The Morane-Saulnier Type N was a shoulder-winged single seat fighter that was the first dedicated fighter aircraft to serve with the French. It had a brief service career with the French in 1915 and with the RFC from late 1915 into 1916, but it wasn't a great success with either service and that was soon replaced in front line squadrons.
The first example of the Type N was constructed for the aviation meeting at Aspern, Vienna, in June 1914. It was a shoulder-winged monoplane with wing warping controls and a standard early Morane-Saulnier tail with no fixed horizontal surfaces, although there was a small fin in front of the rudder. The most notable feature of the Type N was the circular cross-section of the fuselage, which was achieved with formers and stringers, covered with fabric. The circular theme was continued at the nose, where there was a massive hemispherical spinner with a cone at the tip. There was a large head-rest behind the pilot's cockpit, faired back into the fuselage. The aircraft was powered by an 80hp Gnome engine.
Roland Garros flew the Type N at the Aspern meeting, and was the second most successful pilot, winning the speed of climb award and sharing the speed prize. Despite this success he wasn't happy with the aircraft which he described as 'brilliant but far from being perfected'.
In late 1915 Roland Garros was shot down and captured. A few weeks later an armed Type N was delivered to Escadrille MS 49, where it was taken by Eugène Gilbert, a friend and pre-war aviation rival of Garros. This aircraft had the same deflector gear as Garros had used on his Type L, with armour plating on the propeller blades to allow a fixed forward firing machine gun to be carried. Gilbert named his aircraft 'Le Vengeur' (The Avenger). He took this aircraft into combat on 6-7 June, before claiming his first victory on 11 June (an unconfirmed victory over a German two-seater). He scored another victory six days later, but his own aircraft was badly damaged in this fight and probably never fought again. Gilbert himself was shot down and captured on 27 June.
At about the same time the French military ordered a batch of military Type Ns. The factory drawings for these aircraft are dated 16 June 1915, so it is just possible that Gilbert's successes inspired the order. This aircraft had the Morane-Saulnier designation Type Nm, and the official Service des Fabrications de l'Aviation designation MoS Type V. The aircraft was also erroneously known as the Morane Monocoque, as the faired fuselage gave it a similar appearance to genuine monocoque aircraft. These aircraft were generally similar to the first two Type Ns, but with a more conventional large rounded spinner without the pointed tip and with a redesigned tail.
The Type N only served in small numbers with the French, and was never used to equip a full escadrille. Most had been withdrawn by the end of 1915. It was more successful with the British RFC, where it was ordered to fill a desperate need for fighter aircraft to protect the vulnerable observation aircraft from German attack. The first three British Type Ns appeared in September-October 1915. One went to No.3 Squadron at Lozinghem, and another to No.1 Squadron. They weren't a great success in combat and were judged to be rather difficult to fly, but despite this another batch was ordered. This time the plan was to use the Type N to protect the Type L parasol observation aircraft of Nos.1 and 3 Squadrons. Twenty four Type Ns were delivered between March and June 1916. In British service they gained yet another name, the Morane Bullet. The Type N saw service during the Battle of the Somme, but was generally outclassed by its German opponents. Nos.60 and 24 Squadrons both used the type before it was phased out.
The RFC also expressed an interest in a version of the Type N to be powered by an 110hp engine. This eventually appeared as the Type I, while a version with three hours of fuel became the Type V.
Engine: Le Rhône 9C rotary
Wing span: 26ft 8 3/4in
Length: 19ft 1 1/2in
Empty Weight: 635lb
Maximum Take-off Weight: 979lb
Max Speed: 90mph
Armament: One fixed 8mm Hotchkiss or 7.7mm Vickers or Lewis machine gun