The Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2 was a British single-engine tractor two-seat biplane in service with the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) from 1912 until the end of World War I. About 3,500 were built. Initially used as front-line reconnaissance aircraft and light bombers; variants of the type were also used as night fighters. Like many warplanes since, the B.E.2 was retained in front-line service long after it had become obsolete, for want of a suitable replacement. After its belated withdrawal it finally served as a trainer, communications aircraft and on anti-submarine coastal patrol duties.
While the type was designed and developed by the Royal Aircraft Factory, the majority of production aircraft were built under contract by private companies, including well known manufacturers as well as firms that had not previously built aircraft.
The B.E.2 has always been the subject of a good deal of controversy. While it proved fundamentally unsuited to air-to-air combat it had a relatively low accident rate, and its notorious “inherent stability” actually proved helpful in its artillery observation and aerial photography duties.