|Designer||Farman Aviation Works|
|Primary user||Imperial Russian Air Service|
The Farman F.30 was a two-seat military biplane designed in France around 1915, which became a principal aircraft of the Imperial Russian Air Service during the First World War. Although it was widely used on the Eastern Front, and by the factions and governments that emerged in the subsequent Russian Civil War, it is not well-known outside that context: the F.30 was never adopted by other Allied air forces, and the manufacturers reused the "Farman 30" designation for an entirely different aircraft in 1917.
Design and Development
The F.30 was one of the final variants of the "Farman type", a distinctive aircraft layout developed by the Anglo-French brothers Henry and Maurice Farman. These were biplanes of a pusher configuration, with the propellor at the rear of the engine, behind the wings. The crew of two (pilot and observer) sat in front in an open cockpit, the wings were of a simple unstaggered) design, while the rear part of the plane was just a wire-braced framework supporting the tail.
The basic airframe of the F.30 was very similar to the earlier and slightly smaller F.20, a two-bay biplane with a shorter lower wing (a primitive sesquiplane layout), a reasonably long v-shaped tail framework, and similar control surfaces - ailerons on the outer sections of the upper wings, and a single rudder and a high tailplane at the rear. It differed by reviving the raised fuselage position of the 1913 MF.11, positioning the cockpit and engine half-way between the wings rather than mounting them directly on top of the lower wing, and it was the first Farman to adopt the simple and robust v-strut undercarriage that was becoming standard. Perhaps most importantly, it improved on the underpowered F.20 by utilizing the much more potent 150 hp Salmson 9 radial engine.
Available sources generally record a top speed of 136 km/h, although a later version with uprated 160 hp engine known as the F.30 bis raised performance to 140 km/h; one source states a speed of 155 km/h, associated with a lighter version of the airframe. In comparative tests in 1916, the version with the 150 hp engine proved to have superior performance to the Voisin 5 light bomber and Lebed XI scout, the other designs available for large-scale Russian production; the prototype Anatra DS was apparently faster, but that plane did not enter production until 1917. One reference suggests that the F.30 could more-or-less match the manoeuvrability of the opposing Fokker Eindecker, albeit perhaps at the very limit of its own flight envelope.
It is not clear how much the final design of the F.30 represented a straightforward product of the Farman design bureau, and how much it incorporated modifications by the Russians. The plane's length is given variously as both 8.65m and 10.66m, suggesting significant variation between individual machines.
In addition to these reasonably straightforward variants, the seaplane-skiplane hybrid known as the ShCh M-16 Zimnyak is also identified as a heavily modified subtype of the F.30. Designed by D.P. Grigorovich, this retained only the 150 hp Salmson and the basic layout of the F.30, with a modified cockpit, shorter tail and staggered wings of equal length, plus a specialized undercarriage.
At the start of the First World War the Farman type pusher biplane was widely regarded as the best available design for a combat aircraft: the unencumbered position of the cockpit provided a very wide field of fire for a forward-facing gun, not to mention a good view ahead and to the sides for piloting, aerial reconnaissance and artillery spotting. The greater lift of a biplane design enabled the plane to carry a heavier cargo, such as a payload of bombs under the wings. The relatively simple airframe was also seen as suitable for mass production. Especially before synchronization gears became widely available, these criteria were though to outweigh the superior speed and flight performance offered by monoplane designs with a front-mounted propellor.
This consensus was reflected in the fact that the F.30's design was closely paralleled by those of other contemporary Allied warplanes, such as the French Breguet Bre.5 and the British F.E.2, DH.1 and D.H.2. The scant available figures suggest that performance was also similar, although late-production F.E.2 and the D.H.2 were apparently faster than a typical F.30.
What makes the F.30 unusual was that it was used exclusively by the Imperial Russian Air Service, and serial production appears to have taken place principally or entirely in Russia. The Air Service was already using Farman type aircraft extensively, and had substantial experience of manufacturing them under license. At an early stage, there had been talk of making the MF.11 the Air Service's primary plane, and in 1913 a HF.15 had been their first armed fighter. Details on how and when the F.30 was procured seem sketchy, with vaguely-indicated dates for its front-line deployment ranging from late 1915 to late 1916. The new type was known as the Farman Tridtsat' (Фарман тридцать, "Farman Thirty", often written Фарман-XXX) and was nicknamed the "Fartri", or sometimes the "Farsal" (Фарсаль) from its Salomon engine.
