The Bristol F.2 Fighter is a British First World War two-seat biplane fighter and reconnaissance aircraft developed by Frank Barnwell at the Bristol Aeroplane Company.
It is often simply called the Bristol Fighter, “Brisfit” or “Biff”.
Although the type was intended initially as a replacement for the pre-war Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2c reconnaissance aircraft, the new Rolls-Royce Falcon V12 engine gave it the performance of a fighter.
Despite a disastrous start to its career, the definitive F.2B version proved to be a manoeuvrable aircraft that was able to hold its own against single-seat fighters while its robust design ensured that it remained in military service into the early 1930s.
In July 1916, work commenced on the construction of a pair of prototypes; on 28 August 1916, an initial contract was awarded for fifty production aircraft.
On 9 September 1916, the first prototype performed its maiden flight, powered by a Falcon I engine.
It was fitted with B.E.2d wings (Bristol were major contractors for the type) to save time; its lower wings were attached to an open wing-anchorage frame and had endplates at the wing roots.
On 25 October 1916, the second prototype was completed, powered by a Hispano-Suiza engine and differing from the first prototype in its tailskid, which was integrated into the base of the rudder.
It was found that the prototype’s radiator arrangement obscured the pilot’s field of view and the nose was redesigned around a new circular-shaped frontal radiator in the cowling.
Other changes made to the first prototype during flight testing included the elimination of the endplates from the lower wing roots and the addition of a shallow coaming around the cockpits.
Between 16 and 18 October 1916, the type underwent its official trials at the Central Flying School, Upavon, during which it was tested with a four-bladed 9 ft 2 in propeller and a two-bladed 9 ft 8 in propeller.
By the time of its arrival at the experimental armament station at Orfordness it had also been fitted with a Scarff ring mounting over the rear cockpit and an Aldis optical sight.
Only 52 F.2A aircraft were manufactured before production began of the definitive model, the F.2B (retrospectively named Bristol Type 14), which first flew on 25 October 1916.
The first 150 or so F.2Bs were powered by either the Falcon I or Falcon II engine but the remainder were equipped with the 275 hp (205 kW) Falcon III.
The additional power gave the F.2B a 10 mph (16 km/h) advantage in level speed over the F.2A, while it was three minutes faster in a climb to 10,000 ft (3,000 m).
Following the end of the war, the F.2B Fighter was soon adopted by the RAF as its standard army cooperation machine.
The type continued to operate in army cooperation and light bombing roles in the British Empire, in particular the Middle East and India.
In line with this role, which led to its use in a hot climate, Bristol introduced models of the Fighter equipped with ‘tropical’ radiators and provision for desert equipment.
There had also been considerations made into deploying the Fighter as a carrier-based aircraft, which led to an engineless airframe participating in immersion trials in November 1918 and an aircraft being used in deck landing tests, reportedly on-board HMS Eagle.
It was not until 1932 that the F.2B was withdrawn from RAF service, the last “Brisfit” unit being 20 Squadron stationed in India.
The type lasted a further three years in New Zealand.
Surplus aircraft were allocated to ADC Aircraft, a British company established to act as a seller for wartime aircraft, which passed on large quantities of Fighters to other nations, normally to military operators.
Bristol also continued to manufacture and refurbish the type for some time.
During the 1920s Bristol proceeded to develop and introduce numerous variants and derivatives of the Fighter, typically capable of carrying higher loads, revised tail units and strengthened undercarriages.
The F.2B Fighter was adopted by the New Zealand Permanent Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), as well as by the air forces of Belgium, Canada, Ireland, Greece, Mexico, Norway, Peru, Spain and Sweden.
Belgium purchased several from ADC Aircraft, and later arranged to produce the Fighter under licence at Sociétés Anonyme Belge de Constructions Aéronautiques (SABCA).
In 1920 Poland bought 106 Bristol Fighters (104 with Hispano-Suiza 300 hp/220 kW engines, two with Falcon IIIs) (other sources claim 107).
Thus, it became the second largest user of this type.
It was also one of the most numerous Polish aircraft at that time.
Forty Fighters were used during the Polish-Soviet War from July 1920, among others in the Battle of Warsaw, performing reconnaissance and close air support.
The rest of the order became operational only after the end of hostilities.
During the war, a pair were shot down by ground fire, while another was captured by the Soviets and several more were lost in crashes.
Survivors of the conflict continued in Polish service in the reconnaissance and training roles until 1932.
25 ft 10 in (7.87 m)
39 ft 3 in (11.96 m)
9 ft 9 in (2.97 m)
405 sq ft (37.6 m2)
2,145 lb (973 kg)
Max take-off weight
3,243 lb (1,471 kg)
1 × Rolls-Royce Falcon III,
V-12 liquid-cooled piston engine,
275 hp (205 kW)
2-bladed fixed-pitch propeller
123 mph (198 km/h, 107 kn)
369 mi (594 km, 321 nmi)
18,000 ft (5,500 m)
Rate of climb
889 ft/min (4.52 m/s)
1 × .303 in (7.7 mm) forward-firing Vickers machine gun in the upper fuselage