In addition to substantial production by several French manufacturers, the Nieuport 17 and its close relatives were built in Italy by Nieuport-Macchi and in Russia by Dux. Unlicenced copies, notably the Siemens-Schuckert D. I and the Euler D. I , were produced in Germany. Various derivatives and improvements were developed. Gustave Delage's appointment as Nieuport 's chief designer in January was followed by a series of sesquiplane designs.
Nieuport had been famous for wire-braced monoplanes , however they had been developed as far as possible and Nieuport had been looking at other ideas. The sesquiplane configuration was adopted by Delage as a compromise between the low drag of a monoplane and the greater strength of a biplane configuration. The first of Delage's sesquiplanes was the two seat Nieuport 10 of , which was followed the next year by the smaller single seat Nieuport 11 which in turn was supplemented by the Nieuport 16, which had a larger engine, which made it nose heavy and increased the wing loading, especially when armed with a synchronised Vickers gun.
Developed in parallel with the low-risk Nieuport 16,  the Nieuport 17 was slightly larger with longer wings and fuselage, improved aerodynamic form and better balance. The Nieuport 17 featured a narrow, single-spar lower wing that was considerably smaller than the upper wing. This arrangement provided several benefits.
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As well as improving the pilot's downward visibility, there were aerodynamic gains from the reduction in area of the lower wing, which on a biplane produces far less lift than the upper wing but still produces considerable drag. Reducing its chord reduced the induced drag and weight while providing a more efficient wing with a thick section and a high aspect ratio. The heaviest components of the fighter, such as the rotary engine, the armament and the fuel and oil tanks were concentrated forward which was a contributing factor to the 17's high level of manoeuvrability. The fuselage of the 17 was built around four ash longerons which tapered from the rectangular sheet steel engine mounting to the rudder post, with the upper longerons bowed out around the cockpit, giving most of the fuselage a trapezoid cross section.
This was braced with spruce struts held in place with diagonal bracing wires and steel plate joints. Behind the pilot, a headrest was provided, molded into the plywood top decking, which was supported by longitudinal stringers. It was smoothly faired with the forward fuselage via molded side fairings.
The upper wings of the 17 used a typical structure for the period, with widely spaced spars connected with full chord ribs and compression ribs, cross braced internally with wire, and augmented with riblets on the leading edge. The lower wing's spar was directly below the rear spar of the upper wing and was braced with a characteristic Vee strut. No adjustment was provided for the tailplane. While the single spar lower wing helped give the type its impressive climb rate, at very high speeds at what would now be termed its V NE it was also prone to flutter , [note 1] an aerodynamic phenomenon that was not fully understood at the time.
British Nieuports were modified at No 2 Aeroplane Supply Depot in an effort to alleviate this problem.
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Production of the new Alkan-Hamy synchronization gear permitted the wing-mounted Lewis gun used on the earliest examples to be replaced with a synchronised Vickers gun mounted on the fuselage to fire through the propeller arc. The Lewis gun was installed on the newly-developed Foster mounting , a curved metal rail which allowed the pilot to slide the gun back to change ammunition drums and to clear jams. It also had the advantage of allowing pilots to aim the gun upwards to shoot into the underside of enemy fighters flying above, not an easy tactic, but used to good effect by several ace pilots.
The Nieuport 23 was largely the same as the definitive 17, differing mainly in modifications deriving from the use of a different machine gun synchronizer which caused the gun to be mounted offset to the starboard side which resulted in alterations to the fuel and oil tank arrangement and the center section rigging. Rear spar packing pieces were also redesigned. Nieuport 23 fighters were operated by both French and British squadrons alongside Nieuport 17s until their replacement by Nieuport 24s.
Armament often included a synchronised Vickers gun in addition to the standard over-wing Lewis. A very small number existed, and the Royal Naval Air Service which operated the few identified examples may have been the sole operator. A pair of triplanes based on the Nieuport 17 were constructed for testing purposes, one for the French and the other for the British. The narrow chord wings were staggered in an unusual manner, placing the middle wing furthest forward and the top wing furthest aft.
Several of the experimental Berliner Helicopters , named after their German-American inventor Emile Berliner , were manufactured around Nieuport 23 fuselages, including the and versions. During March , the new Nieuport 17 reached the French front and began to replace the earlier Nieuport 11 and 16 fighters that had been instrumental in ending the Fokker Scourge of On 2 May , Escadrille N.
American volunteers of the Escadrille Lafayette , transitioned to the Nieuport 17 from their earlier Nieuport 11s and 16s, although only one achieved ace status, Raoul Lufberry. His VC award reflected his whole combat career — including his time on Nieuports. In Belgium, the 1st and 5th Belgian escadrilles were equipped with the Nieuport 17 and The Imperial Russian Air Service operated large numbers of Nieuports of all types, including the Nieuport 17, 21 and Accordingly, efforts were made to produce the type under licence in Russia; however the venture struggled due to a lack of experience in the limited availability of experts to assist.
Russian Nieuport aces include Alexander Kazakov , who flew the type against the Germans and later against the Bolsheviks as well. By mid, the Nieuport fighters were losing their superiority to German types such as the new Albatros D. VII had begun to replace the Nieuport fighters in French front line squadrons. The British continued to operate their Nieuports until early until enough newer types such as the Royal Aircraft Factory S.
Like the other Nieuport types, during its later life the 17 was operated in large numbers as an advanced trainer. The American Expeditionary Forces purchased 75 Nieuport 17s for training purposes, while the French also operated large numbers as trainers. The French Aviation Maritime operated a single Nieuport 21, which was used for carrier training during and aboard the Bapaume , a converted French Arras-class aviso , pending the delivery of dedicated carrier aircraft such as the Nieuport-Delage NiD.
Following its retirement from the European theatre, many examples were exported in small numbers for new Air Forces being formed world-wide, to be used through the s. So impressive were the Nieuport fighters in early that Idflieg the German Inspectorate of flying troops requested that their own aircraft manufacturers produce a copy. Examples of retrieved aircraft, as well as detailed drawings and sketches were provided.
In response, the Siemens-Schuckert D. I was produced. I was outdated by the time it had become available, and was employed mainly as an advanced trainer.
Nieuport 17 17 - 3D model by Dante (@Dante) - Sketchfab
Another clone of the Nieuport 17 was produced in the form of the Euler D. I, although development work did not proceed beyond a few prototypes.
Other manufacturers, notably Albatros and Pfalz , instead of producing literal copies of the Nieuport, explored the possibilities of incorporating a sesquiplane configuration in their own fighter designs. The Albatros D. II was enhanced in this way to produce the Albatros D. III and D. As well as the advantages of this layout these types also exacerbated the flutter problem, [note 1] which was never satisfactorily contained, in spite of strengthening.
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But it took the arrival of another biplane, the highly maneuverable Sopwith Camel , to level the playing field once more. Now the formula was worked out, and all three were similar -- mile-an-hour biplanes, with wingspans a little under thirty feet. It'd taken four years of tinkering and thousands of deaths to settle on that design. The path was littered with far more added and removed parts than any airplane buff can list.
Nieuport 17 History
Every field mechanic became part airplane designer. But the early design that may've come closest to the final form was that neat Nieuport 17, the airplane my father never had to ride into combat. Like the last WW-I airplanes, it had two equal wings and clean, simple lines. Any design ferment is like that. Watch as your computers, telephones, and TVs form, diverge, and evolve. The last one standing is alsways a variant on one of the many mutations that appeared early in the game. Too bad we can never know which one it will be.
I'm John Lienhard, at the University of Houston, where we're interested in the way inventive minds work. Sharpe, M. Brannon, D. Fokker Eindecker in Action. Cooksley, P. Nieuport Fighters in Action. See this Wikipedia page on the Nieuport Lienhard Click here for audio of Episode Theme music Treadwell, T.
Postcard from Lt. Lienhard to his mother, The airplane with the English markings is an imperfect artist's conception of what is most likely a Nieuport