The "Eagle" Class Gunships of the Royal Austrian Mechanised Military were feared symbols of Hapsburg power in the middle of the 19th Century. All this was to change, of course, with the shattering defeat of Austrian forces at the hands of the Prussians in the short but intense conflict of 1866.
The irony is that Prussia and Austria had been allies only seven years before, in the war with the small kingdoms of Holsten and Pilzner over the disputed Duchy of Budvar. The powerful Prussian ground forces, lacking any effective air power, relied almost exclusively on the Austrian Gunships to provide bombing support and aerial defence. Despite this successful military partnership, relationships soon soured with increasing (and undoubtedly justified) Austrian suspicion of Prussian territorial ambitions in Southern and Eastern Europe.
The war of 1866 saw Austrian Gunships in action once more, this time against the very forces they had protected previously. However, their ability to project Hapsburg power was severely curtailed by the newly-formed Prussian Valkyrie Squadrons, seeing action for the first time. With their aerial attacks blunted, the commanders of the Royal Austrian Mechanised Military saw their ground troops struggle with archaic equipment against the more advanced Prussian war machine.
Forced into a humiliating surrender, the Hapsburg rulers never forgave their former ally and simmering Austrian resentment persisted until the turn of the century when the two nations were compelled to join forces once more in unlikely alliance against the Empire.
More photographic images of the "Eagle" Class in flight can be viewed here.