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Albatros D.V Fighter (1917)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 2/15/2011

The Albatros D.V continued where the preceding D.III design left off, though it also brought along with it inherent structural issues that were never fully resolved.

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At the time of its inception, the Albatros D-series of fighter aircraft (beginning with the D.I model) was a stellar gunnery platform in service with the Imperial German Army Air Service. The type was slightly improved in the D.II to follow and highly modified to become the D.III. While the D.III was the first of the Albatros D-series fighters to introduce the "Vee" inter-wing struts, it also brought about inherent deficiencies in the new wing design that led to in-flight break-ups or structural failings. The cause of the break-ups was found to be the main wing spar being set too far to aft on the fuselage, causing unacceptable twisting of the wing assemblies when attempting to take the aircraft into a dive or some other high level wing stress action. As such, a new reinforced lower wing section was introduced during production of the D.III series that attempted to solve the issue and pilots were dutifully warned of the serious drawback. While the situation was never fully ironed out of the design, the D.III presented a good showing for itself in its limited usage on the Western Front. However, the wing issue was present for the entire remaining life of the D-series that was to still include the upcoming D.V and D.Va production models.

The D.V served as the direct successor to the D.III (the logical "D.IV" designation covered an abandoned Albatros design whose experimental Mercedes engine proved too temperamental). The D.V was brought about from an April 1917 German requirement looking for an improved derivative of the D.III fighter series. Albatros got to work immediately and produced a prototype within the month, naturally borrowing much of what made the D.III a success (and failure for that matter). As such, the new design was fitted with the same Mercedes D.IIIa series inline, liquid-cooled engine of 170 horsepower as the D.III. Top speed of the new mount was listed at 116 miles per hour with a service ceiling of 18,045 feet and an endurance of 2 hours. An all-new fuselage design was introduced with reduced weight. The propeller was capped with a larger, aerodynamically refined spinner and the ventral fin was enlarged for more surface area. The upper wing assembly was lowered nearly five inches to bring it ever closer to the top of the fuselage and therefore increase the pilot's views from over the upper wing. The wing roots of the lower wings now lacked the fairings found on the D.III but both upper and lower wing assemblies were essentially identical to that of the preceding model in most respects. The standard fitting of 2 x 7.92mm Spandau machine guns were retained for their lethal effectiveness and set to fire synchronized from their fixed mounts through the spinning propeller blades.

While the D.III was only introduced in January of 1917, the D.V was contracted for production by April of that same year and manufacture quickly followed in May of 1917 - such was the changing face of technology and warfare during this period of aviation history. However, by this time in the war, the once-excellent D-series was more or less an obsolete airframe compared against her Triple Entente contemporaries but its production and subsequent usage by the Imperial German Army Air Service nonetheless continued. Even with the arrival of the "improved" D.V model, the D.III continued production (out of the Schneidemuhl facility) and operation. An initial order for the D.V constituted some 200 examples and this was followed in May by a further 400 aircraft. July saw a contract for 300 more aircraft signed and, in all, approximately 900 D.V production models would be completed and all were delivered from the Johannisthal facility.

Once in service, the standard issue headrest was formally removed after pilots complained that it obscured their critical rearward vision. Those D.V production airframes sent to fight in the arid climate of Palestine were further produced with two wing radiators to help keep the engine from overheating in the higher operating temperatures. Despite all of the work to get the D.V to the front lines, the prevailing lower wing issue begun in the D.III continued to be a lethal stain on the D-series legacy as a whole and some even suggested the situation was actually made worse in the D.V than in the D.III. Pilots were quick to show their disappointment and added that the D.V offered little in the way of improvements over the D.III it was suppose to replace. Even famed World War 1 ace and aviator Manfred von Richthofen openly criticized the new mount as "inferior" to the new British offerings. To help stem the tide of wing-related accidents, additional bracing and cabling was added but the D.V still proved a hard-to-handle airframe in operational practice, unsuitable for the face-paced activity of modern dogfighting. In all respects, little more could actually be done to help extend the airworthy nature of the aircraft.

The critical reviews of the D.V product quickly pushed Albatros to revised the design further and development ultimately culminated in a D.V off-shoot designated as the "D.Va". The D.Va was fitted with a new reinforced wing structure as well as a stronger overall fuselage assembly. Once again, the costly additions did not formally and completely resolve the inherent wing stability issues and resultied in a heavier fighter aircraft whose performance suffered. A Mercedes D.IIIau engine of 180 horsepower utilizing a high compression system was installed to help counter the increased weight though this yielded with little performance effects. Regardless, the German Air Service elected to order some 1,612 total examples of the type (these beginning service in October of 1917) due to the desperate and deteriorating war situation experienced by 1918. The Albatros D-series ended her operational tenure with the D.Va.

The newly-founded Polish Air Force became a post-war operator of the D.V series and the only other use of the aircraft type.

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Specifications for the
Albatros D.V
Fighter


Focus Model: Albatros D.V
Country of Origin: Imperial Germany
Manufacturer: Albatros Werke GmbH - Germany
Initial Year of Service: 1917
Production: 900


Crew: 1


Length: 24.61 ft (7.5 m)
Width: 29.69 ft (9.05 m)
Height: 8.76ft (2.67 m)
Weight (Empty): 1,515 lb (687 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 2,066 lb (937 kg)


Powerplant: 1 x Mercedes IIIa 6-cylinder, liquid-cooled inline engine delivering 180hp.


Maximum Speed: 116 mph (186kmh; 100 kts)
Maximum Range: 217 miles (350km)
Service Ceiling: 18,698 ft (5,699 m; 3.5 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 820 feet per minute (250 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