The F.30 appears to have been produced principally by the Dux Factory in Moscow, although some level of construction seems to have also taken place at several of the other major Russian aircraft factories. With over 400 planes built at Dux alone, it far outnumbered the Lebed and Anatra designs or the limited numbers of fighters assembled from imported components, although the situation is less clear with the Voisin V. Alongside the F.30, limited numbers of both the F.27 and the F.40 bomber were also procured.
In spite of its apparent ubiquity, there is little detailed information available about the combat role of the F.30. As an Imperial military doctrine for the use of aircraft developed in 1914, armed Farman type biplanes (and a few Sikorsky S-12s) were designated for important fortress garrisons and each numbered army's headquarters, with unarmed monoplanes serving as high-speed scouts for front-line army corps, but by the outbreak of hostilities, this distinction seems to have been abandoned: for example, the squadron attached to 1 Corps flew the F.22, an immediate precursor of the F.30.
There are sketchy references to the type's involvement in air combat, but it is not clear how far the F.30 had been deployed before two consecutive developments in 1916 that curtailed its usefulness. Firstly, the Air Service began to restrict the air superiority role to new high-performance planes equipped with synchronization gears, like the imported Nieuport 11; then, the F.30 was definitively outclassed in combat by new opponents, beginning with the Albatros D.I fighter and the C.V scout. Increasingly, the F.30's "pusher" engine came to be regarded as a large, exposed target for attackers from the rear.
Nonetheless, a large production run and relatively good performance ensured that the F.30 saw wide use. It flew in a battlefield reconnaissance role, including photo reconnaissance, and probably on bombing raids. At least some individual planes were still assigned to fighter units, presumably to provide them with a reconnaissance and liaison capability: in late 1917, the 19th Fighter Squadron used a single F.30 alongside its five up-to-date Nieuports. A measure of its relative capability can be gauged from the fact that the F.30 was the only warplane design with a large-scale production line which was not mentioned when the First All-Russia Aviation Congress demanded an end to the manufacture of obsolescent planes in August 1917. The type was used by both sides in the Russian Civil War, and continued in production under the Red government.
There were still 147 F.30s in the Soviet inventory in 1921, still in the front-line reconnaissance role; shortly afterwards, it was decided to reassign them to a training role, but in 1922, there were still five front-line squadrons with 63 planes, and just eight trainers; by 1924, there remained at least nine trainers and eight planes in front-line service. Subsequently, at least ten were transferred to the new civil aviation organization, where they were apparently used to for "propaganda and recruitment" across the Soviet Union: some continued to fly until the end of the 1920s.
The wide availability of the type also meant that it was acquired by other emerging states of Eastern Europe, In late 1917, a report for the nascent Ukrainian People's Army Air Force reported an inventory of 22 aircraft in the territory controlled by the Central Rada, while two more examples were serving with the ex-Imperial units that became the founding squadrons of the Polish Air Force, and a further seven were captured by them subsequently. In 1918 an L.30 became one of the first two planes of the nascent Czech Air Force, with at least one more acquired soon after while six of the M-16 snowplane/seaplane variant were acquired by the Finnish Air Force and served until 1923. In 1919, a captured example became the first plane of the Estonian Air Force.
- Imperial Russian Air Service - Over 400 built
- Soviet Air Force - 147 planes in service in 1921; at least 50 built new, others taken over from the Imperial Russian Air Service.
- Dobrolyot - at least 10 planes transferred for civil aviation purposes.
- Ukrainian People's Army - 20 planes in inventory in late 1917.
- Polish Air Force- At least 9 planes acquired in 1917-20.
- Czechoslovak Army Air Force - At least 2 planes acquired in 1918.
- Estonian Air Force - 1 plane acquired in 1919.
