The Nieuport 11 "Bebe" (or "Baby" - known officially as the "Nieuport 11 C1") was one of the first true Allied fighters of World War 1. Developed from a prewar design intended for competition, the militarized form brought with it the expected excellent performance inherent in a racing platform. Designed in a mere four months, the Nieuport 11 - retaining the "Bebe" nickname of its predecessor - proved instrumental in ending the dominance of German Fokker-based aircraft during 1916 in what came to be known as the "Fokker Scourge". The French Nieuport series, as a whole, would end up becoming one of the best fighter lines in all of World War 1, eventually becoming collectively recognized by the name of "Nieuport Fighting Scouts".
Societe Anonyme Des Etablissements, established in 1909 and founded by Eduoard de Nie Port, had delved successfully into racing sesquiplane airframes for some time prior to World War 1. The sesquiplane approach was something of a biplane configuration though the lower wing assembly was decidedly smaller than the upper. With the war reaching its stride by August of 1914, and a growing faith in biplane winged aircraft, the Nieuport firm was charged with production of Voisan biplane aircraft which sported a "pusher" propeller arrangement, necessitated by the lack of a competent machien gun synchronization system when firing through a spinning propeller. These platforms proved adequate attempts at countering German fighter designs of the time but German offerings were seemingly always one step ahead which helped to maintain the tactical advantage for the interim.
Italy produced the Nieuport 11 under license in 646 examples as the "Nieuport 1100". Sources suggest that local production occurred in Russia, Spain and the Netherlands as well. Such production and reproduction of Nieuport 11s proved - both directly and indirectly - the excellence of the Gustave Delage design.
The Bebe was officially retired from front-line service sometime in the summer of 1917 with the last Bebe squadrons being fielded in Italy. During its reign, the Bebe was largely responsible for a change in tactics on the part of the Germans - particularly during the pivotal Battle of Verdun (1916) where the "Baby" inflicted heavy losses on the enemy. As such, the value of the Nieuport 11 system to the Allied cause could not be overstated.
Back in 1916, Nieuport also unveiled the "Nieuport 16" in an attempt to modernize and improve the Nieuport 11 design for the changing requirements of war. The Nieuport 16 fielded a Le Rhone 9J rotary engine of 110 horsepower in a revised cowling. The attempt was more or less abandoned when the designed proved too "front-heavy". This initiative, however, led to the direct development of the "Nieuport 17" which went on to replace the Nieuport 11 beginning in March of 1916 and, itself, would become one of the most famous warplanes of World War 1.
Despite its relatively short career in the air, production of Nieuport 11s totaled approximately 7,200 Bebes which was an impressive number when accepted in the scope of World War 1 fighter production.
- Reconnaissance (RECCE)
19.03 ft (5.8 m)
24.77 ft (7.55 m)
8.04 ft (2.45 m)
758 lb (344 kg)
1,213 lb (550 kg)
97 mph (156 kph; 84 kts)
15,092 feet (4,600 m; 2.86 miles)
205 miles (330 km; 178 nm)
660 ft/min (201 m/min)
1 x 7.7mm Lewis or Hotchkiss machine gun in upper wing.
8 x La Prieur anti-balloon Rockets fitted alongside the V-type struts.
Nieport 10 - Two-Seat Biplane Fighter Design on which the smaller Nieuport 11 is based on.
Nieport 11 C1 - Official Designation
Nieport 11 "Bebe" - Unofficial Base Series Designation; based on the larger Nie.10 model.
Nieuport 16 - "Improved" 11 Model; fitted with Le Rhone 9J rotary piston engine of 110 horsepower; appearing in 1916.
Nieport 17 C1 - "Improved" 16 Model with larger engine and better performance.
Nieuport 1100 - Italian license-production by Macchi; 646 examples produced.