|Wings of War: The Spad XIII
Written by Andrea Angiolino and Pier Giorgio Paglia
|Wings of War | Published 28 October 2008|
The SPAD XIII, designed by Louis Béchereau and in use from September 1917, was in many ways one of the First World War's best fighter planes. Its factory was originally founded as the Société Pour les Avions Déperdussin. It failed and was re-named and re-opened in 1914 with the name Société Anonyme pour l'Aviation et ses Derivés, producing 8472 planes. During the First World War it was adopted by the French Airforce (serving in 81 Escadrilles), by the Air Forces of Italy, Belgium, Britain and the US. As in the case of its predecessor, the SPAD VII, it was also produced by licensee Macchi in Italy. It was rightly considered the figher plane of choice by many of the French and US fighter aces. Almost all pilots who had flown and appreciated the merits of the SPAD VII chose to fly this model too: among them were Fonck, Rickenbacker, Baracca, Guynemer, Nungesser, and Ruffo di Calabria.
The SPAD XIII was a natural evolution of the SPAD VII, from which the new model inherited a number of very efficient engineering solutions, such as a fuselage equipped with plywood covering and reinforced with metal fittings. It soon proved an exceptionally rugged if not particularly easy plane to fly: at low speed the wings' narrow profiles and its overall weight made the fighter difficult to manoeuver and often caused brutal stalls and created some difficulties during tight turns.
Boasting a powerful 8-cylinder V "Hispano-Suiza" producing 235 hp, the SPAD XIII could rely on exceptional climbing qualities, which allowed fighter pilots to shine during nosedive attacks at 450 km per hour, then climbing almost vertically upwards to repeat the attack. Above all it was equipped with two .303 Vickers machineguns, which finally bridged the gap in firepower which had penalized Allied planes up till then.
Wingspan 8.20 m
Length 6.30 m
Weight 820 Kg
Max. Speed 222 Km/h
Service Ceiling 6650 m
Armament 2 Vickers
Maximum Range 2 h
Nations using Sopwith Camel during WWI France, Belgium, Italy, Great Britain, United States
Period ½ 1917 - 1918