Maurice Farman M.F.11

Between the M.F.7 and M.F.11 there were three interim types. The M.F.8 was a seaplane that retained the forward elevator of the M.F.7. The M.F.9 seaplane had a layout similar to the M.F.8 but was smaller. Both the M.F.8 and 9 were intended for civil use. the M.F.11was a landplane presented at the 1913 Salon. The M.F.8, 9, and 10 were not used by the military services.

The M.F.11 was a refinement of the M.F.7. Built in 1914 (and frequently called the 1914 Farman in contemporary literature), it deleted the forward elevator and elongated landing skids of the M.F.7. It was found that deletion of the drag inducing forward elevator resulted in an increase in speed and improved maneuverability. The biplane horizontal stabilizer was replaced with a single stabilizer. The wing span was increased by 0.65 m with a concomitant increase in wing area by 3.0 sq. m. The length was reduced by 0.50 m as a result of the elimination of the forward elevator and the resulting decrease in the size of the landing skids. The central nacelle was removed from the lower wing and was mounted between the upper and lower wings. Early versions of the M.F.11 were powered by a single 80-hp Renault 8B or De Dion Bouton engine.

The M.F.11s were manufactured as three major sub assemblies. The biplane wings were assembled as individual units. The upper wing was 4.00 m longer than the lower wing, and both were fitted with ailerons. The supporting struts were 1.95 m long and the wings had a chord of 2.30 m. The struts were made of ash. The wing spars were constructed of pine and plywood and covered with Cotton fabric. The extended portions of the top wing were supported by metal struts mounted at an oblique angle. The shape of the wings was maintained by taut piano wire rigging.

The fuselage nacelle was then attached to the completed wings. The nacelle was constructed of wood over a steel tubular support structure and covered by Cotton fabric. The front of the nose was made of aluminum and the forward windscreen of mica. The nacelle was 3.35 m long and 86 cm wide. An 80-hp Renault or De Dion engine was filled at the rear of the nacelle mounted on two longerons that protruded from the base of the fuselage. The nacelle was fitted 45 cm above the lower wing. A fuel tank with a capacity of 140 liters was placed in front of the engine. The pilot was seated in the rear with the observer! gunner in front. Their leather seats were mounted on a raised platform that was used to store the crew’s equipment. A single control stick controlled the ailerons and elevator. Instrumentation consisted of a clock, manometer, and altimeter. There was also a spool on which maps could be stored and then rotated forward to advance the map sheet. The landing gear struts were made of ash. A pair of wheels were all ached to each skid and were supported by bungee cords acting as shock absorbers. The wheels were mainly used to maneuver the plane while it was on the ground, while the skids acted to help cushion the shock of landing and also acted as brakes. Each skid was 3.50 m long.

The tail booms were the third major assembly. The booms were made of pine and tightly rigged with piano wire. The twin rudders had a 55 cm chord. The horizontal stabilizer consisted of a fixed portion 5.50 m in length and 1.00 m in chord. A tail skid was attached to the end of each of the booms. Standard armament was a Colt machine gun and a Winchester carbine. The ability to construct each M.F.11 as three separate sub-assemblies facilitated production and permitted the Farman factory to build the type in large numbers. The SFA closely regulated the production of M.F.11s. Modifications in production during 1915 included a new enamel paint and a change in the fabric. The ailerons were displaced lower by altering the pulleys that controlled their movement. The observer was relocated to the front of the plane while the pilot’s floorboard was placed over the engine mount. All motors were eventually equipped with mufflers during production.

By February 1916 there were approximately 370 Farmans (mostly M.F.11s) in front-line service, and 100 with training and local defense units.

The primary mission of these escadrilles was army cooperation. This usually entailed photo-reconnaissance missions and direction of artillery fire, the latter was accomplished by either signal flags trailed behind the plane or by T. S. F. The early wireless units were difficult to use and it was necessary to construct a universal code to allow the crews to pass along concise instructions. Usually two M.F.11s were used for artillery direction, each plane carrying a T. S. F. unit in case one should fail. Patterns of dashes and dots were used 10 signal necessary corrections. More complicated messages were sent via regular Morse code.

During battle the M.F.11s were able to remain in constant contact between the GQG and the rapidly moving army units. This required the troops to use signal panels or smoke to indicate their positions; unfortunately, the soldiers were often afraid that these signals might reveal their location to the enemy and so would not use them.

The M.F.11s flew daily reconnaissance missions and took numerous photos. The main purpose was to discover enemy activity that might indicate an imminent attack or to locate potential targets for the French artillery. The M.F.11s would also cross the enemy lines at low altitude to draw the fire of enemy batteries and machine guns; once the German positions had been revealed, the information was passed along to French commanders. Unfortunately, the distrust of some artillery commanders often meant that these messages were ignored.

However, these duties formed only a pan of the functions the M.F.11 escadrilles were required to perform. For example, the records of MF 36 show that from I September 1915 through 15 March 1916 it flew 487 reconnaissance sorties, conducted 138 artillery-spotting missions, took 522 photographs, engaged in 97 aerial combats, and flew 32 bombing missions (24 of them at night).

By late 1915 it was obvious that the M.F.11s were vulnerable to enemy fighters, and the commanders of many units demanded better planes. Unfortunately, no suitable design was yet available.

M.F.11 escadrilles flew occasional bombing missions using converted artillery shells or flechettes. The only dedicated bombing units to use to M.F.11 s were MF 25,29, and 123.

