The French field marshal Ferdinand Foch reputedly said ‘aviation is good sport, but for the army it’s useless’. However, necessity drove rapid innovation, and by 1916 aeroplanes had acquired three critical battlefield functions: reconnaissance, air defence, and bombing. Aerial supremacy switched frequently from side to side, as technological breakthroughs transferred to the front. With respect to fighter planes, the Fokker ensured German dominance until mid-1916, but during the Battle of the Somme, France and Britain gradually wrested control with new plane designs, weaponry and tactics. This command brought with it a critical advantage in performing aerial reconnaissance and tactical bombing. However, it did not offer protection from anti-aircraft fire from the ground; the Germans abandoned the use of Zeppelins for tactical bombing in 1915 due to prohibitive rates of loss, and, throughout the war, the French produced a total of 68,000 aircraft of which 52,000 were lost in action.
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