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Pfalz D.XII

Biplane Fighter Aircraft

Despite arriving in the last year of World War 1, the Pfalz D.XII biplane fighter managed a production total nearing 800 aircraft.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Edited: 7/31/2019
National Flag Graphic


Year: 1918
Status: Retired, Out-of-Service
Manufacturer(s): Pfalz Flugzeugwerke GmbH - Imperial Germany
Production: 800
Capabilities: Fighter;
Crew: 1
Length: 20.83 ft (6.35 m)
Width: 29.53 ft (9 m)
Height: 8.86 ft (2.7 m)
Weight (Empty): 1,576 lb (715 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 1,962 lb (890 kg)
Power: 1 x Mercedes D.IIIa 6-cylinder water-cooled inline piston engine developing 160 horsepower and driving a two-bladed wooden propeller at the nose.
Speed: 106 mph (170 kph; 92 kts)
Ceiling: 18,504 feet (5,640 m; 3.5 miles)
Range: 264 miles (425 km; 229 nm)
Rate-of-Climb: 805 ft/min (245 m/min)
Operators: German Empire; Poland (post-war); United States (civilian)
The D.III biplane fighter ended as Pfalz Flugzeugwerke's most promising design of World War 1 (1914-1918) but even that venture could not match contemporary offerings from competitors Albatros and Fokker. The company returned to the drawing board and attempted another aircraft, this becoming the D.XII, and 800 of the type were completed before war's end in November of 1918. The D.XII matched favorably against Allied warplanes of the day but the competing design from Fokker, the D.VII, stole the limelight and saw production reach 3,300 systems. Both arrived in the war's final year.

The Pfalz D.XII was based on earlier approaches by the company which saw D.III aircraft fielded with wing elements inspired by the French SPAD S.VII (detailed elsewhere on this site). The program eventually evolved along its own lines by Pfalz which became the standalone D.XII. A prototype was made ready for March 1918 and a first-flight had that month. The design proved sound enough to warrant an order for 50 of the type and certification was granted in June. A revised rudder design greeted airframes after the 200th production example.

The D.XII became available in useful numbers for German forces during July but could not match the popularity of the Fokker D.VII. However, there were some airmen who learned the nuisances of the Pfalz aircraft and admired its particular diving capabilities. However there proved more than a fair share of detractors who thought the aircraft was rough at the controls, lacked robustness and could be dangerous to land.

The end of the war limited overall production figures and the design was studied at length by the conquering Allied powers - but few found it offering any benefit over competing designs. Poland operated two D.VII aircraft in the post-war years - becoming the only foreign user of the design.

As completed, the D.XII featured a length of 20.9 feet, a wingspan of 29.5 feet and a height of 8.9 feet. Empty weight was 1,580 lb against a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 1,980 lb. Power was from a Mercedes D.IIIa 6-cylinder water-cooled inline piston engine of 160 horsepower capabilities including a maximum speed of 106 miles per hour, a ceiling up to 18,500 feet and a rate-of-climb of over 800 feet-per-minute.

Its general makeup was conventional as a biplane wing arrangement was used. The wings were given N-style struts and applicable cabling for support. The fuselage exhibited slab sides and the engine was fitted to the nose in the usual way - driving a two-bladed propeller unit. The tail incorporated a single, rounded vertical fin with low-mounted horizontal planes. The undercarriage held two main legs that were wheeled with the tail supported by a simple skid. The pilot sat under and behind the upper wing element in an open-air cockpit. Machine gun armament was fitted just ahead of his position. Construction consisted of a monocoque fuselage with plywood skinning and fabric.

Armament was 2 x 7.92mm LMG 08/15 machine guns set over the nose and synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades.


2 x 7.92mm LMG 08/15 machine guns over the nose synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades.

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun

Variants / Models

• D.XII - Base Series Designation
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