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Fokker D.VII Biplane Fighter (1918)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 10/30/2014

The finest of the German war time fighters of World War 1 became the Fokker D.VII biplane of 1918.

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Regarded as Germany's finest fighter of World War 1 (1914-1918), the Fokker D.VII actually had a short wartime career as a late-war development introduced in 1918. Pilots praised the aircraft's handling and ease-of-operation when compared to other types available. The aircraft went on to stock squadrons of both the German Air Service ("Luftstreitkrafte") and the Navy ("Kaiserliche Marine") to which some 1,000 aircraft were completed before the Armistice of November 1918. Production continued post-war through Fokker facilities arranged in the Netherlands and total manufacture peaked at 3,300 examples in all.

Such was the perceived lethality of this aircraft that the Armistice specifically singled out the Fokker D.VII fighter, forcing the Germans to hand over all completed forms to the Allies upon their surrender.

Design of this effective biplane fighter fell to Reinhold Platz while manufacture was handled by Fokker-Flugaeugwerke which was founded by Dutchman Antony Fokker. Fokker's company had been set up in Germany and maintained its place until 1919 when it relocated to neighboring Netherlands following the war. The D.VII was a culmination of sorts from designs Platz handled from 1916 onwards. By the end of 1917, the V11 prototype was unveiled with its (rather outmoded) Mercedes D.III series engine of 160 horsepower and it was this form that was entered in a new German competition to find a new frontline fighter. In a change from the norm, German pilots were called to test the aircraft and none other than the "Red Baron himself" - Manfred von Richthofen - flew the Fokker prototype. Unfortunately for Fokker, the Baron was not too pleased with the type and offered his critique.

With this feedback in hand, Platz returned to the drawing board to enact changes to his V11 which included a root extension at the vertical tail fin and a lengthened the fuselage to promote better handling and dive controlling. With these alterations, the V11 was retested and Richthofen offered his endorsement of the aircraft which effectively spelt the end for all of the other competing types. Fokker was now granted a production order for 400 initial aircraft based on the refined V11 prototype. Authorities assigned the formal designation of D.VII to the series and manufacture would begin immediately.

At its core, the D.VII showcased a conventional biplane arrangement consistent with the period. The pilot, engine, and wings were all situated ahead of midships and the fuselage carried a slab-sided look. The engine sat in a forward compartment with its two-bladed wooden propeller mounted low. Aft and above the engine block was the mounting for 2 x 7.92mm machine guns in fixed, forward-firing positions. These were further synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades at front. The pilot sat in an open-air cockpit located aft of the guns with good vision to the sides, rear, and above his aircraft. However, the long nose - capped by the machine gun installations - coupled with the upper and lower wing elements provided a decidedly obtrusive view forward and to the upper/lower sides of the aircraft - nevertheless, this was the common practice of the day. The tail unit was conventional with its single (rounded) vertical tail fin and accompanying horizontal planes. The undercarriage was of true "tail dragger" fashion featured two fixed, wheeled main legs under the forward mass of the aircraft and a landing skid under the tail. The strutted wheeled main legs allowed for rough field operations. The main wingplanes incorporated the typical biplane arrangement with their upper and lower wing section. Horizontal struts were used in a single-bay fashion and the wings were of a slightly unequal span - the larger unit wider than the lower.


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Specifications for the
Fokker D.VII
Biplane Fighter


Focus Model: Fokker D.VII (Mercedes D.III)
Country of Origin: Imperial Germany
Manufacturer: Fokker Flugzeug-Werke GmbH - Imperial Germany
Initial Year of Service: 1918
Production: 3,300


Crew: 1


Length: 22.80 ft (6.95 m)
Width: 29.40 ft (8.96 m)
Height: 9.02ft (2.75 m)
Weight (Empty): 1,477 lb (670 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 1,995 lb (905 kg)


Powerplant: 1 x Mercedes D-III OR Mercedes D.IIIa OR BMW IIIa 6-cylinder, liquid-cooled inline engine developing 160 to 240 horsepower horsepower.


Maximum Speed: 117 mph (189kmh; 102 kts)
Maximum Range: 0 miles (0km)
Service Ceiling: 17,999 ft (5,486 m; 3.4 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 772 feet per minute (235 m/min)


Hardpoints: 0
Armament Suite:
STANDARD:
2 x 7.92mm Spandau LMG 08/15 machine guns synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades.


Variants:
D.VII - Base Model Designation; main production form


D.VII V11 - Initial prototype

D.VII V21 - Prototype; tapered wings

D.VII V22 - Prototype; four-bladed propeller trialed

D.VII V24 - Prototype; fitted with Benz Bz.IVu engine of 240 horsepower.

D.VII V31 - Prototype; Tow hook installed for glider towing.

D.VII V34 - Prototype; fitted with BMW IIIa engine of 185 horsepower.

D.VII V35 - Prototype; fitted with BMW IIIa engine; two-seat cockpit arrangement in revised fuselage; underslung fuel reserve.

D.VII V36 - Prototype; fitted with BMW IIIa engine; underslung fuel reserve.

D.VII V38 - Prototype; furthered into the Fokker C.I model series.


Operators:
Argentina; Austria-Hungary; Belgium; Bulgaria; Czechoslovakia; Denmark; Finland; Imperial Germany; Hungary; Latvia; Lithuania; Netherlands; Poland; Romania; Soviet Union; Sweden; Switzerland; Ottoman Empire (Turkey); United States