PACKARD LE PERE LUSAC-11
French Design, American Manufacturing
The LUSAC 11 was ordered to a staggering 3 525 orders, but the war bring cancellation and only 28 out.
When the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) landed in France in 1917 to relieve allied exhausted troops facing the onslaught of Eastern-front German reinforcements, the air force component did not even existed. When it was created, it had to make due with French Planes. The Signal Corps by then only counted 55 aircraft unfit for combat. But of course, there were plans to produce French designs (since French manufacturing industry was already overcapacity) in the United States. Therefore a French Aeronautical Mission was sent to the United States, tasked by the Engineering Division of the United States Army Air Service to design various designs. One of these was a two-seat escort fighter. Georges Lepère, a member of this Mission soon drawn a prototype. The latter was a captain and military engineer, already responsible of collaborative work for other French manufacturers like Breguet.
He designed two-bay biplane with equal span upper and lower wing and forward stagger, wood and fabric, the fuselage consisting in a wooden box girder covered by plywood, and powered by a 425 hp (317 kW) Liberty L-12 engine. It was cooled by a radiator mounted into the upper wing. Its armament consisting in a pair of cal.30 (7.62 mm) standard browning machine guns, synchronized on the engine hood, and pair of Lewis guns mounted on a Scarff ring around the observer's cockpit, quite a deadly combination worthy of a relatively heavy fighter. But as heavy it was, the sturdiness of its construction allowed the engine to give its full potential and the LUSAC 11 (For "LePere United States Army Combat 11") was very fast indeed.
In reality the LUSAC-11 was the perfect example of a fast and powerful "jack of all trades", able to perform fighting missions as well as light bombing and reconnaissance. Packard Motor Car Co. of Detroit, Michigan provided the working space facilities, and additional engineers to the French team. The first of three prototypes flew in April 1918. Two other followed, making numerous demonstrations received generally favorable reviews from test pilots at Wilbur Wright Field, Ohio. So much so, that without delaying much, the Bureau of Aircraft Production launched a massive order to Packard of 3525 planes. But the tooling and setting up of the production just ended, and in November 1918 only 28 planes has been delivered in total (some sources are telling 30, perhaps taking in account the prototypes). Not only none was sent in Europe and saw combat, but they served well in the Air Service for years. Specially modified LUSAC 11 even made headlines by setting a number of altitude records at Wright Field in the early 1920s. They were modified to reach 39,700 ft. with a turbo-supercharger. Photo on the right: LUSAC 11 in flight, 1920, record-setter over McCook Field. >>
There were no LUSAC 11 in exhibition in the US as the only preserved LUSAC 11 went to France just before the end of the war. But in 1989 the Musee de l'Air in Paris, France sold it to the USAF National Museum, in quite bas state as it was part of the reserves. After extensive restoration by the museum it went on display in 1992, marked as the one used by Allied test facility in Orly, France, late 1918.
Length: 25 ft. 3 in, Span: 41 ft. 7 in, Height: 10 ft. 7 in.
3,746 lbs. loaded
Liberty 12, 400 hp,
Top speed 136 mph, 118 mph cruising, Range: 320 miles, Ceiling: 20,200 ft.
Two .30-cal. Marlin and two .30-cal. Lewis machine guns
On Wings of History
Packard-Lepere in focus
on military factory