In 1917 the French aircraft manufacturer Société
Anonyme des Establissements Nieuport produced a series of new fighters
the Nieuport 24, the Nieuport 25 and the Nieuport 27. All of these
types were progressive modernizations of the famous Nieuport 11
and Nieuport 17, which due to their very good flying characteristics,
were possibly the best fighters at the time of their appearance.
However, technical progress during the war years stepped on so briskly,
that even the most successful designs could become obsolete within
the year. At the end of 1917 it was decided to concentrate on building
a conceptually new fighter. Unlike its predecessors, which were
sesquiplanes rather than standard biplanes, the new fighter had
wings of equal span and constant chord, and also an oval section
fuselage (this innovation proved its worth in the Nieuport 27).
By the beginning of 1918 there had taken place the first successful
test flights of the new machine, designated the Nieuport 28. It
was one of the most elegant of contemporary single-seaters: the
upper wing sitting close to the fuselage, the fuselage's slim outline,
and an elliptical tail assembly completed its aesthetically pleasing
looks. A 160 hp Gnome Monosoupape 9N engine was installed in the
Nieuport 28, and its armament consisted of two synchronized Vickers
It was intended that the Nieuport 28 would replace another French
fighter, the SPAD VIIC.1, which had many problems with its Hispano
Suiza engine. However, by the time the Nieuport 28 completed its
tests, SPAD had produced a new type the SPAD XIIIC.1. This design
exceeded Nieuport's machine in almost every respect and was accepted
as the sole new fighter of the Aviation Militaire. It was decided
to reject the Nieuport 28, and its fate would probably have been
the same as that of hundreds of other relatively successful machines
of the time, to remain as a prototype. However, fate decided differently,
and the Nieuport 28 achieved its place in the history of aviation
as the 'first American fighter'.
After the entry of the United States of America into the war, the
American Expeditionary Forces needed airplanes urgently for their
own new air force units. The U.S.A. bought a variety of types of
airplane at that time, which France made available. In this way
the Nieuport 28 became the foundation of American air power in the
skies of Europe. The Nieuport firm sold America 297 machines in
total, which equipped the 27th, 94th, 95th and 103rd Aero Squadrons.
The Nieuport 28 gained its first victories in April of 1918, when
Lieutenants Douglas Campbell and Alan Winslow brought down two German
airplanes in the sky of the Western Front.
In this fashion began the history of the United States Army Air
Force. The most successful American ace of WWI, Eddie Rickenbacker
gained several victories piloting the Nieuport 28. "The well
known pilot Quentin Roosevelt, son of the President of the USA Theodore
Roosevelt, also flew this airplane."
American pilots spoke approvingly of the maneuverability of the
fighter, however, its general performance fell more and more behind
that of the enemy's newer types. The Nieuport displayed a dangerous
design fault in operation the fabric of the upper wing could simply
break away during intensive maneuvering, and as a result there was
a series of terrible catastrophes. Little time was spent to remedy
this defect, and improve the machine's construction, and operation
of the type was reduced to a minimum; but exactly at that time America
bought from France the more advanced SPAD XIII in great quantity,
and consequently there was no particular need to return the Nieuport
28 to the Front in the summer of 1918, although some machines were
still being used at the end of the summer.
With the end of WWI, the American Expeditionary Forces returned
to the homeland. The airplanes brought back from Europe became the
basis of the new American air arms. The Nieuport 28 was used as
a trainer and also for shipboard operation. A few years later the
type was officially acknowledged as out-of-date and retired from
service. Some machines were used in various civilian 'flying circuses'
and also for the needs of Hollywood. Switzerland, Argentina, Greece
and Guatemala received some machines.