Descended from the company's successful S.VII model, and with lessons learnt from the inadequate S.XII (a cannon armed version of the S.VII), the Spad ( Société Provisoire des Aéroplanes Deperdussin) S.XIII began reaching squadrons on the Western Front in May 1917. It would rapidly become one of the most widely used Fighter Aircraft during the Great War and after, seeing wartime service in the Air Arms of France, Great Britain, Belgium, Italy and the USA.

The S.XIII differed from the S,VII in having a slight increase in wingspan improved ailerons and other aerodynamic refinements plus the increased power provided by the 220hp Hispano-Suiza 8Be vee piston engine, which gave the aircraft a recorded maximum speed of 139 mph at 6,560 ft and a flight endurance of 2 hours. A pair of synchronized 0.303-in Vickers fixed forward firing machine guns provided the fighters armament.

The prototype was flown for the first time on 4 April 1917, but initial production was slow (there were still more of the earlier S.VII in service than the newer model by March 1918), but eventually increasing numbers of Spad XIIIs would arrive at the front, quickly replacing the S.VII and Nieuports in the French fighter squadrons for the remainder of the war.

Never an easy aircraft to fly (pilots either loved or loathed it), the tail-heavy Spad was especially difficult for inexperienced pilots during take-off and landing (an inability to glide into a landing meant that the pilot needed to keep full power on during the approach), the Spad would nevertheless prove a formidable adversary to the German airmen, particularly in the hands of such Aces as René Fonck, Georges Guynemer and Charles Nungesser.

The American Expeditionary Force would receive 893 Spad fighters whilst in France. Some of these were taken back to the USA where a number were retrospectively fitted with Wright-Hispano engines. A notable Spad XIII pilot was the leading American Ace, Edward 'Eddie' Rickenbacker of the 94th aero squadron AEF, who would finish the war with 26 victories. A plan to build 2,000 Spad XIII under license in the USA by Curtiss, as the Spad 13E, however was discarded with the signing of the armistice.

Production terminated after 8,472 machines had been built, and later, following the armistice many surplus machines would find their way into various Air Forces around the world, with large numbers, in particular, being operated by Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Japan.

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