- Sopwith Snipe
name = 7F.1 Snipe
type = fighter
Sopwith Aviation Company
William George Barker's Snipe
designer = Herbert Smith
first flight = October 1917
introduced = 1918
primary user =
Royal Air Force
more users =
Australian Flying Corps
Canadian Air Force
number built = 2,097
unit cost =
developed from =
variants with their own articles =
Sopwith Salamander Sopwith DragonThe Sopwith 7F.1 Snipe was a British single-seat biplanefighter of the Royal Air Force(RAF). It was designed and built by the Sopwith Aviation Companyduring the First World War.
Design and development
In early 1917, Herbert Smith, the chief designer of the Sopwith Company, began to design a fighter intended to be the replacement for Sopwith's most famous aeroplane, the highly successful
Prototype Snipes had a number of minor technical problems. In particular, maximum speed was initially well below expectations. In fact, the Snipe was never a fast aeroplane, even for its day.
The Snipe's structure was rather heavier, but much stronger, than earlier Sopwith fighters. Although not a fast aircraft for 1918, it was very maneuverable, and much easier to handle than the Camel, with a superior view from the cockpit - especially forwards and upwards. The Snipe also had a superior rate of climb, and much better high-altitude performance compared to its predecessor, allowing it to fight Germany's newer fighters on more equal terms. Further modifications were made to the Snipe during the war and post-war. The Snipe was built around the
Bentley BR2engine - the last rotary to be used by the RAF. It had a maximum speed of 121 mph at 10,000ft compared with the Camel's 115 mph (185 km/h) at the same altitude and an endurance of three hours. Its fixed armament consisted of two 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine guns in the cowl, and it was also able to carry up to four 25 lb (11 kg) bombs for ground attackwork, identical to the Camel's armament. The design allowed for a single Lewis gunto be mounted on the centre section in a similar manner to those carried by the Dolphin - in the event this was not fitted to production aircraft.
The Snipe began production in 1918, with more than 4,500 being ordered. Production ended in 1919, with just under 500 being built, the rest being cancelled due to the end of the war. There was only one variant, the Snipe I , but production was by several companies including Sopwith,
Boulton & Paul Ltd, Coventry Ordnance Works, D. Napier & Son, Nieuport and Rushton Proctor & Co Ltd.
Two aircraft were re-engined with a 320hp (239kW)
ABC Dragonflyradial engine and these entered production as the Sopwith Dragon. An armoured version entered production as the Sopwith Salamander.
In March 1918, an example was successfully evaluated by No.1 Aeroplane Supply Depot (No.1 ASD). Lieutenant L. N. Hollinghurst (later an ace in
Sopwith Dolphins, and an Air Chief Marshal) flew to 24,000 ft in 45 minutes.
The new fighter went to France with No. 43 Squadron in September 1918. The Snipe also saw service with No. 4 Squadron
Australian Flying Corps(AFC) from October 1918. and No. 208 Squadron RAFconverted from Camels in November, too late for the Snipes to see action.
Canadian Air Force(CAF) operated the Snipe after the war, but it was phased out in 1923, a year before the Royal Canadian Air Force(RCAF) was formed.
The Snipe proved to be a potent fighter despite its brief involvement in the war, performing a variety of duties.
One of the most famous incidents in which the Snipe was involved, occurred on
27 October 1918when Canadian Major William G. Barker from No. 201 Squadron RAFflew over the Forêt de Mormalin France. Barker's Snipe (No. "E8102") had been brought with him for personal evaluation purposes in connection with his UK-based training duties and was therefore operationally a "one-off". The engagement with enemy aircraft occurred at the end of a two-week posting to renew his combat experience as Barker was returning to the UK. While on his last operation over the battlefields of France, Major Barker attacked a two-seater German aircraft and swiftly shot it down. However, Barker was soon attacked by a Fokker D.VII, which after some resistance, was shot down by the Canadian. Barker, by himself, was subsequently attacked by a formation of about 60 D.VIIs, an aircraft widely considered to be the ultimate German fighter design of the First World War. In the engagement, Barker was wounded three times, losing consciousness momentarily on each occasion. The ensuing melee was observed by hundreds of thousands of Allied troops. The final combat report of the incident (not written by Barker, due to his injuries) lists claims for three enemy aircraft (although four are referred to in the citation for his Victoria Cross). Barker managed to return to British lines safely where he crashed his Snipe.
The Snipe gained a significant number of combat victories in its short operational history during the war. In 1919, the Snipe also took part in the Allied intervention on the side of the
White Russiansduring the Russian Civil Waragainst the Bolsheviks. A small number of RAF Snipes were actually captured by the Bolsheviks and pressed into service.
Selected as the standard postwar single-seat fighter of the RAF, the last Snipes were retired by that service in 1926.
* Canadian Air Force
** No. 1 Squadron, Canadian Air Force
Royal Flying Corps/ Royal Air Force
No. 1 Squadron RAF
No. 3 Squadron RAF
No. 17 Squadron RAF
No. 19 Squadron RAF
No. 23 Squadron RAF
No. 25 Squadron RAF
No. 29 Squadron RAF
No. 32 Squadron RAF
No. 37 Squadron RAF
No. 41 Squadron RAF
No. 43 Squadron RAF
No. 45 Squadron RAF
No. 56 Squadron RAF
No. 70 Squadron RAF
No. 71 Squadron RAF
No. 78 Squadron RAF
No. 80 Squadron RAF
No. 81 Squadron RAF
No. 111 Squadron RAF
No. 112 Squadron RAF
No. 143 Squadron RAF
No. 201 Squadron RAF
No. 208 Squadron RAF
plane or copter?=plane
jet or prop?=prop
length main=19 ft 2 in
length alt=5.84 m
span main=31 ft 1 in
span alt=9.47 m
height main=9 ft 6 in
height alt=2.90 m
area main=274 ft²
area alt=25.46 m²
empty weight main=1,305 lb
empty weight alt=590 kg
loaded weight main=2,105 lb
loaded weight alt=955 kg
max takeoff weight main=
max takeoff weight alt=
type of prop=
number of props=1
power main= 230 hp
power alt=172 kW
max speed main=121 mph
max speed alt=195 km/h
max speed more=at 10,000 ft (3,050 m)
ceiling main=20,000 ft
ceiling alt=6,100 m
climb rate main= 970 ft/min
climb rate alt= 296 m/min
* Endurance: 3 hours
* Time to altitude: 9 min 25 sec to 10,000 ft (3,050 m)
* Two 0.303 in (7.7 mm)
Vickers machine guns
* Four 25 lb (11 kg) bombs
List of aircraft of the Royal Air Force
* Franks, Norman. "Dolphin and Snipe Aces of World War I (Aircraft of the Aces)." London: Osprey Publishing, 2002. ISBN 1-84176-317-9.
* [http://www.britishaircraft.co.uk/aircraftpage.php?ID=582 British Aircraft Directory]
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