WW1 Planes
An encyclopediae of 1914-18 aircraft types

flag Royal Aircraft Factory

Early History

The Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) was a British research establishment which later came under the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) supervision, and through mergers finally became the Royal Aircraft Factory, main state provider of the Flying Air service, future RAF during the great war. Initially it was based at Farnborough Airfield in Hampshire, and later second RAE Bedford (Bedfordshire) in 1946 was added. In 1988 this became the Royal Aerospace Establishment now part of the new Defence Research Agency from 1991.


From 1904 the Army Balloon Factory (Army School of Ballooning) of Colonel James Templer had been moved from Aldershot to Farnborough. He was replaced by Colonel John Capper which associated with Samuel Franklin Cody's war kites and aeroplanes designs. J. W. Dunne soon also joined in. Their first aeroplane flew in October 1908. In 1909 the Factory came under civilian control, led by Mervyn O'Gorman and in 1912 the institution was renamed the Royal Aircraft Factory (RAF). Famous chief designer became Geoffrey de Havilland. Later on John Kenworthy from the Austin Motor Company joined in 1918 and Henry Folland. Samuel Heron was also part of the team. He would later invent the sodium-filled poppet valve for piston engines. He naturally designed a radial engine that he was not able to build during his time there, which design of the RAF.8, was passed on to Siddeley-Deasy and from there was later developed as the Jaguar engine. Heron would later worked in the US on the Wright Whirlwind. Major F.M. Green, G.S. Wilkinson, James E. "Jimmy" Ellor, Prof. A.H. Gibson, and A.A. Griffith, both of which would also work for Rolls-Royce Limited also joined in. In 1918 the Royal Aircraft Factory became the Royal Aircraft Establishment to avoid confusion with the Royal Air Force and from then on concentrated on research, dropping production.

RAF B.S.1 (1913)

Industrial records

The RAF was famous for producing a large array of plane, about 40 models in all and a lineage of eight engines tailored for aircrafts that would be destined to a great future in the automotive and aeroplane industry. Aircraft Factory designs. Most of the aeroplane designs however were essentially research aircraft. A selected few went into mass production in the war period with the bulk of the production made by private British companies. By far the greatest achievement of the RAF was the SE.5, by number the #1 British aicrafts until 1918, with a production that far surpassed the better known Sopwith Camel. RAF also worked on foreign designs, namely French, up to about 1913, leading to designations such as S.E. (Santos Experimental), B.E. (Blériot Experimental) and F.E. (Farman Experimental) which tested three configurations of airframes and propellers.

RAF B.E.8 (1914), small production trainer

From 1913/4 this denomination was based on the plane function:
  • A.E. = Armed or Armoured Experimental
  • C.E. = Coastal Experimental (e.g. Royal Aircraft Factory C.E.1 – prototype only)
  • F.E. = Fighting experimental (although they remained "Farmans" in the sense of being pushers)
  • N.E. = Night Experimental (e.g. Royal Aircraft Factory N.E.1 – prototype only)
  • R.E. = Reconnaissance experimental (two-seat machines)
  • S.E. = Scout experimental fast single-seat aircraft.
  • R.T./T.E. were also used for strictly one off prototypes.

Aeroplane Designs produced

The first airships and aeroplanes were produced by the Army Balloon Factory, mostly Cody and Dunne designs.
From then on, some designations became confusion, the "F.E.2" referring to three quite distinct types by years from 1911 up to the only famous one of 1914 which was the only one that came into mass production, under three main variants, a, b, and d. While the F.E.2c was not a proper subtype but a one-off conversion of the F.E.2b. The same applied to the B.E.1/B.E.2 and B.E.2c which shared little in common. To add insult to injury, the S.E.4a had nothing in common with the S.E.4. Several designs were "reconstructions" of existing aircraft which add further complication in tracking down the types corresponding to designations.


RE8, twin seat observation plane, 4000 produced until 1918
RE8, twin seat observation plane, 4000 produced until 1918
SE5 by far the most famous RAF plane, built to 5200 and largely distributed among allies
SE5 by far the most famous RAF plane, built to 5200 and largely distributed among allies

Legend: In italic, dirigibles/baloons, starred: prototypes, bold: war production planes (production).
  • British Army Dirigible No 1 Nulli Secundus—1907
  • Nulli Secundus II—1908
  • British Army airship Beta – 1910
  • Dunne D.1 – 1907
  • British Army Aeroplane No 1 (Cody) – 1908*
  • Dunne D.3*
  • Dunne D.4*
  • Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.1—1911*
  • Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.1—1911*
  • Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.1—1911*
  • Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2—1912 (3500)
  • Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.3—1912*
  • Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.4—1912*
  • Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.3—1913*
  • Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.7—1913*
  • Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.2—1913*
  • Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.1—1913*
  • Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.2—1913*
  • Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.8—1913 (70)
  • Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.3—1913 >Avro type D (5)
  • Royal Aircraft Factory H.R.E.2—1913*
  • Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2/F.E.2b—1914 (1939)
  • Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.2—1914*
  • Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.5—1914 (25)
  • Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.4—1914*
  • Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.6—1914*
  • Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.7—1915 (230)
  • Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.12—1915 (601)
  • Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.9—1915*
  • Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.8—1915 (295)
  • Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.4a—1915*
  • SS class airship – 1915
  • Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.4–1916*
  • Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.10–1916*
  • Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.7–1916*
  • Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8/R.E.9–1916 (4077)
  • Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5/S.E.5a-1916-18 (5205)
  • Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.9—1917*
  • Royal Aircraft Factory N.E.1—1917*
  • Royal Aircraft Factory A.E.3—1918*
  • Royal Aircraft Factory C.E.1—1918*
  • Royal Aircraft Factory Ram—1918*