Thursday, December 8, 2016

History for Gamers: Battlefield 1's Bristol F.2B Fighter

After briefly examining Battlefield 1’s choices for bombers in the previous installment, today we turn our eye to the star of one of the single-player War Stories, and the Allied Powers primary Ground Attack aircraft, the Bristol F.2B Fighter, or “Brisfit.”

Photo credit: Canada Air and Space Museum

First flown in September 1916, as the F.2A type powered by a 190hp engine, only 52 such models were produced before the definitive F.2B, powered by a 275hp engine, came into production. Standard two-seater doctrine of the time held that aircraft should fly in a tight formation, allowing the rear gunners to do overlap fire and do the bulk of the work, while the pilot’s fixed forward-facing gun was for defensive use only. With these tactics, the first sortie of the Brisfits proved disastrous, with four out of six shot down.

Pilots soon learned that unlike its predecessors, the Fighter was sturdily build and capable of being flung about in much the same way as its single-seat brethren. Fighter squadrons then went on the offensive, attacking enemy aircraft like smaller fighters, but with a rear gunner protecting the vulnerable rear and hanging on for dear life during violent maneuvers. Armed with small bombs, the Fighter also found a second life as a ground-attack aircraft when it was superseded by newer fighters in the air-to-air role.

There are a couple of armament issues with the aircraft’s portrayal in Battlefield 1. Although the hero aircraft in the Friends in High Places carries a pair of machine-guns mounted on the upper wing, the vast majority of F.2Bs carried only a single forward-firing machine-gun, which was mounted in the engine cowling and fired through the propeller. The upper-wing Lewis mount tended to interfere with the pilot’s compass – a Bad Thing in an era where that was frequently a pilot’s sole navigational aid.

Also, while rockets were used in anti-Zeppelin roles, they were generally ineffective, and by 1917 had largely been replaced by the use of incendiary rounds loaded in the machine-guns. Multiplayer at least allows you to use the Brisfit in its intended roles, carrying bombs for ground attack and utilizing the guns to bring death to air and ground targets. The rear-gunner’s single Lewis gun is at least accurate, although many later F.2Bs would carry two guns back there.

The Brisfit would continue to soldier on in the observation and light attack roles for fourteen years after the end of the war, with the final examples retiring in 1932. Today three remain flying, in England with the The Shuttleworth Collection, another in Canada with the Canada Air and Space Museum, and a third in New Zealand as part of Peter Jackson’s private collection.

Check out the video below for a view of The Shuttleworth Collection's F.2B in action.

 Info sourced from Wikipedia, and a much loved personal copy of Great Fighting Planes (Amazon affiliate link)

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