Early experiments

It was not until late in the war that the performance of aircraft improved sufficiently for them to carry enough of a bomb load to pose any sort of threat to ground or naval targets. Before then, large airborne cannon were thought to have major potential in the offensive role and various types were tried, initially with disappointing results, although as we shall see this is a concept which has refused to go away.

Large cannon featured among the first experiments in aircraft armament, with the Frenchman Gabriel Voisin showing an aircraft with a 37mm cannon as early as 1910 (the same year in which a rifle was first fired from an aircraft, in the USA). Airborne firing experiments took place with a 37mm cannon fitted to a Voisin machine in 1913, only a year after the first firing of a machine gun (a Lewis) from an aircraft (a Wright B) in the USA.

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