Sopwith Dolphin

The Sopwith 5F.1 Dolphin of World War 1

The Sopwith 5F.1 Dolphin was a British fighter aircraft manufactured by the Sopwith Aviation Company. It was used by the Royal Flying Corps and its successor, the Royal Air Force, during the First World War

The Dolphin entered service on the Western Front in early 1918 and proved to be a formidable fighter. The aircraft was not retained in the postwar inventory and was retired shortly after the war.

In early 1917, the Sopwith chief engineer, Herbert Smith, began designing a new fighter (internal Sopwith designation 5F.1) powered by the geared 200 hp Hispano-Suiza 8B. 

The resulting Dolphin was a two-bay, single-seat biplane, 

with the upper wings attached to an open steel cabane frame above the cockpit. 

To maintain the correct centre of gravity, the lower wings were positioned 13 in (33 cm) forward of the upper wings, creating the Dolphin’s distinctive negative wing stagger

The pilot sat with his head through the frame, where he had an excellent view. 

This configuration sometimes caused difficulty for novices, who found it difficult to keep the aircraft pointed at the horizon because the nose was not visible from the cockpit. 

The cockpit was nevertheless warm and comfortable, in part because water pipes ran alongside the cockpit walls to the two side-mounted radiator blocks. 

A pair of single-panel shutters, one in front of each radiator core and operated by the pilot, allowed the engine temperature to be controlled.


Sopwith Snipe

The Sopwith Snipe

The Sopwith 7F.1 Snipe was a British single-seat biplane fighter of the Royal Air Force (RAF). It was designed and built by the Sopwith Aviation Company during the First World War, and came into squadron service a few weeks before the end of the conflict, in late 1918.

The Snipe was not a fast aircraft by the standards of its time, but its excellent climb and manoeuvrability made it a good match for contemporary German fighters.

It was selected as the standard postwar single-seat RAF fighter and the last examples were not retired until 1926.

In April 1917, Herbert Smith, the chief designer of the Sopwith Company, began to design a fighter intended to be the replacement for Sopwith’s most famous aeroplane, the successful Sopwith Camel

The resultant design, called Snipe by Sopwith, was in its initial form a single-bay biplane, slightly smaller than the Camel, and intended to be powered by similar engines. 

The pilot sat higher than in the Camel while the centre-section of the upper wing was uncovered, giving a better view from the cockpit. 

Armament was to be two Vickers machine guns.

In the absence of an official order, Sopwith began construction of two prototypes as a private venture in September 1917. 

This took advantage of a licence that had been granted to allow construction of four Sopwith Rhino bomber prototypes, only two of which were built. 

The first prototype Snipe, powered by a Bentley AR.1 rotary engine was completed in October 1917.

The second prototype was completed with the new, more powerful Bentley BR.2, engine, which gave 230 horsepower (170 kW) in November 1917. This promised better performance, and prompted an official contract for six prototypes to be placed, including the two aircraft built as private ventures

Henri and Maurice Farman

Henri Farman (26 May 1874– 17 July 1958 was an Anglo-French aviator and aircraft designer and manufacturer with his brother Maurice Farman. 

Before dedicating himself to aviation he gained fame as a sportsman, specifically in cycling and motor racing. 

Henri took French nationality in 1937.

He started practicing in 1907 with a homemade biplane glider on the sandhills of Le Touquet, after first experimenting with model aeroplanes of different sizes. 

Henri then decided he wanted a machine powered plane, and ordered a Voisin 1907 biplane on 1 June 1907. 

He used this aircraft to set many official records for both distance and duration.

On 26 October 1907, at Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, he made flights, among others, of 363, 403, and 771 metres in the plane. And he also started to turn the plane in the air on this date.

The distance of 771 metres was completed in 52 seconds. It was the longest flight in the world that year, and won Farman the Ernest Archdeacon Cup. 

He made a complete circular flight of 1,030 metres, in 1 minute 14 seconds on 10 November 1907 at Issy. This was the first time that a European aeroplane had completed a full circle. And the first time that an aeroplane, other than a Wright brothers one, had stayed in the air for longer than a minute.

The Voisin-Farman I was also the first biplane in Europe, to fly a circular circuit of 1 kilometre, over a predetermined course, on 13 January 1908.

