- Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8
name =Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8
Royal Aircraft Factory
first flight =
introduced = 1916
retired = 1918
status = Retired
primary user =
Royal Flying Corps
more users =
number built =4,077
unit cost = £2068 (RAF 4a engine) Bruce 15 October 1954, p.581.]
variants with their own articles = The Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8 was a British two-seat
biplane reconnaissanceand bomberaircraft of the First World War. Intended as a replacement for the vulnerable B.E.2, the R.E.8 was much more difficult to fly, and was regarded with great suspicion at first in the Royal Flying Corps. Although eventually it gave reasonably satisfactory service, it was never an outstanding combat aircraft. In spite of this, the R.E.8 served as the standard British reconnaissance and artillery spotting aircraft from mid-1917 to the end of the war, serving alongside the rather more popular Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8. Over 4,000 R.E.8s were eventually produced and they served in most theatres including Italy, Russia, Palestine and Mesopotamia, as well as the Western Front.
Design and development
The first of two prototype R.E.8s (Reconnaissance Experimental 8) flew on
17 June1916. Mason 1994, p.61.] The new type was specifically designed to overcome the drawbacks of the B.E.2 - it had a more powerful motor, giving an improved performance, in particular a heavier payload. It was also much better armed, with a synchronised forward-firing .303-in Vickers machine gunand one or two Lewis guns on a Scarff ringin the observer's cockpit. It was (intentionally) less stable than the B.E.2, although modifications had to be made to "improve" stability before it could gain acceptance by pilots used to the B.E.2e - making the production version a good platform for artillery spotting but giving it little chance of out-manoeuvring enemy fighters.
Most R.E.8s were powered by the 150 hp (112 kW)
Royal Aircraft Factory 4a air-cooled 12-cylinder inline enginethough some received the 200 hp (149 kW) RAF 4d engine and others had a Hispano-Suizaengine. A supply shortage of Hispano-Suiza engines, as well as the Rolls-Royceaero engines, such as the Falcon, prevented any upgrade of the R.E.8's powerplant. As with most RAF engine installations, the twin exhausts protruded over the upper wing to carry the fumes clear of the crew. As with the B.E.2e, the long extensions on the upper wing tended to collapse if the aircraft was dived too sharply.
Eventually 4,077 R.E.8s were produced with a further 353 on order cancelled at the end of the war. In addition to the
Royal Aircraft Factory, the R.E.8 was produced by six other companies including Austin Motors, Standard Motors, Siddeley-Deasyand Coventry Ordnance Works.
The first production aircraft reached
Francein November 1916. Initially, pilots converting from the B.E.2e had problems with the R.E.8's more sensitive controls, resulting in a number of accidents, and the new type was grounded while a larger tailfin was designed. The modified type proved more acceptable, but early service was most inauspicious. On 13 April1917, a patrol of six R.E.8s from No. 59 Squadron RFC was met by aircraft from " Jasta 11" and all the R.E.8s were shot down within five minutes. Bruce 15 October 1954, pp.577—578.] The casualty rate in R.E.8 squadrons dropped from the levels of " Bloody April", largely as a result of improved pilot training and tactics. Although never a popular aeroplane, it was, however, reasonably satisfactory for the tasks demanded of it, and was even regarded with some affection, gaining the rhyming slangnickname " Harry Tate" (after a popular music hallartist of the time).
The R.E.8 equipped 18
Royal Flying Corpssquadrons in 1917 and 19 squadrons in 1918. Belgiumwas the only country other than Britain (and her Dominions) to operate the R.E.8, receiving 22 in July 1917.
It was intended to replace the R.E.8 with a version of the Bristol Fighter powered by the
Sunbeam Arabengine, however very few "Arab Bristols" had been completed by the end of the war.
By November 1918, the R.E.8 was regarded as completely obsolete, and surviving examples were quickly retired after the armistice. Only two survive today. The restoration of R.E.8 "F3556" at the
Imperial War Museum Duxfordwas completed in 2004. This aircraft, built by Daimler, had arrived in Franceon Armistice Day. The other surviving R.E.8 is in Brussels, Belgium, and is one of the few examples to have an Hispano-Suiza engine.
Australian Flying Corps
**No. 1 Squadron AFC in
**No. 3 Squadron AFC in
**No. 7 (Training) Squadron in
Estonian Air Force[Gerdessen 1982, p. 76.] ;USSR;UK -
Royal Flying Corpsand the Royal Air Force
plane or copter?=plane
jet or prop?=prop
crew=2 (pilot & observer/gunner)
length main= 27 ft 10 in
length alt=8.5 m
span main=42 ft 7 in
span alt=12.98 m
height main=11 ft 4 in
height alt=3.47 m
area main= 389 ft²
area alt= 35.07 m²
empty weight main= 1,577 lb
empty weight alt= 717 kg
loaded weight main=
loaded weight alt=
useful load main=
useful load alt=
max takeoff weight main=2,862 lb
max takeoff weight alt= 1,301 kg
Royal Aircraft Factory 4a
type of prop=air-cooled 12-cylinder
number of props=1
power main= 150 hp
power alt=112 kW
max speed main= 102 mph
max speed alt= 164 km/h
cruise speed main=
cruise speed alt=
stall speed main=
stall speed alt=
never exceed speed main=
never exceed speed alt=
ceiling main= 13,500 ft
ceiling alt= 4,115 m
climb rate main= 22 minutes to 10,000 ft
climb rate alt= 3,045 m
armament=* 1 x .303 in (7.7 mm) forward-firing Vickers gun
* 1 or 2 x .303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis guns in rear cockpit
* up to 224 lb (102 kg) bombs
Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2
List of aircraft of the RAF
List of bomber aircraft
* Bruce, J.M. "The R.E.8: Historic Military Aircraft: No. 8". "Flight".
15 October 1954. Pages 575-581.
* Cheesman, E.F. (ed.) "Reconnaissance & Bomber Aircraft of the 1914-1918 War". Letchworth, UK: Harleyford, 1962.
* Gerdessen, F. "Estonian Air Power 1918–1945". "
Air Enthusiast" No 18, April - July 1982, p. 61-76. ISSN 0143-5450.
* Mason, Francis K. "The British Bomber since 1914". London:Putnam, 1994. ISBN 0 85177 861 5.
* Munson, Kenneth. "Bombers, Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft 1914-1919". London: Blandford, 1968. ISBN 0-71370-484-5.
* Taylor, John W.R. "Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8." "Combat Aircraft of the World from 1909 to the present". New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1969. ISBN 0-425-03633-2.
* [http://avia.russian.ee/air/england/raf_re-8.php Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8]
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