Nieuport 17

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Nieuport 17
Nieuport 23 C.1 (colour).jpg
Role Fighter
Manufacturer Nieuport
First flight January 1916
Introduction March 1916
Status retired
Primary users Aéronautique Militaire
Imperial Russian Air Service
Royal Flying Corps
Developed from Nieuport 16

The Nieuport 17 C.1 was a World War I French sesquiplane[notes 1] fighter designed by the Nieuport company. Its outstanding maneuverability and excellent rate of climb gave it a significant advantage when it entered service over all other fighters on both sides[1] and as a result was widely used and enjoyed substantial production runs in France, Italy (Nieuport-Macchi) and Russia (Dux), eventually being used by every Allied power, and even being copied in Germany.

Design and development[edit]

Alkan-Hamy gear in Nieuport 17

The Nieuport 17 was a slightly larger development of the earlier Nieuport 16, with the same engine but larger wings and improved aerodynamic form.[2] It was at first fitted with a 110 hp (82 kW) Le Rhône 9J engine, though later versions were upgraded to 120 or 130 hp (97 kW) engines.[2]

Production of the new Alkan-Hamy synchronization gear permitted the wing mounted Lewis gun of the "11" to be supplemented with a synchronised Vickers gun mounted on the fuselage to fire through the propeller.[2] The standard Royal Flying Corps synchroniser, the Vickers-Challenger gear, was unreliable, and in British service the Vickers was usually omitted, being armed instead with a Lewis on a Foster mounting, a curved metal rail which allowed the pilot to slide the gun back to change drums or clear jams. Some aircraft, particularly French, were fitted with both guns but a single machine gun was most common.

Russian Nieuport 21 equipped with non-standard Hotchkiss M1909 machine gun

The Nieuport 21 differed in primarily using the lower powered 80 hp Le Rhine 9C and was intended as a fighter trainer or high altitude bomber escort,[3] however it was used alongside the Nieuport 17 in the normal fighter roles in French and Russian service.[3]

Nieuport 17 triplane undergoing evaluation

The Nieuport 23 differed from the 17 in only minor details, primarily centered around the use of a different machine gun synchronizer — possibly similar or identical to what was to be used on the later Nieuport 28 — which caused the gun to be offset and the fuel and oil tanks to be rearranged. Rear spar packing pieces were also redesigned.[4] In service use, they were operated by both French and British squadrons alongside Nieuport 17s[4] until replaced by Nieuport 24s.

Two triplanes based on the Nieuport 17 were built, one for testing by the French and the other by the British. The narrow chord wings were staggered in an unusual manner, with the middle wing furthest forward and the top wing furthest aft.[5] No orders resulted, although Nieuport trialed the same layout on a Nieuport 17bis which was tested by the British as well, with no more success.[5] Both types had good climbing characteristics but were tail heavy.[6]

The high aspect ratio[notes 2] lower wing which made the Nieuport 17 a sesquiplane (literally "one-and-a-half wings"), and which helped give it an impressive climb rate, was unable to sustain very high speeds without encountering flutter, which was encountered occasionally during sustained power on dives and some aircraft lost their lower wings as a result. It was misunderstood at the time, and also caused of the loss of several monoplanes — a problem that existed back to the pioneer-era pre-war Bleriot XI and other monoplane designs from before the war — which led to the RFC monoplane ban. British Nieuports were strengthened with modifications at No 2 Aeroplane Supply Depot,[7] while training, and replacing the lower wings with those from Nieuport 24s at French squadrons helped reduce the danger.

Several Berliner Helicopters were built around Nieuport 23 fuselages including the 1922 and 1923 versions.

Operational history[edit]

Nieuport 17 flown by René Dorme while with escadrille N.3 during the battle of the Somme in late 1916.
RFC Nieuport 23 in 1917

The new type reached the French front in March 1916 and quickly replaced the earlier Nieuport 11 and 16 fighters in French service that had been instrumental in ending the Fokker Scourge of 1915. The Nieuport 17 entered service with Escadrille N.57 on May 2, 1916. Almost all of the top French aces used the nimble Nieuport during their career including Georges Guynemer, Charles Nungesser, Maurice Boyau, Armand Pinsard, René Dorme, Gabriel Guerin and Alfred Duellin. The type was also used by American volunteers of the Escadrille Lafayette when they replaced their earlier Nieuport 11s and 16s. During the latter part of 1916 and into 1917 the Nieuport 17 equipped every fighter squadron of the Aéronautique Militaire.[1] Charles Nungesser scored most of his victories while flying Nieuports.

