Great Britain (1916)
Fighter Plane – 147 Built
The Sopwith Triplane was a creation of Britain’s Sopwith Aviation Company around 1916. Its three stacked wings gave it good maneuverability and stability in flight relative to other planes of the day. The aircraft had the nicknames Tripehound, Trihound, Triplehound, or Tripe and it was popular among pilots. The Triplane first saw service with Royal Navy Air Squadron No.1 in late 1916. Many orders were placed by the RNAS as well as the Royal Flying Corps. Some aircraft were also acquired by the French Navy. One each was sent to Greece and Russia for evaluation. Only two original examples of the Tripe exist today.
The most noticeable aspect of the Triplane is its three wing design, which was one of the first of its kind. In the interest of pilot field of view Chief Engineer Herbert Smith decided to use a narrow chord design, meaning the wings were short as measured from leading edge to trailing edge. Because of the lift lost when narrowing the chord, the third wing was added to the design. All three wings have functional ailerons and the tailplane is a variable incidence type which means it can be trimmed enough for the pilot to fly hands-off. In early 1917 a smaller tailplane was introduced improving maneuverability. The Triplane was fitted with a single Vickers gun.
WIth the Tripehound’s entry into active service late in 1916, it quickly proved popular among pilots with its relatively superior maneuverability and speed. The first adversaries the Tripehound went up against were German Albatros D-IIIs which it greatly outclassed in climbing and turning ability, as well as being 15 mph faster. Every engagement with the enemy demonstrated the Triplanes’ superior power.
The Triplane was powered first by a Clerget 9B, 9 cylinder rotary engine developing 110 HP (82 kW). This powerplant was built in both France and Great Britain by numerous manufacturers. Later, 130 HP 9B engines were fitted, further enhancing the Triplane’s dominance, although the engine was tuned perhaps too aggressively as it was prone to overheating.
Sopwith Triplane Specifications
|Wingspan||8.07 m / 26 ft 6 in|
|Length||5.73 m / 18 ft 10 in|
|Height||3.20 m / 10 ft 6 in|
|Wing Area||11 m² / 118.4 ft²|
|Engine||1 air-cooled Clerget 9B 110 HP or 130 HP|
|Maximum Take-Off Weight||698 Kg / 1,541 lb|
|Empty Weight||499 kg / 1,101 lb|
|Maximum Speed||188 km/h / 117 mph|
|Range||2 hours and 45 minutes|
|Maximum Service Ceiling||6,248 m / 20,000 ft|
|Armament||1 synchronized 7.7mm Vickers machine gun|
Simulated Dogfight in a Triplane
1 Franks, N. (2004). Sopwith Triplane aces of World War 1. Oxford: Osprey., Images:Sopwith Triplane Flying at Duxford 2012 by Airwolfhound / CC BY-SA 2.0 , Clerget 9B Engine Head by Andy Dingley / CC BY-SA 3.0