A Brief History
On October 23, 1911, during the Italo-Turkish War, history saw the first use of airplanes for warfare purposes when an Italian airplane flew over Turkish positions as the first aerial reconnaissance mission by an airplane in history. Only 9 days later, on November 1, 1911, an Italian airplane dropped a bomb on Turkish troops, the first aerial bombardment in history. During this same conflict Italian pilots fired the first shots in anger from these planes, but only from pistols. All three of these milestones occurred in what is now Libya.
The aircraft involved was an Etrich Taube (“Dove”) single engine monoplane. Designed and built by Ignaz “Igo” Etrich, the Taube was first flown in 1910 and had become the common European military all purpose aircraft of the pre-World War I era, flown by several European countries and made in various locations. Etrich was born in Bohemia, then part of the Austrian Empire in 1879, and considered his nationality Austrian.
The Taube had nearly translucent wings, making it difficult to see from the ground when it was above 1200 feet or so, and its stable flight made for a good observation platform. Generally a one seat airplane, the Taube was manufactured by various companies in various countries and was modified in some (notably by Rumpler) to carry 2 people. Capable of an altitude of only 2000 meters and a speed of merely 62 mph, the Taube had no fixed armament. Should one desire to shoot from the plane, it would be with handheld pistols or rifles, and bombs were handheld devices as well. The engine driving the single propeller had an anemic 86 horsepower (which is 1 more than my 1985 Ford Mustang 4 cylinder!) The layout had the propeller in front of the front mounted engine, what in those days they called “tractor” type airplanes. Range was only 87 miles.
From this humble beginning World War I saw incredibly fast improvement and refinement of warplanes, with speeds doubling and special purpose planes built for reconnaissance, bombing, and shooting each other down. Machine guns were fixed onto the planes as were bomb racks, and multi-engine planes appeared. Of course during World War II warplane development continued at a feverish pace, resulting in the first jet and rocket powered airplanes to see combat, and the first nuclear bomb dropping aircraft. Today we may take warplanes for granted, but to illustrate just how recent this all is, I personally knew people that were born well before the Wright Brothers first flew an airplane! (My Grandparents and Great aunts and uncles.)
Question for students (and subscribers): Have you ever flown in a warplane? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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[ [ [ German Military Reconnaissance Aircraft 1910-1919: Etrich Taube, Dfw C.V, Albatros B.II, Rumpler C.VII, Rumpler D.I, Sablatnig SF-5, Lvg C.VI[ GERMAN MILITARY RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT 1910-1919: ETRICH TAUBE, DFW C.V, ALBATROS B.II, RUMPLER C.VII, RUMPLER D.I, SABLATNIG SF-5, LVG C.VI ] By Books, LLC ( Author )Sep-15-2010 Paperback. Books, LLC, 2011.