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Royal Aircraft Factory N.E.1

The Royal Aircraft Factory N.E.1 was a prototype British Night fighter of the First World War.

A single engine pusher biplane, it was a development of the Royal Aircraft Factory’s earlier F.E.9 fighter, but was not successful, only six being built.

In 1917, the British Royal Aircraft Factory started design of a night fighter development of its F.E.9, the F.E.12.

This used the tail booms, undercarriage and wing centre sections of the F.E.9, combining them with new, three bay outer wings and a larger tail-plane.

It was to be armed with a shell firing gun and equipped with two searchlights.

The design was revised to produce the N.E.1, with revised wings, new tail booms and a new wide track undercarriage.

The first prototype N.E.1 flew on 8 September 1917.

It was fitted with a single searchlight in the nose, and with the pilot and gunner sat in tandem, with the pilot seated in front to give a good view.

The gunner was to be armed with a 1.59-inch (40-mm) Breech-Loading Vickers Q.F. Gun, Mk II, widely known as the Vickers-Crayford rocket gun, ”although it had no rocket launching capability” or a 11⁄2 lb COW gun and a radio was fitted.

It was powered by a 200 hp (149 kW) Hispano-Suiza 8 engine in a pusher configuration driving a four-bladed propeller.

Its three-bay equal span wings were fitted with ailerons on both upper and lower wings, while the elevators had large horn balances (the amount of control surface forward of the hinge).

The first prototype crashed on 14 September 1917, and was rebuilt with a new nacelle with the searchlight removed, the gunner which was armed with a 1.59-inch (40-mm) Breech-Loading Vickers Q.F. Gun, Mk II was moved ahead of the pilot.

A fixed Lewis gun was mounted externally on the starboard side of the fuselage, to be operated by the pilot.

It flew in this form on 4 October 1917.

Although testing indicated that the N.E.1 was easy to fly and land, and had excellent field of fire for the gunner, the official test report noted “It is doubtful if the performance of this machine is good enough to make it suitable as a night fighter”.

Despite this, all six prototypes were completed, with the second prototype being sent to No. 78 Squadron, while several of the other aircraft were used for trials.





28 ft 6 in (8.69 m)


47 ft 10 in (14.58 m)


9 ft 8 in (2.95 m)

Wing area

555.1 sq ft (51.57 m2)

Empty weight

2,071 lb (939 kg)

Gross weight

2,946 lb (1,336 kg)

Fuel capacity

40 imp gal (48 US gal; 180 L)


1 × Hispano-Suiza 8, water cooled V8 engine,

200 hp (150 kW)


Maximum speed

95 mph (153 km/h, 83 kn) at 10,000 ft (3,000 m)


2 hr 45 min

Service ceiling

17,500 ft (5,300 m)

Time to altitude

9 min to 5,000 ft (1,500 m)

22 min to 10,000 ft (3,000 m)

81 min 25 s to 18,000 ft (5,500 m)



1× 1.59-inch (40 mm) Breech-Loading Vickers Q.F. Gun, Mk II


1× .303 in Lewis gun

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