Today, July 28th., marks the centenary of the beginning of the First World War. The occasion for us to focus on military aviation during the conflict. In 1914, its role was relatively vague, but after only a short time several specialities began to appear.
Amongst them, the need for reconnaissance in the spotting of enemy positions and observation for the adjustment of artillery fire. In early 1915, aviation was used for attack purposes, and the first fighter aircraft such as the Fokker, and bombers like the Voisin, went into action.
Patrick Facon, History Specialist - Centre for Strategic Studies Aerospace :
"Enemy positions, bridges, railways, etc. were destroyed, however, it became interesting to attack those cities involved in the enemies war production. So the vision of aviation changed from that of tactical bombardment to one of strategic.
Fighter aircraft, eventually had the dual role, not only of prevention of enemy aircraft from overflying friendly territory, thus that of protection, but also that of offensive, involving incursions over enemy territory with the objective of shooting down their aircraft.
And this is where we discover a fundamental principle of aerial warfare, which is that domination of the skies actually enables ground forces to maneouver and attack under better conditions."
During the four years of the conflict up to 1918, progress on aircraft was significant in terms of aerial observation, radio communications and weapons such as the propeller synchronized machine gun; such, that finally, aircraft were also brought in to fight in coordinated attacks with tanks on the ground.
The aviation industry quickly developed into one of intensive production. As proof, only 150 French aircraft were involved at the outset of the conflict in 1914; at the end of the war there were 3,600.