Founded in 1912, Flugzeugbau Friedrichshafen served the German Empire during World War 1 (1914-1918) as an aircraft maker, surviving the Armistice of 1918 and eventually folding 1923. Before their end arrived, the company produced some little-remembered warplanes of The Great War that included the useful FF.33 biplane floatplane for the Kaiserliche Marine (German Navy). The FF.33 first-flew in 1914 and entered service that year. About 315 of two major marks dotted the short-lived career of this aircraft.
As a floatplane, the FF.33 series held the inherent capability of landing and taking off from water sources which gave it a very useful advantage over swaths of open sea. A general biplane arrangement was used which incorporated an upper and lower wing assembly braced by wires and parallel struts. Two open-air, tandem cockpits were used by the two-crew. The engine was mounted to the nose in the usual way and a traditional tail unit was featured.
The initial production model became the FF.33 which carried a Mercedes D.II and only six of this mark were manufactured. The positions of the two crew were reversed in the follow-up FF.33b and power was not from a Maybach inline of 160 horsepower. Just five of this mark were built.
The FF.33e designated the primary reconnaissance mounts driven by a Benz Bz.III series inline and these also were given lengthened floatplanes for better water-running. The float under the tail was removed and communications gear fitted for the crew. About 180 of these were manufactured. These had a maximum speed of 68 miles per hour and endurance out to five hours.
The FF.33e gave rise to the FF.33f, a "fighting scout" variant, which incorporated a reduced wingspan and installed a pivoting machine gun. Five of this type were produced. The FF.33h sported aerodynamic refinements and fifty followed to this standard. The FF.33j also brought along refinements and held provision for communications gear. The FF.33l became the definitive fighting scout form with some 130 produced. These carried a fixed machine gun as armament. The FF.33e was a dual-control trainer offshoot.
The FF.39 was a refinement of the FF.33e model but finished with the Benz Bz.IV engine and fourteen were produced.
The FF.49b was a dedicated bomber form of the FF.49c and, again, reversed the crew positions. The observer's machine gun was deleted. Fifteen were produced. The FF.49c was an improved FF.39 with reinforced members, improved controlling and standard communications gear. The observer was given a trainable machine gun. Two-hundred of this mark were produced.
The FF.59a and FF.59b were one-off developmentals of the FF.39. The FF.59c had a modified tail unit and revised wing struts and wire bracing. The C.I became its own one-off of the FF.33l, a land-based version of the floatplane with a wheeled undercarriage installed.
Operators (beyond the German Empire) of the FF.33 series went on to include Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Poland and Sweden. Hungarian FF.33s operated until 1920, Polished versions until 1922 and Finnish FF.33s lasted into 1923.
Bulgaria; Denmark; Finland; German Empire; Netherlands; Poland; Sweden
(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.
✓Ground Attack (Bombing, Strafing)
Ability to conduct aerial bombing of ground targets by way of (but not limited to) guns, bombs, missiles, rockets, and the like.
✓Maritime / Navy
Land-based or shipborne capability for operating over-water in various maritime-related roles while supported by allied naval surface elements.
✓Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR), Scout
Surveil ground targets / target areas to assess environmental threat levels, enemy strength, or enemy movement.
Developed ability to be used as a dedicated trainer for student pilots (typically under the supervision of an instructor).
33.5 ft (10.22 m)
54.5 ft (16.60 m)
12.3 ft (3.75 m)
3,417 lb (1,550 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base Friedrichshafen FF.33 production variant)
1 x Benz Bz.III inline piston engine developing 150 horsepower and driving a two-bladed propeller unit at the nose.
1 x 7.92mm LMG 08/15 machine gun, either in fixed, forward-firing mounting (synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades) or at the observer's rear-facing position on a trainable/flexible mounting.
Up to 8 x 26.4lb conventional drop bombs.
(Not all ordnance types may be represented in the showcase above)
Hardpoint Mountings: 8
FF.33 - Base Series Designation; initial production model with Mercedes D.II engine; six examples completed.
FF.33b - FF.33 model with reversed crew seating positions; fitted with Maybach inline engine of 160 horsepower; observer's trainable machine gun added; five examples completed.
FF.33e - Definitive reconnaissance model; fitted with Benz Bz.III engine; lengthened floatplanes; sans armament; communications gear fitted; 180 examples completed.
FF.33f - Fighting scout variant based in the FF.33e; decreased wingspan and overall length; observer's machine gun; five examples completed.
FF.33h - FF.33f with aerodynamic revisions and reworked bracing; observer's machine gun; 50 examples completed.
FF.33j - FF.33e model with aerodynamic revisions; communications gear supported.
FF.33l - Definitive fighting scout variant; aerodynamic refinements; single fixed, forward-firing machine gun fitted; 130 examples produced.
FF.33s - Dual-control dedicated trainer variant.
FF.39 - Revised FF.33e; fitted with Benz Bz.IV series engine; 14 examples completed.
FF.49b - FF.49c bomber variant; sans observer's machine gun; 15 examples completed.
FF.49c - Improved FF.39 with reinforced members and revised controlling; communications gear; observer's machine gun fitted; 200 examples completed.
FF.59a - One-off developmental based on the FF.39
FF.59b - One-off developmental based on the FF.39
FF.59c - FF.39 with revised strutworks and bracing wires.
C.I - One-off land-based fighter version of the FF.33l model; wheeled undercarriage.
Ribbon graphics not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective aerial campaigns / operations / aviation periods.
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