Centennial Perspective
Development of German Warplanes in WWI

J.Herris - Development of German Warplanes in WWI /Centennial Perspective/ (1)

An early AEG G.I. The K.I prototype had a pilot and front gunner; the G.I added a rear gunner for defense against fighters. No engine cowlings covered the mechanical details.
AEG C.IV C.6623/16. An average airplane, the AEG C.IV nevertheless was the ancestor of the AEG N.I and the AEG J.I and J.II. This one is in standard factory sprayed camouflage finish with the black unit marking of Schutzstaffel 6 in 1916.
AEG G.IV serial G.567/18 of Staffel 27, Bogohl 8b, flew tactical night bombing missions in the summer of 1918.
J-Class Armored Aircraft

   Because more J-types were need than Junkers could produce, the AEG company modified their standard C.IV reconnaissance plane, which featured a structure of welded steel tubes, into an armored J-type by attaching armor plate to the sides and under-surfaces of the engine and cockpit. Not integrating the armor into the primary structure was not as elegant a solution as the Junkers design, but resulted in an airplane, the AEG J.I, that was much easier and faster to build. Although not as impervious to ground fire as its Junkers sibling, the AEG was a good airplane for its role.
   As the fighting continued the cooperation duties of the J-types evolved into more aggressive ground-attack, blurring the distinction between the role of the J-types and CL-types. Experience led to the addition of greater armament to the AEG J.I in the form of a downward-firing pair of machine guns mounted in the observer's cockpit and fired by him. The guns were normally angled to fire 45° below horizontal and aimed by the gunner observing the ground through a small hole in the floor in the front corner of his cockpit. The additional weight of this gun installation was too much for the heavy Junkers J.I, which never received additional armament and made do with only the observer's flexible gun.
   Continued development by AEG resulted in the AEG J.II, which had revised controls for better maneuverability, doubled bracing wires and inner wing spars for reduced vulnerability to ground fire, and downward-firing machine guns fitted as standard.
   To destroy Allied tanks, which were becoming a serious problem for the infantry, in September 1918 20 AEG J.IIs were delivered with a downward-firing 20mm Becker cannon on a flexible mount for the gunner.
   The AEG J-types were the most valuable; they could be built in much greater quantity than the superior Junkers and were much less vulnerable to ground fire than the wooden Albatros J- types.
AEG J.II J.186/18. This early production J.II looks like a late J.I; it does not yet have the horn-balanced control surfaces of the final J.II configuration which made the J.II more maneuverable - and survivable. The two machine guns in the observer's cockpit fixed to fire downward at 45° are shown. The observer also had a flexible machine gun to defend against fighters and strafe ground targets.
N-Types: Single-Engine Night Bombers

   Standard C-types were used throughout the war for light bombing both during the day and at night. However, resource-starved Germany wanted aircraft that could carry a heavier bomb load at night while using a less powerful engine that used less fuel. The desire for a single-engine night bomber of greater bomb load than standard C-types led to new designs and yet another category of two-seat warplane, the N-type, or Nachtflugzeug (night aircraft).
   A number of manufacturers submitted designs to this requirement, but only two reached production and operational service. First and most numerous was AEG. The AEG N.I was yet another design derived from its standard C.IV reconnaissance plane. The wingspan was extended for greater lifting capacity for the heavier bomb load desired, and the C.IV's 160 hp Mercedes D.III engine, which was in great demand for fighter production, was replaced with the less popular 150 hp Benz Bz.III. The longer-span wing failed repeated load tests due to bending; this was solved effectively if inelegantly by strengthening both upper wing spars by addition of external bracing trusses. Approximately 200 AEG N.I aircraft were built and served anonymously with standard two-seater units.
A typical AEG N.I in standard AEG factory finish for night bombers. The national insignia are barely visible. Powered by the 150 hp Benz Bz.III, it carried six 50kg bombs are under the wings. This bomb load, substantially more than its ancestor the AEG C.IV could carry, was made possible by the larger, longer-span wing. Production was limited because both Idflieg and the crewmen preferred the AEG G.IV and other twin-engine bombers.
Final member of the AEG bomber family was the AEG G.V, which was an extended-span, three-bay development of the G.IV. The additional wing area enabled it to carry a heavier bomb load; it used the same 260 hp Mercedes D.IVa engines as the earlier G.IV. Servo-tabs were added to the ailerons to reduce the heavy control forces for the pilot.
AGO C II на заводском дворе. Кресты нанесены с обеих сторон руля поворота.
Ago C.I 371/15 of the penultimate production batch.
The Ago C.I was one of the few German pusher designs; engines used were the 150 hp Benz, 160 hp Mercedes, or 160 hp Maybach Mb.III.
The intriguing twin-boom fuselaged Ago C II of late summer 1915 origins employed the same basic layout as the Ago C I, but used the 220hp Benz Bz IV. Only built in relatively modest numbers, the Ago C II began to be deployed at the end of 1915 and operated on the Western Front. The type's top level speed was quoted as 86 mph at sea level.

   The increasing important of anti-tank weapons lead to Idflieg creating the S-type. The S-type was basically an evolved J-type whose primary purpose was ground attack, especially destroying tanks. The requirement was for a two-seat armored biplane with 20mm Becker cannon fitted for anti-tank duties. The gunner also had a flexible machine gun to defend the aircraft against enemy fighters. The Ago S.I, the only S-type apparently completed before the armistice, was too late to go into production or operation.
The Albatros B.I was a typical early, unarmed two-seat reconnaissance airplane. Powered by a 100 hp Mercedes D.I, it had good flying qualities and was later used for training.
Albatros C.I 110/15 wears a typical factory finish for its time. Later production aircraft were painted an overall light cream, blue, or gray.
The Albatros C.I was clearly developed from earlier B-types. It had good flying qualities and after it was obsolete at the front was used for training. Engine was either a 150 hp Benz Bz.III or 160 hp Mercedes D.III.
The Albatros C.III was one of the most widely-used two-seaters; at least 2,511 were ordered. It was a robust aircraft with good flying characteristics. As the C.III faded from the front during 1917 it was being widely used as a trainer. Engines used were the 160 hp Mercedes D.III or 150 hp Benz Bz.III. This Albatros C.III is in factory finish with simple tactical markings added in black. It was flown by Lt. Gerhard Bassenge and Vzfw. Ernst Floel of Kasta 39 during late 1916.
