Like fighter and bomber aircraft in The Great War, the dedicated ground-attack aircraft came into its own during the conflict. There were few notable mounts designed specifically for the role and one hopeful became an offering put forth by the German concern of AEG (Allgemeine Elektricitats-Gesellschaft AG) through its AEG PE ("Panzer Einsitzer"). A unique quality of the aircraft was its triple wing arrangement - better known as a "triplane" - when most other contemporary ground attackers utilized biplane wing arrangements.
The aircraft took on a conventional form and seated its pilot in an open-air cockpit under and aft of the upper wing assembly. The mid-wing assembly was affixed at shoulder-height along the sides of the fuselage and the lower wing members were set at the bottom of the fuselage sides. The undercarriage was wheeled at its two main legs and fixed in flight, a skid bringing up the tail when ground running. The tail unit was conventional for the period and used a single vertical fin with low-set horizontal planes. Armament was 2 x 7.92mm LMG 08/15 machine guns set over the nose and synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades. Additionally 4 x small diameter drop bombs could be carried. Construction of the aircraft included light-alloy skinning along the fuselage and fabric skinning along the wing members. Armoring was used at the more vital components of the aircraft due to the low-flying nature involved in the ground-attack role.
Performance from the Benz Bz.IIIb V8 liquid-cooled piston engine of 192 horsepower included a maximum speed of 103 miles per hour and a rate-of-climb of 565 feet per minute.
A first-flight was recorded during March 1918.
While the third wing made for good controlling and inherent stability, it was found to add too much drag and therefore reduce performance needed for fighter-versus-fighter dueling. This helped to end the PE project in full and only one flyable prototype was ever completed. The AEG DJ.I was a ground-attack offshoot of the project that only made it to evaluations before the end of the war in November of 1918.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Air-to-Air Combat, Fighter
General ability to actively engage other aircraft of similar form and function, typically through guns, missiles, and/or aerial rockets.
✓Close-Air Support (CAS)
Developed to operate in close proximity to active ground elements by way of a broad array of air-to-ground ordnance and munitions options.
✓X-Plane (Developmental, Prototype, Technology Demonstrator)
Aircraft developed for the role of prototyping, technology demonstration, or research / data collection.
21.7 ft (6.60 m)
36.7 ft (11.20 m)
2,606 lb (1,182 kg)
3,120 lb (1,415 kg)
+514 lb (+233 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the AEG PE production variant)
1 x Benz Bz.IIIb V8 water-cooled inline piston engine developing 192 horsepower and driving a two-bladed propeller at the nose.
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