Nieuport 17C1 & 23C1
Single-engine single-seat fighter & trainer aircraft
In order to improve the basic Nieuport 11/16 C1 fighter design, Nieuport’s chief designer Gustave Delage, increased the Bébé’s general size and brought the wing surface to 15 m2. Also, a more powerful 110 HP Le Rhone 9Ja rotary engine was installed as well as an Alkan -synchronized drum fed Lewis- or belt-fed Vickers-machine gun. The end result was a great new fighter designated Nieuport 17 C1.
A further improvement by installing an even more powerful 120 HP Le Rhone 9Jb and a more elaborated streamline transition from cowling into fuselage resulted in the Nieuport 23 C1.
As of May 1917, the Belgian Air Service received the first of an estimated 36 Nieuport 23 C1 fighters for use with N° 1 Squadron (later Chardon) and N° 5 Squadron (Comet) (both units became respectively N° 9 and N° 10 Squadron in May 1918). According to some researchers, a small number of Nieuport 17 C1 fighters was also delivered pending the availability of sufficient Nie 23’s - possibly on lease. In both units the Nieuport 23 C1 gradually replaced the Nieuport 11/16 C1 in frontline service. Both with N° 1 and N° 5 Squadron the Nieuport 23 C1 was used until the end of the war, although next to other types as the Hanriot HD, Sopwith Camel or Spad VII/XIII.
Towards the end of 1918 a number of Nie 17/23 aircraft were relegated to the Pilot School of Juvisy-sur-Orge and later Asch. At the post-war base of Asch at least four machines were downgraded as trainers by installing the 80 HP Le Rhone 9J (of the Nie 11/16) effectively making them Nie 23 E1 and in one case Nie 17 E1. In Belgian service the Nieuport 17/23 was often referred to as the Nieuport 15m2. By 1924 the last of the Nieuports disappeared from the Belgian Military inventory.
Fortunately, the sole surviving Nieuport 17/23 fighter type in the world can be found at the Royal Army Museum (WHI) in Brussels. Nieuport 23 C1 N5024, flown during World War I by pilot Max Orban, has been masterly restored to its former glory. (Daniel Brackx)