- Crew: Two (pilot & observer)
- Length: 8.65m
- Wingspan: 15.81 m
- Height: 3.2 m
- Wing area: 49 m²
- Empty weight: 830 kg
- Loaded weight: 1180 kg
- Powerplant: 1 × Salmson radial engine, 150 hp
- Maximum speed: 136 km/h (approx. 73 knots, 85 mph)
- Service ceiling: 4500 m (approx 15,000 ft)
- Endurance: 4 hours
- Guns: 1x 7.62mm machine gun (Colt, Maxim or Hotchkiss)
- Bombs: up to 100 kg (220 lbs) of bombs
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Most descriptions appear to be based on V. B. Shavrov, Istoriya konstruktsiy samoletov v SSSR do 1938 ("History of Aircraft Construction in the Soviet Union to 1938"; Mashinostroenie: Moscow, 1938) (online excerpt). W.M. Lamberton and E.F. Cheesman, Reconnaissance & bomber aircraft of the 1914-1918 War (Letchworth: Harleyford, 1960), p. 88 attribute it "a 160 h.p. Canton-Unné engine", a description that better describes the motor of the 1917 fighter, and treat it, with little explanation, as a variant of the F.40 bomber. According to an online source, the same designation was also applied to the earlier MF.11 bis of 1913 in the official registry of the Service des Fabrications de l'Avion.
- The 150hp Salmson P9 engine is cited as having been used previously on the F.27, a large late variant of the F.20, both online and in Shavrov, History of Aircraft Construction (online excerpt); but this is hard to confirm from references focused on Western Front aircraft: it is not listed in O. Thetford, British Naval Aircraft Since 1912 (online excerpt), nor in a thorough online source (PDF), citing J.M. Bruce, The Aeroplanes of the Royal Flying Corps: Military WIng (London: Putnamm 1992), pp. 229-238, and J.J. Davilla and A.M. Soltan, French Aircraft of the First World War (Boulder, CA: Flying Machines Press), pp. 215-6, although the latter does include it in that plane's performance table.
- Shavrov, History of Aircraft Construction (online excerpt), L. Andersson, Soviet Aircraft and Aviation 1917-1941 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1994), p. 123, J.J. Davilla and A.M. Soltan, French Aircraft of the First World War (Mountain View, CA: Flying Machines Press, 1997) (online reference); all of whom give a speed of 136 km/h among slightly varying figures that all appear to relate to the Dux Factory production; the 140 km/h version is cited by online sources while 155 km/h is quoted by J. Liron, Les Avions Farman, Docavia 21 (Clichy: Editions Lariviere, 1984), (online reference); Shavrov also mentions a range of motors from 130hp to 175hp, the largest of which would probably produce a top speed above 140 km/h.).
- For the test, see here; for the date of Anatra DS production, see here.
- Yu. Kislyakov and V. Babich, "History of Air-to-Air Combat Reviewed", originally published in Aviatsiya i kosmonavtika, 1986, transl. in: USSR Report: Military Affairs Aviation and Cosmonautics No 1, January 1986 (US Foreign Broadcast Information Service). pp. 34-52 at p. 51 (PDF).
- The identification of the M.16 as a Farman 30 variant is from T. Heinonen, Thulinista Hornetiin – 75 vuotta Suomen ilmavoimien lentokoneita (Tikkakoski: Central Finland Aviation Museum, 1992), p. 38. The direct debt is not mentioned in the descriptions excerpted here.
- Some online sources mention 50 planes built by the designers, presumably also for export.
- Shavrov, History of Aircraft Construction, pp. 145-6 (online excerpt for the HF.15; citations in English: MF.11, HF.13).
- Contrast Kislyakov and V. Babich, "History of Air-to-Air Combat Reviewed", p. 51 and Shavrov, History of Aircraft Construction, (online excerpt). One online source states that the type was designed in response to a specific Russian request, but adopted by the Aéronautique Militaire on the Western Front in December 1915 and achieved widespread deployment on the Eastern Front in late 1916.
