Bristol F.2b Fighter Sunbeam Arab
The appearance in 1917 amongst the equipment of the Royal Flying Corps of the new two seats Bristol F.2B Fighter marked one of British aviation's greatest successes. Together with other outstanding designs of that time - the Camel, the S.E.5a, and the D.H.4 - it enabled the R.F.C. to gain its desired advantage in the air. However the delivery of new planes to squadrons was constantly up against a number of problems, not the least of which was the lack of engines in great enough quantities. The Rolls Royce Falcon engine installed in the F.2B was well proven, but Rolls Royce which at that time was developing several types of engine simultaneously, physically could not make enough engines, as were called for by all the various designs produced by the aircraft companies. The British War Office recommended the aircraft manufacturers to try alternative powerplants, and so the Bristol Company decided to adapt the F.2B design for the Hispano Suiza and Sunbeam Arab engines. The Arab was also intended for the S.E.5a fighter, but this idea was rejected in due course. Development at Bristol faced constant and numerous obstacles, with the result that the F.2B Fighter with the new engine raised into the air for the first time only in 1918.
From the new engine, improvement was expected in certain characteristics of the aircraft. But this did not happen, mainly because one engine failed to live up to expectations, the Arab: in the air it vibrated severely, and a unsuitable radiator which had been created for the 300 h.p. Hispano Suiza engine further worsened the situation. Up to the end of war there was time to build about 800 Bristol F.2B Fighters (from an overall 4,900 Bristol Fighters) fitted with the Sunbeam Arab. However, only insignificant numbers reached the Western Front.
The great bulk was at once transferred to training schools and Home Defense. On July 23rd, 1919, under the arrangements for demilitarization machines of this type were recognized as having become obsolete and designated for breaking up. However, the 'classic' Bristol F.2B Fighter, equipped with the Rolls Royce Falcon, was still a potent machine - it continued to fly until the 1930s.
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  1. Bristol F2B Fighter C9889, No. 66 (Training) Sqn, RAF, Yatesbury, late 1918
  2. Bristol F2B Fighter D7934/D, Long Range Artillery Spotting Flight “L”, flown by Lt. Thornton, Western Front, September 1918.
  3. Bristol F2B Fighter D7660/B, No. 59 Sqn, RAF, Duren, 1919.
  4. Bristol F2B Fighter E2223/G, pilot and unit unknown, Western Front, late 1918.
Performances
Wing Span
11,96m
Total Length
7m57cm
Empty Weight
856kg
Take-off Weight
1240kg
Engine
1xSunbeam Arab
Power
200 hp
Maximum Speed 171 km/h
Service Ceiling 6000 m
Endurance 3 hours
Armament:  
1 0.303 forward-firing Vickers, 1 or 2 0.303 Lewis in rear cockpit  
Crew 2