It was also ordered by the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service, as it was markedly superior to all British fighters available during most of its period of front line service. The RFC in particular still had large numbers of obsolete Airco DH.2s in service nearly a year later when it incurred severe losses during Bloody April. While the majority of aircraft lost were obsolete observation aircraft such as the Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2, the Nieuports had begun to lose their decisive advantage and took losses as well. British squadrons that used the type include Nos 1, 29, 32, 40 and 60 of the Royal Flying Corps and No 6 of the Royal Naval Air Service. During the Battle of Arras much use was made of British Nieuports in balloon-busting attacks to prevent enemy artillery spotting. No 40 Squadron experimented with low level hedge-hopping attacks to reach the balloons while Nieuports of No 60 Squadron co-operated with F.E. 2bs of No 11 Squadron to carry out massed strafing attacks on German infantry entrenched on both sides of the River Scarpe.

Lineup of Italian Nieuport 17s, built by Nieuport-Macchi

By mid-1917, the Nieuport was losing its superiority over German types such as the new Albatros D.III. The more powerful, 130 HP (95.6 kW) Clerget 9B nine-cylinder rotary engine, along with aerodynamic refinements such as stringers fairing out the fuselage sides resulted in the Nieuport 17bis which was produced in very small numbers. Further refinement and a switch to more powerful and lighter Le Rhône rotaries resulted in the Nieuport 24 and the 27 which gradually replaced the 17s, 21s and 23s in service while the 150 hp SPAD S.VII had begun replacing the older Nieuport fighters in French front line squadrons by mid-1917. The British retained their Nieuports until early 1918.

Lineup of Nieuport 17 trainers at Issoudun Aerodrome, France

Many British Empire air aces flew Nieuport fighters, including top Canadian ace Billy Bishop, who received a Victoria Cross while flying it, and Albert Ball, V.C. who often hunted alone in his Nieuport. 'Mick' Mannock VC flew Nieuports early in his career with No 40 Squadron. His VC award reflected his whole combat career - including his time on Nieuports.

Italian aces such as Francesco Baracca, Silvio Scaroni and Pier Piccio all achieved victories while flying Nieuport fighters. In Belgium the 1st and 5th Belgian escadrilles were equipped with the Nieuport 17. Belgian aces flying the type included Andre de Meulemeester, Edmond Thieffry and Jan Olieslagers. Imperial Russian forces operated large numbers of Nieuports of all types including the Nieuport 17, 21 and 23, with many continuing in service after the Russian Revolution with the Soviet Union. Russian Nieuport aces include Alexander Kazakov.

Like other Nieuport types, the 17 was used in large numbers as an advanced trainer after its operational days were over. The American Expeditionary Forces purchased 75 Nieuport 17s for training while the French also operated large numbers as trainers.

The French Aviation Maritime used several Nieuport 21s for deck landing training in 1920 pending the delivery of dedicated carrier aircraft such as the Nieuport-Delage NiD.32RH.[8][8]


The Germans requested their own aircraft manufacturers to copy the Nieuport and examples as well as drawings were provided. This resulted in the Siemens-Schuckert D.I which was a close copy apart from some details and actually went into service, although in the event it was not widely used operationally as by then other designs had surpassed it. The Euler D.I was also a copy, although it did not proceed beyond a few prototypes. Rather than make a slavish copy, Albatros Flugzeugwerke adopted the sesquiplane wing structure for the Albatros D.III and D.V which were called 'V-strutters' by the RFC to distinguish them from the earlier Albatros D.II. The German machines were heavier than the Nieuport which aggravated the design flaw that led to the wing failures which a few Nieuports had experienced. Despite extra bracing from the vee strut to the lower wing, the Germans never solved the problem.[notes 3] Pfalz was also inspired by the Nieuport, and developed the Pfalz D.III, a sesquiplane version of a previous biplane fighter, although they built a more substantial lower wing with two spars that avoided Albatros's problems.


15 meter Nieuport
colloquial description of type based on nominal wing area.
Nieuport 17
Single-seat fighter biplane.
Nieuport 17bis
re-engined variant with 130 hp (95.6 kW) Clerget 9B and fuselage stringers.
Nieuport 21
high altitude escort fighter/trainer variant with 80hp Le Rhône rotary, horseshoe cowling and lacking a pilot's headrest.
Nieuport 23
Similar to the 17 but with structural changes that caused the Vickers machine gun to be offset if installed. Only other visible difference was changes in cabane rigging.
Siemens-Schuckert D.I
While differing in details, the D.I was largely a copy of the Nieuport 17.
B.Kh1 (Fighter type 1)
Siamese designation for Nieuport 17 and 21.

Survivors and replicas[edit]

Replica Nieuport 23 flying with Lafayette Escadrille insignia.

A single original example survives, Nieuport 23 "5024" in the Belgian Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History in Brussels, however it is also a popular aircraft for replica builders, with kits being produced, including both 7/8ths scale and full size, and groups of builders have built entire squadrons. Original drawings, both from the factory and a German technical report have facilitated the construction of replicas such as the example on display in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, Ontario, built to original specifications, while others use more modern construction with metal tubes replacing much of the wooden structure.