- H.J. Nowarra and G.R. Duval, Russian Civil and Military Aircraft, 1884-1969 (London: Fountain Press Ltd., 1971), p. 49, indicates that F.30s were built at Lebed and the Shchetinin seaplane factory, both in Petrograd, at Mosca as well as Dux in Moscow, and at Anatra in Odessa; Shchetinin certainly built the M-16 Zimnyak, but while Anatra received a copy of the plans, their actual involvement in construction has been questioned; they had built something approaching 300 planes using older Farman type designs, continuing to construct the F.20 and F.22 designs well after they had become militarily obsolete (online source); Shavrov, History of Aircraft Construction mentions that these were being used as trainers (online excerpts: F.20 F.22). A new factory at Berdyansk began to build the F.30 in 1917 (online source).
- The figure of 400 F.30s at Dux appears to originate with Shavrov, History of Aircraft Construction (online excerpt). The orders for the Lebed XII and Anatra D were reduced from 400 or more to a little over 200 of each (online source; online source)
- Shavrov claims the Voisin V was only produced in limited quantities by Dux (online excerpt), but to this it seems there should be added at the very least a completed order for 100 Voisin-Ivanovs from Anatra (online source); one website gives a figure of 300-350 planes from Dux, plus 160 from other sources (online source) and 150 Voisin-Ivanovs from Anatra (online source).
- Online sources cite around 40 of the F.27 and 20 of the F.40.
- Capt. G.L. Stamper, Jr., USAF, "The Sikorsky S-16 and Russian Aviation During the Great War" (Unpublished MA Thesis, University of Georgia, 1995), pp. 13, 21-22 (online PDF).
- V.P. Kulikov with A.G. Blume, "Chronicle of the Operations of the 1st Corps Air Detachment of the Imperial Russian Air Service, 1914-1917", Over the Front vol.10 no. 1 (1995) pp. 149-161 at p. 149.
- Kislyakov and V. Babich, "History of Air-to-Air Combat Reviewed", p. 51, document a duel where an unarmed F.30 was attacked by a Fokker Eindecker, manoeuvred against the German plane and threatened a ramming attack, and eventually escaped with a forced landing; some sources suggest that the aces Ivan Orlov and Konstantin Vakulovsky won early aerial victories in Farman type planes (online source), but these may have been older F.20 or F.22 versions, and Orlov initially flew as a volunteer in his own MF.7 (V. Kulnikov, Russian Aces of World War 1, Aircraft of the Aces 111 (New York: Osprey Publishing, 2013), "Farman" p. 93). Nonetheless, references to occasional aerial victories by the similar but lower-performance F.22 and F.27 show that the F.30 ought to have been capable of success. During the Russian Civil War, a "White" Lebed XII is said to have crashed while being pursued by an aggressive "Red" F.30 (online source).
- Kulnikov, Russian Aces, p. 48
- Online sources record this dual role in early Soviet squadrons in 1918
- Jerzy B. Cynk, History of the Polish Air Force, 1918-1968 (New York: Osprey, 1972), p. 9.
- The list included the Anatra D, Lebed XII, Voisin-Ivanov and F.27 (online source).
- The Berdyansk factory was still producing planes in 1919 (online source).
- L. Andersson, Soviet Aircraft and Aviation 1917-1941 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1994), p. 123.
- online source
- Online source
- Zdenek Titz and Richard Ward Czechoslovakian Air Force, 1918-1970 (New York: Arco, 1970) (Google Books). Ray Sanger, Nieuport Aircraft of World War One' (Wiltshire: Crowood Press, 2002)', p. 195, mentions another F.30 in the Aviation Detachment of the Hussite Fusiliers from November 1918 to May 1919.
- Heinonen, Thulinista Hornetiin, p. 38
- Andersson, Soviet Aircraft, p. 123.
- Sources are Shavrov, History of Aircraft Construction (online excerpt), Andersson, Soviet Aircraft and Aviation, p. 123, Davilla and Soltan, French Aircraft of the First World War (online reference) and Liron, Les Avions Farman (online reference). Shavrov gives a wing area of 50m², while Liron cites a longer fuselage of 10.66, but a lighter weight of 700 kg empty and 1050 kg loaded, and a correspondingly faster top speed of 155 km/h. There is no consensus over the plane's range, with Davilla claimiing 450 km, Shavrov 510 km, and Andersson 540 km.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Farman.|
- Description at Airwar.ru (in Russian)
- Brief summary and photographs at War Is Over (in Russian and English)
- Description and excerpts from standard aviation histories at Their Flying Machines (in Russian)