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Sopwith Dolphin 5FI

Serial No: C3988
Period: WWI
Reference: 77/A/475
Museum: London
Location: Hangar 2
On Display: Yes

The world’s first single seat multi-gun fighter the Dolphin represented a departure from traditional Sopwith fighter design. In place of the rotary engines so characteristic of the Triplane and Camel the Dolphin was equipped with a stationary 200hp geared Hispano-Suiza in-line engine.

The Dolphin’s unusual wing layout with its ‘backwards stagger’ was designed to provide the pilot with excellent all round visibility. This was achieved by placing the upper wings low on top of the fuselage, the pilot being positioned with his head in the centre where he was afforded a clear and uninterrupted view. Dolphins flew their initial front-line patrols in February 1918 and eventually equipped five RAF squadrons. During the German offensive of 1918 Dolphins conducted ground attack operations, bombing as well as machine gunning enemy troop concentrations.

Popular with its pilots the Dolphin was a highly potent fighting machine but its success was limited due to problems afflicting the geared Hispano-Suiza engine. Dolphin production ceased in August 1919 and the type was declared obsolete in September 1921.

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