 Hungarian Soviet Republic
 Kingdom of Italy
Replica Nieuport 17 in Imperial Russian Air Service markings

operated at least five Nieuport 17s[9] and three Nieuport 21s[10]

 Russian Empire
  • Imperial Russian Air Service purchased a large number of Nieuport 17s from France, and built under licence by Dux[15] who also built 68 Nieuport 21s under licence.[4]
    • 1st Fighter detachment[16]
    • 2nd Fighter detachment[16]
    • 3rd Fighter detachment[16]
    • 4th Fighter detachment[16]
    • 5th Fighter detachment[16]
    • 6th Fighter detachment[16]
    • 7th Fighter detachment[16]
    • 8th Fighter detachment[16]
    • 9th Fighter detachment[16]
    • 10th Fighter detachment[16]
    • 11th Fighter detachment[16]
    • 12th Fighter detachment[16]
    • 19th Corps Fighter detachment[17]
 Russia White movement (anti-communist reactionary forces)
Thailand Siam (Thailand)
 Soviet Union
Replica of Billy Bishop's Nieuport 17.
 United Kingdom
 United States

Specifications (Nie 17)[edit]

Nieuport 17 C.1 drawing

Data from Those Classic Nieuports[21]

General characteristics




  • 26 cm camera (some aircraft only)[2]

See also[edit]

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists



  1. ^ a type a biplane in which one pair of wings is markedly smaller than the other.
  2. ^ the ratio between span and chord
  3. ^ The bottom wing spars on both designs were behind the wing's center of lift, which, because of aeroelastic bending at high speeds caused the lower wing to twist, increasing the angle of attack until the wing stalled, at which point it would spring back to its normal position, repeating the cycle until it failed or the aircraft's speed was reduced. The Nieuport's exceptional climb rate meant power on dives were rarely the best choice for re-positioning during a dog fight and so training was adequate to resolve the problem, however that was not so with the Albatros vee strutters, whose heavier weight and lower climb rate meant it was more likely to be put into a high speed power dive.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab Davilla, 1997, p.383
  2. ^ a b c d Davilla, 1997, p.379
  3. ^ a b Davilla, 1997, p.388
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Davilla, 1997, p.390
  5. ^ a b Davilla, 1997, p.370
  6. ^ Sanger, 2002, p.52-54
  7. ^ "Nieuport 17." Canada Aviation and Space Museum. Retrieved: 16 September 2012.
  8. ^ a b Davilla, 1997, pp.388-389
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab Davilla, 1997, p.384
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Davilla, 1997, p.391
  11. ^ Davilla, 1997, p.389
  12. ^ a b c d Davilla, 1997, p.380
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Davilla, 1997, p.381
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Davilla, 1997, p.382
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Davilla, 1997, p.385
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Durkota, 1995, p.9
  17. ^ Durkota, 1995, p.45
  18. ^ Davilla, 1997, p.392
  19. ^ Bruce 1982, p. 333.
  20. ^ a b c d e f g Davilla, 1997, p.386
  21. ^ Bruce 1976, p. 152.
  22. ^ Angelucci 1983, p. 42.


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  • Apostolo, Giorgio (1991). Aermacchi - from Nieuports to AMX. Milan, Italy: Giorgio Apostolo Editore (GAE). 
  • Bruce, J.M. (1976). "Those Classic Nieuports". Air Enthusiast Quarterly (Bromley, UK: Pilot Press) 1 (2): 137–153. 
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  • Čejka, Zdenek (1998). Československé Nieuporty (Czechoslovakian Nieuports). Prague: Historick Sesity. 
  • Cheesman E.F., ed. (1960). 'Fighter Aircraft of the 1914-1918 War. Letchworth, UK: Harleyford Publications. 
  • Cooksley, Peter (1997). Nieuport Fighters In Action. In Action Aircraft Number 167. Carrollton, TX: Squadron/Signal Publications. ISBN 978-0897473774. 
  • Davilla, Dr. James J.; Soltan, Arthur (1997). French Aircraft of the First World War. Mountain View, CA: Flying Machines Press. ISBN 978-1891268090. 
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  • Franks, Norman (2000). Nieuport Aces of World War 1 - Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 33. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-85532-961-1. 
  • Longoni, Maurizio (1976). Nieuport Macchi 11 & 17. Milan: Intergest. 
  • Rosenthal, Léonard; Marchand, Alain; Borget, Michel; Bénichou, Michel (1997). Nieuport 1909-1950 Collection Docavia Volume 38. Clichy Cedex, France: Editions Lariviere. ISBN 978-2848900711. 
  • Sanger, Ray (2002). Nieuport Aircraft of World War One. Wiltshire: Crowood Press. ISBN 978-1861264473. 

External links[edit]