Thursday, July 14, 2011

Germany - 1916 Fokker D.III

Early Fokker Aircraft part 3

Once again Fokker-Flugzeugwerke's designer Martin Kreutzer had to go back to the drawing board. His next attempt was designated as the M.19. The design retained the basic shape of the M.17-D.II. The main differences were the installation of a more powerful engine, and horn-balanced ailerons on late production aircraft. The M.19 was shorter in length, but heaver that the M.17. The landing gear and cabane struts were reworked, however the height of the aircraft remained the same.

The Fokker D.III (M.19)

Fokker D.III - 1916
Fokker D.III - 1916

The Fokker D.III (Fokker designation M.19) was a German single-seat fighter aircraft of World War I.

The M.19 began as an effort to improve the performance of the Fokker D.II (Fokker designation M.17). The M.19 featured the Oberursel U.III 14-cylinder, two-row rotary engine, combined with the two-bay wing cellule of the Fokker D.I. The U.III engine, first used in the Fokker E.IV, required a revised fore-and-aft mount and a strengthened fuselage. The prototype M.19 arrived at Adlershof for testing on 20 July 1916. Idflieg issued a production order for 50 aircraft at that time, followed by orders for an additional 60 aircraft in August and 100 in November. The new aircraft was designated D.III by Idflieg.

The first seven production aircraft were delivered on 1 September 1916. On that date, two D.III aircraft were ferried from Armee Flug Park 1 to Jagdstaffel 2 at Bertincourt. Oswald Boelcke received serial 352/16 and obtained seven victories in it between 2 September and 15 September.

While the D.III offered better performance than the D.I and D.II, Boelcke nevertheless found the D.III to be too slow. The D.III was plagued by its U.III engine, which wore out quickly and was difficult to manufacture. Low compression resulted in poor performance at altitude and cooling of the rear row of cylinders proved problematic. Moreover, the D.III offered indifferent maneuverability. On Boelcke's recommendation, the D.III was withdrawn from heavily contested sectors of the Western Front, but it continued to serve in quieter sectors.

In early October 1916, evaluation of Fokker's M.21 prototype at Adlershof revealed poor construction and workmanship. In response, Idflieg directed that a production D.III be tested for quality control purposes. In November 1916, serial 369/16 was disassembled and tested to destruction at Adlershof. While the wings proved acceptable, the fuselage and tail surfaces failed to meet specifications. Idflieg reprimanded Fokker for his firm's substandard construction practices, but permitted D.III production to continue. The Kogenluft, however, forbade the use of Fokker aircraft for frontline duties.

Fokker built 210 D.III aircraft at its Schwerin factory before production ceased in the spring of 1917. Late production aircraft replaced the wing-warping system with horn-balanced ailerons on the upper wing. Though unsuitable for front line service, the D.III continued to serve in home defense units until late 1917. In October 1917, Germany supplied 10 D.IIIs to the Netherlands. These aircraft remained in service with the Luchtvaartafdeling until 1921.

Boelcke's D.III, serial 352/16, survived the war to be displayed at the Zeughaus museum in Berlin. The aircraft was destroyed by an Allied bombing raid in 1943.


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  3. Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. "The Complete Book of Fighters". New York: Smithmark, 1994, ISBN 0-8317-3939-8.
  4. Lamberton, W.M., and E.F. Cheesman. "Fighter Aircraft of the 1914-1918 War". Letchworth: Harleyford, 1960. ISBN 0-90043-501-1.
  5. Leaman, Paul. "Fokker Dr.I Triplane: A World War One Legend". Hersham, Surrey, UK: Classic Publications, 2003. ISBN 1-90322-328-8.
  6. Van Wyngarden, Greg. "Early German Aces of World War I" (Aircraft of the Aces No. 73). Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2006. ISBN 1-84176-997-5.
  7. Van Wyngarden, Greg. "Jagdstaffel 2 Boelcke: Von Richthofen's Mentor" (Aviation Elite Units No. 26). Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2007. ISBN 1-84603-203-2.
  8. Weyl, A.R. "Fokker: The Creative Years". London: Putnam, 1965. ISBN 0-85177-817-8.


The Angry Lurker said...

"The aircraft was destroyed by an Allied bombing raid in 1943"....unfinished business?, very nice aircraft though.

W. I. Boucher said...

So it seems,it is difficult to divide the conflict into two wars, the Treaty of Versailles made a continuation of war a foregone conclusion. Yes the shape of the aircraft starts solidifying the classic lines we associate with rotary powered Fokker aircraft.