Albatros C.III C4047/15 in natural wood finish was an early-production aircraft powered by a 150 hp Benz Bz.III. The serial number is located on the fin and aligned with the straight, slanting leading edge, an unusual presentation seen on many C.IIIs.
Like the LVG C.IV, the Albatros C.V was powered by the 220 hp Mercedes D.IV straight-eight engine, was faster than Allied fighters when it reached the front, and was used for photo reconnaissance.
Albatros C.VII 1330/16 of Flieger Abteilung 7. The white arrow is the unit marking. Unusually, a radiator has been mounted in front of the wing, probably a modification carried out at the unit. C.VIIs normally had 'ear' radiators on the side of the fuselage. A captured Lewis gun is mounted over the wing center section.
This Albatros D.I flown by Lt. Dieter Collin wears the standard factory finish other than the individual marking of the letters "Co" for Collin's last name. Later the factory used darker stain to finish the wood fuselage.
This Albatros D.II was flown by Oblt. Stephan Kirmaier, officer commanding Jasta 2 in November 1916. The single black stripe around the rear fuselage and the ribbon between the struts are the only deviations from factory standard finish.
Albatros D.III flown by Lt. Hermann Frommherz of Jasta Boelcke. It was painted an overall light blue at the Jasta. The black and white markings were also added there. Frommherz became an ace with 32 victories and was nominated for the Pour le Merite, but the Kaiser abdicated before signing the award and Frommherz never received it.
Clearly developed from the G.II, the Albatros G.III was powered by 220 hp Benz Bz.IV engines. The undercarriage was revised to be more robust. Bombs are visible on the rack on the fuselage side; others are under the fuselage. The engine cowlings have been removed in service. The dark finish indicates use as a night bomber.
This Albatros C.X is in the standard factory finish. Not visible in this side view, the upper surfaces of the wings and tailplane normally had a two-color or three-color sprayed camouflage scheme depending on sub-contractor.
This C.XII carries a lightning bolt unit marking over its standard factory finish. This aircraft was flown by Lt. Geiger and Lt. Rein in June 1917. Like the C.X, the upper wings and tailplane were normally sprayed in a two-color or three-color camouflage scheme.
Albatros D.V flown by Lt Alfred Trager while serving with Jasta 17. Trager's personal marking was the sun painted on the fuselage, and he called this airplane Sonnenvogel (Sun Bird).
The Albatros D.III 'V-strutter' was the next Albatros fighter and is shown here in a lineup of Jasta 11, the fighter unit lead by the Red Baron, whose red Albatros is second in line.
J-Class Armored Aircraft

   Albatros was the third manufacturer to produce a J-type. The Albatros J.I inherited its wooden structure from the C.XII reconnaissance two-seater from which it was developed. Unlike all the other J-types, the Albatros J.I had armor around the cockpit but, to save weight, it had no armor protecting the engine. Like the AEG J.II, 20 Albatros J.Is were fitted with a 20mm Becker cannon on a flexible mount for the gunner for destroying tanks. Others had the pair of downward-firing machine guns as installed on the AEG J.I.
   Complaints from crewmen about the vulnerability of the Albatros J.Is engine to ground fire resulted in a new design, the J.II, with fully-armored engine, that succeeded the Albatros J.I in production.
The Albatros J.II had an armored engine, solving the worst problem of the Albatros J.I. This one is in standard factory finish.
Aviatik B (P15) B.549/15 flown by Hptm. Hugo Geyer
The biplane version of the DFW Mars was one of the primitive, miscellaneous airplanes with which Germany entered the war.
DFW C.V 4918/16 serving with FA(A) 276, an artillery-spotting unit. The crew was Uffz. Decker and Lt. Hammer. DFW C.Vs had a long production run and later models had a radiator in front of the upper wing in place of the ear radiators on this example. Camouflage colors and schemes also varied over time and by sub-contractor.
Aviatik-built DFW C.V(Av) at Adlershof for the type test in February 1917. The early company logo plate is visible on the side of the engine cowling.
Although the observer was in the rear cockpit with a better field of fire than the Aviatik C.II, the C.II could easily have been modified to the observer in back configuration. However, the modified Aviatik C.II would not have matched the DFW's excellent maneuverability and handling, and only 75 production Aviatik C.IIs were built. A total of 3,955 DFW C.Vs were built, more than any other WW1 German warplane. Of that total, Aviatik built 1,400 machines to 12 production orders.
Another view of A.206/14 Sumpfhuhn with pilot Leopold Anslinger that clearly shows the underwing 'windows' for good downward visibility.
Class A aircraft were unarmed monoplanes, both one and two seat. Most A-types were the Taube configuration, but there were also Fokker (shown here) and Pfalz A-types.
Fokker E.III flown by Oblt. Hans Berr, August 1916. The E-types were obsolete by this time and German pilots desperately needed the new biplane fighters just starting to arrive. Berr scored 10 victories and was awarded the Pour le Merite. He was killed in action 6 April 1917.
Although Oswald Boelcke is thought to have used Fokker E.I 3/15 with FFA 62, verifiable images of that aircraft have yet to surface. However, here he is seen sitting in E.I 13/15. (Lance Bronnenkant)
Vfw. Eduard Bohme of FFA 9b poses with Fok. E.III 408/15. This is very probably the aircraft in which he suffered fatal injuries in a crash on 24 January 1916. (Peter M. Grosz collection/STDB)
Lt. Bohme poses in front of his Fokker E.III, the best-known of the early monoplane fighters. Powered by the 100 hp Oberursel U.I, it established air superiority; Allied opponents became known as "Fokker fodder." (408/15)
Fokker E.IV flown by ace Kurt Wintgens while he was assigned to Flieger-Abteilung 6. The larger cowling for the two-row rotary distinguishes the E.IV from earlier E-types. Wintgens scored 19 victories and was awarded the Pour le Merite. He was killed in action 25 September 1916.
