The Evolution of Aerial Combat

The first airplanes were not looked upon as weapons of destruction, but as “scouts”. In the early days of World War One the only role of aircraft was to gather tactical information for use by ground troops. These planes were unarmed scout pilots from opposing sides would wave and smile as they flew by each other, in a sort of “comraderie of the sky”. This harmony between pilots would not last for long, though. Soon pilots began carrying rifles and pistols into the air and traded shots.

The Race for Air Supremacy

The level of violence rapidly escalated as new weapon technologies were developed for arming aircraft. Aerial combat quickly became a very deadly business where only the skilled and the lucky survived to fly another day. From the days of pusher style aircraft, to the development of first the garro wedge, and then the synchronised firing gear the race to create the perfect killing machine became the primary concern for both sides in this bloody conflict.

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gun-ring installation of a Lewis gun from a RAF RE-8

This example of the observer’s position with the gun-ring installation of a Lewis gun from a RAF RE-8 is fairly typical for British reconnaisance aircraft.