Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2e

The Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2e was produced in an attempt to improve the military performance of the B.E.2c. Taken in isolation these efforts were successful, for the B.E.2e was the fastest version of the B.E.2, but the improvements weren't enough to compensate for the ever-increasing capacity of German fighter aircraft and the B.E.2e was actually much more vulnerable over the Western Front than the B.E.2c had been in the first half of 1916. Despite increasingly heavy loses a lack of a suitable replacement meant that the B.E.2e had to remain in service well into 1917, although most squadrons on the Western Front had moved on to more modern aircraft by the middle of that year.

The biggest change made to the B.E.2e was the use of completely new wings. The equal span two bay wings of the B.E.2c were replaced by single bay wings of unequal length. The upper wing was made four feet longer and the lower wing six feet shorter while the overall wing area increased by six square feet. A third strut connected the upper and lower ailerons. The outer section of the upper wing was supported by cables attached to a V-shaped structure built onto the top of the main struts – in most pictures the cables are invisible, making their V-shaped mounting look remarkably like handles for the aircraft.

The new wings were installed on a Bristol-built B.E.2c and made their first flight on 18 February 1916. It is possible that this prototype was also given more powerful engines, as it reached a top speed of 97mph at ground level 90mph at 6,000ft. Production aircraft, with the 90hp R.A.F. 1a engine, could only reach 82mph at 6,000ft, 10mph more than the B.E.2e.

The poor performance of the B.E.2e only becomes obvious when one compares it to some of its German opponents. The second half of 1916 saw the appearance of the Albatros D.II, with a top speed of 102mph. This aircraft could climb to 6,000ft in 9 minutes 10 seconds, while the B.E.2e took over 20 minutes to reach the same altitude. 

In service the B.E.2e was used alongside older aircraft, and its combat record is thus very similar to that of the B.E.2c – see 'combat record of B.E.2c' for more detail. In most squadrons the B.E.2e was present in increasingly large numbers, but the last few B.E.2cs often remained in service almost as long as the B.E.2e.

A number of older aircraft or aircraft from older orders were completed with their original fuselage but with the wings and tail of the B.E.2e. In October 1916 the RFC decided to designation those aircraft produced from the B.E.2c as the B.E.2f and those produced from the B.E.2d as the B.E.2g.

Wingspan: 40 feet 9 inches (upper), 30ft 6in (lower)
Length: 27 feet 3inches
Empty Weight: 1,431lbs
Maximum Weight: 2,100lbs
Engine: 90hp RAF 1a liquid cooled engine
Max. Speed: 90 mph
Ceiling: 9,000 feet
Range:
Crew: two
Armaments: varied, up to four .303 calibre Lewis guns
Payload: two 112lb bombs or ten Le Prieur rockets

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (6 April 2009), Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2e , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_RAF_BE2e.html

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