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Albatros D.I Fighter (1916)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 7/13/2012

The Albatros D.I helped Germany regain control of the skies from the Allies in early 1917.

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The Albatros Flugzeugwerke firm certainly made a name for itself in World War 1. It was responsible for a series of well-respected airframes that helped to regain control of the skies from the air aces of the Triple Entente. The series began with the excellent D.I and evolved to include the improved forms of the D.II, D.III, D.V and D.Va before the end of the war in 1918. While only 50 of the D.I models were ever produced, it proved a significant addition to the inventory of the Imperial German Army Air Service which needed a counter against the ever-improving enemy scouts. Like other classic mounts debuted in World War 1, the D.I led only a short existence before being replaced by more capable fighters - such was the life of a military aircraft during a war when technology was changing on a seemingly daily basis.

The Albatros D.I model was ordered in June of 1916 and introduced into German air service in August of 1916 to counter the successes being made b the British Airco and de Havilland scouts as well as the French Nieuport series of fighters. All three of these firms would earn their own level of respect in their own right by the end of the war - on part with the developments of the German Albatros and Fokker firms. These Airco, de Havilland and Nieuport designs were largely responsible for putting an end to the bloody "Fokker Scourge" covering the early part of 1916 in which air superiority was clearly in the hands of the Germans thanks to the revolutionary Fokker Eindecker. However, with the changing technology forcing newer and better mounts into the air, ground that was captured one day could be lost the next. As such, the D.I was unveiled by Albatros to help stave off even more losses against Triple Entente pilots.

The D.I borrowed much of what it had learned in their preceding C-series of biplane aircraft. However, the D.I incorporated a much improved aerodynamically-friendly fuselage design which lent a rather modern appearance to the new fighter type. The design was notable for its rather streamlined forward section and elliptical plywood fuselage beginning with the propeller spinner contouring directly against the lines of the engine compartment. Power was supplied form either a Benz Bz.III (150hp) or Mercedes D.III (160hp) series six-cylinder liquid-cooled engine and represented some of the most powerful engines available to scout fighter types anywhere, allowing for speeds of approximately 110 miles per hour. Such an installation resulted in immediate performance improvement results that would make the D-series legendary throughout the remainder of the war. Armament centered around a pair of 7.92mm Spandau LMG 08/15 series machine guns coupled to the two-bladed propeller system that allowed for synchronization - the ability to fire the machine guns through the spinning propeller blades, a German technological achievement initially reached some time before the Triple Entente was to match.

The biplane wing arrangement was a standard design fixture of fighters throughout the war - a war that would see such mounts fit one (monoplane) and as many as three (triplane) wings at a time. The D.I sported these wings with parallel struts and applicable cabling. The undercarriage was fixed in position and consisted of two single-wheeled main landing gear legs and a base tail skid. This allowed for rugged landings wherever aerodromes were set up along the dynamic fronts of the war. The cockpit was fitted just ahead of amidships and behind/under the upper wing assembly.

Where the D.I outshone its enemies was in its excellent rate-of-climb. It could reach 3,280 feet in just six minutes which meant it would quickly react to incoming enemy aircraft or balloons and lift off to meet the match. However, the design had an Achilles heel of not being wholly maneuverable for a fighter scout, forcing the pilot to utilize the type's power and armament to gain the advantage. Visibility out of the open-air cockpit was good save for the wing assemblies. This was slightly improved in the upcoming D.II model which saw the upper wing assembly lowered. Regardless, the D.I was the best of its kind upon inception - unseated only by better enemy designs to come online within time.

The impressive performance and capabilities of the D-series as a whole eventually led to their use by some of the top German aces of the time including the mythical Manfred von Richthofen.

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Specifications for the
Albatros D.I
Fighter


Focus Model: Albatros D.I
Country of Origin: Imperial Germany
Manufacturer: Albatros Werke GmbH - Germany
Initial Year of Service: 1916
Production: 50


Crew: 1


Length: 23.95 ft (7.3 m)
Width: 28.22 ft (8.60 m)
Height: 9.51ft (2.90 m)
Weight (Empty): 1,422 lb (645 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 1,980 lb (898 kg)


Powerplant: 1 x Mercedes D.III liquid-cooled, inline engine delivering 160hp.


Maximum Speed: 109 mph (175kmh; 94 kts)
Maximum Range: 180 miles (289km)
Service Ceiling: 16,998 ft (5,181 m; 3.2 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 547 feet per minute (167 m/min)


Hardpoints: 0
Armament Suite:
STANDARD:
2 x 7.92mm Spandau LMG 08/15 fixed, forward-firing synchronized machine guns.


Variants:
D.I - Base D-series


D.II - Lowered top wing; Fundamental and minor aerodynamic changes.

D.III - V-shaped struts introduced

D.V - Streamlined fuselage

D.Va - Slightly modified D.V model


Operators:
Imperial Germany