Lublin R-XIII

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The army cooperation plane
As the term ‘army cooperation plane’ was non-typical, critical remarks about the Lublin R-XIII could be made: such a kind of an aircraft did not exist in the other countries’ air forces. Meanwhile, during WWII, they all used liaison-observation aircraft classified similarly to the R-XIII: the Fieseler Fi 156 Storch in Germany, an armed variant of the Polikarpow U-2 (Po-2) in the USSR, the Piper Cub in the United States Air Force and Auster Taylorcraft in the Royal Air Force. The R-XIII had already been in service in Poland in 1932, whereas the other countries only implemented their aircraft in the course of the war.
Being used by the side that had advantages in the air, observation-liaison aircraft were able to fulfill tasks yet they were defenceless against fighter planes of an adversary. That is why the R-XIII did not play a big part in September 1939, not because they were obsolete. When an adversary had more power in the air, reconnaissance operations had to be carried out by quick reconnaissance aircraft. Nowadays, the role of observation-liaison aircraft is performed by helicopters, drones and satellites.

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The aircraft concept

The concept of an infantry cooperation aircraft was developed on Marshal Józef Piłsudski’s request, when troops were in use during the May coup in 1926. In the guidelines by the General Inspectorate of the Armed Forces on organisation and use of aviation dated October 13, 1926, they outlined the importance of adjusting the aviation to ‘to the changing conditions of the civil war’. That was also stated that ‘in the course of the war, working to ensure intelligence and communication must be the first priority of the aviation’. On October 14, 1926, it was stated in the report of the Polish General Staff about the guidelines fulfillment:
1.    ‘At present, infantry and cavalry divisions lack aviation. A battle squadron is unsuitable for the inherent aviation of these divisions. That is typical army aviation.’
2.    ‘Therefore, besides the mighty Air Force and Commander-in-Chief, it is necessary to implement light aviation, cheaper and more manoeuvrable, that would not require ideal aerodromes and hangars and involve less trained personnel. The tasks for this aviation are: cooperation with the divisional artillery and accompanying the infantry. An inherent unit for an infantry or cavalry division would be a platoon of 4 planes.’
A military aircraft of this type also had to solve the problem of limited funds for aviation within the military budget.
In Memoriał w sprawie lotnictwa (Memorandum on aviation) of March 12, 1928 prepared for the General Staff, the chief of the Aviation Department colonel Ludomił Rayski demanded to create the army cooperation aviation, the first three squadrons of which had to be formed in 1929.
Col. Marian Romeyko, who described the genesis of army cooperation aviation on the pages of Przegląd Lotniczy (Aviation Revue) in 1930, says that they wanted ‘an aircraft that would be able to land almost on any airfield, would be easy to maintain, easy to transport, would not require a tent hangar, would be cheap to construct and use and simultaneously have appropriate speed, lifting capacity and service ceiling’. He specifies that it had to be a two-seater metal high-wing plane with folding wings and very broad and durable landing gear, unable to turn over and capable of taking off and landing shortly. Also, it had to have a place for a radio station.


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The contest
In 1927, the Aviation Department of the Ministry of Military Affairs announced a contest for an aircraft of that kind and specified requirements for it. In the technical requirements, it was stated that a plane had to be powered by a 162kW (220hp) engine Wright J. 5, armed with an observer’s machine gun and have the maximum speed of 170 km/h, be capable of a short takeoff and short landing at an unprepared airfield, have folding wings and be pullable by an automobile moving its own chassis. At the end of 1927, two factories became interested in the competition: the Podlasie Aircraft Factory located in Biała Podlaska and Mechanical Works E. Plage & T. Laśkiewicz in Lublin. State Aviation Works in Warsaw was also supposed to enter it in December 1927. On March 28, 1928, Podlasie Aircraft Factory received an order for 2 prototypes and 5 aircraft of pilot production, whereas Mechanical Works E. Plage & T. Laśkiewicz started designing the aircraft at their own risk.
Three aircraft were introduced for the contest: the PWS-5, the PZL Ł.2 and Lublin R-X.