French industrialist Emile Salmson had been building radial engines designed by Georges Canton and Georges Unne since 1910 and had begun designing aircraft by 1914. The Societe de Motors Salmson’s first aircraft design to be put into production was the remarkably ungainly twin propeller, single engine SM.1 in November 1916. At the same time that Salmson were manufacturing their SM.1 they were also building Sopwith 1 & 1/2 Strutters (Sopwith 1-A2 in French nomenclature) under license and had begun designing a larger version of this successful, but fragile, British two-seat reconnaissance machine during 1916. This prototype Salmson A made its maiden flight in January 1917 but did not impress the authorities so it was developed further to be powered by Salmson’s new 260hp 9z water cooled radial engine. This rugged new aircraft became the Salmson 2-A2 prototype which was test flown in April 1917 and put into production with 2200 ordered from Salmson with another 1000 to be built by Campagnie General Omnibus (CGO), Hanriot and Latecoere. Additionally the Tokyo Artillery Arsenal Factory and Kawasaki Shipworks built around 600 licensed (and unlicensed) examples from 1920 to 1927 which were known as the Type Otsu 1 Reconnaissance Aircraft.
The Salmson 2-A2 featured a large radiator, powerful radial engine, self sealing fuel tanks, aluminium engine cowlings, conventional wooden fuselage and wing construction with silk fabric covering. They first entered service with French Escadrille Sal.122 in October 1917 where the new aircraft was enthusiastically received, replacing the unit’s aging twin engine Caudron G.6 aircraft. It was also widely used by the USAS (Air Service, United States Army) with their first machines going into action with the 1st and 12th Aero Squadrons during June 1918. A total of 705 Salmson 2-A2 were delivered to the USAS, more than any other two-seater used by the AEF (American Expeditionary Force) during the First World War. Following the armistice the Salmson 2-A2 was used during occupational duties in Germany before being phased out of French service by 1921. The Salmson 2-A2 saw limited service in the new Czechoslavak Air Force, both sides in the Russian Civil War, Poland, Belgium and limited use as a civilian passenger aircraft. The Japanese Type Otsu 1 Reconnaissance Aircraft saw service in Siberia in 1922 and China in 1931 and was not completely replaced until 1933. Any history here is of necessity very brief so we recommend that you seek out the references below for at better understanding of this important aircraft.
WW1 colour schemes are contentious at the best of times and we have done our best to provide what we consider to be accurate painting information for this model. Photographic evidence shows that very early production Salmson 2-A2 entered service finished in aluminium doped fabric with unpainted aluminum panels (many of which featured a patterned ‘turned’ finish). Steel brackets, fittings, undercarriage struts, and possibly marouflage strut wrapping and rigging wires all appear to have been finished in Horizon blue, which has been shown to range from a dark bluish grey to vibrant pale blue. Later production aircraft were finished in the ‘standard’ French 5 colour camouflage scheme of chestnut brown, beige, light green, dark green (all of which contained an imperceptible amount of aluminium powder which imparts a very subtle semi gloss ‘pearlescent’ sheen) and black. The undersides appear to have been left as clear doped silk with metal panels painted ecru (Edit: The undersides may also have been painted light grey). Note that while the patterns of the camouflage remained remarkably consistent, existing samples of fabric indicate that the colours were subject to considerable variation. In many period photographs the tonal difference between the beige, brown and greens appears negligible. Aluminium fuselage panels were finished in gloss Ripolin paints (without aluminium powder) which closely, but not exactly, matched the adjacent fabric colours. Many USAS aircraft were supplied with French national markings which needed to be modified to US configuration. Luckily many examples of the colourful US unit markings were saved by the crews before their aircraft were scrapped after the Armistice.