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  • Albatros D.III Biplane Fighter Aircraft

    Though an overall improvement of the D.I and D.II, the sesquiplane wing arrangement of the new D.III led to a noted structural deficiency.

     Updated: 2/13/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    While the Albatros D.I proved critical in winning back air superiority for the Germans in early 1917, it was not a perfect all-around solution, pushing the development of an improved form in the D.II. The D.II exhibited a better rate-of-climb, a lowered upper wing assembly for better pilot visibility and an aerodynamically designed radiator. Having already found successes in the Albatros D.I and D.II models, designer Robert Thelen sought for more in the way of maneuverability when tackling the new Albatros D.III. This was accomplished by way of a new unstaggered wing layout featuring "V" section interplane struts as opposed to the parallel types found on previous models (and earning the British nickname of "V-strutter" in the process). A capable fighter platform, the D.III took to the skies in force by early 1917 and was produced to the tune of 1,866 examples eventually finding its way into inventories of non-German countries in the post-war world. As was the case for most aircraft designs of The Great War, the type was soon replaced and outclassed by more capable systems.

    The Albatros D.III was the first of the Albatros D-series to incorporate the new "Vee" shaped struts and these served to improve wing rigidity and, in turn, make for a more maneuverable mount. Additionally, the Mercedes D.III series engines featured in the preceding D.II was revised with a high-compression modification that improved high-altitude performance and brought output up to 170 horsepower. Top speed was 109 miles per hour. The original armament of 2 x 7.92mm Spandau LMG 08/15 machine guns was retained for their proven effectiveness.

    The D.III continued the design and construction successes found in the D.I and D.II before it, featuring a semi-monocoque structure with plywood skinning. This provided for a seemingly aerodynamic appearance when compared to the angular, slab-sided designs of the time. The pilot sat at the relative center portion of the fuselage in an open-air cockpit with nothing but a windscreen protecting him, his position just behind and under the top wing. The top wing was lowered enough to allow for improved visibility (a practical and well-liked feature carried over from the development of the D.II). The engine sat before the pilot under the twin 7.92mm Spandau LMG 08/15 machine guns synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades. The two-bladed wooden propeller featured a large cone-shaped spinner adding both an aerodynamic function and design flair. The undercarriage consisted of two fixed struts, each with single wheels while the empennage held the tail skid.

    The original D.I production model was introduced in August of 1916 with the modified D.II following later that year. The D.III was already being designed in the summer of 1916 and achieved first flight that fall. It officially made its formal appearance for the Imperial German Army Air Service beginning in January of 1917 though D.III's were in operational service in some quantity by December of 1916 to which pilots rejoiced at the systems inherent capabilities. The aircraft performed well from the outset and featured a great rate-of-climb (a feature consistent with the D-series as a whole). The new wing arrangement immediately proved to offer better maneuverability over her predecessors. Power was provided for by a Mercedes brand D.IIIa series engine which was progressively uprated from 170 horsepower to 175 during the production run. After some operational service, the radiator had to be shifted from the center to the right side of the upper wing. This was done due to the fact that the pilot would incur serious burns should the radiator become punctured in combat (this production change was included in the 290th aircraft and onwards).

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    Albatros D.III Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1917
    Type: Biplane Fighter Aircraft
    National Origin: Imperial Germany
    Manufacturer(s): Albatros Werke GmbH - Germany
    Production Total: 1,866

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 1
    Length: 24.05 feet (7.33 meters)
    Width: 29.69 feet (9.05 meters)
    Height: 9.78 feet (2.98 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 1,499 lb (680 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 1,953 lb (886 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 1 x Mercedes D.IIIa water-cooled 6-cylinder in-line engine developing 175 horsepower.

    Maximum Speed: 109 mph (175 kph; 94 knots)
    Maximum Range: 217 miles (350 km)
    Service Ceiling: 18,045 feet (5,500 meters; 3.42 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 886 feet-per-minute (270 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    2 x 7.92mm Spandau LMG 08/15 fixed, forward-firing synchronized machine guns.

    Global Operators / Customers

    Austria-Hungary; Czechoslovakia; Imperial Germany; Lithuania; Poland; Yugoslavia

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    D.I - Base D-series

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

    D.III - V-shaped struts introduced; sesquiplane wing arrangement; repositioned radiator (290th onwards).

    D.V - Streamlined eliptical fuselage; revised wings and modified rudder; larger spinner.

    D.Va - Slightly modified D.V model