This again occurred at Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, and won Henri the 50,000 franc Grand Prix d’Aviation offered by Henri Deutsch de la Meurthe. 

And on 21 March 1908 at the same place, he made a flight of 2.004 Kilometres.

On 30 October 1908, Farman went on to make the first cross-country flight in Europe. 

Henri flew from his hangars at Camp de Châlons, Bouy, to Reims, landing at the Cavalry ground. It was a distance of 27 Kilometres.

MF.11 “Shorthorn”

The passenger transport Goliath
By early 1909, Farman fell out with Gabriel Voisin because Voisin had sold an aircraft that had been built to Farman’s specifications to J.T.C. Moore-Brabazon. This aircraft was named the Bird of Passage by Brabazon. 

So Henri started manufacturing aircraft to his own design. 

The first of these, the Farman III, first flew in April 1909. It was an immediate success and widely imitated.

In 1909, he opened a flying school at Châlons-sur-Marne at which George Bertram Cockburn was the first pupil.
In this same year he made further record breaking flights. One of 180 kilometres in just over 3 hours, at Reims on 27 August. And one of 232 kilometres in 4 hours 17 minutes and 53 seconds,at Mourmelon-le-Grand on 3 November. 

In October 1909 he appeared at the Blackpool Aviation Week, Britain’s first air show, at which he won over £2000 in prizes.

In partnership with his two brothers Maurice and Richard (Dick), he built a highly successful and innovative aircraft manufacturing plant. 

Their 1914 model was used extensively for artillery observation and reconnaissance during World War I. 

The Farman Aircraft company’s Goliath was the first long-distance passenger airliner, beginning regular Paris-London (Croydon Airport) flights on 8 February 1919.

He was made a chevalier of the French Légion d’honneur in 1919. 

Along with Maurice, he retired in 1937 when the French Popular Front government nationalised the aircraft industry; Farman’s company becoming part of the Societe Nationale de Constructions Aeronautiques du Centre.

Henry Farman took French nationality in 1937.

He died in Paris and is buried in the Cimetière de Passy in Paris.

In 1988, Farman was inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air & Space Museum

Nieuport 24

Nieuport 24 Aircraft of World War 1

In the summer of 1917, when the Nieuport 24 and 24bis began coming off the production line, many French fighter squadrons were replacing their Nieuport 17s with SPAD S.VIIs but some French units retained Nieuports into 1918 when they were effectively obsolete, although the type was preferred by some, especially the famous Charles Nungesser.

The type’s most notable accomplishment occurred when Nieuports of N152 were responsible for downing two Zeppelins, L49 and L50 during the night of 19–20 October 1917.

France’s allies operated them, including the Russians and the British. The Russians would continue to operate their Nieuports throughout the Russian Civil War, and even received 20 French-built Nieuport 24s after the Czar’s abdication.

Production of additional examples was undertaken by Dux, who had license-built previous Nieuports. Production was undertaken both before and after the Soviet victory. The Soviets would rename Dux to GAZ No 1 (Государственный авиационный завод № 1 or State Aviation Plant No. 1) and production continued until at least 1923.[6] Examples remained in service until at least 1925.

In the summer of 1917, the RFC still regarded deliveries of Nieuport scouts as a top priority although the 24 and 24bis were regarded as interim types pending Nieuport 27 deliveries.

Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5 deliveries began shortly afterward, but a low production rate forced the British to use their Nieuport scouts operationally well into 1918.[8]

The Japanese bought several pattern aircraft and from 1921 to 1923 built 102, with work started by the Army Supply Depot at Tokorozawa until taken over by Nakajima.

These were later designated as the Ko 3, however, the Japanese did not distinguish between the 24 and the 27, initially calling both the Ni 24.

Most of their Nieuport 24s were fitted with the 80 hp (60 kW) Le Rhône 9C.

The Japanese operated them until 1926, much longer than they did their SPAD S.XIIIs, which were retired in 1922.

The Americans bought large numbers of Nieuport advanced trainers for their flying schools in France in November 1917, which either included 227 Nieuport 24s and 16 Nieuport 24bis or 121 Nieuport 24s and 140 Nieuport 24bis, depending on which source you believe, illustrating the difficulty in dealing with surviving source documents which often didn’t distinguish between the 24, 24bis and the 27.

