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Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8

The Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8 was a British two seat general purpose biplane of the First World War.

The type served alongside the better known R.E.8 until the end of the war, at which point 694 F.K.8s remained on RAF charge.

The aircraft, originally designated the F.K.7, was designed by Dutch aircraft designer Frederick Koolhoven as a replacement for the Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2c and the Armstrong Whitworth F.K.3.

It was a sturdier aircraft than the F.K.3, with a larger fuselage and wings, and was powered by a 160 hp (110 kW) Beardmore water cooled engine.

The undercarriage used oleo shock absorbers and the observer was equipped with a Scarff ring mounting for a .303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis machine gun.

No armament was initially provided for the pilot.

The rudder featured a long, pointed horn balance.

The type was fitted with basic dual controls for the observer to control the aircraft if the pilot became incapacitated.

The first example, A411, flew in May 1916 and was delivered to the Royal Flying Corps Central Flying School at Upavon on 16 June.

Because its rival, the Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8 was an unknown quantity, it was decided that fifty of the Armstrong Whitworth design, renamed the F.K.8., would be ordered for the RFC.

The production aircraft were identical in most respects to A411, with the addition of a forward-firing .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine gun to port of and slightly behind the engine.

The Armstrong Whitworth gun synchronizing mechanism was incomplete at the time the first example A2636 arrived in France and some early production F.K.8s may have used the Arsiad interrupter gear instead.

The Armstrong Whitworth mechanism proved unreliable and was later replaced by the Constantinescu gear.

From the fifth production aircraft, the rudder balance was shortened and the shape of the fin was modified.

The type had several teething troubles, the oleo undercarriage was unable to withstand rough use on the front line airfields, tail skids frequently broke and the original radiators blocked up quickly.

Following instructions issued on 30 April 1917, some F.K.8s were refitted with simplified V-undercarriages from Bristol F.2 Fighters.

This soon led to a temporary shortage of these undercarriages and the practice had to be discontinued until May 1918, after which several F.K.8s were fitted with revised undercarriages.

Most production F.K.8s had modifications to the wings, gunner’s seat and the exhaust system.

The tall inverted V radiators incorporated improved tubes which reduced the blockages.

On later aircraft the nose cowling was redesigned and smaller box radiators were standardized.

In service the F.K.8 proved to be effective and dependable, being used for reconnaissance, artillery spotting, ground-attack, contact patrol and day and night bombing.

It was reputedly easier to fly than the R.E.8 and was sturdier but its performance was even more pedestrian and it shared the inherent stability of the Royal Aircraft Factory types.

While the pilot and observer were placed reasonably close together, communication between the two lacked the “tap on the shoulder” intimacy of the Bristol Fighter.

A total of 1,650 of the standard F.K.8 were built.





31 ft 5 in (9.58 m)


43 ft 6 in (13.26 m)


10 ft 11 in (3.33 m)

Wing area

540 sq ft (50 m2)

Empty weight

1,916 lb (869 kg)

Gross weight

2,811 lb (1,275 kg)

Fuel capacity

50 imp gal (60 US gal; 230 L)


1 × Beardmore 160 hp water cooled six cylinder inline engine


Maximum speed

95 mph (153 km/h, 83 kn) at sea level


3 hr

Service ceiling

13,000 ft (4,000 m)

Time to altitude

15.4 min to 6,500 ft (2,000 m)



1 × fixed forward firing .303 in Vickers machine gun


1 × flexibly mounted .303 in Lewis gun


Up to 260 lb (118 kg) bombs.


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