Bristol F2B Fighter

The best British two seat fighter of the First World War.
Bristol Type 12 F2A prototype The Bristol Type 12 F2A prototype C3303 at Filton, September 1916.
The Bristol F.2 Fighter was a two-seat biplane fighter and reconnaissance aircraft and was without doubt one of the most important and successful British designs to serve during the First World War.
In 1915 the Royal Flying Corps had identified a need to replace their Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2c's with an emphasis on self-defence capabilities.
Designed by a team led by Frank Barnwell (who had experience as a frontline RFC pilot), the prototype Bristol Type 12 F.2A (C3303) was first flown on 9th September 1916 at Filton, fitted with a newly available 190 hp Rolls-Royce Falcon I inline engine.  Bristol had already received an order for 50 aircraft by the time the second prototype flew on 25th October 1916, this time fitted with a Hispano-Suiza power unit.
The type was a twin-bay biplane, with the fuselage suspended mid-way between the wings in a similar manner to the earlier Gordon England biplanes. The pilot was seated forward, the observer / gunner being equipped with a Scarff-mounted machine gun in the rear cockpit. A forward-firing Vickers gun was mounted on the fuselage centreline. The type was ordered into service with 2 prototypes and 50 production F.2A being built before construction was switched to the Type 14 F.2B, the aircraft which became the definitive Bristol Fighter.
Bristol F2B Fighter C823 Production Bristol F2B Fighter C823.
When production was switched to the F.2B it became the subject of 'contract manufacture' across the aircraft industry with the first 150 or so fitted with either the Falcon 1 or Falcon II engine.  The remainder received the Falcon III engine which meant they could achieve a top speed of around 123 mph which meant it could reach 10,000 feet about 3 minutes faster.
The F.2B featured a fully covered lower wing centre-section and downward sloped longerons in front of the cockpit to improve the pilot’s view when landing and despite being a two-seater it was an agile dog-fighter which had superiority over many of its single-seater opposition.
Bristol F2B Fighter MkII J6586 Bristol F2B Fighter MkII J6586.
At some points engine supply was outpaced by airframe production and some 5,300 Bristol F.2B were built in Britain, with an additional 68 in the USA.  Rolls-Royce power plants of all types were utilised to offset the shortages.  The Type 15's produced by sub-contractors received the Sunbeam Arab piston engine which relegated them to simple reconnaissance missions whilst the Type 16 was fitted with the Hispano-Suiza engine which once again failed to match the power of the Falcons.  There was a proposed Type 22 fitted with a radial or rotary engine but this never came to fruition and the type number was later re-allocated to the Bristol F.2C Badger.
The Bristol M.R.1, often referred to as the 'All-metal F.2B was in fact a completely new design although it shared similar fuselage characteristics.  Only 2 prototypes were built but it never entered production.
In peacetime, the Bristol Fighter was used as an Army Cooperation machine, particularly in India and Iraq.
Bristol F2B Fighter MkIV F4587 Bristol F2B Fighter MkIV F4587 showing revised rudder and army cooperation equipment.
A structurally strengthened version the Bristol Type 96 was designated the Bristol Fighter Mk III. These aircraft were later converted in service to the Bristol Fighter Mk IV with increased weight (max 3,350 lb), taller fin, Handley Page slots and aerodynamically-balanced rudder.


Bristol F2B Fighter E2581 Duxford Preserved Bristol F2B Fighter E2581 on display at Duxford.


After the war, surplus F.2B's were modified for civilian use as the Bristol Tourer, fitted with the Siddeley Puma engine.  The aircraft were 'closed canopy and cockpit' aircraft which had an extended performance in level flight to around 128 mph.


Today there are 3 remaining airworthy aircraft with a number on static display, predominantly in museums around the UK and Europe.  A replica aircraft was created at Filton to celebrate 100 years of aircraft manufacturing in Bristol, where the original Bristol Fighter was designed and built.



  F.2A F.2B
Powerplant 190 hp Rolls-Royce Falcon I 275 hp Rolls-Royce Falcon III
Span 39 ft 3 in 39 ft 3 in
Maximum Weight 2,700 lb 2,800 lb
Capacity & Armament Two seat, one forward firing 0.303 Vickers machine gun and one Scarff-mounted 0.303 Lewis gun Two seat, one forward firing 0.303 Vickers machine gun and one Scarff-mounted 0.303 Lewis gun
Maximum Speed 110 mph 125 mph
Endurance 3.25 hr 3 hr

Variants and number built

Prototypes / F.2A    52 built. Two prototypes and 50 production F.2A aircraft with 190 hp Rolls-Royce Falcon I
Type 14 F.2B Main production variant with some 5,300 built, by Bristol and a number of contractors. First flown on 25 October 1916. Most powered by 275 hp Rolls-Royce Falcon III
Type 15 200 hp Sunbeam Arab
Type 16 200 hp Hispano-Suiza
Type 17 300 hp Hispano-Suiza
USB-1A US Army Air Service Engineering Division-built; one only with Hispano-Suiza
USB-1B US Army Air Service Engineering Division-built; one only with Liberty L-8 engine
XB-1A & XB-1B US Army Air Service Engineering Division-built; plywood semi-monocoque fuselage and Wright-Hispano engine. 3 prototypes and 44 production aircraft by Dayton-Wright
Type 14 F.2B Mk II Two-seat army co-operation biplane, first flown in December 1919. 435 built.
Type 96 Mk III & Type 96A Mk IV Structurally strengthened aircraft, 50 built in 1926–1927


Airworthy examples
D8096 Type 14, Shuttleworth Collection, Old Warden                        
D7889 Type 14, Canada Aviation and Space Museum, in Rockcliffe, Ontario

D8084 / ZK-BRI Type 14, Hood Aerodrome, In Masterton, New Zealand
Museum display
E2581 Type 14, Imperial War Museum Duxford
BAPC 165 / `E2466' Type 14, Royal Air Force Museum London, UK
B.21  Museo del Aire, Madrid, Spain

‘66’  Type 17, Musée Royal de l'Armée, Brussels, Belgium
H1279 / 20.48 Polish Aviation Museum, Kraków

Other information