Morane-Saulnier L

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.

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.

About 450 aircraft were licence-built in Russia by Duks and Lebed works.

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

Morane-Saulnier L
Class Aircraft
Type Fighter
Manufacturer Morane-Saulnier
Origin France
Country Name Origin Year
France 1913
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Argentina View
Belgium View
Czechoslovakia View
Finland View
France 1914 View
France View
Netherlands View
Peru View
Poland View
Romania View
Russia (USSR) View
Russia (USSR) View
Sweden View
Switzerland View
Turkey (Ottoman Empire) View
Ukraine View
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Morane-Saulnier 600 View


Morane-Saulnier versions

  •     L basic model
  •     LA improved L with faired fuselage

Pfalz-built versions

  •     A.I with Oberursel U.0 engine[3]
  •     A.II with Oberursel U.I engine[3]
  •     E.III - A Pfalz A.II armed with single synchronised LMG 08 machine gun[3]

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. 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. 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 E.5/15 — 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 just east of Lunéville 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, 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.

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

A Morane-Saulnier "Parasol" was used for the first flight by an airplane across the Andes on April 13, 1918, when the Argentine aviator Luis Candelaria flew from Zapala, Argentina, to Cunco, Chile; the flight lasted 2 hours 30 minutes and reached an altitude of 4,000 meters.

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

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2
  • Length: 6.88 m (22 ft 6¾ in)
  • Wingspan: 11.20 m (36 ft 8? in)
  • Height: 3.93 m (12 ft 10? 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


  • Guns: 1 × 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis gun

End notes