The Nieuport 12 was a larger and more powerful version of the Nieuport 10, designed to overcome the earlier aircraft's lack of power when used as a two-seat scout. The Nieuport 10 was designed as a two-seater, but its 80hp engine wasn't really powerful enough to cope with the weight of two crew members, and most of them were converted into single seat fighters, using a machine gun mounted above the upper wing.
The Nieuport 12 shared the same basic layout with the Nieuport 10. It was a sesquiplane, with a lower wing that was half the size of the upper wing (roughly the same length but with half the chord). The wings had ailerons on the upper wings. Like the earlier aircraft it had a flat sided fuselage and a balanced rudder with no fixed vertical fin. The new aircraft was the same length as the Nieuport 10, but the wingspan was increased by nearly four feet and the wing area by just over 40 sq ft. The basic Nieuport 12 was powered by an 110hp Clerget 9B rotary engine, while the 12bis got a 130hp Clerget. Loaded weight rose quite significantly, and there was little improvement in speed, but the new aircraft had a faster climb rate. The aircraft was designed in 1915 and probably flew in that year, but entered service in 1916.
When first produced the Nieuport 12 was armed with a single flexibly mounted Lewis gun in the observer's position. Some also had a fixed forward firing Vickers (or Hotchkiss) gun mounted above the upper wing, and some may have later been given a gun with interrupter gear.
In French service the Nieuport 12 was originally seen as a reconnaissance aircraft, but it was also used as an escort fighter, protecting more vulnerable bomber aircraft. It was used by thirty-six known escadrilles and possibly by several others,
The Nieuport 12 was used by the RFC and the RNAS. Britain received about 170 Type 10s and Type 12s, although the British records don't always make it clear which version was being discussed. Some of these aircraft were built under licence by Beardmore in Scotland for the RNAS. The Nieuport aircraft were originally ordered for the RNAS, and the RFC later received forty of these aircraft.
The RNAS received between 74 and 88 Nieuport 12s from French production and more from Beardmore. Some went to Mudros in the Aegean, while others served closer to home, at Dunkerque, St.Pol (with No.10 (Naval) Squadron) and Cloudekerque.
The RFC received its aircraft late in 1916 and wasn't entirely impressed with them. Despite a very negative report of October 1916 the type entered service with No.46 Squadron, RFC, which lacked any alternatives. The Nieuport 12s were later replaced by the similar Nieuport 20, before being replaced by the Sopwith Pup in April 1917. It was also briefly used by No.45 Squadron in April-May 1917, again probably due to a lack of aircraft. No.84 Squadron used it from March to August 1917, alongside Curtiss and Avro aircraft.
The arrival of the Nieuport 12 and the single-seat Nieuport 11 meant that many of the Nieuport 10s could be withdrawn and used as training aircraft. The Nieuport 11 also eventually replaced the Nieuport 12 in front line service.
Power: 110hp or 130hp
Span: 29ft 7.5in
Length: 22ft 11.5in
Height: 8ft 10.25in
Empty weight: 1,213lb
Maximum take-off weight: 1,874lb
Max speed: 78mph at 5,000ft (Orbis) 91mph at 6,560ft (Fighter Aircraft)
Climb Rate: 14m 15s to 6,560ft
Armament: One flexibly mounted machine gun, sometimes one fixed forward firing machine gun