturers. After the war, large numbers of JN-4s were sold as surplus, making influential as the first plane for many interwar pilots, including Amelia Earhart. A stamp was printed to commemorate the Curtiss JN-4, however a printing error resulted in some having the aircraft image inverted, which has become valuable, one of the best known rare stamps being featured in a number of movies; the Curtiss HS-2L flying boat was used extensively in the war for anti-submarine patrols and was operated from bases in Nova Scotia, Canada and Portugal.
The John Cyril Porte of the Royal Navy and Curtiss worked together to improve the design of the Curtiss flying boats resulting in the Curtiss F5L and the similar Felixstowe F.3. Curtiss worked with the US Navy to develop the NC-4, which became the first aircraft to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in 1919, making several stops en route. By the end of World War I, the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company would claim to be the largest aircraft manufacturer in the world, employing 18,000 in Buffalo and 3,000 in Hammondsport, New York. Curtiss produced 10,000 aircraft during that war, more than 100 in a single week. Peace brought cancellation of wartime contracts. In September 1920, the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company underwent a financial reorganization and Glenn Curtiss cashed out his stock in the company for $32 million and retired to Florida, he served only as an advisor on design. Clement M. Keys gained control of the company and it became the nucleus of a large group of aviation companies. Curtiss seaplanes won the Schneider Cup in two consecutive races, those of 1923 and 1925.
The 1923 race was won by U. S. Navy Lieutenant David Rittenhouse flying a Curtiss C. R.3 to 177.266 miles per hour. Piloted by U. S. Army Lt. Cyrus K. Bettis, a Curtiss R3C won the Pulitzer Trophy Race on October 12, 1925, at a speed of 248.9 miles per hour. Thirteen days Jimmy Doolittle won the Schneider Trophy in the same aircraft fitted with floats with a top speed of 232.573 miles per hour. The Curtiss Robin light transport was first flown in 1928, becoming one of the company's biggest sellers during the Great Depression, the 769 built helped keep the company solvent when orders for military aircraft were hard to find. On July 5, 1929, Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company together with 11 other Wright and Curtiss affiliated companies merged to become the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. One of the last projects started by Curtiss Aeroplane was the ambitious Curtiss-Bleecker SX-5-1 Helicopter, a design that had propellers located midpoint on each of the four large rotors that drove the main rotors.
The design, while costly and well engineered, was a failure. Curtiss operated a flying school at Long Branch Aerodrome in Toronto Township, Ontario from 1915 to 1917 before being taken over by the Royal Flying Corps Canada. Glenn H. Curtiss sponsored the Atlantic Coast Aeronautical Station on a 20-acre tract east of Newport News, VA Boat Harbor in the Fall of
A fighter aircraft is a military aircraft designed for air-to-air combat against other aircraft, as opposed to bombers and attack aircraft, whose main mission is to attack ground targets. The hallmarks of a fighter are its speed and small size relative to other combat aircraft. Many fighters have secondary ground-attack capabilities, some are designed as dual-purpose fighter-bombers; this may be for national security reasons, for advertising purposes, or other reasons. A fighter's main purpose is to establish air superiority over a battlefield. Since World War I, achieving and maintaining air superiority has been considered essential for victory in conventional warfare; the success or failure of a belligerent's efforts to gain air superiority hinges on several factors including the skill of its pilots, the tactical soundness of its doctrine for deploying its fighters, the numbers and performance of those fighters. Because of the importance of air superiority, since the early days of aerial combat armed forces have competed to develop technologically superior fighters and to deploy these fighters in greater numbers, fielding a viable fighter fleet consumes a substantial proportion of the defense budgets of modern armed forces.
The word "fighter" did not become the official English-language term for such aircraft until after World War I. In the British Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force these aircraft were referred to as "scouts" into the early 1920s; the U. S. Army called their fighters "pursuit" aircraft from 1916 until the late 1940s. In most languages a fighter aircraft is known as hunting aircraft. Exceptions include Russian, where a fighter is an "истребитель", meaning "exterminator", Hebrew where it is "matose krav"; as a part of military nomenclature, a letter is assigned to various types of aircraft to indicate their use, along with a number to indicate the specific aircraft. The letters used to designate a fighter differ in various countries – in the English-speaking world, "F" is now used to indicate a fighter, though when the pursuit designation was used in the US, they were "P" types. In Russia "I" was used, while the French continue to use "C". Although the term "fighter" specifies aircraft designed to shoot down other aircraft, such designs are also useful as multirole fighter-bombers, strike fighters, sometimes lighter, fighter-sized tactical ground-attack aircraft.
This has always been the case, for instance the Sopwith Camel and other "fighting scouts" of World War I performed a great deal of ground-attack work. In World War II, the USAAF and RAF favored fighters over dedicated light bombers or dive bombers, types such as the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and Hawker Hurricane that were no longer competitive as aerial combat fighters were relegated to ground attack. Several aircraft, such as the F-111 and F-117, have received fighter designations though they had no fighter capability due to political or other reasons; the F-111B variant was intended for a fighter role with the U. S. Navy, but it was cancelled; this blurring follows the use of fighters from their earliest days for "attack" or "strike" operations against ground targets by means of strafing or dropping small bombs and incendiaries. Versatile multirole fighter-bombers such as the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet are a less expensive option than having a range of specialized aircraft types; some of the most expensive fighters such as the US Grumman F-14 Tomcat, McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and Russian Sukhoi Su-27 were employed as all-weather interceptors as well as air superiority fighter aircraft, while developing air-to-ground roles late in their careers.
An interceptor is an aircraft intended to target bombers and so trades maneuverability for climb rate. Fighters were developed in World War I to deny enemy aircraft and dirigibles the ability to gather information by reconnaissance over the battlefield. Early fighters were small and armed by standards, most were biplanes built with a wooden frame covered with fabric, a maximum airspeed of about 100 mph; as control of the airspace over armies became important, all of the major powers developed fighters to support their military operations. Between the wars, wood was replaced in part or whole by metal tubing, aluminium stressed skin structures began to predominate. On 15 August 1914, Miodrag Tomić encountered an enemy plane while conducting a reconnaissance flight over Austria-Hungary; the Austro-Hungarian aviator waved at Tomić, who waved back. The enemy pilot took a revolver and began shooting at Tomić's plane. Tomić fired back, he swerved away from the Austro-Hungarian plane and the two aircraft parted ways.
It was considered the first exchange of fire between aircraft in history. Within weeks, all Serbian and Austro-Hungarian aircraft were armed; the Serbians equipped their planes with 8-millimetre Schwarzlose MG M.07/12 machine guns, six 100-round boxes of ammunition and several bombs. By World War II, most fighters were all-metal monoplanes armed with batteries of machine guns or cannons and some were capable of speeds approaching 400 mph. Most fighters up to this point had one engine.