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Airco DH.2

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Airco DH.2
Type Fighter
Manufacturer Airco
Designed by Geoffrey de Havilland
Maiden flight 1 June 1915
Primary user Royal Flying Corps
Number built 453

The Airco DH.2 was a single-seat biplane pusher aircraft which operated as a fighter during the First World War. It was the second pusher design by Geoffrey de Havilland for Airco, based on his earlier DH.1 two-seater. The DH.2 was the first effectively armed British single-seat fighter and enabled Royal Flying Corps (RFC) pilots to counter the "Fokker Scourge" that had given the Germans the advantage in the air in late 1915. Until the British developed an interrupter gear to match the German system, pushers such as the DH.2 and the F.E.2b carried the burden of fighting and escort duties.

Design and development

Early air combats over the Western Front indicated the need for a single seat fighter with forward firing armament. As no reliable interrupter gear was available to the British, de Havilland designed the DH.2 as a smaller, single seat development of the earlier two seat DH.1 pusher design. The D.H.2 first flew on 1 June 1915.[1]

The D.H.2 was armed with a single Lewis gun which was originally able to be positioned on one of three flexible mountings in the cockpit, with the pilot transferring the gun between mountings in flight at the same time as flying the aircraft. Once pilots learned the best method of achieving a kill was to aim the aircraft rather than the gun, the machinegun was fixed in the forward-facing centre mount, although this was initially banned by higher authorities until a clip which fixed the gun in place but could be released if required was approved.[2]

The majority of D.H.2s were fitted with the 100 hp (75 kW) Gnome Monosoupape rotary engine; later models received the 110 hp (82 kW) Le Rhône 9J.

A total of 453 D.H.2s were produced.[3]

Operational service

File:Airco DH2 2.jpg
Early DH.2 taking off from airfield at Beauvel, France

After evaluation at Hendon on 22 June 1915, the first DH.2 arrived in France for operational trials with No. 5 Squadron RFC, but was shot down and its pilot killed (although the DH.2 was recovered and repaired by the Germans).[3] No. 24 Squadron RFC, the first squadron equipped with the DH.2 and the first complete squadron entirely equipped with single-seat fighters in the RFC (or, incidentally, any other flying service), arrived in France in February 1916.[1] The DH.2 ultimately equipped six fighter squadrons. The little pusher quickly proved itself more than a match for the Fokker Eindecker, and was heavily engaged during the Battle of the Somme, 24 Squadron alone engaging in 774 combats and destroying 44 enemy machines.[1] The DH.2 had sensitive controls and at a time when service training for pilots in the RFC was very poor it terrified some pilots, who nicknamed it the "Spinning Incinerator", but as familiarity with the type increased, it was recognised as very manoeverable and relatively easy to fly.

The arrival at the front of more powerful German tractor biplane fighters such as the Halberstadt D.II and the Albatros D.I, which appeared in September 1916, meant the DH.2 was outclassed in turn. It remained in first line service in France, however, until No. 24 and No. 32 Squadron RFC completed re-equipment with Airco DH 5s in June 1917, and a few remained in service on the Macedonian front until late autumn of that year. By this time, the type was obsolete as a fighter, although it was used as an advanced trainer into 1918.

Distinguished pilots of the DH.2 included Victoria Cross winner Lanoe Hawker (eight victories), who was the first commander of No 24 Squadron and ace Alan Wilkinson (10 victories). The commander of No 32 Squadron, Lionel Rees, earned the Victora Cross flying the DH.2 for attacking a formation of 10 German two-seaters on 1 July 1916. German ace and tactician Oswald Boelcke was killed during a dogfight with 24 Squadron DH.2s.

DH.2s were progressively retired by war's end and no surviving airframes were retained. In 1970, Walter M. Redfern from Seattle, Washington built a replica DH.2 powered by a Kinner 125-150 hp engine and subsequently, Redfern sold plans to home builders. Currently a number of Dh.2 replicas are flying worldwide.[4]



Specifications (DH.2)

Data from Warplanes of the First World War - Fighters Volume One[5]

General characteristics



1 x .303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis gun (47-round drum magazine)

See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Mason 1992
  2. Goulding 1986
  3. 3.0 3.1 Airco DH-2
  4. Redfern DH-2
  5. Bruce 1965


  • Bruce, J.M. Warplanes of the First World War - Fighters Volume One. MacDonald & Co., 1965.
  • Goulding, James. Interceptor- RAF Single Seat Multi-Gun Fighters. London: Ian Allen Ltd., 1986. ISBN 0-7110-1583-X.
  • Mason, Francis K. The British Fighter since 1912. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1992. ISBN 1-55750-082-7.

External links

Template:De Havilland aircraft

cs:Airco D.H.2 de:Airco D.H.2 es:D.H.2 fr:Airco DH.2 pl:Airco DH.2 sv:Airco DH 2

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Airco DH.2".