When the modern petrol-powered aircraft was invented in 1903 by Americans Orville and Wilbur Wright, it was regarded as no more than a novelty by military authorities. However, with the outbreak of war, those contraptions of wire, canvas and wood entered military service and quickly began proving their value as airborne intelligence platforms. For instance, on Aug 22, 1914, British Captain L.E.O. Charlton and Lieutenant V.H.N. Wadham reported that German General Alexander von Kluck was preparing his army to surround the British Expeditionary Force in France – this report contradicted all other intelligence received by the British High Command. Their subsequent decision based on this intelligence to withdraw to Mons saved the lives of 100,000 soldiers.
The role of the aircraft expanded to air-to-air combat with the first true fighter, the Fokker E.1,
the Fokker e.IV, an advance on the first true fighter airplane, the Fokker
e.1. — Wikimedia Commons emerging in 1915, handing air superiority to the Germans until in early 1916, with the arrival in numbers of the French Nieuport 11 and British DH.2 fighters. This development in turn prompted an arms race that would continue until the 1918 Armistice, with each side trying to develop harder hitting and faster fighters.