Quintessential French Fighter Designs

Morane-Saulnier came into its own during the early part of the war with the Type N, a single seater fighter design that incorporated a number of aerodynamic triumphs such as its utilisation of an aerodynamic prop-spinner. The spinner served to deflect the air from the front of the airframe giving it an aerodynamic advantage, additionally its wing warping control surfaces created less drag in comparison to more conventional deflecting control surface planes found in other fighter aircraft of its time period. The wing warping engineering arrangement originated from a patented Wright Brothers design technique.

Morane-Saulnier Type N

The Type N model pressed into service during 1915, delivered aerodynamic advances with its monoplane wing arrangement that allowed the greater part of the fuselage drag to be dedicated to its rotary pistoned Le Rhone 9C engine delivering 110 hp, which occupied the full width of its fuselage. The design demanded a wing configuration held high and well forward in the fuselage, and the pilot seated in an open-air style cockpit positioned directly behind the engine, provided its pilots with a clear field of view across the nose and underneath its wings.

Its distinctive prop spinner made up its most notable design part, providing the aircraft with a sleek profile, delivering aerodynamic efficiency well in advance of other aircraft designs of the time. Unfortunately this same aerodynamic advantage provided by the sizeable metal spinner was found to be the main cause of its engine overheating issues, subsequently needing to be removed, which strangely enough had little effect on decreasing or enhancing the aircraft’s tested performance specifications. Armament was provided via a singular .303 calibre fully automatic machine gun, interchangeable with the Hotchkiss or Vickers designs.

The SPAD S VII or S7 quickly became one of the best French single-seat fighter aircraft deployed within the World War I arena, it epitomised a quintessential dog fighter design meeting all the demands, with aplomb, in all senses of the word. It performed solidly and displayed all the rugged qualities that embody the requirements of a top-class World War I fighter plane. Its aerial success ensured its appearance in various Allied air force groups that included countries like Belgium, the United Kingdom, as well as the United States, filling their ranks in large numbers. The Type S7 became one of the first notably successful warplane design efforts by Societe Pour l’Avons et ses Derives, the company best-known by its abbreviation SPAD was originally founded in 1911. Its wartime plane designs created by Louis Becherau, its chief engineer, had a number of his aircraft designs serving well past the end of the war into the 1920s to ultimately become known as classics. Its design replacement the SPAD S XII received the attention of Georges Guynemer the French WW I flying ace, who pushed for a cannon-armed war fighter plane after gaining extensive experience in its predecessor. SPAD then developed a system featuring a 37 mm automatic machine cannon in addition to the standard equipped machine-gun.


The extra weight of the airframe and ancillaries, necessitated to withstand the rigours imposed by its new armament system, required the airframe to be lengthened along with its wings, while retaining the same engine from its predecessor. The new unique mounting position of the 37 mm cannon, between its cylinder banks, provided much-needed additional firepower, but ultimately proved too much of a handful for inexperienced pilots, it however came into its own becoming highly lethal in the hands of proven and experienced military aviators. The cannon layout within the aircraft prohibited utilisation of conventional flight stick controls, due to the fact that the 37 mm cannon protruded back into the cockpit as a necessary practical solution where the pilot was required to load the cannon in flight.