Air superiority became a back-and-forth affair for the air services involved in World War 1 (1914-1915). This opened the field of military aviation for a slew of companies to make their mark on history. The famous French concern of Nieuport became a prominent player in the war and revealed its first purpose-built fighter through the Nieuport 11 "Bebe" of 1915. The Bebe held its origins in the earlier Nieuport 10 of 1914 and both aircraft were designed by Gustave Delage beginning his successful wartime career for the Frenchman.
While the single-seat Nieuport 10 begat the popular single-seat Nieuport 11 model, it also formed the basis of a new production mark in the two-seat Nieuport 12 - conceived of as an artillery reconnaissance platform and fighting scout before ending her days as a trainer. The "Model 12" became essentially a dimensionally larger version of the Model 10 with a new engine installation. It followed typical biplane design of the period with a front-mounted engine driving a two-blade propeller, an upper and lower wing assembly, and a traditional single-finned tail unit. It sat two crew in tandem with the pilot under the upper wing mainplane and the rear gunner/observer aft of the structure. A consistent physical design quality of these early Delage aircraft was their use of "V-struts" between the upper and lower wing spans. The undercarriage was fixed with wheels under center mass and a simple tailskid at the rear. Power could be served through either a Clerget or Le Rhone engine developing 110 to 130 horsepower output depending on installation.
As an armed scout, the Nieuport 12 was fitted with a .303 Lewis machine gun at the rear cockpit. This gun sat on a Nieuport/Scraff ring to allow it to be trained on incoming enemy threats from the vulnerable rear areas of the aircraft. A second Lewis gun was sometimes fitted over the upper wing element and within reach of the rear gunner - allowing for some frontal offensive "punch".
The Nieuport 12 series was produced in a variety of countries throughout its service life but primarily, during the war years, by both France and the United Kingdom (through Beardmore). British models replaced their rear cockpit Nieuport gun rings with the Scarff type system and a .303 Vickers was installed for the pilot.
The Nieuport 12A.2 became the principle fighter-reconnaissance mark and these carried either the French Clerget 9Z or Le Rhone 9J series engines of 110 horsepower. The Nieuport 12bis C.2 followed and was outfitted with the more powerful Clerget 9B of 130 horsepower as well as some aerodynamic refinements. The British Beardmore-produced Model 12s evolved to feature numerous modifications to the French design to better suit British Air Service requirements though powerplants remained consistent. The Nieuport 20 was an RFC-only model fitted with the Le Rhone 9J of 110 horsepower - twenty-one examples being produced and its early forms based largely on the original French 12bis C.2 form.
In time, the Nieuport 12 was found to be sufficient as a trainer as well (its two-seat configuration benefitting this) and thusly the Nieuport 80E.2 and 81E.2 were produced to fulfill the requirement. The gun ring was deleted in this mark and power came from a Le Rhone 9C of 80 horsepower. The two designations differentiated the cockpit control schemes - the 80E.2 was a dual-control form (controls in both cockpits) and the 81.E2 featured the controls only in the rear cockpit.
Beyond these operational marks there lay limited production forms such as the "Nieuport 13" - a pair of prototypes with extended wing elements and different engine installations. "Sipowicz 1" was an experimental Polish variant with revised wing structure units. The Japanese operated as many as 57 locally-built Nieuport 80E.2 trainers under the "Army Type Ko 1 Trainer" designation - these manufactured by Mitsubishi - further reinforcing their batch of 40 81E.2s delivered from Nieuport.
Other operators included Argentina (navy), Belgium, Chile (single example only), Estonia (post-war), Greece (navy), Portugal, Romania, the Russian Empire/Soviet Union, Serbia, Thailand (as Siam, single example only), and the United States (the American Expeditionary Force - AEF).
- Reconnaissance (RECCE)
22.97 ft (7 m)
29.53 ft (9 m)
1,213 lb (550 kg)
1,874 lb (850 kg)
90 mph (145 kph; 78 kts)
12,992 feet (3,960 m; 2.46 miles)
264 miles (425 km; 229 nm)
1 x .303 Lewis machine gun (or similar) in trainable rear cockpit position.
1 x .303 Lewis machine gun over upper wing mainplane.
1 x .303 Vickers machine gun at pilot's position
Nieuport 12 - Base Series Designation
Nieuport 12 A.2 - Primary reconnaissance model; Clerget 9Z or Le Rhone 9J engines of 110 horsepower.
Nieuport 12bis C.2 - Improved Model 12 with Clerget 9B engine of 130 horsepower.
Nieuport 13 - Prototype pair with different engines and lengthened wings.
Nieuport 20 - Outfitted with Le Rhone 9J engine of 110 horsepower for British Air Service (RFC) use.
Nieuport 80E.2 - Trainer with dual control scheme
Nieuport 81E.2 - Trainer with controls in rear cockpit only.
Army Type Ko 1 Trainer - Japanese trainer based on the 81E.2; some local production by Mitsubishi as well.
Sipowicz Model 1 - Polish experimental aircraft with revised wing structure.
Trainer Type 1 - Thai/Siam designation for 80E.2 trainer; sole aircraft procured.