• ArunKumar

Military aviation history

Updated: Dec 10, 2021

Our first flight in a manned heavier than air aircraft, It was an amazing machine capable of transporting 1 or even 2 humans onboard over the air at about 34mph, the speed that would double in less than a year.

What are benefits would this first flight technology bring to humankind?

It’s funny but the reality is at the time nobody was still sure during the first years of aviation, but with record after record being broken by new airplanes regarding aircraft’s speed, flying duration, altitude.

This beautiful machine started to exhibit a potential for practical tasks, and also getting attention from the military, who soon will be making extensive use of the newly invented machine is called the airplane.

The year in 1914 and the world is in conflict, the first world war started only 11 years after the first flight made by the Wright brothers,

Some improvements have been made to the flying machines, and also in the military found them useful for high recognizance mission which until then were made by men with horses, Very less range, very slow, a lot of limitations than using an aircraft, despite some opposition of traditionalist on our military and the aircraft was getting its way in for it’s clear more advantages against the enemy, that’s how it started.

The military airplanes were used to fly:

●Taking pictures was the primary way of recognizance,

●Over enemy lines,

●Spy on them and so on.

But it was not easy to do, flying in the early days with no navigation instruments and really simple maps in places you are not familiar with was a real challenge.

Soon after the enemy started using the new technology as well, one of the first-to-air battles was made with handguns carried by the pilots, when two pilots of recognizance airplanes from opposites side encounter each other in mid-flight, later that type of battles were given the name of a dogfight.

But the bad news is, It was not long after experimentation was being made to accommodate(Fixed) machine guns on the aircraft, this raises another problem.

If the machine gun was positioned right in front of the pilots it was convenient for aiming and shooting in the same direction of the flight, but it meant that the bullets would strike the propeller marking it unusable, the pusher airplanes however did not have this problem, but these airplanes are not as efficient as the tractor configuration, another way was mounting the gun on top of the wing, but it was really hard for the pilot to aim and shoot, an ingenious solution was done in the Fokker Eindecker, It was the first aircraft to be fitted with a synchronization gear, which made possible firing through the propeller without making any damage.

Dropping small bombs by hand was another alternative method. As the flying machines progressed so did the defense mechanisms with anti-aerial artillery.

Escaping methods in military aviation:

If the inexperienced pilot by being taken down by the enemy was a high probability. The main problem is then was that if the plane’s machine was going down, the pilot was going down with it as well even if the pilot survived the first attack. A terrible way to die an awful loss for the air force who couldn’t afford to lose more pilots.

The use of parachutes was very controversial, although it was invented long before airplanes and it was a clear option, the only person allowed to use parachutes were the observers in balloons, so these balloons were used to observe the battlefield and guide artillery on the ground, they used a highly flammable gas, and they were often shot down bursting into flames and falling down the sky, the parachute was the only device that secured the lives of the occupants.

For the aviators, on the other hand, they had several problems, in most of the aircraft the cockpit was tiny, there was no space for extra equipment and certainly, the emergency exiting maneuver was going to be very difficult in such a space, moreover, the high command thought that the use of a parachute will encourage the pilots to jump and escape in critical situations instead of facing the enemy. And they also decide that a heavy parachute would affect the fuel efficiency and performance of the aircraft.

The German air service, in 1918, became the world’s first to introduce a standard parachute and the only one at the time.

Later parachutes will become a standard in every country.

Amazing Power of engines in military aviation history:

Engines never stopped evolving during the wars and so the constructions techniques the airplanes were always made out of wood cover by fabrics, the most common type was the Biplane for its great strength and already familiar structure, engineers started to understand even more the aerodynamics, they discovered that a monoplanes was lot more efficient than the biplanes or tri-planes, and some monoplanes were successfully deployed in the front lines of the war, but these kinds of airplanes needed a complex array of struts and wires to maintain the structural strength of the wings, specially in highly demanding maneuvers, this was solved with the use of new material and construction techniques, like aloes and internal structures inside the wing so on struts or wires were required, but the machine is nothing if you don’t have a good pilot, one of the most prominent fighter pilots of the world war 1 was Manfred von Richthofen, better known as red baron, he was a German Air Force pilot during World War 1. he mostly associated with the triplane which he did use by the end of his career.

Evolution of Military Aviation:

Towards the end of the first world war, the maximum speed recorded for an airplane is 150 mph.

By now, not much more funding is available for the development of military aviation,

So during the 1920s, civil aviation took over the challenge of speed and distance records.

A prominent event was the Schneider Trophy, It was intended to encourage technical advances in civil aviation but became a contest for pure speed, the race was significant in advancing airplane design,

Particularly in the fields of aerodynamics and engine design, the race would feature seaplanes.

The most important changes on the new fast aircraft are:

●Engine power,

●Cylinder Disposition,

●Aerodynamics in general,

●Making the planes slim to offer less resistance to the air and so on.

This presented many other problems like engine cooling.

The most common type of engine was the radial type,

Where all the cylinders were exposed to the direct airflow So, This was at the cost of more air drag and therefore was not possible to reach faster speeds,

The inline cylinder engines on the other hand could present less aerodynamic drag but air cooling was less ideal, so additional liquid cooling systems had to be developed by using radiators.

In the Supermarine S.6B, the engine oil was cooled by a set of pipes on both sides of the fuselage and another radiator on the wings for the liquid engine cooling.

The military aerospace technology:

Germany was very advanced in aerial technology, they started experimenting with rockets, and unmanned flying bombs, they also created the Me 163 Komet, basically an airplane with a rocket for an engine,

It was the only rocket-powered fighter aircraft ever to have been operational and the 1st piloted aircraft of many types to exceed 621 mph or 1000 km/h in high flight.

The problem was its short flight time, but a new generation of engines was going to revolutionize aviation and make possible even greater speeds.

The jet engine:

The Heinkel He 178 was the 1st turbojet-powered aircraft ever to fly, but the most common operational jet-powered aircraft during the World War 2 was the me 262.

After the war, the development in Aviation was pretty advanced, but the quest for speed continued, with the introduction of the transistor now computers onboard or avionics was possible for more coordinated and precise control over the ever-increasing complexity of the flight systems, now these computers onboard are more help the pilot fly these machines.


Throughout the history of military aviation, one characteristic was predominantly important for air superiority, and it was the speed, a faster speed means that you can reach your target and get out of faster. So the Necessity is the mother of invention is 100% true for this military aviation. And thank you for reading this blog. Thank you, !

11 views0 comments