The Soviet’s donated a Nieuport 24 and other types in 1921 to Afghanistan’s King Amanullah Khan. It still existed in 1924 when the Afghan Military Air Arm was formed.

Aeromarine 39

The Aeromarine 39 of World War 1

The Aeromarine 39 was an American two-seat training seaplane ordered by the US Navy in 1917 and built by the Aeromarine Plane and Motor Company of Keyport, New Jersey.

Of conventional biplane configuration and construction, the aircraft was designed so that its pontoons could be speedily detached and replaced with wheeled undercarriage for shore operations.

Fifty of the original design (later referred to as the 39A) were produced, featuring twin floats and powered by a Hall-Scott A-7 engine.

A redesign followed, increasing the wingspan to create more lift for water take-offs. This became known as the 39B. Other changes included a change to a single pontoon with outrigger floats, an enlarged vertical tail, and a change of powerplant to the Curtiss OXX.

On October 26, 1922, Godfrey DeCourcelles Chevalier landed a 39B on a moving ship, USS Langley, the first time this had been achieved on an American aircraft carrier.

Trials of underway carrier takeoffs and landings continued through 1922 and 1923.

The Airco DH-2

The Airco DH.2 of World War 1

The Airco DH.2 was a single-seat biplane “pusher” aircraft which operated as a fighter during the First World War. 

It was the second pusher design by aeronautical engineer Geoffrey de Havilland for Airco, based on his earlier DH.1 two-seater.

The design of DH.2 was greatly influenced by the technologies available at the time, as Britain had not yet developed a synchronisation gear to match the German system, this had compelled British fighters to adopt the pushed configuration, such as the DH.2 and the F.E.2b. 

Development of the type had begun before the emergence of the German’s Fokker Eindecker monoplane fighter; these two aircraft became fierce adversaries following the DH.2’s introduction. During July 1915, the prototype DH.2 performed its maiden flight; it was lost during the following month on the Western Front.

Introduced to frontline service in February 1916, the DH.2 became the first effectively armed British single-seat fighter. 

Its availability enabled Royal Flying Corps (RFC) pilots to counter the “Fokker Scourge” that had given the Germans the advantage in the skies during late 1915. It carried the burden of fighting and escort duties for almost two years, while numerous pilots became flying aces using the type. 

It became outclassed by newer German fighters, contributing to the DH.2’s withdrawal from first line service in France after RFC units were completely re-equipped with newer fighters, including the Airco DH.5, during June 1917.

The Fokker Scourge

The Fokker Scourge of World War 1

The Fokker Scourge (or Fokker Scare) occurred during the First World War from August 1915 to early 1916, when the Imperial German Flying Corps (Die Fliegertruppen), equipped with Fokker Eindecker fighters, gained an advantage over the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the French Aéronautique Militaire.

The Fokker was the first service aircraft to be fitted with a machine gun synchronised to fire through the arc of the propeller without striking the blades.

The tactical advantage of aiming the gun by aiming the aircraft and the surprise of its introduction were factors in its success.

This period of German air superiority ended with the arrival in numbers of the French Nieuport 11 and British Airco DH.2 fighters, which were capable of challenging the Fokkers, although the last Fokkers were not finally replaced until August–September 1916.

The term “Fokker Scourge” was coined by the British press in mid-1916, after the Eindeckers had been outclassed by the new Allied types.

Use of the term coincided with a political campaign to end a perceived dominance of the Royal Aircraft Factory in the supply of aircraft to the Royal Flying Corps, a campaign that was begun by the pioneering aviation journalist C. G.

Grey and Noel Pemberton Billing M.P., founder of Pemberton-Billing Ltd (Supermarine from 1916) and a great enthusiast for aerial warfare

As aerial warfare developed, the Allies gained a lead over the Germans by introducing machine-gun armed types such as the Vickers F.B.5 Gunbus fighter and the Morane-Saulnier L.

By early 1915, the German Oberste Heeresleitung (OHL, Army supreme command) had ordered the development of machine-gun-armed aircraft, to counter those of the Allies.

The new “C” class armed two-seaters and twin-engined “K” (later “G”) class aircraft such as the AEG G.I were attached in ones and twos to Feldflieger Abteilungen (artillery-observation and reconnaissance detachments) for “fighter” sorties, mostly the escort of unarmed aircraft.

On 18 April 1915, the Morane-Saulnier L of Roland Garros was captured, after he was forced to land behind the German lines.

From 1 April, Garros had destroyed three German aircraft in the Morane, which carried a machine-gun firing through the propeller arc. Bullets that hit the blades were deflected by small metal wedges.

Garros burned his aircraft but this failed to conceal the nature of the device and the significance of the deflector blades.

The German authorities requested several aircraft manufacturers, including that of Anthony Fokker, to produce a copy.

Synchronisation gear Main article:

Synchronization gear Detail of an early Fokker Eindecker: the cowling is off, showing the prototype form of the Stangensteuerung gear, connected directly to the oil pump drive at the rear of the engine.

The Fokker company produced the Stangensteuerung (push rod controller), a genuine synchronisation gear. Impulses from a cam driven by the engine controlled the firing of the machine-gun so it could fire forwards without damaging the propeller.]

Unlike earlier proposed gears the Stangensteuerung was fitted to an aircraft and proved in flight. In a postwar biography, Fokker claimed that he produced the gear in 48 hours but it was probably designed by Heinrich Lübbe, a Fokker Flugzeugbau engineer.

Among several pre-war patents for similar devices was that of Franz Schneider, a Swiss engineer who had worked for Nieuport and the German LVG company.

The device was fitted to the most suitable Fokker type, the Fokker M.5K (military designation Fokker A.III), of which A.16/15, assigned to Otto Parschau, became the prototype of the Fokker E.I.

Fokker demonstrated A.16/15 to German fighter pilots, including Kurt Wintgens, Oswald Boelcke and Max Immelmann in May and June 1915.

The Fokker, with its “Morane” controls, including the over-sensitive balanced elevator and dubious lateral control, was difficult to fly; Parschau, who was experienced on Fokker A types, converted pilots to the new fighter.

The early Eindeckers were attached to the normal FFA in ones and twos, to protect reconnaissance machines from Allied machine-gun-armed aircraft.

Operational service Service début Otto Parschau’s second Eindecker, E.1/15, with experimental “mid-wing” modification which became standard on production E.Is Fokker Eindecker E.5/15, the last of the pre-production series, is believed to have been first flown in action by Kurt Wintgens of FFA 6.

On 1 and 4 July 1915, he reported combats with French Morane-Saulnier L (Parasols), each time well over the French lines.

These victories were never confirmed, although later research has shown that the first claim matches French records of a Morane forced down on 1 July near Lunéville with a wounded crew and a damaged engine, followed three days later by another.

By 15 July, Wintgens had moved to FFA 48 and scored his first recognised victory, another Morane L.

Parschau had received the new E.1/15, which became the prototype for the Fokker Eindecker line of aircraft, when it was returned to the Fokker Flugzeugbau factory in Schwerin–Gorries, for development.

By the end of July 1915, about fifteen Eindeckers were operational with various units, including the five M.5K/MGs and about ten early production E.I airframes.

At first, the pilots flew the new aircraft as a sideline, when not flying normal operations in two-seater reconnaissance aircraft.

Boelcke, in FFA 62, scored his first victory in an Albatros C.I on 4 July.

M.5K/MG prototype airframe E.3/15, the first Eindecker delivered to FFA 62, was armed with a Parabellum MG14 gun, synchronised by the troublesome first version of the Fokker gear.

At first, E.3/15 was jointly allocated to him and Immelmann when their “official” duties permitted, allowing them to master the type’s difficult handling characteristics and to practice shooting at ground targets.

Immelmann was soon allocated a very early production Fokker E.I, E.13/15, one of the first armed with an lMG 08 Spandau machine gun, using the more reliable production version of the Fokker gear.

The Scourge begins RFC aircraft losses (July 1915 to January 1916)

Month Total June 6 July 15 August 10 September 14 October 12 November 16 December 17 January 30 Total 120 The Fokker Scourge is usually considered to have begun on 1 August, when B.E.2c aircraft of No. 2 Squadron bombed the base of FFA 62 at 5:00 a.m., waking the German pilots, including Boelcke and Immelmann, who were quickly into the air after the raiders.

Boelcke suffered a jammed gun but Immelmann caught up with a B.E.2c and shot it down. This aircraft was flown as a bomber, without an observer or Lewis gun, the pilot armed only with an automatic pistol.

After about ten minutes of manoeuvring (giving the lie to exaggerated accounts of the stability of B.E.2 aircraft) Immelmann had fired 450 rounds, which riddled the B.E. and wounded the pilot in the arm.

By late October, towards the end of the Battle of Loos, more Fokkers (including the similar Pfalz E-type fighters, which were also called “Fokkers” by Allied airmen) were encountered by RFC pilots and by December, forty Fokkers were in service.

The new fighters could make long, steep dives and the fixed, synchronised machine gun was aimed by aiming the aircraft. The machine gun was belt-fed, unlike the drum-fed Lewis guns of their opponents, who had to change drums when in action.

The Fokker pilots took to flying high and diving on their quarry, usually out of the sun, firing a long burst and continuing the dive until well out of range.

If the British aircraft had not been shot down, the German pilot could climb again and repeat the process. Immelmann invented the Immelmann turn, zoom after the dive, followed by a roll when vertical to face the opposite way, after which he could turn to attack again.

The mystique acquired by the Fokker was greater than its material effect and in October, RFC HQ expressed concern at the willingness of pilots to avoid combat.

RFC losses were exacerbated by the increase in the number of aircraft at the front from 85 to 161 between March and September, the hard winter of 1915–1916 and some aggressive flying by the new German “C” type two-seaters.

Boelcke and Immelmann continued to score, as did Hans Joachim Buddecke, Ernst von Althaus and Rudolph Berthold from FFA 23 and Kurt von Crailshein of FFA 53.

The “official” list of claims by Fokker pilots for the second half of 1915 was no more than 28, many of them over French aircraft. Thirteen aeroplanes had been shot down by Immelmann or Boelcke and the rest by seven other Fokker pilots.

January 1916 brought thirteen claims, most of them against the French, followed by twenty more in February, the last month of the “scourge” proper.

Most of the victories had been scored by aces rather than the newer pilots flying the increased number of Fokkers.

Allied casualties had been light by later standards but the loss of air superiority to the Germans, flying a new and supposedly invincible aircraft, caused dismay among the Allied commanders and lowered the morale of Allied airmen.

In his memoir Sagittarius Rising (1936), Cecil Lewis wrote, Hearsay and a few lucky encounters had made the machine respected, not to say dreaded by the slow, unwieldy machines then used by us for Artillery Observation and Offensive Patrols.

Reproduction FE2b, Masterton, New Zealand, 2009 The RFC changed tactics for the sedate B.E. types and the newer F.E.2b pusher fighters.

On 14 January, RFC HQ issued orders that until better aircraft arrived, long and short-range reconnaissance aircraft must have three escorts flying in close formation.

If contact with the escorts was lost, the reconnaissance must be cancelled, as would photographic reconnaissance to any great distance beyond the front line. Sending the B.E.2c into action without an observer armed with a machine gun also became less prevalent.

The new tactic of concentrating aircraft in time and space had the effect of reducing the number of reconnaissance sorties the RFC could fly in support of the army.

New defensive formations were devised; a II Wing RFC method was for the reconnaissance aircraft to lead, escorted on each side 500 ft (150 m) higher, with another escort 1,000 ft (300 m) behind and above.

On 7 February, on a II Wing long-range reconnaissance, the observation pilot flew at 7,500 ft (2,300 m); a German aircraft appeared over Roulers and seven more closed in behind the formation.

West of Thourout, two Fokkers arrived and attacked at once, one diving on the reconnaissance machine and the other on an escort.

Six more German aircraft appeared over Courtemarck and formed a procession of 14 aeroplanes stalking the British formation.

None of the German pilots attacked and all the British aircraft returned, only to meet two German aircraft coming back from a bombing raid, which opened fire and mortally wounded the pilot of one the British escort aircraft.

The British ascribed their immunity to attack during the 55-minute flight to the rigid formation, which the two Fokkers were unable to disrupt.

On 7 February, a No. 12 Squadron B.E.2c. was to be escorted by three B.E.2c, two F.E.2 aircraft and a Bristol Scout from 12 Squadron and two more F.E. and four R.E. aeroplanes from No. 21 Squadron.

The flight was cancelled due to bad weather but twelve escorts for one reconnaissance aircraft demonstrated the effect of the Fokkers in reducing the efficiency of RFC operations.

British and French reconnaissance flights to get aerial photographs for intelligence and ranging data for their artillery had become riskier, in spite of German fighters being forbidden to fly over Allied lines (in an attempt to keep the synchronisation gear secret).[

This policy, for various reasons, prevailed for most of the war; the rarity of German fighters appearing behind the Allied lines limited the degree of air superiority they were able to attain.

End of the Scourge The red Nieuport 11 of Jean Navarre, Guardian of Verdun The beginning of the end of the scourge came at the Battle of Verdun (21 February – 20 December).

An attempt to impose an air barrage (Luftsperre) had largely concealed the German preparations for the offensive from French aerial reconnaissance.

During March and April increasing numbers of the new French Nieuport 11 fighters were sent to Verdun.

Organised in specialist fighter squadrons (escadrilles de chasse) the Nieuports could operate in formations larger than the singletons or pairs normally flown by the Fokkers, quickly regaining air superiority for the Aéronautique Militaire.

British F.E.2b pusher aircraft had been arriving in France from late 1915 and in the New Year began to replace the older F.B.5s.

The pilot and observer had a good view forwards from their cockpits and the observer could also fire backwards over the tail.

No. 20 Squadron, the first full F.E. unit, arrived in France on 23 January 1916, for long-range reconnaissance and escort flying.

The Fokker pilots attacked the F.E.s without hesitation but soon found that the new aircraft could be formidable opponents, particularly when flying in formation. What the F.E. lacked was sufficient speed and manoeuvrability to pursue and attack the Fokkers.

D.H.2 taking off from the airfield at Beauval, France Another pusher, the Airco DH.2 single-seat fighter, began to arrive at the front in February 1916.

This aircraft had a modest performance but its superior manoeuvrability gave it an advantage over the Eindecker, especially once a clamp was fitted to its Lewis gun so it could be fixed to fire forwards.

On 8 February, No. 24 Squadron (Major Lanoe Hawker) arrived with D.H.2s and began patrols north of the Somme; another six D.H.2 squadrons followed.

On 25 April, two of the D.H. pilots were attacked and found that they could out-manoeuvre the Fokkers; a few days later, without opening fire, a D.H. pilot caused a Fokker to crash onto a roof at Bapaume.

The Nieuports proved even more effective when the first Nieuport 16s in British service were issued to No. 1 and No. 11 Squadrons in April.

By March 1916, despite frequent encounters with Fokkers and the continued success of the German Eindecker aces, the scourge was over.

The bogey of the Fokker Eindecker as a fighter was finally laid in April when an E.III landed by mistake on a British aerodrome.

The captured aircraft was found not to have the superior performance it had been credited with.

The first British aircraft with a synchronisation gear was a Bristol Scout, which arrived on 25 March 1916 and on 24 May the first Sopwith 1½ Strutter aircraft were flown to France by a flight of No. 70 Squadron.

End of the Eindecker Halberstadt D.II, said to be one of Boelcke’s aircraft The impact of the new Allied types, especially the Nieuport, was of considerable concern to the Fokker pilots; some even took to flying captured examples.

Idflieg was sufficiently desperate to order German firms to build Nieuport copies, of which the Euler D.I and the Siemens-Schuckert D.I were built in quantity.

New D type single-seat biplane fighters, particularly the Fokker D.II and Halberstadt D.II, had been under test since late 1915 and the replacement of the monoplanes with these types had begun by mid-1916.

] In February 1916, Inspektor-Major Friedrich Stempel began to assemble Kampfeinsitzer Kommando (KEK, single-seat battle units).

The KEK were units mostly of two to four fighters, equipped with Eindeckers and other types which had served with FFA units during the winter of 1915–1916. By July 1916, KEK had been formed at Vaux, Avillers,

Jametz and Cunel near Verdun as well as other places on the Western Front, as Luftwachtdienst (aerial guard service) units, consisting only of fighters.

In the second half of May, German air activity on the British front decreased markedly, while the commander of the new Luftstreitkräfte, Oberst Hermann von der Lieth-Thomsen, reorganised the German air service.

The fighters of the KEK were concentrated into fighter squadrons (Jagdstaffeln) the first of which, Jagdstaffel 2 (Jasta 2) went into action on the Somme on 17 September.

By this time, the last of the Eindeckers, long outmoded as front line fighters, had been retired from the front line.

The Gotha G.V Bomber

The Gotha G.V Bomber of World War 1

The Gotha G.V was a heavy bomber used by the Luftstreitkräfte (Imperial German Air Service) during World War I.

Designed for long-range service, the Gotha G.V was used principally as a night bomber.

Operational use of the Gotha G.IV demonstrated that the incorporation of the fuel tanks into the engine nacelles was a mistake.

In a crash landing, the tanks could rupture and spill fuel onto the hot engines.

This posed a serious problem because landing accidents caused 75% of operational losses.

In response, Gothaer produced the G.V, which housed its fuel tanks inside the fuselage.

The smaller engine nacelles were mounted on struts above the lower wing.

The Gotha G.V pilot seat was offset to port, with the fuel tanks immediately behind.

This blocked the connecting walkway that previously on earlier machines allowed crew members to move between the three gun stations.

All bombs were carried externally in this model. The base variant of G.V offered no performance improvement over the G.IV. 

The G.V was up to 450 kg (990 lb) heavier than the G.IV due to additional equipment and the use of insufficiently seasoned timber.

The Mercedes D.IVa engines could not produce the rated 190 kW (260 hp) due to inferior quality of fuel. Gotha tunnel

The Gotha included an important innovation in the form of a “gun tunnel”, whereby the underside of the rear fuselage was arched, early versions allowing placement of a rearward-facing machine gun, protecting against attack from below, removing the blind spot.

Later versions expanded the tunnel to remove the lower gun, providing a slot in the upper fuselage that allowed the rear gunner to remain stationary.

German Fokker D.VII

The Fokker D.VII of World War 1

The Fokker D.VII was a German World War I fighter aircraft designed by Reinhold Platz of the Fokker-Flugzeugwerke.

Germany produced around 3,300 D.VII aircraft in the second half of 1918.

In service with the Luftstreitkräfte, the D.VII quickly proved itself to be a formidable aircraft.

The Armistice ending the war specifically required, as the fourth clause of the “Clauses Relating to the Western Front”, that Germany was required to surrender all D.VIIs to the Allies.

Surviving aircraft saw much service with many countries in the years after World War I.

Fokker’s chief designer, Reinhold Platz, had been working on a series of experimental V-series aircraft, starting in 1916.

The aircraft was notable for the use of cantilever wings.

Hugo Junkers and his aviation firm had originated the idea in 1915 with the first practical all-metal aircraft, the Junkers J 1 monoplane, nicknamed Blechesel (Sheet Metal Donkey or Tin Donkey).

The wings were thick, with a rounded leading edge.

The shape of the wings’ airfoil gave greater lift, with its relatively “blunt” leading edge (as seen in cross-section) giving it more docile stalling behavior than the thin wings commonly in use.

Late in 1917, Fokker built the experimental V 11 biplane, fitted with the standard Mercedes D.IIIa engine.

In January 1918, Idflieg held a fighter competition at Adlershof.

For the first time, front line pilots participated in the evaluation and selection of new fighters. Fokker submitted the V 11 along with several other prototypes.

Manfred von Richthofen flew the V 11 and found it tricky, unpleasant, and directionally unstable in a dive. Platz lengthened the rear fuselage by one structural bay and added a triangular fin in front of the rudder.

Richthofen tested the modified V 11 and praised it as the best aircraft of the competition.

It offered excellent performance from the outdated Mercedes engine, yet was safe and easy to fly.

Richthofen’s recommendation virtually decided the competition but he was not alone in recommending it. Fokker immediately received a provisional order for 400 production aircraft, which were named D.VII by Idflieg.

German Albatros

The Albatros D.V of World War 1

The Albatros D.V was a fighter aircraft built by the Albatros Flugzeugwerke and used by the Luftstreitkräfte (Imperial German Air Service) during World War I.

The D.V was the final development of the Albatros D.I family and the last Albatros fighter to see operational service.

Despite its well-known shortcomings and general obsolescence, approximately 900 D.V and 1,612 D.Va aircraft were built before production halted in April 1918.

The D.Va continued in operational service until the end of the war.

In April 1917, Albatros received an order from Inspektion der Fliegertruppen (Idflieg) for an improved version of the D.III.

The resulting D.V prototype flew later that month.

The D.V closely resembled the D.III and used the same 127 kW (170 hp) Mercedes D.IIIa engine.

The most notable difference was a new, fully elliptical cross-section fuselage which was 32 kg (71 lb) lighter than the partially flat-sided fuselage of the earlier D.I through D.III designs.

The new elliptical cross-section required an additional longeron on each side of the fuselage and the fin, rudder, and tailplane initially remained unchanged from the D.III.

The prototype D.V retained the standard rudder of the Johannisthal-built D.III but production examples used the enlarged rudder featured on D.IIIs built by the Ostdeutsche Albatros Werke (OAW).

The D.V also featured a larger spinner and ventral fin.

Compared to the D.III, the upper wing of the D.V was 121 mm (4.75 in) closer to the fuselage, while the lower wings attached to the fuselage without a fairing.

The D.V wings were almost identical to those of the standard D.III, which had adopted a sesquiplane wing arrangement broadly similar to the French Nieuport 11.

The only significant difference between the wings of the D.III and D.V was a revised routing of the aileron cables that placed them entirely within the upper wing.

Idflieg conducted structural tests on the fuselage but not the wings of the D.V.

Manfred von Richthofen’s Albatros D.V (serial unknown).

Early examples of the D.V featured a large headrest, usually removed in service because it interfered with the pilot’s field of view.

The headrest was deleted from the second production batch.

Aircraft deployed in Palestine used two wing radiators, to cope with the warmer climate.

Idflieg issued production contracts for 200 D.V aircraft in April 1917, followed by additional orders of 400 in May and 300 in July.

Initial production of the D.V was exclusively undertaken by the Johannisthal factory, while the

Schneidemühl factory produced the D.III through the remainder of 1917.

immediately occurred.

In 2009, Guttman wrote that “Within the month Idflieg was doing belated stress testing and concluding, to its dismay, that the D.V’s sesquiplane wing layout was even more vulnerable than that of its predecessor”.

The outboard sections of the D.V upper wing also suffered failures, requiring additional wire bracing and the fuselage sometimes cracked during rough landings.

Against these problems, the D.V offered very little improvement in performance.

Front line pilots were considerably dismayed and many preferred the older D.III; Manfred von Richthofen was critical of the new aircraft. In a July 1917 letter, he described the D.V as “so obsolete and so ridiculously inferior to the English that one can’t do anything with this aircraft”.

British tests of a captured D.V revealed that the aircraft was slow to maneuver, heavy on the controls, and tiring to fly.

Albatros responded with the D.Va, which featured stronger wing spars, heavier wing ribs, and a reinforced fuselage.

The modified D.Va was 23 kg (51 lb) heavier than the D.III but the structural problems were not entirely cured.

Use of the high-compression 130 kW (180 hp) Mercedes D.IIIaü engine offset the increased weight of the D.Va.

The D.Va also reverted to the D.III aileron cable linkage, running outwards through the lower wing, then upwards to the ailerons to provide a more positive control response.

The wings of the D.III and D.Va were interchangeable.

To further strengthen the wing, the D.Va added a small diagonal brace connecting the forward interplane strut to the leading edge of the lower wing; the brace was also retrofitted to some D.Vs.

Albatros D.Va (serial D.5629/17)

Idflieg placed orders for 262 D.Va aircraft in August 1917, followed by orders for another 250 in September and 550 in October.

Ostdeutsche Albatros Werke, which had been engaged in the production of the D.III, received orders for 600 D.Va aircraft in October. Deliveries of the D.Va commenced in October 1917.

The structural problems of the Fokker Dr.I and the mediocre performance of the Pfalz D.III left the Luftstreitkräfte with no alternative to the D.Va until the Fokker D.VII entered service in mid-1918.

Production of the D.Va ceased in April 1918.

In May 1918, 131 D.V and 928 D.Va aircraft were in service on the Western Front; the numbers declined as the Fokker D.VII and other types replaced the Albatros in the final months of the war.

By 31 August, fewer than 400 Albatros fighters of all types remained at the front but they continued in service until the Armistice.