This photo of Kest 4b at Freiburg shows a first-generation Fokker E.IV fighter at left. Second-generation Fokker D.IIs are at the far end of the second row and the two closest fighters in the third row. Two second-generation Fokker D.III fighters are nearest the camera in the middle row. By far the best aircraft in the photo is the Halberstadt fighter furthest from the camera in the third row. The early Fokker biplane fighters were inferior to the Halberstadt and Albatros biplane fighters and were obsolescent on the Western Front. 1917 was a tough year for Fokker, who in January 1917 was directed to build 200 AEG C.IV two-seat trainers instead of his own designs.
Fokker D.II 540/16 flown by Lt.dR. Otto Kissenberth at KEK (Kampfeinsitzer-Kommando - single-seat fighter detachment) Ensisheim, 12 October 1916. On that day Kissenberth intercepted the famous Oberndorf raid, a combined British and French bombing raid on the German city of Oberndorf, and scored his first three victories in this machine. It has a three-color camouflage scheme that was applied, or at least modified, at KEK Ensisheim. Kissenberth went on to score 20 victories and was awarded the Pour le Merite.
This photo of Kest 4b at Freiburg shows a first-generation Fokker E.IV fighter at left. Second-generation Fokker D.IIs are at the far end of the second row and the two closest fighters in the third row. Two second-generation Fokker D.III fighters are nearest the camera in the middle row. By far the best aircraft in the photo is the Halberstadt fighter furthest from the camera in the third row. The early Fokker biplane fighters were inferior to the Halberstadt and Albatros biplane fighters and were obsolescent on the Western Front. 1917 was a tough year for Fokker, who in January 1917 was directed to build 200 AEG C.IV two-seat trainers instead of his own designs.
Fokker D.III 368/16 flown by Ernst Udet of Jasta 15, October 1916. The aircraft appears in basic factory finish except for the 'observer' a figure made of tin and painted by Udet to look like a gunner to fool attacking aircraft into abandoning their attack. Udet may have achieved his second victory in this machine while intercepting the Oberndorf raid. With an eventual 62 victories, Udet went on to become the highest-scoring German ace to survive the war and second only to the Red Baron. He was awarded the Pour le Merite.
This photo of Kest 4b at Freiburg shows a first-generation Fokker E.IV fighter at left. Second-generation Fokker D.IIs are at the far end of the second row and the two closest fighters in the third row. Two second-generation Fokker D.III fighters are nearest the camera in the middle row. By far the best aircraft in the photo is the Halberstadt fighter furthest from the camera in the third row. The early Fokker biplane fighters were inferior to the Halberstadt and Albatros biplane fighters and were obsolescent on the Western Front. 1917 was a tough year for Fokker, who in January 1917 was directed to build 200 AEG C.IV two-seat trainers instead of his own designs.
Fratz was a Fokker D.VI serving with Jasta 80b; it was flown by Lt Seit. The aircraft is in factory finish with name, black fuselage band, and white outlines added at Jasta 80b. Although more maneuverable than its larger brother the D.VII, with good speed and climb at low level, its rotary engine only had 110 hp. Worse yet, rotary engines typically lost power more rapidly with the lower air density at altitude than water-cooled engines, and high-altitude performance was critical. That was why the D.VII was produced in much greater numbers than the D.VI.
This Fokker D.VII, flown by Lt. Richard Kraut of Jasta 66, was brought to Canada as war booty after the armistice. The Fokker D.VII made a dramatic impact on the air war over the Western Front; German pilots doubled their rate of scoring victories after they started flying it. It outperformed the Albatros in all respects, especially maneuverability, and was much stronger, so structural failures were no longer a concern for the pilots, enabling them to fly the airplane to its limits. These qualities were primarily due to the innovative wing design.
This D.VII replica is seen here painted in Jasta 6 markings. This D.VII was one of three reproductions built for the film, The Blue Max. Purchased by Javier Arango, it was re-sold to The Vintage Aviator, Ltd. in New Zealand and was reworked. It now is a frequent flier at airshows along with both Pfalz D.III replicas from the same film.
The greatest result of the Fighter Competitions was the iconic Fokker D.VII, widely regarded as the best WWI fighter. Here a beautiful replica in a representative color scheme is shown in its element.
One of the greatest services Manfred von Richthofen did for Germany was instigating the fighter competitions, and the Fokker D.VII was the greatest result of those competitions. Arriving at the front days after Richthofen's death in his Fokker Triplane, he was not able to fly the D.VII in combat himself. Initially using the Mercedes D.IIIa engine, when fitted with the superb 185 hp BMW.IIIa the D.VII was the best all-around fighter of the war. This D.VII flew with Jasta 49.
Fokker D.VII without its fabric covering shows the simple welded steel tube fuselage and innovative plywood wing structure.
Fokker Dr.I 503/17 has the streaked factory camouflage finish with the Jasta 19 unit markings of white cowling and black and yellow stripes on the tailplane. Ace Lt. Hans Korner's personal marking is the white lightning bolt on the sides and turtledeck. Korner scored 7 victories and survived the war.
The Fokker Triplane replica photographed inflight is in the markings of Lothar von Richthofen, younger brother of the Red Baron and a 40-victory ace who also won the Pour le Merite.
Manfred (at right) and Lothar (at left) von Richthofen in March 1918. Both are wearing the Pour le Merite, also known as the Blue Max, around their necks.
The Fokker V.38, prototype for the C.I two-seat fighter, was covered in printed camouflage fabric overall with natural metal panels.
The Fokker V.38 at left was the prototype for the C.I two-seat fighter. It was a slightly enlarged D.VII using mostly D.VII structure, such as wing ribs. The Fokker C.I was too late for the war but had a long postwar career.
Fokker E.V in factory finish except for its red cowling.
One of the most common early reconnaissance floatplanes, a Friedrichshafen FF33, being recovered by a warship after a mission. The FF33 used the 150 hp Benz Bz.III engine.
Friedel-Ursinus B.1092/14 after modification.
Friedel-Ursinus was built at Flieger Ersatz Abteilung 3 and became the prototype for the Gotha G.I. The pilot sat in the rear cockpit with the two gunners in separate cockpits in front of him. Designed as a Kampfflugzeug, or battle plane, it was more effective as a bomber.
Gotha G.IV 405/16 flown by Oblt. von Trotha, deputy commander of Kagohl 3 on daylight bombing raids over the UK. The overall light blue color was camouflage to render the aircraft less visible at high altitude. The yellow and black stripes were a personal marking. Note the bomb under the nose; the G.IV was tail heavy after the bombs were dropped.