MF 25 was formed in 1914 and later became an independent bombing unit. The escadrille was based at Argonne in the 3rd Armce sector. During December 1914 it dropped 888 kg of bombs on various targets in the vicinity of the industrial center of Briey. The next month MF 25 concentrated on attacking enemy balloons and train stations. Early in J915 the unit moved to Argonne in the 2nd Armce sector and then to Sainte Menehould. During May and June train stations were attacked with converted artillery shells ranging in size from 90 to 120 kg. In July 2,174 kg of these weapons were dropped on train stations and German airfields. MF 25 flew its first night attack on the night of 25/26 August when the train stations at Challerange, Cernay, and Chatel were bombed. Similar missions were flown in September, although all but one of the raids were flown during the day. In October MF 25 joined with GBM 5 in attacking targets in the vicinity of Vouziers.

At the beginning of the Battle of Verdun on 21 February 1916, MF 25 was the only bomber unit available on that front. Based at Vadelaincourt, the escadrille bombed tactical targets in the vicinity of the front. The next month the unit concentrated on army cooperation duties while it trained for night operations. At this time the inadequacy of the M.F.11 as a day bomber had become apparent and hence there was a switch to night operations. By the 29th September 1916 only eight Farmans were serviceable, and the escadrille had received enough F.40s to replace the M.F.11s.

MF 29 was the other major independent bombing unit using Farmans. It was based at Belfort on 15 July 1915, equipped with six M.F.11 s. Captain Maurice Happe, who commanded the unit, arranged his bombers in two vics each flying at different altitudes and guarded from above by one or two M.F.11s armed with machine guns.

An attack on the night of 30/31 July, 1915 against Freibourg resulted in one M.F.11 making a force landing. After this incident, the unreliable 80-hp Dion-Bouton engines were removed from the M.F.11s and replaced by superior 80-hp Renault motors. During a night attack on Cernes on 24 August 1915 it was discovered that many of the bombs failed to explode, and this prompted Happe to insist that more effective bombs be developed. Because of his success in attacking enemy targets, the Germans had put a price on Happe’s head of 25,000 marks. Gratified by this response, Happe painted red crosses on his plane and literally taunted the Germans to attack him. A major raid took place on 7 September 1915 when five M.F.11s bombed the Aviatik factory; the strike was so successful that the factory was moved to Leipzig. Other raids during September included attacks on the Lauterbach train station, the Lorrach station, and targets at Rothweil. During the latter mission the bombers were assaulted by a German plane, described as an Aviatik. The tenacious German pilot took advantage of the M.F.11’s pusher configuration by staging his attacks from the rear and underneath the French planes. The pilots desperately tried to bring the M.F.11s into a position where their gunners could fire at the German, but the slow and unwieldly Farmans were no match for the German plane. The result was two pilots dead, two taken prisoner when their plane was forced to crash land, and 60 bullets in Happe’s aircraft. It was now clear that the usefulness of the M.F.11 as a day bomber was rapidly approaching an end.

M.F.11 s with 130-hp engines were now entering service. It was decided that the I 30-hp machines would be used as “fighter” escorts, while the standard 80-hp Farmans would serve as bombers. Later C 61, with Caudron G.4s, was assigned to MF 29; the G.4s were often used to provide escort for the M.F.11 s. Two M.F.11 fighters and six bombers attacked the poison gas factory at Roessler; this time, however, they were escorted by eight Nieuport 11s of N 49. Despite this protection, two of the M.F.11s were attacked and forced down. On 28 November 1915 MF 29 had five different types of Farmans on strength: eight M.F.11s with 80-hp engines used as bombers, three M.F.11 s with 80-hp engines used as trainers, three M.F.11 s with 80-hp engines and an enhanced fuel capacity of 290 liters, four M.F.11s with 130-hp engines used as fighters, and seven M.F.11 s with 80-hp engines and an enlarged wing span of 18.00 m.

New M.F.11s were sent to MF 29 in January 1916. These were 130-hp versions with enlarged fuel tanks which resulted in the planes being labeled “camel backs.” They could carry a payload of 510 kg and could climb to 1,000 m in seven minutes. Later in January MF 29 was attached to GB 4.

One of the most important raids of the war for MF 29 took place on J8 March 1916. A total of 17 M.F.11s, three BM 4s, and three G.4s attacked the Mulhouse station and the Habsheim airfield. German fighters again attacked the nearly defenseless Farmans from behind and at least four M.F.11s were lost in this raid. On 1 April MF 29 moved to Luxeuil along with the rest of GB 4. On that same day MF 29 at last received new planes; unfortunately, these were the only marginally improved F.40s.

MF 123 was the only other dedicated bombing unit to use Farmans. In February 1916 MF 123 was formed from personnel and equipment serving with MF 29. The escadrille was commanded by Lieutenant Mouraud. It was initially based at Alsace, but moved to Malzeville in October 1916. By this time it had re-equipped with F.40s.

The M.F.11s saw limited service as fighters. In addition to flying bomber escort missions, they would fly “barrage patrols,” which meant they would fly along the French lines and attack German aircraft attempting to cross into French airspace. For example, on 26 September 1915 planes of MF 16 attacked three balloons and engaged in three aerial combats. However, by 1916 the M.F.11s themselves required protection by either Nieuport fighters or Caudron GA long-range escort fighters. Most MF escadrilles were eventually re-equipped with F.40s, which, while possessing a more powerful engine, retained the pusher configuration that made them vulnerable to enemy fighters.


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