The LFG Roland D.VI was adopted by the German Air Service of World War 1 (1914-1918) as a successor to the outgoing Albatros D.Va and Pfalz D.IIIa series biplane fighters. It originally failed to overcome the competing Fokker D.VII in a fly-off competition but was nonetheless ordered for serial production pending the outcome of the D.VII's development and production phases. The D.VI existed in 350 total aircraft and was introduced during the final year of the war.
As completed, the D.VI became an all-new biplane fighter attempt that broke away from the accepted norms witnessed in earlier Roland aircraft attempts. A "klinker-built" - or "lapstrake" - construction method was employed which used thin overlapping strips of wood over a wooden understructure producing a "planking" effect - similar to that as used in boats. This method was first witnessed on the earlier, ultimately abandoned LFG Roland Dr. IV triplane fighter prototype and now continued with the new D.VI effort.
The D.VI entered its flight test phase during November of 1917 as the war raged on. This form was outfitted with the Mercedes D.III series engine of 160 horsepower and three total prototypes were eventually completed for the D.VI test program. Due to limitations in the availability of the D.III engine, the Benz Bz IIIa of 150 horsepower was also tested and this phase took the aircraft into January of 1918.
That same month, the D.VI fell to the Fokker D.VII in a fly-off but was ordered into serial production as a failsafe to the Fokker design. In February an order for fifty of the LFG Roland aircraft was placed which would include Mercedes-engined versions as the "D.VIa" and Benz-engined versions as the "D.VIb". Deliveries occurred from May into June and strength reached seventy before the final months of the war - 58 were of the D.VIa type and 12 of the D.VIb model.
In practice, the new biplane performed admirably well for its role as fighter. It was modestly armed through 2 x 7.92mm LMG 08/15 machine guns synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades and its straightline performance was good with agility being a noted quality. The aircraft lacked an improved rate-of-climb when compared to the aircraft it was to succeed and the end of the war limited its reach in both terms of operational service and production numbers - total manufacture netted 150 D.VIa and 200 D.VIb aircraft before the end.
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