For its role in bombing London by day in the summer of 1917 the Gotha G.IV shocked the world and became by far the most famous German bomber of the war. G.IV 408/16 was one of those raiders; an additional fuel tank is mounted on top of the upper wing center section to enable the bomber to fly to London from based in Belgium and return. The normal crew was a pilot, a bombardier/front gunner, and a rear gunner. The G.IV and G.V had a tunnel in the rear fuselage enabling the rear gunner to fire downward through the fuselage, a definite surprise for an intercepting fighter. The G.IV and similar G.V were powered by the 260 hp Mercedes D.IVa engine.
Gotha G.V(LVG) 947/16 of Bogohl 3, March 1918. The crew was Lt. von Korff Lt. von Zedlitz, and Gefr. Speyer.
If one airplane epitomized German bombers, it was the Gotha. The Gotha G.II through G.V were of similar configuration; a G.V is shown. Gothas became instantly infamous for bombing London in broad daylight on 13 June, 1917, shocking the world. More daylight raids followed; in September 1917 the Gothas switched to night bombing when daylight defenses grew too strong.
Halberstadt D.II serving with Jasta 5. The pilot is unknown.
This photo of Kest 4b at Freiburg shows a first-generation Fokker E.IV fighter at left. Second-generation Fokker D.IIs are at the far end of the second row and the two closest fighters in the third row. Two second-generation Fokker D.III fighters are nearest the camera in the middle row. By far the best aircraft in the photo is the Halberstadt fighter furthest from the camera in the third row. The early Fokker biplane fighters were inferior to the Halberstadt and Albatros biplane fighters and were obsolescent on the Western Front. 1917 was a tough year for Fokker, who in January 1917 was directed to build 200 AEG C.IV two-seat trainers instead of his own designs.
Brunhilde in color. The standard factory camouflage is used with the unit markings of white chevron, white vertical tail, black and white fuselage and tailplane stripes. The tactical number and girlfriend's name were added in white to individualize each aircraft. In this case the tactical number was '2' and the girlfriend was Brunhilde.
Halberstadt lineup of Schlachtstaffel 21. The commanding officer's CL.IV is third from right and is the aircraft depicted in the colors of the restored CL.IV in the National Museum of the USAF. The other CL.II aircraft have their black and white colors reversed; their black stripes are wider than their white stripes. The distinctive markings of the leader's aircraft helped the others maintain formation on it during combat.
The six Halberstadt CL.II aircraft of a Schlactstaffeln on their low-level run to the target in 1918. By this time the CL-type aircraft had grown beyond their original escort duties and the Schlastas had well-developed tactics for ground-attack.
A Schlactstaffel of Halberstadt CL.II ground-attack fighters races low over the countryside en route to attack targets in Allied lines. Special tactics enhanced their effectiveness and limited their casualties on these hazardous missions. In 1918 the Schlastas were the offensive striking arm of the German air service. They were also tough opponents for Allied fighters due to their excellent maneuverability and rear gunner.
Halberstadt D.V in the winter of 1916/1917. Factory camouflage is used with unit number '2'.
Halberstadt C.V(DFW) 4185/18; DFW-built C.Vs were painted in a light gray with five-color printed fabric covering their flying surfaces.
Halberstadt CL.IV tactical number '6' from Schlasta 6 flown by Lt. Gunther Ludeke and Uffz. Karl Steck, October 1918. Oblt. Jurgen Ludeke commanded Schlasta 6 and the death's head unit marking is derived from the Ludeke brothers' previous service with Braunschweigesches Husaren-Regiment Nr.17, Totenkopf (Death's Head).
"Хальберштадт" CL-IV, восстановленный до летного состояния (современный снимок)
Restored Halberstadt CL.IV in the spectacular colors of the leader of Schlasta 21 on display at the USAF Museum.
Cockpit of the restored Halberstadt CL.IV of the USAF Museum shows the proximity of the pilot and gunner for close cooperation during combat. The gunner had an exceptional field of fire.
Halberstadt lineup of Schlachtstaffel 21. The commanding officer's CL.IV is third from right and is the aircraft depicted in the colors of the restored CL.IV in the National Museum of the USAF. The other CL.II aircraft have their black and white colors reversed; their black stripes are wider than their white stripes. The distinctive markings of the leader's aircraft helped the others maintain formation on it during combat.
The KDW (Kampf Doppeldecker Wasser - literally 'combat biplane water') was Brandenburg's response to the single-seat floatplane fighter requirement. Based on their KD fighter, used as the Brandenburg D.I by the Austro-Hungarians but not by Germany, the KDW had the KD's unusual 'star-struts' that were streamlined and eliminated the need for bracing wires, but weighed more and interfered with the pilot's field of view. The KDW also had larger wings to support the additional weight of its floats. Marine #748 shown here was the prototype and forced down a Sikorski Ilya Mouromets in September 1916, one of only three downed by German aircraft during the war. Initially armed with a single synchronized gun, the last production batch of 20 aircraft could carry two guns. The KDW inherited the KD's problematic flying qualities and field of view for the pilot and only 58 were built.
Hammer criticized the inaccessibility of the gun on the starboard side of #748, clearly out of reach, after his combat with the Sikorski. According to Hammer he might have been able to clear the simple jam that occurred on his fourth pass had he been able to reach this gun.
The W.11 was an enlarged, more powerful KDW powered by a 200 hp Benz Bz.IV. It was somewhat faster, but inherited the KDW's stability and handling problems and only three were built. At least two were assigned to naval air stations on the Flanders coast.
Brandenburg W12 #1184 is shown in standard late-war naval camouflage. The red/white checkerboard was a personal marking.This aircraft served at the Zeebrugge Naval Air Station.
The Brandenburg W12 was a milestone design that gave Germany a highly effective two-seat naval fighter. This one is in standard finish with a personal marking of a checkerboard on the rear fuselage.
This W29 was flown by Oblt.d.R. Friedrich Christiansen, and the letter 'C' in a diamond on a white stripe was his personal marking. He won the Pour le Merite for downing British airship C27. The gunner had an unobstructed field of fire aft due to the unusual design of the tail, and could also fire forward except through the propeller arc.
