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Fokker D.VII

Fokker D.VIIF
Description
RoleDay fighter
Crewone, pilot
Dimensions
Length22 ft 9 in6.93 m
Wingspan29 ft 3 in8.93 m
Height9 ft 2 in2.80 m
Wing area592 sq ft55.00m²
Weights
Empty1,540 lbs698 kg
Maximum take-off1,936 lbs878 kg
Powerplant
Engines1x BMW IIIa
Power185 hp134 kw
Performance
Maximum speed116 mph186 km/h
Combat range
Ferry range
Service ceiling19,600 ft5,974 m
Armament
Guns2x 7.92mm Spandau machine guns
Bombsnone
The D.VII was a late World War I fighter aircraft designed by Rheinhold Platz at the Fokker company. When introduced into combat in 1918 it quickly proved to be superior to just about anything flying, leading to a second Fokker Scourge. The plane was so deadly that it was specifically mentioned for complete destruction by the Allies at the end of the war.

Platz had been working on a series of experimental planes, the V-series, since 1916. They shared one feature in common, the use of cantilever wings instead of external wire bracing. This leads to significantly lower drag, but it also requires stronger internal structures in the wing for increased weight, reducing the advantage. In order to reduce this problem, the V.4 design had used three shorter wings, and became the prototype for the Fokker Dr.I.

Work continued on the cantilever design, and in 1917 Platz introduced the new V.9. This was a traditional biplane with V-struts at the wing-tips, and even when powered by the tiny 80 horsepower Oberursel engine, delivered surprisingly good performance. Fokker himself made several changes to the design in order to improve handling, notably increasing the length of the rear fuselage and increasing the size of the vertical stabilizer. Fitting the new 160hp Mercedes engine resulted in the V.11, the 110hp Oberursel made the V.13/I and the 160hp Siemens-Halske (a high-powered rotary engine) the V.13/II.

In January 1918 the German command became concerned about their air forces ability to fight an ever-improving allied force, and started a competition for a new fighter that could beat anything the allies had. Fokker sent in the V.11 and both the V.13's, as well as two monoplane designs, the V.17 and V.18. Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, flew the prototype and found it easy to fly, able to dive at high speed quickly yet remain steady, and had good visibility for the pilot. His recommendation virtually decided the competition, but he was not alone in recommending it. The Mercedes-powered V.11 could outrun any of the dogfighters built with a smaller engine, but at the same time it could outfight any of the speedier designs. It appeared that Fokker had built the "perfect fighter", and it was immediately ordered into production as the D.VII.

Fokker's factory was not up to the task of supplying the entire air force, so their rivals at Albatros and AEG[?] were brought in to start construction as well. Fokker rarely used plans for their designs, preferring to tinker until it worked, and so they simply sent a completed D.VII to Albatros to copy. The state of German industry had already started to deteriorate at this point, and under 2,000 of the planes were delivered from all three plants, with the most commonly quoted figure being 1,700.

The D.VII was first introduced into combat at the end of April among the elite units. The plane quickly proved to have all the qualities that it had shown in the contest, able to outfight, outrun and outclimb anything the allies had. It had problems as well, its wing ribs would sometimes fracture in a dive, and high temperatures in the engine area sometimes ignited planes armed with phosphorus ammunition or caused their gas tanks to explode. All of these were rare occurrences however, the D.VII proved to be durable and easy to fly. One pilot noted it had "an apparent ability to to make a good pilot out of mediocre material."

Richthofen died only days before the plane was introduced and never flew it in combat. Other pilots, including Hermann Göring, quickly racked up victories and generally lauded the design. Supplies were limited at first, but July there were 407 on record. Larger numbers were available by August, when they achieved 565 victories, all the more impressive when you consider the absolutely overwhelming numbers of aircraft the allies were fielding. When the war ended in November there were 775 in service.

External links:

FOKKER D.VII (http://www.wpafb.af.mil/museum/early_years/ey4c.htm)



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