At the beginning of World War I, Russia’s air service was second only to that of France (263 aeroplanes and 14 airships), although the bulk of its aircraft were too outdated to be of much use.

Initially, Russia used aviation only for reconnaissance and coordination of artillery fire. Later, several aeroplanes were armed with steel flechettes to attack ground targets (columns of enemy infantry and cavalry, campsites, etc.). Later, aeroplanes were armed with air-dropped bombs.

Selection of WW1 Russian aircraft
Selection of WW1 Russian aircraft Top – Clockwise = Lebed XV11, Grigorovich M-16, Sikorsky S-16, SPAD S.A.4, LEBED X11, NEIUPORT 4. Centre = SIKORSKY S-10

On 8 September 1914, the Russian pilot Pyotr Nesterov performed the first aerial ramming aircraft attack in the history of aviation Later, Lt. Vyacheslav Tkachov became the very first Russian pilot who shot down an enemy aircraft with a handgun. He attacked a German “Albatros” and shot the enemy pilot. In December 1914 a squadron of 10 Ilya Muromets bombers was formed and used against the German and Austro-Hungarian armies. 17 January 1915 – The Ministry of War of the Russian Empire issued an order to arm aeroplanes with 7.62mm Madsen light machine guns and 7.71mm Lewis light machine guns.

In March 1915 naval aviation was established. The Imperial Russian Navy received two vessels and six seaplanes.

In 1915 the Imperial Russian Air Service became a separate branch of the army directly under the command of the Stavka (commander-in-chief’s HQ).

The most successful Russian flying ace and fighter pilot was Alexander Kazakov, who shot down 20 enemy aeroplanes.

Though there were some more Russian-designed combat planes, but the bigger part of Russian WW1 air forces consist of the foreign designed planes. Mostly ones were built by Russian factories (example: Duks, Anatra, Lebed, RBVZ Russo-Balt, Schetinin PRTV Gamayun), also were purchased in France, GB and Italy.

Russian designed and manufactured aircraft include those of :-

  • ANATRA ,
  • and MOSCA

However, the war was not going well for Russia and following significant setbacks on the Eastern front, and the economic collapse in the rear, military aircraft production fell far behind Russia’s rival Germany. After the February Revolution of 1917 the Imperial Russian Air Service was reformed. Following the October Revolution of 1917, the Russian Air Service was dissolved.

Russian Aircraft of World War One

Lebed XV11

Lebed XV11 The Lebed XV11 was the most advanced of all ‘ Lebed’ family. Its Salmson140 or 150hp engine was …
scale model of the Lebed XII Russian aircraft used in during the first world war

Ledbed X11

Lebed X11 The Lebed XII was a Russian military reconnaissance aircraft produced during the First World War for the Imperial …
scale model of the Nieuport IV Russian aircraft used in during the first world war


Neiuport IV The Nieuport IV was a French-built sporting, training and reconnaissance monoplane of the early 1910s. The first Nieuport …
scale model of the Sikorsky S-10 Russian aircraft used in during the first world war

Sikorsky S-10

Sikorsky S-10 The Sikorsky S-10 was a Russian Empire military twin-float seaplane that served with the Baltic Fleet from the …
scale model of the Sikorsky S-16 Russian aircraft used in during the first world war

Sikorsky S-16

Sikorsky S-16 The Sikorsky S-16, or RBVZ S-XVI (named after its manufacturer), was a Russian equi-span single-bay two-seat biplane designed …
scale model of the Grigorovich M-16 Russian aircraft used in during the first world war

Grigorovich M-16

Grigorovich M-16 Grigorovich M-16 was a successful Russian World War I-era biplane flying boat of the Farman type, developed from …
scale model of the Spad S4A Russian aircraft used in during the first world war


SPAD S.4.A The SPAD S.A (also called S.A.L.) was a French two-seat tractor biplane first flown in 1915. It was …
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