Brandenburg W33

   Just as the Brandenburg W19 was an enlarged, more powerful development of the W12 for longer range and endurance and greater payload, the W33 was an enlarged, more powerful W29 for more range and pay load. A large aircraft, it was aerodynamically clean and strongly built, and had similar speed and maneuverability as the smaller W29, which it joined on operations in the late summer of 1918.
   The W29 and W33 enjoyed long, successful post-war careers in Denmark, Norway, Finland, and other countries needing reliable floatplanes in a demanding environment.
J-Class Armored Aircraft

   Still another role for which specialized aircraft were needed was infantry cooperation. In those days before easily-portable voice radios, there was no good way for headquarters to keep in contact with the moving front line of infantry during an attack. To solve this problem, two-seat aircraft were flown at low level to observe the moving front of the infantry attack and keep headquarters informed of its progress so the attack could be properly supported with reinforcements, re-supply, and adjusting the advance to enemy actions. Standard C-type aircraft were vulnerable to small-arms fire at the low altitudes they had to fly to succeed in this mission and losses started to become unacceptable. The obvious solution was a two-seat airplane armored against small-arms fire, and this new Idflieg requirement created the J-Class. The letter 'I' was not used to avoid confusion with the numeral '1', so the new class of armored two-seaters was called the 'J' class, 'J' following 'I' in the alphabet. The J-type was introduced to combat in the summer of 1917 and the excellent results the type achieved lead to substantial orders and a steady increase in the numbers at the front despite combat attrition. According to Hoff, a total of 238 J-types were listed in the Frontbestand for October 1918.
   Three manufacturers designed aircraft to the J-type requirement, and all three were placed in production. Most successful and most technically significant was the Junkers J.I, the first all-metal production airplane in the world. Corrugated metal was used for the skin for sufficient stiffness, and the engine and crew members were surrounded by an armored 'tub' that protected them from ground fire. The Junkers J.I became an immediate success and was in production and use until the end of the war. It had two main limitations; first, its innovative metal structure was time-consuming to build, limiting production. Second, it was very heavy, which limited the size of airfields it could use and earned it the nickname 'furniture van' from its crews. The Junkers J.I was known to survive 200mm shell holes in its wings, and none are confirmed to have been shot down by enemy fighters.
The Junkers J.I was the world's first production all-metal airplane and the J-type most resistant to ground fire, endearing it to its crews. They nevertheless called it 'tin donkey' and 'moving van' for its great weight and ponderous handling.
Sometimes the spinner was removed in service as shown. This example served with Flieger-Abteilung (Artillerie) 263.
Despite being the heaviest J-type, the Junkers J.I was the fastest due to its more aerodynamic design, including lack of drag-producing bracing wires.
The Junkers J.I was the world's first all-metal production aircraft; only a small section of the aft fuselage was covered in fabric. The aircraft at left has no fabric on its aft fuselage; printed fabric is seen on the J.I at right.
The all-metal Junkers CL.I was the two-seat fighter derivative of the D.I single-seater. Looking more modern than its contemporaries, the Junkers CL.I was placed in production before the end of the war, but none reached combat units before the armistice. It was used postwar by German units in the regional fighting in the Baltic states, where it proved to be a robust, durable, reliable aircraft of good performance. It was powered by a 185 hp BMW.IIIa engine, giving a maximum speed of 190 km/h (118 mph).
Junkers CL.I aircraft normally left the factory with green and mauve upper surfaces and light blue undersurfaces, with white rudder. The white fuselage band was a unit marking.
The Junkers D.I was the world's first production all-metal fighter and was just entering service at the end of the war. A very fast airplane for its time with maximum speed of 240 km/h (148 mph), its low-wing monoplane configuration foretold the future. Power was a 180 hp BMW .IIIa engine.
Early C.II aircraft lacked a synchronized gun for the pilot, but once this was provided, the C.II Walfisch (Whale) became a two-seat fighter, presaging the later CL-category aircraft. It used the 160 hp Mercedes D.III engine. This Roland C.II is in typical early factory finish with the name Meerkatze on the aft fuselage.
The streamlined Roland C.II was, in early 1916, the best German warplane at the front. It was much faster than contemporary C-types from other manufacturers and once the pilot was provided with a synchronized gun, it was sometimes used as a two-seat fighters, presaging the CL-types.
Pfalz D.II, later Roland D.II(Pfal), wears the usual Roland D.II factory finish of green and brown upper surfaces and light blue undersurfaces. The black band with white '10' is an individual marking.
This Roland D.II(Pfal) flew with Kest 4 on the Eastern Front. Using the same engine and weapons as the Albatros fighters, the Roland fighters were strong and fast but had mediocre maneuverability and handling characteristics, and the pilot's field of view was poor. As a result the Rolands served in relatively small numbers while the Albatros was built in great quantity.
Roland D.VIa flown by Vzfw. Emil Schape in Jasta 33 in July 1918. The D.VIa had the 160 hp Mercedes D.III, while the similar D.VIb had the 185 hp Benz Bz.IIIa that gave it better performance. The D.VI used the Klinkerrumpf method of fuselage construction where the wood boards of the fuselage were overlapped like a boat hull. Many subsequent Roland designs also used this technology.
LVG B.I(Ot) 636/16. The serial number suffix '16' and white outline around the national insignia are characteristic of use as a trainer; by 1916 B-types were purchased for training, not front-line use. Aircraft used for training in Germany were not counted in the Frontbestand.
LVG C.II 2137/15 of Kasta 6 flown by Jureck and Christensen.
The LVG C.II was a robust early C-type met frequently in combat. Engine was either a 150 hp Benz Bz.III or 160 hp Mercedes D.III.
Britenschreck in color. Unusually, LVG cut out the company initials from the engine cowling on the C.IV.
Powered by the rare 220 hp Mercedes D.IV straight-eight engine, the LVG C.IV was faster than Allied fighters when it first reached the front. Due to its speed it was used primarily for photo-reconnaissance. Britenschreck, sports a sharkmouth.
This LVG C.V of Schusta 11 in October 1917 displays black and white fuselage unit markings over the standard factory finish.
Tired of paying royalties on the DFW C.V it was building under license, LVG hired the DFW's designer and the LVG C.V was a refinement of the earlier DFW C.V Both aircraft were powered by the 200 hp Benz Bz.IV engine. The LVG C.V served together with the DFW C.V in two-seater units until the end of the war.
LVG C.V 3272/17 of the first production batch. The interplane and undercarriage struts are wood to conserve steel tube.
LVG C.VI 3976/18 displays a modest black and white fuselage stripe over the standard factory finish.
The LVG C.VI was a more compact development of the LVG C.V and offered somewhat better speed and maneuverability as a result. It was powered by the 200-230 hp Benz Bz.IV/IVa engine and saw widespread service until the end of the war.
LVG C.VI 9027/18 (?) work number 4938 photographed at Trier on January 3, 1919. The aircraft had been turned over to American troops in compliance with the Armistice conditions. The photo shows the basic factory finish of stained wood fuselage and wings covered with hexagonal camouflage fabric with light rib tapes.
The handsome LVG C.VIII with frontal radiator was the next development of the LVG C-types. Powered by the 230 hp Benz Bz.IVa, it was too late to arrive at the front before the armistice.
The LVG C.VIII was designed for the high-compression 200hp Benz I (to give 240hp) for altitude performance. In the event, however, the prototype was a one-off as production effort was concentrated on more promising types.
This Otto B-type pusher built under license by Pfalz was flown by Bruno Buchner in German Southeast Afrika and is being protected by Askari troops. A large tropical radiator is installed under the upper wing center section and a primitive bomb-dropping chute has been attached to the side of the nacelle. In contrast to the Allies, who produced pusher aircraft in great quantity, Germany manufactured few pusher designs.
The Pfalz-Otto Pusher on the Dares Salaam airfield, capital of German East Africa, is guarded by Askari troops. Pilot Bruno Buchner points out the bomb-dropping tube mounted on the nacelle. The large tropical radiator is installed under the top wing center section. Although Pfalz made the tropical modifications, the aircraft was actually built by Otto.
Thought to be the Otto KD 15 second prototype after modifications. This aircraft was apparently later accepted as a production aircraft. In addition to two prototypes, 18 production Otto C.is are thought to be built.
The Otto C.I was one of the few German pusher designs. This was because the Otto company was located in Munich, Bavaria, and the Bavarian air service, which purchased Otto aircraft, initially favored pusher aircraft, primarily due to the unobstructed forward visibility for the crew for observation, photography, and bombing. The German air service strongly preferred tractor aircraft for their aerodynamic efficiency and, later, better defensive capability, and most production German two-seaters were tractor designs. Engines used included the 160 hp Mercedes, 150 hp Benz, and 200 hp Rapp. Despite its higher power rating, the Rapp was unpopular because it was not nearly as reliable as the Mercedes or Benz.
This Pfalz Parasol, later designated Pfalz A.I, was assigned to Flieger Abteilung 9b in July 1915 and engaged in missions against Italy in the Alps despite the fact that Italy and Germany were not then at war! The red/white bands were to make the Italian think the aircraft was Austro-Hungarian. The crew was Lt. Marz and Lt. Wissel.
The Pfalz Parasol was redesignated Pfalz A.I or A.II, depending on engine, in August 1915; this one is from Flieger-Abteilung 3b. Leutnant Hempel at left was the pilot; Oberleutnant Erhard Ergener at right was the observer. Hempel used the cloth tucked into a button hole on his flight suit to wipe engine oil from his flight goggles, a necessity for rotary-engine aircraft.
Leutnant Hans Henkel with FA (Flieger Abteilung) 300 "Pascha" on the Palestinian Front poses with his ground crew and Pfalz E.II. This was the only Pfalz E-type to serve in Palestine. Power was the 100 hp Oberursel U.l.
The Pfalz E.IV is distinctive due to its twin-row 160 hp Oberursel U.III rotary engine, which required an additional front bearing support, and twin Spandau LMG 08 machine guns. The E.IV had larger wings than earlier Pfalz E-types to handle the additional weight, and a longer tail to balance the heavier engine and two guns. Pfalz was fond of the German national insignia and applied it to upper and lower surfaces of the tailplane in addition to its standard locations.The E.IV here even has the iron cross on the wheel covers.
The Pfalz E.IV is distinctive due to its twin-row 160 hp Oberursel U.III rotary engine, which required an additional front bearing support, and twin Spandau LMG 08 machine guns.
The Pfalz E.V was the only E-type with a water-cooled engine, a 100hp Mercedes D.I. It was faster than the more powerful E.IV but mounted only one gun. Superior biplane fighters were already arriving at the Front and only 20 were built. The pre-war design used by Pfalz was not stressed for combat maneuvers and after some structural failures, all Pfalz E-types were withdrawn from the front.
This new Pfalz E.V stands ready for flight on the Speyer airfield. Despite significantly lower power than the Pfalz E.IV, the more streamlined E.V was faster, but the basic Morane-Saulnier design was incapable of further development. Superior German and Allied biplane fighters were already in service, sealing the fate of the E.V.
Pfalz D.III and D.IIIa

   The Pfalz D.I was the Roland D.I built by Pfalz, and the Pfalz D.II was the Roland D.II built by Pfalz. This designation scheme was confusing, and Idflieg soon changed the designations of these aircraft to Roland D.I(Pfal) and Roland D.II(Pfal). Originally Pfalz was ordered to build the Roland D.III under license as the Pfalz D.III, but meanwhile Pfalz had developed their own original design, and testing soon revealed it was superior to the Roland D.III. Pfalz production was quickly changed to their own design, which appeared as the Pfalz D.III. Concerned about using a single-spar wing when shown the Nieuport, Pfalz used a two-spar design for the lower wing of their D.III as shown by the interplane struts. The lower wing was narrower in chord than the upper wing to provide the benefits of a better downward view, but without the fragility of the single-spar wing. The Pfalz D.III, the Albatros fighters, and the Roland D.I/II/III all used two guns and the same 160 hp Mercedes engine, and all had similar performance. This was a problem because the newer Allied fighters had better performance, creating the dilemma faced by the German fighter force from the summer of 1917 until the arrival of the Fokker D.VII in the late spring of 1918.
