Rumpler C.VII Long-Range, High-Altitude Two-Seat Reconnaissance Biplane Aircraft
The Rumpler C.VII two-seat reconnaissance biplane was fielded in two notable versions - an armed reconnaissance type and an unarmed photo-reconnaissance model.
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Aerial reconnaissance proved just as crucial to the battlefields of World War 1 (19114-1918) as any machine gun, artillery system or tank. As such, both sides held a strong commitment to reconnaissance-minded platforms. These aircraft typically took the form of biplanes of the period but carried a second crewman in a second cockpit to act as a dedicated observer. The types were also either armed or left unarmed depending on design and over-battlefield need. The German concern of Rumpler developed several aircraft for this role and among the offerings became the Rumpler C.VII.
The C.VII was given a traditional biplane wing arrangement consisting of an upper and lower member set over and under the fuselage, respectively. These equal-span wings were braced by parallel interplane struts creating two bays when viewing the aircraft in the forward profile. The engine was fitted to the nose in the usual way and drove a two-bladed wooden propeller. The crewmen were seated in tandem open-air cockpits. The tail was of conventional design and layout as was the wheeled, fixed undercarriage (tail-dragger type).
The aircraft was formed from the previous work had on the Rumpler C.IV reconnaissance aircraft of 1917 but included built-in capabilities to allow it to fly higher than the previous model. This would give the new design a quality that could keep it from the dangers of ground-based fire and enemy interceptors of the day - allowing it to reconnoiter with a high degree of impunity. A higher operating ceiling also meant less oxygen and a much colder environment so the crew were given provision for oxygen and heated flight gear.
Power was had from a Maybach Mb IVa engine which was slightly lower-rated than the C.IV's Mercedes D.IV installation but was able to keep its output consistent at higher altitudes (unlike the Mercedes).
Armament became 1 x 7.92mm Spandau LMG 08/15 machine gun set over the nose and synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades. This was paired with 1 x 7.92mm Parabellum MG14 machine gun on a flexible mounting at the rear cockpit. The guns made the C.VII reasonably well-armed for a reconnaissance type, able to actively engage targets of opportunity along the front of the aircraft and defend its more vulnerable rear quadrants.
A first-flight involving a C.VII prototype was recorded during 1917 and the aircraft was in service before the end of the year and acquitted itself well. Another version (the "Rubild") appeared sans the forward armament fit and modified to carry more specialized reconnaissance equipment. Many of the Allied fighters of the day were limited in their interception ability when attempting to meet the C.VII when encountered at altitudes over 20,000 feet. The value of the aircraft was such that it served into the war's last months.
Beyond its service with the German Empire, the aircraft was also taken on by the Swiss Air Force and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in the post-war period. The United States claimed a single example for evaluation after the war.