Unfortunately, by the time Nieuport 28 had gone into full production, the SPAD XIII had already been chosen to equip the the French airforce as well as being the first choice for the projected American "pursuit" squadrons. In the event, a shortage of SPADs led to Nieuport 28s being issued to four American squadrons between March and August 1918, and these became the first aircraft to see operational service with an American fighter squadron.
By the middle of 1917, it was obvious that the Nieuport 17 and its immediate developments such as the Nieuport 24bis, with only moderate performance gains, were unable to offer sufficient improvements to deal with the latest German fighters. The Nieuport 17 line was already being supplanted in French service by the SPAD S.VII as quickly as supplies of the Hispano-Suiza engine would allow.
The Nieuport 28C design advanced the concept of the lightly built, highly manoeuvrable rotary engined fighter typified by the Nieuport 17 to the more demanding conditions of the times. It had a more powerful engine, twin machine guns, and a new wing structure – for the first time, a production Nieuport fighter was fitted with conventional two-spar wings, top and bottom, in place of the sesquiplane "v-strut" layout of earlier Nieuports. Ailerons, controlled with torque tubes were fitted to the lower wings only.
The design of the tail unit closely followed that of the Nieuport 27, but in order to provide a more streamlined profile, the fuselage was longer and slimmer, so narrow that its twin Vickers machine guns were offset to port, one between the cabane struts and one just outboard of them.
By early 1918, when the first production examples of the Nieuport 28 became available, the SPAD S.XIII was already firmly established as the standard French fighter, and the Nieuport 28 was "surplus" from the French point of view. On the other hand, the United States Army Air Service was desperately short of fighters to equip its projected "pursuit" (fighter) squadrons. Since the SPAD S.XIIIs the Americans actually wanted were initially unavailable due to engine shortages, the Nieuport was offered to the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) as an interim alternative.
A total of 297 Nieuport 28s were purchased by the Americans with the 94th and 95th Aero Squadron receiving the initial allotments, starting in March 1918. In all, four AEF pursuit squadrons: the 27th, 94th, 95th and 147th Aero Squadrons, flew Nieuport 28s operationally for various periods between March and August 1918.
The factory delivered the Nieuport 28s to the Americans in mid-February 1918 without armament. At the time the AEF had no spare Vickers machine guns to supply to the squadrons, so that the first flights were unarmed training flights for pilots to familiarise themselves with the handling and performance of the new type. When deliveries of Vickers guns to the American squadrons finally started in mid-March, and until sufficient guns had been received for all of the fighters to be fully equipped, some aircraft were flown on patrol with only one machine gun fitted.
On 14 April 1918, the second armed patrol of an AEF fighter unit resulted in two victories when Lieutenants Alan Winslow and Douglas Campbell (the first American-trained ace) of the 94th Aero Squadron each downed an enemy aircraft over their own airfield at Gengoult. Several well-known World War I American fighter pilots, including the 26-victory ace, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, began their operational careers on the Nieuport 28. Quentin Roosevelt (the son of U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt) was shot down and killed flying the type.
The 94th and 95th squadrons had the unenviable task of dealing with the type's teething troubles after many of the early undercarriages failed on landing – this was corrected by using heavier bracing wire. The Nieuport 28's 160 hp Gnome Monosoupape rotary engine and fuel system proved unreliable and prone to fires. Field improvements to fuel lines, and increased familiarity of the American pilots (and their ground crews) with the requirements of monosoupape engines reduced these problems, but the definitive solution adopted was simply not completely filling the reserve fuel tank, at the expense of range. More seriously, a structural problem emerged – during a sharp pull out from a steep dive, the plywood leading edge of the top wing could break away, taking the fabric with it. On the whole, although the pilots of the 94th and the 95th appreciated the manoeuvrability and good handling of the Nieuport, and were reasonably happy with its general performance, they regarded the type as fragile and dangerous.
Partly due to their light frame, twelve of the Army Nieuports were transferred to the U.S. Navy which equipped them with Royal Navy style hydrovanes and wing floatation gear,and flew them from launching platforms mounted above the forward turrets of eight battleships, in the same way that Sopwith Camel 2F.1s were used by the British Grand Fleet.
* Images shown are a guide and references only to show how the kit can be assembled allowing for modellers to add extra detail as required
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