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Type L
A captured Morane-Saulnier Type L with German insignia. Some believe it to have been a German Pfalz A.I, which was an unarmed license-built Type L, but it is missing the distinctive features of the A.I.
Role fighter
Manufacturer Aéroplanes Morane-Saulnier
First flight August 1913
Introduction 1914
Primary users Aéronautique Militaire
Royal Flying Corps
Royal Naval Air Service
Number built 600

The Morane-Saulnier L, also known as the Morane-Saulnier Type L was a French parasol wing one or two-seat aeroplane of the First World War. The Type L became one of the first successful fighter aircraft when it was fitted with a single machine gun that fired through the arc of the propeller, which was protected by armoured deflector wedges. Its immediate effectiveness in this role launched an arms race in fighter development, and the Type L was swiftly rendered obsolete. The original Type L used wing warping for lateral control, but a later version designated Type LA was fitted with ailerons.[1]

Built by Morane-Saulnier, large numbers of the Type L were ordered by the French Aviation Militaire at the outbreak of the war, being designated the MS.3. In total about 600 Type Ls were built and, in addition to the French air force, they served with the Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service and the Imperial Russian Air Service.

The type was also produced under licence in Germany by Pfalz Flugzeugwerke as the unarmed A.I and A.II scouts, and later the E.III armed scout. A few Type Ls captured by Germany were fitted with a single German Spandau IMG 08 machine gun. These captured and converted aircraft are often mistaken for Pfalz E.IIIs.[2]

The Morane-Saulnier L was also built under licence in Sweden as the "Thulin D".

Operational history

A propeller from an M-S Type L, complete with deflector wedges and supporting "tiebars".

In December 1914, renowned French aviator Roland Garros, then serving with Escadrille 23, worked with Raymond Saulnier to create a gun synchronizer, around the gas operated Hotchkiss light machine gun, however the firing rate fluctuated too much, defeating efforts to get the synchronizer to function properly.[3] As an interim measure, they then designed a "safety backup" in the form of braced "deflectors" (metal wedges), fitted to the rear surfaces of the propeller blades at the points where they could be struck by a bullet.[3] Garros took his Type L fighter into combat with the deflectors in March 1915 and achieved immediate success, shooting down three German aircraft in April, a noteworthy feat at the time. The copper and brass-jacketed bullets that the French used were not likely to damage the harder steel of the wedges themselves. On 18 April 1915, Garros' deflector-equipped Type L force-landed behind German lines and was captured before Garros could burn it. Ironically, a trio of two seat Morane Type L aircraft were also the first victims of a production fighter, when Leutnant Kurt Wintgens, while flying his Parabellum machine gun-armed Fokker Eindecker M.5K/MG production prototype — basically patterned after the Morane-Saulnier H, but built with Fokker's wire-braced chrome/molybdenum steel tubing fuselage structure — fitted with the Fokker Stangensteuerung gun synchronizer system, downed one over Luneville on July 1, 1915, followed by two more similar victories on July 4 and 15, with the final one of the trio being Wintgens' first confirmed aerial victory. About 50 Type Ls were delivered to Britain's Royal Flying Corps, which used them as reconnaissance aircraft during 1915,[4] with a further 25 being operated by the Royal Naval Air Service. On 7 June 1915 one of these aircraft, flown by Flight Sub-Lieutenant Reginald Alexander John Warneford of 1 Squadron RNAS intercepted Zeppelin LZ.37, destroying it, the first Zeppelin to be destroyed in the air. Warneford received the Victoria Cross for this achievement.[5]

Three Pfalz AII's were utilized by the Ottoman Empire in an attempt to combat the growing threat of the Arab Revolt[6]


Morane-Saulnier versions

  • L basic model
  • LA improved L with faired fuselage

Pfalz-built versions

  • A.I with Oberursel U.0 engine[2]
  • A.II with Oberursel U.I engine[2]
  • E.III - A Pfalz A.II armed with single synchronised IMG 08 machine gun[2]


(One aircraft only)
(One aircraft only)
 Russian Empire
(One aircraft only)
Naval Ensign of Ukraine (1917–1921).svg Ukraine
(Three aircraft)
 Soviet Union
 United Kingdom

Specifications (Type L)

Data from Aeroplanes of the Royal Flying Corps (Military Wing)[7]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2
  • Length: 6.88 m (22 ft 6¾ in)
  • Wingspan: 11.20 m (36 ft 8⅞ in)
  • Height: 3.93 m (12 ft 10⅝ in)
  • Wing area: 18.3 m² (197 sq ft)
  • Empty weight: 393 kg (865 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 677.5 kg (1,491 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Le Rhône 9C 9-cylinder rotary engine, 60 kW (80 hp)


  • Maximum speed: 125 km/h (68 knots, 78 mph) at sea level
  • Endurance: 4 hr
  • Climb to 1000 m (3000 ft): 8 min


See also

  • Morane-Saulnier Type N
  • Airdrome Morane Saulnier L, a modern kit reproduction



  1. Taylor 1989, p. 684.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft 1985, p. 2698.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Bruce, 1989, p.3
  4. Green and Swanborough 1994, p. 413.
  5. Thetford 1978, p. 258.
  6. Nicolle 1994, p. 19.
  7. Bruce 1982, p. 291.


  • Angelucci, Enzo. The Rand McNally Encyclopedia of Military Aircraft, 1914-1980. San Diego, California: The Military Press, 1983. ISBN 0-517-41021-4.
  • Bruce, J.M. Morane Saulnier Type L - Windsock Datafile 16. Herts, UK: Albatros Publications, 1989. ISBN 0-948414-20-0.
  • Bruce, J.M. The Aeroplanes of the Royal Flying Corps (Military Wing). London: Putnam, 1982. ISBN 0-370-30084-X.
  • Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. The Complete Book of Fighters. New York: Smithmark, 1994. ISBN 0-8317-3939-8.
  • The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft. London: Aerospace Publishing, 1985.
  • Nicolle, David. The Ottoman Army 1914-1918: Disease and Death on the Battlefield. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 1994. ISBN 978-0-87480-923-7.
  • Taylor, Michael J. H. Jane's Encyclopedia of Aviation. London: Studio Editions, 1989.
  • Thetford, Owen. British Naval Aircraft since 1912. London: Putnam, Fourth edition, 1978. ISBN 0-370-30021-1.

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