The Fokker G.I "Reaper" began as a private venture in 1936 under the leadership of Dr. Erich Schatzki, head engineer at Fokker. Founded in 1912, Fokker began as a major fighter producer for the German Empire during World War 1. In 1919, the firm relocated to the Netherlands and turned into a dominant player of the civilian airliner market throughout the 1920s and 1930s - this period also known as the "Golden Age of Flight", a time when the public could not get enough of airplanes and powered flight. Fokker contributed both the G.I and the D.XXI to the Dutch Air Force in the build up to World War 2, but both accomplished little to thwart the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940.
The Heavy Fighter
The G.I was developed as a dedicated "heavy fighter" with military potential from the start - the G.I was an airframe that could match performance against fighters while also being able to deliver a formidable firepower load against enemy bombers. The G.I was part of a select class of heavy fighters - such as the twin-seat, twin-engine Messerschmitt BF 110 of the German Luftwaffe - these machines playing key roles in the early stages of World War 2. By the end of the conflict, however, heavy fighters had given way to dedicated fighter and bomber platforms.
The Fokker X-2 Prototype
With the Fokker design in place, construction on the X-2 prototype commenced and involved meshing a welded frame with an aluminum skin. Wood was used along the wings, skinned over in triplex. Powered was supplied by a pair of Hispano-Suiza 14AB-02/03 series engines delivering 650 horsepower each. First flight was on March 16th, 1937 and the results proved promising. Trouble eventually found the X-2 program in a later test flight in the month of September when a supercharger exploded in mid-flight. The pilot was, however, able to bring his bird down in one piece. After review of the incident, the Hispano-Suiza powerplants were replaced in favor of the American Pratt & Whitney SB4-G Twin Wasp Junior radial piston engines. Evaluation ensued with more test flights.
Spain Places an Order
Satisfied with the current results of Fokker's program, Spain placed an order for a dozen examples of the G.I export model, these models known under the simple designation of "G.Ib" (initial Dutch production models would carry the designation of G.Ia). However, a Dutch political embargo against the warring nation meant that Fokker could not deliver their aircraft, even after the Spanish government had paid the procurement bill in full. These aircraft were still constructed and would later serve the Dutch Air Force during the German invasion.
The Fokker G.I as a Dive-Bomber
After interest in the G.I as a potential dive-bomber rose, the G.I was slightly modified to include dive brakes on the wing undersides. Testing revealed excellent diving characteristics from the strong airframe and several nations placed meaningful orders - including the Dutch air force with an order for 36 examples. Quantitative production soon began and two- and three-seat G.Ia models were leaving Fokker factories. Upon reception, the Dutch air force quickly put their new G.Ia to work, particularly along the fronts of a destabilizing situation in Europe.
Fokker G.I Walk-Around
The crew compartment (room for two or three personnel depending on the production airframe) was held in a centralized nacelle. The nacelle was streamlined from nose to tip, featuring a smooth-rounded nose cone and a pointed, glazed rear window cone. The pilot maintained a dominant position at the front, overlooking the nose and both engines, with a relatively clear view of the oncoming action. The rear gunner (also doubling as the radio operator and navigator) sat directly aft of the pilot and both shared a heavily-glazed canopy view of the outside world. The third crew member (if any) was usually the designated bombardier. The G.I design was, of course, characterized by her twin-boom appearance. Each engine was held well-forward in each boom, these boom structures extending both ahead and aft of the wing leading and trailing edges respectively. The radial engines were set off from the wing roots and managed three-blade propeller systems. The boom structures tapered off into rounded vertical tail fins at the rear. Between the two tail fins was affixed a single horizontal stabilizer.
Fokker G.I Power
The Fokker G.Ia production model fitted a pair of Bristol Mercury VIII radial piston engines, each delivering up to 830 horsepower. This allowed for a maximum speed of up to 295 miles per hour with a range equal to 938 miles. Her service ceiling was listed at 32,808 feet. Empty weight was reported at 7,330lbs with a maximum take-off weight limit of 10,582lbs. She maintained a wingspan of just over 56 feet, a running length of 35 feet, 8 inches and a height of approximately 12 feet when at rest.
Fokker G.I Armament
Obviously, armament was the key factor in developing a competent heavy fighter. The G.I made use of a battery of machine guns as well as maintaining provision for external bomb ordnance. There were up to 8 x 7.9mm FN-Browning machine guns - all fitted in the nose - in a fixed, forward-firing arrangement and controlled by the pilot. In its original form, the G.I was fielded with 2 x 23mm Madsen cannons and 2 x 7.9mm machine guns in the nose - this perhaps the more formidable armament in retrospect. Bomb loads topped off at roughly 880lbs and were usually made up of a pair of conventional drop bombs held under each wing root.
Fokker G.I Variants
Beyond the single example prototype, the G.I was produced in just two notable variants. This included the G.Ia, which fitted 2 x Bristol Mercury VIII series radial piston engines and could have seating for two or three crewmembers, and the G.Ib, an export derivative fitted with 2 x Pratt & Whitney SB4-G Twin Wasp Junior radial piston engines. In all, approximately fifty of the G.I family of aircraft were ultimately produced with the Militaire Luchvaartafdeeling of the Netherlands being the primary operator. The German Luftwaffe made use of only a few G.Is during World War 2.
War Comes to the Netherlands
Hitler's German war machine moved on Dutch territory on May 10th, 1940. At the time, only 23 G.1a type aircraft were available to the Dutch air force. As was typical of German attacks, opening air strikes on Dutch airfields quickly rendered the Dutch airborne elements useless. Within time, air-to-air combat depleted ranks and inventory alike, though not without some aerial victories on the part of the brave, yet outclassed, Dutch airmen. G.Is were also unleashed as ground-attack platforms and harassed advancing German formations. German transport aircraft also became key targets of the heavily-armed G.Is. Despite this valiant effort, Netherlands fell to the might of the German war machine within a week and all remaining G.Is in serviceable shape were now under ownership of the Luftwaffe, who continued to use the type in small numbers throughout the remainder of the war.