No. 10635. Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.12 (6478) Royal Flying Corps
Aeroplane Photo Supply (APS) Photo No. 1577

Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.12

05/31/2011. The Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2c was modified as a single-seat fighter in response to pressing demands from the RFC for such a type. Rather than set about designing a completely fresh machine, the Factory decided that the most expeditious way of meeting the case would be to modify the B.E.2c as dictated by the requirements. The B.E.2c with RFC s/n 1697 (fitted with a 90 hp RAF 1a eight-cylinder V-engine) was selected for conversion into the prototype B.E.12, the designation allotted to the project. A new engine, the 150 h.p. RAF 4a, was installed in the nose and the front cockpit was deleted.

Production B.E.12s embodied several detail modifications to provide increased fuel capacity and improved performance. Normal armament applied to the B.E.12 consisted of a single Vickers gun mounted to port on the fuselage and equipped with Vickers interrupter gear. Occasionally, additional fire-power was provided by a Lewis gun installed to starboard on a Strange mounting and alternative armament fitted consisted of a pair of fuselage Lewis guns on Strange mountings.

The B.E.12 arrived in France to do battle in mid-Summer of 1916 but, in producing the conversion, the fundamental fact had been overlooked that inherent stability was a highly-developed feature of the B.E.2c but was not a quality which was in the least compatible with a fighter's primary and essential requirement of maneuverability. The extra power and armament did nothing to meet this need and the B.E.12 was patently unable to rise to the requirements for which, in good faith, it had been designed. After but a few months' use as a fighter, the B.E.12 was relegated to duties as a single-seat bomber.

And yet, a further attempt was made to turn the B.E.12 into a successful fighter by producing a new version with single-bay wings. This was the B.E.12a which had the same 150 hp RAF 4a engine but was fitted with greatly extended tips to the upper wings. These tips terminated in ailerons given exaggerated horn balances which reached forward to the leading edge. The design proved unsatisfactory and was modified to use normal B.E.2e wings with strut-connected ailerons on each tip. At first this revised type was known as the B.E.12Ae but soon reverted in nomenclature to B.E.12a.

All of this endeavor was in vain as the B.E.12a was as much a failure as the B.E.12 and served only in small numbers. The pictured aircraft was the first of a batch of 200 B.E.12 (s/n 6478 to 6677) produced by the Daimler Co. Ltd. of Radford, Coventry, and served with No. 76 Home Defence Squadron of the RFC.

Created May 31, 2011