A.Weyl Fokker: The Creative Years (Putnam)
A glider development
In December 1921 the Dutch Fokker works exhibited a small monoplane glider at the Paris Aero Salon. This glider’s derivation from the Fok. D.VIII was at once apparent: the cockpit had been moved forward to the position occupied by the engine of the Fok. D.VIII, otherwise the aircraft was little changed. The glider, which was designated Fokker V.30, was equipped for aero-towing, having facilities for the release of the towing cable by its pilot. Fokker explained that he had built it for his own amusement.
The V.30 had exactly the same wing span as the Fok. D.VIII (8-34 m., or 27-5 ft.); its length was 5-86 m. (19-4 ft.), wing area 10-7 sq. m. (115 sq. ft.), and empty weight 150 kg. (330 lb.).
Despite the V.30’s belated debut, its history went back to 1916. Both the Allies and Germany were then working secretly on tele-guided, unmanned aircraft for possible use as flying bombs and flying marine torpedoes.
In Germany the Siemens-Schuckert firm had been experimenting since 1914 with large gliders intended to carry bombs or torpedoes over 349 substantial distances after release from airships. These gliders were controlled by electric impulses passed through thin wires connecting the gliders to the airship. Distances of as much as 8 km. (5 miles) were successfully covered after release.
Fokker, always well informed about the activities of his competitors, learned about these experiments. He also gathered that the Admiralty were interested. The Admiralty had always been generous to him and he was anxious to work for them.
Quite separate from the Siemens development of wire-guided “standoff” bombs, the Army Flying Corps had established a special command at Doeberitz to work on a similar idea, but using radio guidance, either from the ground or from aeroplanes. Several aircraft manufacturers were asked to interest themselves in the airframe aspect of the project. Fokker may have been one of those who were approached, for the IdFlieg knew him as a versatile manufacturer who was quicker than anyone else in carrying out new developments.
And so it was that during 1916, while a hectic development and production programme was running at Schwerin, Fokker began to take an interest in gliders. He made preparations for towing gliders by motorcars and motor-boats, but no flying experiments were conducted at that time. Probably he received no development contract.
A year later, Junkers began to experiment with an “aerial torpedo”; that is to say, a gliding bomb to be released from aeroplanes. Automatic control and guidance devices were developed for such gliders. The firm were then building an armoured two-seater for infantry support duties, so their gliding bomb had prospects. When Fokker became co-owner and a director of the Junkers-Fokker Works, he learned about this project.
When the Doeberitz establishment had developed radio guidance and control devices to the point where flight experiments were possible, the need arose for an inexpensive, expendable and simple aeroplane, preferably one that could be developed from a mere test vehicle into the ultimate weapon. No firm was better able to supply such an aircraft than the Fokker Works. At this stage, the intention was that the winged bomb should be towed by, rather than carried in, the launching aircraft.
An order was given to Fokker to conduct appropriate experiments. He was promised substantial production orders if the idea proved practical; and his co-operation would later be sought in the development of a self-propelled, radio-controlled flying missile. These developments had become more pressing because the increasing effectiveness of the air defences of such places as London, Paris and the Channel ports had made bombing attacks, even by night, costly undertakings.
In the summer of 1918 Fokker began to experiment with gliders towed by a specially modified two-seat version of the Fok. D.VII. This aeroplane, apparently given the designation Fokker V.3I, was fitted with a simple winch to wind in the cable after releasing the glider. Fokker feared that the cable might foul the tail controls, so Platz devised a semi-circular safety hoop that extended from one tailplane tip to the other, rising above the rudder. This hoop was braced by two struts.
Platz was never told the purpose of these experiments; he merely thought that Fokker was interested in gliding as a sport. At Fokker’s request he redesigned a V.26 airframe as the V.30 aero-tow glider. Platz thought it a clumsy effort of little merit for sporting purposes. So, when left to carry on by himself at Schwerin after the Armistice, he designed a light flying-boat glider, the V.42, which would, he hoped, satisfy Fokker’s sporting desires rather better than the improvised V.30.
Platz never learned whether the V.30 was ever aero-towed by Fokker. It may have been, but confirmation is lacking. If Fokker did this - and there is no reason why he should not have done so - he would almost certainly have done it in co-operation with de Waal. Fokker trusted de Waal and knew he could rely on him to keep his mouth shut whatever happened.
Only one V.30 was built. It was the original aircraft that was displayed at Paris in 1921. Fokker diplomatically omitted to explain that it was originally intended to be a flying bomb.
In 1922 Fokker obtained an American patent (USP. No. 1,418,783, from June 6, 1922) for an aero-towing arrangement. This incorporated the tail-protecting hoop devised by Platz in the summer of 1918, and envisaged the use of a long guide tube for the cable running from the cockpit to a point behind the rudder, the guide tube passing over the protective hoop. The tube could be fitted above or below the fuselage.
A year or so later, Fokker, by now regarded as an expert on military aircraft, read a paper before an audience of Dutch officers. In it he emphasized the tactical and strategical importance of airborne guided missiles. Fokker was right, but twenty years too early; and all that his advocacy of weapons of the future achieved was a brief notice in some of the aeronautical journals.
In a Press interview during 1919 Fokker disclosed that in 1916 the German Army had asked him to produce a cheap radio-controlled aeroplane to carry a bomb. Formations of these pilotless aircraft were to be controlled from a single command post in an aeroplane. He claimed that in the summer of 1918 he was given a “huge order” for the manufacture of these aircraft, and that he was “just prepared for production” when the war ended. No evidence to substantiate Fokker’s “disclosure” exists, and the account is highly improbable.
O.Thetford, P.Gray German Aircraft of the First World War (Putnam)
Fokker V 30
The V 30 was a V 26 converted into a glider with the pilot's cockpit move, to the extreme nose. One such machine was exhibited at the Paris Aero Salon in 1921.