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Albatros D.Va Biplane Fighter (1917)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 10/8/2014

The Albatros D.Va was a variant on the D.V series of German aircraft.

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The Albatros D.I of 1916 proved instrumental in bringing air superiority back into the favor of the German Empire during World War 1 thanks to her stellar rate-of-climb, aerodynamically refined design and lethal pairing of synchronized machine guns. However, as technology drove events throughout the war, the aircraft lived a relatively short operational tenure before being outclassed by the latest offerings from the Triple Entente. The D.II was unveiled a short time later that year as a slightly improved model with a better rate-of-climb, a lowered upper wing assembly for improved pilot visibility out-of-the-cockpit and generally retained much of the original's successful design. The D.III followed in late 1916 but was something of a departure from the preceding forms in its use of "Vee" struts to join the upper and lower wing assemblies (earning it the nickname of "V-Strutter" from the British). This revision went on to see severe structural issues, particularly during high stress moves such as diving, for the remaining life of the series to the point that her pilots became very critical of the type. Attempts were made to rectify this deficiency by strengthening wing spars but a true solution was never formalized. By this point in the war, the D.III was noted as less maneuverable compared to her newer contemporaries - a lethal draw in an aerial dogfight where positioning was everything.

To fulfill a new German requirement for an "improved D.III", Albatros delivered its D.V model (the sequential "D.IV" designation was used on a cancelled Albatros fighter development) which became a lighter version of their D.III with a slightly lowered upper wing among other refinements. However, the structural issue remained and maneuverability was not improved to the point that even fabled German ace, Manfred von Richthofen, penciled a scathing review of the mount - citing it as even inferior to the D.III which it was to replace. Regardless, German authorities were desperate for fighters and ordered 900 of the type.

Albatros engineers returned to the drawing boards with their D.V to attempt another improved form. This work gave birth to the D.Va off-shoot which was given revised wing assemblies that were reinforced with heavier ribbing and strong spars against a stronger fuselage. Cabling was modified to create a more responsive fighter platform. However, these changes led to an increase in operating weight so a high-compression Mercedes D.IIIau engine was installed to help counter the gains. Despite the promising work, the aircraft's structural issues were never fully ironed out and the new engine did little to help improved performance and maneuverability against the latest fighters being fielded by Britain and France.

The German Empire was quick to order the D.Va to help stock its depleted aircraft inventories and find more modern replacements for its outmoded Fokker Dr.I and Pfalz D.III series fighters. The D.Va was delivered to German aerodrome units beginning in October of 1917 and a total of 1,662 were ultimately purchased. The type soldiered on with front line units up until the end of the war to which hundreds were still in active service in the final year (1918). On paper, the D.Va was formally replaced by the Fokker D.VII and the D.Va became the last of the "D-series" fighters for Albatros - a series that started with so much promise back in 1916 and ultimately doomed to history due to its inherent limitations by the end of the war - such was the power of technology in World War 1 where gains made one month could be lost just as quickly.

In the post-war world, the D.Va stocked the inventory of the newly-formed Polish Air Force. Beyond the German Empire and Poland, there were no other global operators of the D.Va. Only two D.Va series aircraft survived the war and are in the charge of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. and the Australian War Memorial respectively.

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Specifications for the
Albatros D.Va
Biplane Fighter


Focus Model: Albatros D.Va
Country of Origin: Imperial Germany
Manufacturer: Albatros Werke GmbH - Germany
Initial Year of Service: 1917
Production: 1,662


Crew: 1


Length: 24.61 ft (7.5 m)
Width: 29.69 ft (9.05 m)
Height: 8.86ft (2.70 m)
Weight (Empty): 1,510 lb (685 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 2,059 lb (934 kg)


Powerplant: 1 x Mercedes Illa 6-cylinder in-line engine developing 180 horsepower.


Maximum Speed: 116 mph (186kmh; 100 kts)
Maximum Range: 232 miles (373km)
Service Ceiling: 18,698 ft (5,699 m; 3.5 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 908 feet-per-minute (277 m/min)


Hardpoints: 0
Armament Suite:
STANDARD:
2 x 7.92mm Spandau LMG 08/15 fixed, forward-firing synchronized machine guns.


Variants:
D.I - Base D-series


D.II - Lowered top wing; Fundamental and minor aerodynamic changes.

D.III - V-shaped struts introduced

D.V - Streamlined fuselage

D.Va - Slightly modified D.V model


Operators:
Imperial Germany; Poland