Rumpler C.I Reconnaissance Biplane
The Rumpler C-series of biplane aircraft were introduced in 1915 and, amazingly, managed an existence throughout World War 1 into 1918.
Entry last updated on 4/15/2016; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
Austrian-born engineer Edmund Rumpler settled his Rumpler Flugzeugwerke concern in 1909 and began by producing copies of the "Etrich Taube" reconnaissance aircraft. In time, he turned his attention to self-designed military-minded biplane scout aircraft for the German military with the onset of war in Europe (World War 1, 1914-1918). When war greeted Germany, Rumpler developed several notable designs that were fielded by the German air service (the "Luftstreitkrafte") and Navy among others. As both sides of the conflict dug in to experience the horrors of Trench Warfare, the once fluid war had bogged down to the point that all manner of weaponry was being considered and developed to unseat the enemy from his positions. The aircraft had arrived as a principle killing machine and Rumpler obliged this with the design of his "Rumpler C.I" of 1915.
Externally, the C.I was a conventionally-arranged biplane fighter with an upper and lower wing assembly joined by reinforced struts and cabling. The engine was mounted at the front of the tapered, slab-sided fuselage and capped at the rear by a single vertical tail fin and triangle-shaped horizontal planes. There were two open-air tandem-seat cockpits just aft of the engine, the pilot in front and the observer/gunner in back. The undercarriage was fixed in position and managed two landing wheels while the tail was supported by a simple skid. Power was served through a Mercedes D.III liquid-cooled inline piston engine delivering 160 horsepower allowing for a top speed of 94 miles per hour to be reached while operating as high as 16,580 feet. Endurance was listed at approximately four hours of flight time. Construction was traditional, consisting of wood and canvas which allowed the airframe to take a rather inordinate amount of abuse before succumbing.
As an armed scout (or "Fighting Scout") airplane, initial production models were delivered with a 7.92mm Parabellum MG14 series machine gun fitted to a trainable mount (a "Schneider Ring") at the rear cockpit. This position allowed the rear gunner to defend the critical "six" position of the aircraft from incoming intercepting threats. The ring mounting allowed some flexibility in managing the firing arc of the machine gun and was primarily limited by the long tail structure and rear fuselage. Later production models then instituted a fixed, forward-firing 7.92mm LMG 08/15 series machine gun - coupled with "interrupter" gear - to provide the pilot with his own forward armament. This machine gun was offset to the portside of the front fuselage while the interrupter unit allowed for firing through the spinning propeller blades. The C.I could, therefore, now engage targets in front of the aircraft, be they enemy airplanes or balloons or ground targets of opportunity. For tactical bombing sorties, the C.I could be further outfitted with up to 100 kilograms of drop ordnance under the wings which degraded performance to an extent. The C.I could, therefore, be called upon to undertake various mission types as required.
Introduced in 1915, the C.I gave a good account of itself once in wide-scale service. Pilots appreciated her strong and forgiving handling characteristics and the system, as a whole, provided a much needed boost to German scouting groups tangling with capable Allied pilots and their mounts. The two-man crew dispersed workload and provided two sets of "eyes in the skies" for identifying key enemy positions, maneuvers and targets while also scanning the skies for potential aerial threats and observation balloons over the battlefield. Aircraft such as the C.I proved critical for the German air service and was therefore split across multiple production lines beyond Rumpler facilities to include four other German firms. The aircraft was also taken into inventory by the Ottoman Air Force for combat in the East.
The Rumpler C.I was branched into two notable variant forms stemming from the base C.I production scout model before manufacture of the line ceased. This included the "C.Ia" which was delivered with an Argus As.III series engine of 180 horsepower and may have included a C.II designated aircraft of which little is known. A dedicated training mount of the base C.I was also developed and manufactured by Rumpler for the German air service for training of pilots and gunners. These were differentiated by their lack of a gun mounting ring at the rear observer's station as well utilization of the Benz Bz.III series 150-horsepower engine (Mercedes types were required of the frontline war effort). The C.I also formed the basis of the "Rumpler 6B" series of floatplane aircraft (detailed elsewhere on this site) which served through 88 examples with the German Navy during the war. Amazingly, the Rumpler C.I, debuting in 1915, would live to see operational service into early 1918 - something of an unheard of accomplishment considering the rate at which aerial technology was advancing during the conflict. It was not uncommon for some newly-minted aircraft to see a service life of just a few months before being replaced by more accomplished types, such was the expediency of war.
Poland, Latvia and Yugoslavia became post-war operators of the Rumpler C.I, ensuring its legacy would extend beyond the end of the war.