Vickers FB5 Gunbus

A two-seat, single-engine biplane fighter with a pusher engine installation and a gunner’s cockpit in the nose to maximise the field of fire.
Vickers EFB5 at Joyce Green The prototype Vickers EFB5 at Joyce Green showing the original semi-circular tailplane.
 
The  Vickers (Aviation Department) FB5 Gunbus was evolved from the Vickers EFB3 (described separately) – EFB standing for Experimental Fighting Biplane. The Vickers EFB3 had attracted the interest of the Admiralty, who ordered 12 aircraft.
 
On the outbreak of the First World War, the Admiralty contract was taken over by the War Office, which requested a number of design changes. These changes included the use of a drum-fed Lewis gun  replacing the belt-fed Vickers gun of the Vickers EFB2 and Vickers EFB3, which had a limited field of fire and were difficult to aim. The Vickers EFB3 (serial 32) was modified accordingly and became the prototype for the Vickers FB5 Gunbus series.
 
As a prototype, it still used the Vickers EFB designation and was the sole Vickers EFB5 Gunbus. It retained the semi-circular fixed tailplane of the Vickers EFB3, thereby distinguishing it from the production Vickers FB5 Gunbus, which used a rectangular tailplane and a modified rudder with a curved trailing edge.
 
The first aircraft was flown on 17th July 1914.
 
Vickers FB5 stbd view The first production Vickers FB5 Gunbus at Brooklands prior to delivery.
 
Vickers began production of an initial batch in anticipation of a production order, which duly arrived. The first production Vickers FB5 Gunbus was delivered in November 1914.
 
Unfortunately, a definitive production list is not available, but orders were placed for around 210 aircraft, of which the largest single batch was for 56 aircraft built by SA Darracq of Suresnes in France. A general consensus is that around 210 aircraft were built in total, with one source indicating at least 120 built by Vickers, 75 built by SA Darracq and 12 by the Danish Arsenal Workshops, giving a total of at least 207.
 
Vickers FB5 V7 Danish Army This aircraft serial V7 is one of a number of Vickers FB5s operated by the Danish Army.
 
The only variant was the Vickers FB5A Gunbus fitted with a 110 hp Clerget engine and an armoured nacelle although it proved to be unreliable and only four examples of the Vickers FB5A were built.
 
In operational service, the Vickers FB5A Gunbus was popular, being manoeuvrable and easy to fly and capable of defending itself. The type became outclassed however, as the quality of its German opponents increased, particularly with the availability of forward-firing synchronised machine guns firing through the propeller arc.
 
The type was replaced in frontline operation in the Spring of 1916, having served in France with some distinction with eight RFC squadrons.
 
Vickers FB5 2345 port original 2345 was an early production FB5; it was the pattern for the replica G-ATVP built in 1966.
 
A full-size replica (G-ATVP) was built and flown in 1966, by the Vintage Aircraft and Flying Association at Brooklands, powered by a 100 hp Gnome engine. This aircraft was painted in the colours of an Vickers FB5  Gunbus presentation aircraft (2345 Bombay 2) and was a very faithful representation of the type.
 

Variants & Number Built


Prototype
One EFB5 (serial 32) as modification of the Vickers EFB3, later modified to production standard as FB5 (serial 664).
Vickers FB5 Gunbus
Approximately 210 aircraft built in Britain, France and Denmark, including four FB5A with 110 hp Clerget and armoured crew nacelle.

 

Specification


Powerplant
One 100 hp Gnome Monosoupape
Span
27 ft 2 in
Maximum Weight
2,050 lb lb
Capacity
Pilot and gunner; one spigot-mounted Lewis gun fired from the front cockpit
Maximum Speed
73 mph at sea level
Endurance
4 hr 30 min
 

Survivors


No original aircraft survive, but a full-size replica (G-ATVP) was built and flown in 1966 by the Vintage Aircraft and Flying Association at Brooklands. This aircraft was painted in the colours of an FB5 presentation aircraft (2345 Bombay 2) and is currently displayed at the RAF Museum, London.

 

More information