Lt. Gustav Bellen of Jasta 10 flew another of the early two-tone camouflaged D.IIIs. Like Heldmann's D.III 1395/17, this aircraft had undersurfaces finished in a light color, most likely silver-gray. The fuselage cross was unusually marked on a white band that encircled the fuselage, and this cross seems to have had a silbergrau border. Whether this unique marking was applied at the factory or at the front is unknown. This D.III may also have borne a partially yellow nose as a Jasta 10 machine, but since the only known photos show the aircraft with its nose buried in the dirt, we have chosen to illustrate it in a factory finish.
Pfalz D.VIII flown by ace Paul Baumer while serving with Jasta Boelcke in May 1918. The white tail (black on the other side) and black and white nose stripes are the Jasta markings. The red/white/black chevron in German national colors is Baumer's personal marking. The silver-gray fuselage and wings covered with five-color printed camouflage fabric were the standard factory finish. Baumer, who became known as the Iron Knight, scored 43 victories, was awarded the Pour le Merite, and survived the war.
The Pfalz D.VIII was a two-bay version of the D.VII. The extra struts made it stronger, so it was selected for production, but their additional weight and drag reduced performance compared to the D.VII. This early-production D.VIII was flown by ace Paul Baumer while serving with Jasta Boelcke.
Pfalz D.VIII fuselage shells built by the Wickelrumpf technique are being assembled in the factory. The pattern of the narrow plywood strips is clearly visible. Plywood was abundant in Germany despite the Allied naval blockade.
The Pfalz Dr.13050/17 is in factory finish with no unit or individual markings. The Pfalz factory finish evolved from overall silver-gray as seen here, which provided some camouflage in the air, to covering the flying surfaces in printed five-color camouflage fabric, to painting camouflage colors over the silver-gray fuselage.
Pfalz D.XII serving in Jasta 77. The silver-gray fuselage with five-color camouflage fabric on the flying surfaces are from the factory; the blue tail, nose, and wheel covers are the Jasta unit markings. The Pfalz D.XII could fly with the Fokker D.VII in all respects and was a good strong aircraft. However, the Fokker D.VII had better maneuverability and was easier to fly, so was greatly preferred by pilots.
The Pfalz D.XII was another good, solid Pfalz design over-shadowed by its competition that never made a name for itself. But one manifestation of Bavaria's desire for autonomy exists today; the BMW company, which was created from the old Bavarian Rapp engine company in 1917. The Pfalz D XII (serial 1375/18) is at the Second Fighter Competition and had the 200 hp Mercedes D.IIIau over-compressed engine.
Production Pfalz D.XV in factory finish. The D.XV was at the flugparks the last week of the war but did not reach combat. For the D.XV Pfalz had worked hard to eliminate the bracing wires of the D.XII for improved speed and climb and reduced maintenance. The D.XV accomplished those goals and was considered the equal in performance, maneuverability, and flying characteristics of the famous D.VII, but never had the opportunity to prove itself. It was forgotten and after the war Pfalz went bankrupt. Power was the 185 hp BMW.IIIa engine.
The Taube used by the German garrison in China. After the aircraft was damaged beyond repair in a bad landing, the pilot, Lt. Plushow, had a remarkable adventure returning to Germany.
Early flight was hazardous at best, and stability was a prized attribute of primitive airplanes. The Taube (dove) wing planform offered great natural stability and many German designers used it for that reason. A small number of Tauben equipped German units at the beginning of the war, but the Taube was soon replaced by biplanes of greater performance. Despite its inherent stability, this one ended up on its nose while landing on a rough field, a common problem.
Rumpler C.I; many early C-types were painted light blue or gray overall.
Rumpler G.II G.109/15 assigned to Kagohl 2, summer of 1916. The light finish is from the factory but the black circles were identification markings painted at the unit level.
Rumpler G.III G.311/16 assigned to Kasta 9, summer of 1917. By now the camouflage finish applied at the factory had changed to dark colors to camouflage the aircraft on the ground. The black circles with white star were a unit marking.
The prototype Rumpler 6B1, Marine #751, is photographed here conducting flight trials at the Rumpler facility on the Muggelsee near Berlin in June 1916. The armament has not yet been installed.
Rumpler's response to the single-seat floatplane fighter requirement was their 6B1 derived from their C.I two-seat reconnaissance airplane. Elimination of the observer and his gun compensated for the additional weight of the floats, and the 6B1 used the same wings as the C.I. Surprisingly, despite its size and two-seat ancestry, the 6B1 was as successful on operations as the Albatros W4 and more successful than the KDW. The 6B1 had much better flying qualities than the faster KDW.
The Rumpler 6B 1 (shown) and similar 6B 2 were ordered in quantity after prototype test.
This Rumpler C.IV is a later-production model without propeller spinner. It wears standard factory camouflage enhanced with red/white/black (German national colors) markings on the fuselage, wheel covers, wing struts, and nose, making it more colorful than most Rumplers.
The Rumpler C.IV, using the final C.III airframe and powered by the 260 hp Mercedes D.IVa, was the premier German reconnaissance airplane. It could reach high altitude, where it was as fast as Allied fighters - if they could reach it. Subsequent designs combined the same airframe with different engines and equipment for specialized, high-altitude missions.
Lichtbildflugzeuge (Specialized PhotoReconnaissance)

   For longer-range, high-altitude reconnaissance the superb Rumpler C.IV was created by installing the powerful 260 hp Mercedes D.IVa into the late-production Rumpler C.III airframe. The C.IV and its many derivatives became the best German high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. Later models of the Rumpler mounted a variety of over-compressed engines designed to provide more power at high altitude, and these aircraft kept the Rumpler series at the forefront of high-altitude photo-reconnaissance for the rest of the war. Initially categorized as C-types, some of these specialized aircraft were later designated Lichtbildflugzeug (photo aircraft) in acknowledgement of their primary role.
   Regardless of designation, if the pilot maintained maximum altitude the Rumplers were almost impossible to intercept during their missions.
   Lichtbildflugzeug (photographic aircraft) were specialized high-altitude aircraft used for long- range photo-reconnaissance. The only operational types were the Rumpler Rubild and Rubild Mb. Both were based on the Rumpler C.IV airframe equipped with a Messter strip camera and greater fuel capacity. The Rubild, powered by the 260 hp Mercedes D.IVa, was originally designated the Rumpler C.VI. The Rubild Mb was the same aircraft except with the 245 hp Maybach Mb.IVa engine.
