Shooting In Slow Motion – The Invention That Gave The Germans The Advantage In The Air In WW1

Imagine the dilemma faced by a First World War fighter pilot in 1914 who risked damaging or shooting his airplane’s propeller off with rapid-firing machine guns while targeting an aerial enemy.

The solution arrived one year later when Dutch aviation innovator Anthony Fokker engineered the synchronization gear, named after him, that timed machine gun fire so the bullet would pass through propeller blades and not into them.

Since air speed in aerial combat can vary, having a gear synchronize firing is a distinct advantage.  The improvement gave the German air force superiority but only for a short time until opponents caught up.

Exactly what happens when bullets hit a propeller, ultimately destroying it, is aptly illustrated by the Slo Mo guys using a high-speed camera to show exactly what happens, SPLOID reported.

And why were machine guns mounted in front of the pilot and not the sides of the fuselage? Greater accuracy was achieved when the target could be centered in the cross hairs.  Otherwise, it was an estimation.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE