Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.12 Airplane Videos and Airplane Pictures

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Warbird Picture - An early production B.E.12

Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.12 Aircraft Information

Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.12


Warbird Picture - An early production B.E.12

Picture - An early production B.E.12

Role: General purpose aircraft/Fighter
Manufacturer: Royal Aircraft Factory, Various
First flight: 28 July 1915
Introduced: 1st August 1916
Primary user: Royal Flying Corps
Number built: 601

The Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.12 was a British single-seat aeroplane of The First World War designed at the Royal Aircraft Factory .


The B.E.12 was essentially a B.E.2c with the front (observer’s) cockpit replaced by a large fuel tank, and the 90 hp RAF 1 engine of the standard B.E.2c replaced by the new 150 hp RAF 4. Aviation historians once considered the type a failed attempt to create a fighter aircraft based on the B.E.2 - that was improvised and rushed into service to meet the Fokker threat. Many writers perpetuate this view or something like it. J.M. Bruce, in Warplanes of the First World War (MacDonald, 1968 ISBN 035601473 8) has pointed out that this is simplistic at best and doesn't fit historically.

The prototype (a modified B.E.2c airframe fitted with the more powerful 150 hp (112 kW) RAF 4a air-cooled V12 engine) was already in the process of conversion in June 1915, while the Fokker scourge cannot be said to have started before the first victory by a Fokker E.I on the 1st of August, when Max Immelmann shot down a British aircraft that was bombing Douai aerodrome. At the time the B.E.12 was conceived the necessity for an aeroplane to defend itself was by no means as clear as it became later. Certainly the new type cannot have been produced specifically as an “answer” to the Fokker.

In mid-1915 there was no way for a British single seat tractor aircraft to carry a forward firing armament as the Vickers-Challenger “interrupter” gear did not exist until December and was not available in numbers until the following March. The latest Royal Aircraft Factory single seat fighter of the time, the F.E.8, was a nimble little pusher.

Nor was the type "rushed" into service as would have been relatively easy as it was a straight forward conversion of a type in production. Trials with the B.E.12 prototype continued through late 1915 and seem to have been mainly concerned with the development of the new RAF 4 engine, especially the design of a satisfactory air scoop. Cooling of the rear cylinders of the RAF 4, an air-cooled V12 and later the engine of the R.E.8, was always rather dubious. The type was also tested as a bomber. It was May 1916 (when the "Fokker scourge", as a period of German air superiority was over) that it was decided to fit a synchronised Vickers gun to the type, armament trials had already been undertaken with upward firing Lewis guns, similar to those used by the night fighter version of the B.E.2c.

The B.E.12a variant flew for the first time in February 1916 and had the modified wings of the B.E.2e. It was rather more manoeuvrable than the B.E.12 but was otherwise little improved.

The B.E.12b used the B.E.2c airframe but had the 200 hp Hispano-Suiza engine. It was intended as a night fighter and carried wing mounted Lewis guns in place of the synchronised Vickers. Apparently it had a good performance but the engine was more urgently needed for the S.E.5a and very few B.E.12b fighters went into service with home defence squadrons. Some of those built may never have received engines.

Operational Service

Picture - Downed B.E.12 in the Balkans 1917

The first B.E.12 squadron, No. 19 did not reach France until the 1st of August 1916. It was followed by the only other squadron to fly the type in France, No. 21, on the 25th. As might have been expected, the new type had all the inherent stability of the B.E.2c and was quite useless as a fighter, especially in the face of the new German Halberstadt and Albatros fighters coming into service. It continued to be employed as a bomber but since an effective defensive gun could not be mounted it was too vulnerable and was finally withdrawn from all front line duties in France in March 1917. By the time the B.E.12a became available in numbers the B.E.12 had already proved to be unsatisfactory and this variant was never used operationally in France.

Several Home defence squadrons flew B.E.12s, along with examples of the B.E.12a and B.E.12b variants. Its stability and range were obvious advantages in an aircraft that had to fly at night but its rate of climb was inadequate when called on to intercept aeroplane raiders. The Zeppelin L.48 was shot down by a Home Defence B.E.12 on 17 June 1917 but otherwise there are few recorded successes of the type in this role.

In the Middle East theatre and in Macedonia, the B.E.12 and B.E.12a proved more useful - although typically as long range reconnaissance aircraft rather than as fighters. An exception to this rule was the machine of Captain G.W. Murlis-Green of No. 17 Squadron who shot down several enemy aircraft, probably the only B.E.12 ace!

The B.E.12b served only with Home Defence squadrons - deliveries began in late 1917.


B.E.12 - Initial production version powered by a RAF 4a engine - basically a B.E.2c conversion (250 built by Daimler, 50 built by Standard Motors)
B.E.12a - With the wings and tail unit of the B.E.2e (50 built by Daimler, 50 built by Coventry Ordnance Works)
B.E.12b - Re-engined version powered by a 200 hp (149 Kw) Hispano-Suiza engine (200 built by Daimler)


United Kingdom

Royal Flying Corps
No. 10 Squadron RFC
No. 14 Squadron RFC
No. 17 Squadron RFC
No. 19 Squadron RFC
No. 21 Squadron RFC
No. 36 Squadron RFC
No. 37 Squadron RFC
No. 39 Squadron RFC
No. 47 Squadron RFC
No. 48 Squadron RFC
No. 50 Squadron RFC
No. 51 Squadron RFC
No. 66 Squadron RFC
No. 75 Squadron RFC
No. 76 Squadron RFC
No. 77 Squadron RFC
No. 78 Squadron RFC
No. 89 Squadron RFC
No. 101 Squadron RFC
No. 112 Squadron RFC
No. 141 Squadron RFC
No. 142 Squadron RFC
No. 144 Squadron RFC
No. 150 Squadron RFC


Australian Flying Corps
No. 1 Squadron AFC in Palestine.

Specifications (B.E.12)

Data from War Planes of the First World War:Volume Two Fighters

General characteristics

Crew: One
Length: 27 ft 3 in (8.31 m)
Wingspan: 37 ft 0 in (11.28 m)
Height: 11 ft 1 in (3.39 m)
Wing area: 371 ft (34.47 m)
Empty weight: 1,635 lb (743 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 2,352 lb (1,069 kg)
Powerplant: 1x RAF-4a air-cooled V12 engine, 150 hp (112 kW)


Maximum speed: 102 mph (89 knots, 164 km/h) at sea level
Service ceiling: 12,500 ft (3,810 m)
Endurance: 3 hours
Climb to 5,000 ft (1,500 m): 11 minutes


Guns: 1x .303 in (7.7 mm) synchronised Vickers machine gun - some aircraft carried various arrangements of rearward firing Lewis guns.
Bombs: up to 336 lb (150 kg) bombs

Related development


Bruce, J.M. (1968). War Planes of the First World War:Volume Two Fighters. London: Macdonald. ISBN 0 356 01473 8.
Bruce, J.M. (1982). The Aeroplanes of the Royal Flying Corps (Military Wing). London: Putnam. ISBN 0 370 30084 x.
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft (Part Work 1982-1985). Orbis Publishing.

Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.12 Pictures

Living Warbirds: The best warbirds DVD series.

Source: WikiPedia

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