Trainer into Fighter

Article excerpt

Born out of the Great War, the Vought VE-7 was one of the US Navy's first "modern" aircraft

Even though America had pioneered flight, by the time of the Great War the country's aviation lead had disappeared and aeronautical advances were now in the domain of Great Britain, France, and Germany. During the conflict, the aircraft developed into a deadly military instrument but by the time America entered the war, its "combat" air arms were almost laughable.

During 1917/18, the Aircraft Production Board urged the American aviation industry to create new aircraft designs and not rely on license-- building European designs.

A new aviation concern, the Lewis & Vought Corporation, was approached about designing and building a new advanced trainer that would use the French Hispano-Suiza Model A engine of 150-hp. This engine was in series production by the Wright-Martin Company's Simplex Automobile Division.

It must be remembered that these early aircraft were designed and built in an extremely short period of time compared to today's warplanes. Lewis & Vought quickly came up with a biplane of pleasing dimensions built out of wood and covered with fabric. The new aircraft looked a bit like a cross between the British De Havilland DH-4 and the French SPAD. However, the new design did not go into production during the war and the government decided to replace the 90-hp OX-5 engines in Curtiss Jennies with the 150-- hp unit to create a more advanced trainer but in reality it was just a primitive lumbering trainer with a bit more horsepower.

With the end of the war, the US Navy became interested in the design. At this point, the company had become the Chance Vought Corporation and the aircraft, known as the VE-7, was now fitted with a Wright-Hispano E engine of 180-hp. The aircraft offered, for the time, excellent performance and the Navy would eventually purchase 128 aircraft - a very significant order for the time. The planes were built by Vought and the Naval Aircraft Factory and a number of variants were constructed (see sidebar). …