Sopwith
Salamander

The RAF's first armoured ground-attack aircraft.
Sopwith Salamander prototype stbd front Brooklands The Sopwith Salamander prototype, E5429, at Brooklands in early May 1918.
 
Having suffered high losses of its ground-attack Sopwith Camels and De Havilland DH.5s at the Battles of Ypres and Cambrai in 1917, the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) submitted a request for the development of a single-seat aircraft, specifically for the ground-attack role.
 
 The Sopwith Camel and De Havilland DH.5 fighters had only been interim 'trench-strafers' in the absence of a dedicated close support aircraft and so in January 1918 the Sopwith Aviation Company was invited to submit design proposals for a single-seat 'Trench Fighter', fitted with armour-plating to protect the pilot and capable of a least 120mph at sea level. 
 
The result was a derivative of the company's rotary-engined Sopwith Snipe fighter, in which the forward fuselage was made entirely of armour plate. The plate itself was an integral part of the fuselage structure, rather than merely attaching armour plating to a fuselage of standard wired and braced construction.
 
Sopwith Salamander F6583 in build Salamander F6583 under construction. Note the armour-plated forward fuselage.
 
Designated as the T.F.2 Trench Fighter, following on from the T.F.1 which was a variant of the company's Sopwith Camel fitted with downward-firing guns.
 
The first prototype (E5429) was constructed during the establishment of the independent Royal Air Force in April 1918. It was sent to Brooklands and made its first flight on the 27th April 1918, after which it was sent to France for trials on 9th May.
 
Tested extensively by several RAF squadron pilots, the prototype crashed on 19th May, by which time an initial order had been placed for 500 examples, to be named Sopwith Salamander in RAF service.
 
Although pilots generally liked the new aircraft, it was found to be something of a headache to rig correctly once in the field and the RAF High Command remained unconvinced of its value. Nevertheless, some 526 were ultimately built incorporating various modifications, including balanced upper ailerons and enlarged tail surfaces. 
 
Production was slow however, owing to problems with the armour plating and shortages of the Bentley rotary engine. By the time the Armistice was signed in November 1918, only two Salamanders had made it to France.
 
With the end of the war, the need for a dedicated ground-attack aircraft disappeared and large batches of orders for the type, which by then had totalled 1,400, were cancelled. By the time production was halted, a total of 210 aircraft had been completed by Sopwith Aviation Company and Glendower Aircraft Company Ltd.
 
Salamander production at Kingston Salamander production at Kingston
 
The Sopwith Salamander never equipped an RAF squadron, although the type remained in the RAF's inventory until 1922, numerous examples being put into storage, and others being used as general hacks.
 
Sopwith Salamander general arrangement Original Sopwith three-view drawing of the Salamander, dated 15th October 1918.


Specification


Powerplant
One 230hp Bentley B.R.2 rotary engine
Span
30 ft 1.5 in (with original ailerons)
Maximum weight
2,513 lb
Capacity & armament
One pilot; Two fixed forward-firing 0.303 in Vickers machine-guns, carriage of up to four 25 lb bombs
Maximum speed
125 mph at 500 ft; 123 mph at 6,500 ft; 117 mph at 10,000 ft
Endurance
1hr 30min

 

Survivors


No examples of the Sopwith Salamander survive

 

Other information