Early Eastern Wings
For their part in the First World War, pilots of the Russian Empire largely flew foreign designed aircraft. The Odessa based Anatra company, which existed from 1913 to 1918, started by producing aircraft from the Farman, Morane, Nieuport and Voisin companies under license. However, the company also produced aircraft of its own design.
The Anatra DS Anasal, which first flew in the summer of 1916, was developed as a replacement for the Anatra D Anade reconnaissance aircraft. The Anatra D, in spite of several design flaws, was taken into service in May of 1916.
The Anade was used as a starting point for the Anasal design, but many refinements were made to increase the strength and stability when creating the Anasal. A major change was the Anade fabric on frame fuselage being replaced by wood panel construction. This change was dictated largely by fitting the Anasal with a much more powerful engine than the one in the Anade.
The engine of the Anasal was a 150 horsepower Salmson radial design which unusually incorporated liquid cooling and the bulky radiator which that process involved. This configuration would appear to go against one of the major principles behind the radial engine; negating the weight penalties of liquid cooling in favour of using air flow around the engine to cool it. Some references indicate that this arrangement was unique; however, Salmson produced a series of liquid cooled radial engines between 1908 and 1920 which powered over 30 different aircraft types.
The Anasal was a definite improvement over the undependable Anade, not only in responsive flying qualities but also in trouble free maintenance and ground handling. It was considered an acceptable aircraft for its time period and role though inferior to the best British and German designs of the day.
While the Anasal had reconnaissance as its primary mission, it could also be used for light bombing. The aircraft could carry between 50 and 80 kilograms of bombs aloft and the observer could drop them manually from his station behind the pilot. For its own defense, the Anasal had a single forward firing Vickers machine gun for the pilot while the observer station could be fitted with a variety of machine gun types on a ring mount arrangement.
Uprising and Upheaval
1917 was year of tremendous change in Russia; Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate and a short lived provisional government came to power. With the Bolshevik Revolution in Autumn of 1917, Russia was thrust into a state of civil war that would last until Autumn of 1922.
It was the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, signed in March of 1918, which saw the Anasal come into the service of non Russian forces. The treaty ceded significant Russian held land to the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey) and recognized Ukraine as an independent state.
With the Russian army largely collapsed and ineffective in Ukraine, German and Austro-Hungarian forces entered the country with ease and found a wealth of aircraft at the Anatra factory when they reached Odessa. Over 200 finished aircraft, including over 100 Anasals, were found stored in warehouses; in the factory itself, there were over 100 more Anasals in various states of completion.
Upon evaluation, the Anasal was not deemed suitable for work directly in battle though was seen as quite suitable for training purposes. This situation allowed aircraft factories in Austria-Hungary to concentrate all of their efforts on combat aircraft rather than building more trainers.
In the context of the Russian Civil War; both the White (anti-Bolshevik) and the Red (pro-Communist) sides of the conflict employed the Anasal. Further notable use of the Anasal in the conflict was made by Czechoslovak and Polish legions who fought on the White side of the war.
At the end of the First World War, Anasals had found their way to several parts of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and were divided between the now independent Austria, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Austria and Czechoslovakia were equipped with around 20 aircraft each while Hungary had roughly half that number.
Between 1918 and 1920, Hungary saw a series of political revolutions and found itself engaging in hostilities against some of its neighboring nations. Notable among these was a brief battle in Spring of 1919 against Czechoslovakia in which the Anasals of both nations were involved.
What Remains and Learning More
Through the 1920s, many Anasals were used for educational purposes. Initially as flying trainers and later as ground maintenance trainers. Eventually, the bulk of them were retired and scrapped through the course of the decade.
Of the more than 350 Anasals built between 1917 and 1918, only one is known to remain in existence. It is kept in the collection of the National Technical Museum of the Czech Republic in Prague.
A full scale replica of an Anasal can be found in the collection of the State Aviation Museum of Ukraine in Zhulyany.
These links will take you to brief summaries of the Prague and Zhulyany aircraft respectively: