Added to the IL-2 series back in December of 2022, the Sopwith Snipe arrives to the Flying Circus side of the series as the first completely new aircraft to join the series since its inception. Prior aircraft releases have also been based on rejuvenated versions from Rise of Flight – the Snipe is all new! How does this new entry stack up? How does the Snipe compete with the other types currently available? Let’s have a look!
A bit of history
In the spring of 1917, Herbert Smith, chief designer at Sopwith Company, began designing a replacement for the Sopwith Camel. The new aircraft was to be slightly smaller than the company’s successful bi-plane fighter and was to be driven by a more powerful radial engine. In the new design, the pilot sat higher up than in the Camel and a cut out in the top section of the fuselage ensured better upward visibility.
The second prototype, named Snipe, fitted the definitive engine for the type. The Bentley BR.2 rotary engine would be the last rotary engine to be fitted to a RFC/RAF fighter and it came packing a 230 horsepower. A big jump over the 130 hp from the Camel’s Clerget 9B rotary.
By March of 1918, the fighter reached operational evaluation and by the end of August the first squadron would trade it’s Camels for Snipes. The type would see combat from September to November of 1918 when the war ended.
The Snipe had a famous engagement with Canadian Major William Barker from No. 201 squadron taking a Snipe up for evaluation after a two-week stint with the squadron as part of his training duties. During his last operation, he flew over the battlefield and was attacked by 15 Fokker D.VIIs. The engagement was watched by Allied troops on the ground. Barker, miraculously, managed to shoot down at least three Fokkers before making a forced landing on Allied territory despite damge to his aircraft and he himself sustaining wounds in the fight. Barker would be awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions.
The Snipe would go on to be selected as the RAF’s standard fighter in the immediate post-war period. It was later phased out in 1926.
Visuals and sounds
Ugra Media have, for a few years now, been rejuvenating aircraft from the Rise of Flight era and bringing them up to a level typical of the modern IL-2. They also built the U-2VS and the C-47 cockpit for the sim. Their team has been slowly building up capability with the IL-2 series and the Snipe is their first complete package since the U-2VS where they built it up from the beginning.
Despite the unique nature of this entry, I detect no decline in visual quality at all. The aircraft looks great from all angles and meets the standard set by the rest of the series. Texture work is at a typical high standard and that applies to both inside the cockpit and on the exterior. The type comes with both a generic skin as well as several famous aircraft. Like all RFC/RAF schemes from the era, there isn’t much in the way of variation and only the training scheme skin has any sort of extra flare or colour to it. That’s just how it is with this aircraft’s history.
Like other recent entries in the series, it supports dynamic tactical codes and the dynamic vehicle damage system.
One visual that stands out to me is the bullet ejectors. These metal ringed ports on the bottom part of the fuselage near the lower wing are easily spotted and if viewed closely you can see the casings coming out of the ports. It looks really cool and is a nice detail.
The usual rotary engine sounds that accompanies other aircraft in the sim are present here. Although never outstanding, they are serviceable and they communicate the aircraft’s power state excellently. Wind rush noises, like in other types in the series, is also excellent and IL-2’s communication of general aircraft state (beyond the engine) is also outstanding.
My expectations for flying the Snipe was for an airplane that was roughly similar to a Camel but with more available engine power. Pilot reports were that the aircraft had better overall handling than the Camel but I wasn’t quite sure how that would translate.
In researching the aircraft, I stumbled upon a Kermit Weeks video where he flew a restored Snipe. After he landed, his comments were that the ailerons were stiff and the elevator heavy. Another account,105-years earlier, from Lieutenant L. N. Hollinghurst from No.1 Aeroplane Supply Depot at St-Omer in France, evaluated an early production example and remarked that it was tail heavy and had a poor rudder. That was the real airplane and now lets talk about the virtual one.
The Snipe, owing much to the Camel in overall concept, doesn’t really fly like the Camel. I initially disliked the new airplane and struggled to fight in it and that was because I was trying to fly it like its predecessor. This airplane is very much its own beast and needs to be approached as such.
The elevator is indeed heavy in the sim and appears to match real world accounts. At speed with full deflection the aircraft shudders and shakes but is less likely to spin out or get into an accelerated stall than the Camel. It also just doesn’t pull as hard in these situations and the Snipe is not the turn fighter that its predecessor is. Once I adjusted my style, I started to like the handling on this aircraft quite a bit more. It still has the funky feeling that other rotary aircraft do and that gives it plenty of character that you expect from a fighter from this era.
Accelerated stalls still do happen and the Snipe can take quite a bit of counter rudder and elevator work to get out of it. I lost several thousand feet trying to recover from a stall that had begun to develop into a spin in one instance. Fortunately it does handle high speed pull outs reasonably well.
Takeoff happens very quickly while landing is no more tricky than the Camel or SE5a. You’re sitting higher up in the Snipe than in those other aircraft so you have to adjust your flare just a bit to compensate as that’s caught me out a few times.
