Flying Guns World War I

This book describes the history of aircraft guns, their ammunition and their installations in aircraft until 1932. It commences with a technical history covering the development of machine guns, their ammunition, and related issues such as mountings and sights. This is followed by a chapters on early aircraft gun installations and the experience in the First World War. A third chapter tells the story of aircraft cannon during this period. The book concludes with a chapter on the post-war period and the lessons that were drawn from the combat experience in WWI. Appendices include comprehensive tables of the gun installations on World War I combat aircraft with details and illustrations of the guns used and specifications of their ammunition.

The authors have tried to create a unique source by combining information from two areas that are rarely discussed together despite the fact that they are inextricably linked: The history of military aviation, and the history of automatic weapons. Anthony Williams is particularly interested in the history of automatic weapons and their ammunition. His research in this field culminated in the writing and publication of his book Rapid Fire. Emmanuel Gustin major interest is in the history of military aviation, with special attention for the history of their armament.


page 5
page 6
page 7
Chapter 1: Technical Developments
pages 9 to 40
Sample Pages: 12 17
Introduction – The Cartridge – Projectile Design – The Gun – Manually-Driven Machine-Guns: Gatlings, Hotchkisses, Gardners and Nordenfelts – Self-Powered Guns – The Maxim Family – Other Recoil-Operated Guns – Gas-Operated Guns – Blowback Guns – The Ammunition Feed – Mountings – Synchronisation Systems – Engine-Driven Guns – Sights
The chapter opens with a brief summary on the technology and the technical terms relating to guns and ammunition. Then the design of projectiles for machineguns during the period is described, followed by a description of the various types of machine gun used by WWI aircraft, which is the bulk of the chapter. Concluding sections describe ammunition feeds, gun mountings, synchronisation of guns, and sights.
Chapter 2: Pre-War Experiments and the First World War
pages 41 to 82
Sample Pages: 49 61
The First Experiments – Have Gun, Will Fly – Let The Armament Begin – The First Fighters – Developing the Fighter – Other Nation's Fighters – Defensive Fire – Multi-Engined Planes – The Fight Against Airships and Observation Balloons – All at Sea – The Development of Specialized Ground-Support Aircraft
Chapter 2 opens with an overview of the many experiments conducted wth aircraft armament before WWI. This is followed by a description of early, often unsatisfactory, aircraft armament. Gun synchronisation produced the world's first true fighters, and the early development of fighter aircraft armament is discussed at length. A second major part of the chapter describes defensive armament, both the rear cockpit mounts common for single-engined aircraft, and the more complex defensive systems of large multi-engined types. Finally, there is a discussion of the particular developments prompted by the need to destroy balloons and airships, the naval environment, and the ground attack mission.
Chapter 3: Aircraft Cannon Development and Use, 1914-33
pages 83 to 102
Sample Pages: 90 99
Ammunition – Manually Loaded Cannon – The Davis Recoilless Guns – The Maxim Pom-Pom – Long-Recoil Cannon – API Blowback Guns – Other Automatic Cannon – The French Cannon Aeroplanes – British Ambitions: RCLS and Automatics – Germany and Austria-Hungary – Other Nation's Efforts – Postwar Developments
The previous chapters dealt mostly with the subject of machine guns, but cannon also had a role as aircraft armament. This chapter describes both the weapons itself and the operational experience with the aircraft that carried them. It opens with a description of ammunition, followed by that of the cannon. The text then details how various nations participating in WWI sought to use cannon as aircraft armament. The final section describes the use of aircraft cannon between 1918 and 1933.
Chapter 4: Absorbing the Lessons: Aviation to 1933
pages 103 to 120
Lessons of the First World War – The Strategic Bombing Philosophy – Fighters – Single-Engined Bomber/Reconnaissance Aircraft – Multi-Engined Bombers – Carrier Aircraft – Flying Boats and Seaplanes – Conclusion
Chapter 4 covers a period in which there was relatively little development in aircraft or in their armament, although theoretical thinking translated the experience of WWI into new concepts of warfare. Still, the first traces appeared of developments that later became essential, and the chapter describes the evolution of the fighter to a faster and more powerfully armed type, and the development of bombers armed with the first powered gun turrets.
Appendix 1: Installation Table
pages 121 to 162
Sample Pages: 137
The purpose of the installation tables is to give as complete a listing as possible of all operational combat aircraft of WWI, with their armament. Some aircraft that remained prototypes, or did not get past the service test stage, are also included. This listing is ordered by nation and then alphabetically by manufacturer.
Appendix 2: Ammunition Table
pages 163 to 164
For every cartridge size known to have been in use in combat aircraft this table gives the most common projectile loadings, basic performance figures, and the guns in which the cartridge was used.
Appendix 3: Gun Table
pages 165 to 167
Sample Pages: 165
All guns that were in operational use in WWI aircraft and the post-war period are listed with main characteristics.
Appendix 4: Gun Drawings
pages 168 to 172
Sample Pages: 171
This appendix contains drawings, approximately to scale, of the 36 most important aircraft guns of the period.
pages 173 to 178
pages 179 to 186
pages 187 to 192