World War One airplanes began as primitive, unarmed artillery spotters that could barely take offensive action – and ended as powerful bombers and sleek modern fighters. Germany, the UK, and France led the way in aircraft development, creating iconic aircraft like the SPAD, Sopwith Camel, and the scourge of allied pilots, the German Fokker.
This was a time when air-to-air combat was quite literally being made up as pilots went along. The first fighter planes were little more than lumbering artillery spotters with an extra man carrying a revolver. Soon, the interrupter gear was invented, giving aircraft the ability to shoot through their propellers. German technology quickly took control of the skies, first in the “Fokker scourge” of 1916, then “Bloody April” 1917. But Allied pilots fought back, and by the end of the war, both sides had thousands of the most sophisticated planes available, and experienced pilots to fly them.
Aircraft technology developed so quickly that fighters would be rolled out in mass quantities, and be obsolete by the time they were actually used. Even so, the war pioneered many of the tactics used in World War 2 aircraft, including heavy bombers escorted by fighters, deep-penetration reconnaissance planes, night fighters and bombers, and innovative technology.
Here are some of the most important, widely-produced, iconic, and effective planes of World War 1. Vote up your favorites or add your own.
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