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Nieuport 11/16 Bébé vs Fokker Eindecker: Western Front 1916
by Jon Guttman (Author), Jim Laurier (Illustrator)
Series: Duel (Book 59)
Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: Osprey Publishing (April 22, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1782003533
ISBN-13: 978-1782003533
Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 0.2 x 9.8 inches

The age of the fighter was 1915-1990-something, about 3/4 of a century. Starting at the beginning Jon Guttman's latest installment in the Osprey Duel series examines two first-generation opponents: the Fokker Eindecker and the Nieuport 11 with its Type 16 derivative. Following the Duel format, Guttman's volume traces design and development of the rival fighters, setting the stage with the strategic situation on the Western Front 1915-16, and examines the players as well as the equipment. There's also a useful chronology integrating the Fokker and Nieuport timelines.

It's instructive to note the Great War technological contrast we still argue today: systems or platforms? The Eindecker was the original Systems fighter, with a Maxim shooting through the prop arc, while the Nieuport was the Platform fighter, much better aerodynamically but handicapped by the over-the-wing Lewis gun. Apparently the actual score slightly favored the Nieuport.

Most of the individual pilots will be familiar to readers, and some follow national stereotypes. For instance, Germany's cool, analytical Oswald Boelcke contrasts with France's wildly aggressive Jean Navarre. But the author deals with organization as well as aircraft and individuals, noting that Commandant (Major) Charles de Tricornet de Rose played a leading role in forming multi-squadron Groupes before Germany's Jagdgeschwadern.

Meanwhile, many will be surprised to learn that the British flew Nieuport 11s in combat before the French. Chief among Britain's early Nieuport pilots was Lt. Albert Ball with six victories in Type 16s. But Guttman touches upon Belgian Nieuports as well.

One subject that might have been included is the famous "Immelmann turn" attributed to Ltn. Max Immelmann. The late Jim Appleby, who built and flew authentic Eindeckers, insisted that nobody half-rolled one off the top of a loop—intentionally! Far more likely Immelmann executed a chandelle which accomplished the same purpose—a vertical reverse.

Supported by some 55 photos and more than a dozen illustrations, this Duel lives up to the series standards—and marks Ground Zero for fighter aviation.

Review by Barrett Tillman

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