Because the Snipe is the newest kid on the block, I thought it’d be a good idea to pull the performance numbers as stated by the developers, to see how it compares. I put two other airplanes in with the comparison. The first is the Sopwith Camel, its direct predecessor, and second is the Fokker D.VIIF, the proverbial top dog in WWI aerial battles.
- 1000m – 2 min. 31 sec.
- 2000m – 5 min. 24 sec.
- 3000m – 8 min. 49 sec.
- 4000m – 13 min. 00 sec.
- 5000m – 18 min 31 sec.
- 6000m – 28 min. 23 sec.
- 1000 m — 2 min. 37 sec
- 2000 m — 5 min. 46 sec.
- 3000 m — 9 min. 40 sec.
- 4000 m — 14 min. 45 sec.
- 5000 m — 21 min. 41 sec.
- 6000 m — 32 min. 17 sec.
- 1000 m — 2 min. 18 sec.
- 2000 m — 4 min. 40 sec.
- 3000 m — 7 min. 11 sec.
- 4000 m — 9 min. 47 sec.
- 5000 m — 12 min. 42 sec.
- 6000 m — 16 min. 23 sec.
- 7000 m — 21 min. 19 sec.
- 8000 m — 28 min. 59 sec.
- sea level — 197 km/h
- 1000 m — 188 km/h
- 2000 m — 178 km/h
- 3000 m — 167 km/h
- 4000 m — 156 km/h
- 5000 m — 143 km/h
- 6000 m — 116 km/h
- sea level — 195 km/h
- 1000 m — 183 km/h
- 2000 m — 170 km/h
- 3000 m — 158 km/h
- 4000 m — 145 km/h
- 5000 m — 132 km/h
- 6000 m — 117 km/h
- sea level — 197 km/h
- 1000 m — 192 km/h
- 2000 m — 184 km/h
- 3000 m — 181 km/h
- 4000 m — 176 km/h
- 5000 m — 165 km/h
- 6000 m — 153 km/h
- 7000 m — 140 km/h
- 8000 m — 126 km/h
- 9000 m — 106 km/h
The Snipe matches the Fokker’s excellent top speed at sea level and bests the Camel at all altitudes with the gap widening from 3000-5000 meters and then narrowing at the maximum altitude. The Fokker retains its superiority across the entire speed range.
The Snipe and Camel both have a similar ceiling with the Camel maxing out at 6700 meters and the Snipe maxing out slightly lower at 6100 meters. I’m not sure if this is accurate but its what is listed. Meanwhile, the Fokker D.VIIIF is rated a 9000 meters ceiling. The Camel has the longest rated combat power endurance coming in just under 3 hours while the Fokker and Snipe can hang on for just 1 hour and 55 minutes or 2 hours and 5 minutes respectively. Those numbers are worth remembering when setting out on short dogfight sorties as a opposed to long patrols along the front.
Following on from my handling impressions, the Snipe surprised me a bit until I realized that what Sopwith had built was an aircraft that is very much competitive with the other types of its time period. An increasing interest in speed, climb, and altitude performance has the Snipe near the top of its class in two of the three attributes. It’s only 10 mph faster than the Camel but its climb rate meets or exceeds the SPAD 13 and Fokker D.VIIF with the D.VIIF pulling away at higher altitudes thanks to its altitude-throttle.
When flown like a D.VIIF or a SPAD, the Snipe is an excellent fighter with power and climb rate that makes it highly competitive. For those unfamiliar with those types, you ideally want to engage your enemies with altitude advantage making use of the excellent climb rate It’s good at altitude too!
Its twin .303 Vickers machine guns are conventionally fitted and effective. I’ve tried both the default iron sights and the available telescopic sight and find the iron sights to be far easier to work with. The sights are slightly offset to the right side of the cockpit and this seems to give you the best view for your average deflection shot.
The Snipe can also be equipped to carry bombs. Four 20lb Coopers bombs or a single 50lb H.E.R.L. can be fitted for ground attack giving the Snipe a secondary ground attack capability.
Another modification adds a cockpit light. It’s a single light and its of limited use as it only illuminates the left side of the cockpit keeping the RPM gauge firmly in the dark. But then, you’re not likely to fly the Snipe at night anyways.
It took me a few flights and some reading but I’ve grown to really like the Snipe. Although its a late war rarity with just a couple of months of fighting in its log books, the Snipe doesn’t feel out of place among the rest of the Flying Circus aircraft set.
One of the things that I was worried about was if the Snipe might upset the apple cart. Would it boast performance that put it above and beyond what was already out there and make it feel like you were cheating the opposition. Far from it, this is an aircraft that is extremely competitive with some of the other types out there but rarely superior. If you’re a RFC/RAF scout fan, you’ve probably been struggling to keep up with the Fokker D.VIIFs that have popped up online and off, and the Snipe finally gives you something to compete more directly with on mostly even footing.
Well modeled, nicely detailed, simple, and effective, the Snipe does require approaching it as if it was a new airplane and not just a Camel with more power. Once you do that, it has plenty of charm and this fun albeit sometimes ill tempered fighter becomes quite fun to fly.