The crew of a high-flying Rumpler get a last-minute briefing before their mission. Face protection was essential to prevent frostbite at the extreme altitudes at which these aircraft flew their missions, which could last up to six or seven hours. The observer must be a good marksman because his gun has a telescopic sight for defending the aircraft at long range.
Lt.d.R. Karl Kerner (at right) and Uffz. Prantzsch (at left with laurel wreath) of FA(A) 282 stand in front of their high-altitude Rumpler photoreconnaissance Rumpler, perhaps a Rubild, after their 100th mission. Kerner wears an electrically-heated flying suit. The wires hanging from the suit are clearly visible. Later Rumplers deleted the elegant propeller spinners of the early models and were actually faster due to reduced drag. Air intakes to supply additional air for the engine are on both sides of the nose.
Perhaps the best fighter Germany never had in 1918 was the 1917 Rumpler D I. With a top level speed of 112mph at 16,400 feet, along with an ability to reach 26,300 feet, the Rumpler D I had an unmatched performance at altitude and could more than hold its own in terms of speed and agility lower down. Rumpler entered two D Is in the second 1918 fighter trial, both reportedly using the 180hp Mercedes DIIIa. Perhaps fortunately for the Allies, the D I appears to have been difficult to build as there is no indication of deliveries being made to the front, even though an order for 50 had been placed immediately following the May-June trials. A third D I, equipped with a 185 BMW IIIa took part in the October 1918 fighter trials. The two men seen here with Rumpler D I, 1589/18, at the second Aldershof trials are Ernst Udet on the left and Herr Rumpler himself.
One of the two winners of the Third Fighter Competition was the Rumpler D.I, which offered exceptional ceiling and high-altutide performance. Rumpler struggled for a long time with its prolonged development; it might have gained an excellent reputation had it arrived in time for combat. It used the 185 hp BMW.IIIa engine for high-altitude performance. Here is is seen post-war with Ernst Udet at left; with 62 victories Udet was the highest-scoring German ace to survive the war and was second only to the Red Baron's score of 80.
Sablatnig SF5 seaplanes in operation at the Naval Air Station at Libau.
N-Types: Single-Engine Night Bombers

   The Sablatnig company, a small manufacturer primarily known for its two-seat reconnaissance floatplanes used by the German Navy, also designed an N-type, the Sablatnig N.I, that was produced in small numbers, thought to be 45 aircraft, and these also served in small numbers at the Front. Neither N-type was built in large numbers because Germany had excellent twin-engine night bombers that carried heavier bomb loads and were preferred by their crews.
SSW D.I 3513/16, an early production machine, wears the three-color camouflage scheme and carries large Eiserneskreuz markings on white fields underneath the upper as well as the lower wings. The large propeller needed to absorb the power from the slow-turning 110 hp Sh.I engine is prominent.
SSW D.III flown by Lt Ernst Udet. The red colors and "Lo!" on the fuselage side are Udet's personal markings. Udet scored 62 victories, second only to the Red Baron among German aces, was awarded the Pour le Merite, and survived the war to become a famous stunt pilot between the wars.
SSW D.IV of Jasta 12. The blue fuselage and white nose were the Jasta markings. The D.IV had a narrower chord upper wing than the D.III for increased speed. The exceptional climb and maneuverability of the SSW fighters enabled them to intercept and defeat high-flying reconnaissance airplanes, bombers, and fighters. Their pilots thought them the best fighters of the war, but they served in small numbers due to the prolonged teething troubles of their engine.
Although the SSW D.III offered exceptional climb and ceiling, pilots wanted more speed. The D.III was modified into the similar D.IV by reducing the upper wing chord to reduce weight and drag; speed was improved by 10 kmh at the cost of a slight reduction in climb rate. Here D.IVs are in Jasta service. The interplane struts taper closer together on the upper wing than on the D.III due to the reduced chord.
One of the more bizarre triplane designs was the SSW DDr.I. It used two 110 hp Sh.I engines, one mounted in front of the nacelle and the other mounted in the rear of the nacelle. While the excessive drag of the struts would probably have made it too slow, the power of two engines might have given it a good climb rate. However, the potential of this eccentric design remains unknown because it crashed on its first test flight before performance data could be recorded. It was not rebuilt and remained an only prototype of one of the more odd WWI designs.
The SSW D.VI was not completed until after the armistice; by then the 'E' category for monoplane fighters was no longer used. Powered by the 220 hp Sh.IIIa high-altitude counter-rotary engine, it had a top speed of 220 kmh (137 mph) coupled with excellent maneuverability and climb and a ceiling of 8,000 meters (26,250 feet). The under-fuselage fuel tank was jettisonable in case of fire. The monoplane SSW D.VI was the natural production successor to the biplane SSW D.IV.
Throughout the war the German Navy relied on Zeppelins for long-range reconnaissance for their High Seas Fleet. The Zeppelins were fragile and costly to build and maintain, and as airplanes improved in performance, the Navy began to consider using Giant seaplanes for this task. Prof. Dornier at the Zeppelin-Lindau factory designed four all-metal Giant flying boats for this task. Here, the Dornier Rs.III taxis for take-off. The Dornier Rs.III was the third of the four giant seaplanes built and the only giant seaplane to see operational service with the German Navy. Powered by four 245 hp Maybach Mb.IVa engines, it had a span of 37 meters (121.4 feet), carried three machine guns, and had an endurance of 10 hours.
Staaken R.IV R12/15 while operating with Rfa 500 on the Eastern Front. After R12 was transferred to the Western Front for night bombing missions over the UK, it was camouflaged in dark colors similar to the R.VI. Only one R.IV was built but it was very successful, and was the only R-plane to serve on both fronts. Six engines coupled in pairs drove three propellers.
Staaken R.VI R27/16 was camouflaged in dark night colors for night bombing missions over the UK. Interestingly, the large engine nacelles were left in natural metal rather than being painted a dark color. The camouflage was apparently applied at the factory because the national insignia are white outlines applied over the camouflage. The R.VI was the main production R-plane, with 18 being built by Staaken and three other manufacturers. Most were powered by four 260 hp Mercedes D.IVa engines, but some used the 245 hp Maybach Mb.IVa. Most were armed with four machine guns, but some had two additional guns in gun positions on the upper wing; mechanics climbed ladders to reach these. Span was 42.2 meters (138.5 feet).