The Great War

The War To End All Wars

July 28, 1914 November 11, 1918

The First World War began with fragile unarmed aircraft and ended with the deadly fighters of 1918

British Empire

Royal Flying Corps

The Royal Flying Corps was the overland air arm of the British military during most of WWI. At the start of WWI the RFC had 4 fixed wind squadrons and one balloon squadron with about 2,000 personnel. By the end of WWI the new Royal Air Force had about 4,000 aircraft and 118,000 personnel. During WWI they suffered 9,378 killed and 7,245 wounded. The RFC flew over 900,000 hours on operations and 6,942 tons of bombs were dropped. The RFC claimed 7,054 German aircraft and balloons either destroyed, sent “down out of control” or “driven down”. 11 Victoria Crosses were awarded to RFC members in WWI.

Great Britain  RFC


Service Aéronautique

Considered to be the first air force in the world, the Service Aéronautique had 132 aircraft in 21 squadrons at the beginning of WWI. Initially flying unarmed reconnaissance missions the roles of the Service Aéronautique quickly expanded. By April 1915 Roland Garros had mounted a Hotchkiss machine gun on his Morane Saulnier L becoming the worlds first fighter pilot. At the end of WWI the Aéronautique Militaire had 3,222 combat aircraft on the Western Front making it the world's largest air force. In WWI French pilots claimed 2,049 enemy aircraft & 357 balloons destroyed in exchange for 3,500 killed in action, 3,000 wounded & missing and 2,000 killed in accidents. 182 French pilots became aces in WWI including René Fonck with 75 victories, Georges Guynemer with 54 victories and Charles Nungesser with 45 victories.


United States

 Army Air Service

The US Army Air Service was a forerunner of the United States Air Force during and after World War I. It was established as an independent but temporary wartime branch of the War Department on May 24, 1918, replacing the Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps. The National Defense Act of 1920 assigned the Air Service the status of "combatant arm of the line" of the United States Army, with a major general in command. The Air Service began combat operations in the spring of 1918. By the end of the war, the Air Service had 45 squadrons and 71 pursuit pilots were credited with being aces. Overall the Air Service destroyed 756 enemy aircraft and 76 balloons in combat. At its peak the Air Service had 195,024 men and 7,900 aircraft. The Air Service was renamed the US Army Air Corps in 1926.

US WWII  us-cac32

German Empire

Deutsche Luftstreitkräfte

The Deutsche Luftstreitkräfte (Imperial German Flying Corps) was the air arm of the Imperial German Army during World War I. By the end of the war it had 2,709 front line aircraft, 56 airships, 186 balloon detachments and about 4,500 personnel. The Luftstreitkräfte produced a large number of high scoring aces including Manfred von Richthofen, Lothar von Richthofen, Ernst Udet, Hermann Göring, Oswald Boelcke, Werner Voss, and Max Immelmann. Casualties totaled 8,604 aircrew killed / missing / prisoner, 7,302 wounded, and 3,126 aircraft, 546 balloons and 26 airships. Some 5,425 Allied aircraft and 614 kite balloons were claimed destroyed. After the war the service was dissolved completely on May 8, 1920.

Germany WWI

Austrian-Hungarian Empire

Kaiserliche und Königliche Luftfahrtruppen

The Imperial and Royal Aviation Troops (Kaiserliche und Königliche Luftfahrtruppen or K.u.K. Luftfahrtruppen) was the air force of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire until the end of WWI in 1918. The Air Service started out in 1893 as a balloon corps. In 1912 it was reorganized into a flying corps under army command. At the beginning of WWI the air service had only 10 balloons, 85 pilots and 39 aircraft. Despite Austria-Hungary's low level of industrialization and a labor shortage they efficiently used what they had and produced 5,180 aircraft during the war in addition to purchasing aircraft from Germany. Austria-Hungary fought in the air against Romania, Russia, Serbia, Albania, Montenegro, Italy, France and Great Britain on four different fronts. The K.u.K. ceased to exist at the end of WWI.

Austria Hungary

Imperial Russia

Emperor's Military Air Fleet

The Imperial Russian Air Service was founded 1912 It operated for 5 years and fought in WWI only. The Air Service bas disbanded in 1917 after the fall of the Czar and was reorganized and renamed following the creation of the Soviet Union. In 1910 the Imperial Russian Army sent officers to France for training as pilots. Later that year the Imperial Russian Army purchased several French and British planes and established two training schools. The Air Service fought with Bulgaria in the First Balkan War, sending 10 volunteers. Aircraft construction soon began. At the outbreak of WWI the Air Service was the second largest in Europe with 263 planes. Initially the planes were unarmed but pilots soon began carrying pistols and rifles. Light bombs were soon added. On September 8, 1914 pilot Pyotr Nesterov performed the first aerial ramming attack history. Later than month pilot Lt. Vyacheslav Tkachov became the first Russian pilot to shoot down an enemy aircraft with a handgun. As the war progressed a naval air service was added and the tempo of operations picked up. Russian industry could not keep pace with the demand for aircraft so they relied heavily on imported engines and airframes from France and Britain. As Russia began to lose the war and it’s economy began to collapse the Air Service found it increasingly difficult to perform. At the end of the war in 1917 the Russian Imperial Air Service had about 1400 planes, about 50% of them were made in Britain and France.


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