Notable German Aircraft

Single Seat Fighters of the German Empire

Albatros Flugzeugwerke

Albatros D.III - 1916
Albatros D.III – 1916

The Albatros D.III was a biplane fighter aircraft used by the Imperial German Army Air Service (Luftstreitkräfte) and the Austro-Hungarian Air Service (Luftfahrtruppen) during World War I. The D.III was flown by many top German aces, including Manfred von Richthofen, Ernst Udet, Erich Löwenhardt, Kurt Wolff, and Karl Emil Schäfer. It was the preeminent fighter during the period of German aerial dominance known as "Bloody April" 1917.

Albatros D.V - 1917
Albatros D.V – 1917

The Albatros D.V was a fighter aircraft used by the Luftstreitkräfte (Imperial German Air Service) during World War I. The D.V was the final development of the Albatros D.I family, and the last Albatros fighter to see operational service. Despite its well-known structural shortcomings and general obsolescence, approximately 900 D.V and 1,612 D.Va aircraft were built before production halted in early 1918. The D.Va continued in operational service until the end of the war.

Fokker Flugzeugwerke

Fokker E.II - 1915
Fokker E.II – 1915

Max Immelmann scored his first victory flying the “Eindecker.” Scourge of the air during the winter of 1915, the Fokker E.I was the first aircraft armed with a synchronized, forward firing machine gun. German pilots were ordered not to fly it across enemy lines for fear the Allies would capture the secrets of the synchronizing gear. Followed by the E.II, E.III and E.IV, the Eindecker was underpowered and slow but could out turn most of its opponents. Allied aviators who faced it called themselves “Fokker Fodder” The Eindecker ruled the skies until the Nieuports and SPADs were developed.

Fokker Dr.I - 1917
Fokker Dr.I – 1917

The Fokker DR.I triplane was built after the successful Sopwith Triplane. While the Fokker DR.I not as fast as many contemporary biplanes, the Dreidecker could easily outclimb any opponent. Small, lightweight and highly maneuverable, it offered good upward visibility and lacked the traditional bracing wires that could be shot away during combat. This combination of features made it an outstanding plane in a dogfight.

Fokker D.VII - 1918
Fokker D.VII

The Fokker D.VII is widely regarded as the best German aircraft of the war. Its development was championed by Manfred von Richthofen. As noted by one authority, it had “an apparant ability to to make a good pilot out of mediocre material.”.

Fokker D.VIII Jasta 24s Off. Stv. Friedrich Altemeter, 1918
Fokker E.V – D.VIII – 1918

Winner of the April 1918 fighter competition, the Fokker D.VIII monoplane was delayed by production problems. Only thirty six of them entered service during the last weeks of the war. Equipped with an underpowered engine, the D.VIII was nevertheless an excellent fighter eagerly received by the German air service. Dubbed the “Flying Razor” by Allied pilots, it had the distinction of scoring the last aerial victory of the war.

Luft-Fahrzeug-Gesellschaft G.m.b.H

LFG Roland D.II
LFG Roland D.II – 1916

The D.II was a single-seat escort fighter, based on the structural principles of the C II, a wooden veneer shell fuselage. The deep fuselage filled to gap between the biplane wings completely. The production was hampered by a fire in the L.F.G. factory; about 20 were built. The Roland D.II suffered from a design flaw that limited the forward view of the pilot.

LFG Roland D.VI - 1918
LFG Roland D.VIa

Roland D.VIa aircraft were received in the late Spring of 1918 and were still in use at the end of hostilities in November . The Roland D.VI was purported to have good handling qualities, but most pilots wanted the sensational Fokker D.VII. The clinker built body of the Roland D.VI was final refinement of all the shark-like designs that had come before it.

Pfalz Flugzeugwerke GmbH

Pfalz D.III - 1917
Pfalz D.III – 1917

The Pfalz D.III was a fighter aircraft used by the Luftstreitkräfte (Imperial German Air Service) during the First World War. The D.III was the first major original design from Pfalz Flugzeugwerke. Though generally considered inferior to contemporary Albatros and Fokker fighters, the D.III was widely used by the Jagdstaffeln from the fall of 1917 through the summer of 1918. It continued to serve as a training aircraft until the end of the war.

Pfalz D.XII
Pfalz D.XII – 1918

The Pfalz D.XII was the successor to the Pfalz D.IIIa series fighter. They were received into service in late summer of 1918. It was a sturdy, agile, and well designed fighter that nearly rivaled the famed Fokker D.VII in performance. Though the D.XII was an effective fighter aircraft, it was overshadowed by the highly successful Fokker D.VII. It was not produced in great numbers due to the amount of time needed to form the plywood fuselage.

Siemens-Schuckert Werke

Siemens-Schuckert D.III - 1918
Siemens-Schuckert D.III – 1918

Sleek, rugid, fast and nimble were all words that could be used to describe the Siemens Schuckert D.III. Though not produced in great numbers it was an important design from the point of view of future aircraft design.

Table of Contents

Germany and Aircraft Innovation

The Germany Empire was very influential in shaping the early history of military aircraft design. Germany was known for its inventive approach to design and efficiency in manufacturing has produced advanced, revolutionary aircraft. Among some of their trend-setting achievements were the first fighters with fixed forward firing synchronized guns, the first all-metal monoplanes ground-attack fighters and aircraft with cantilever wings.

The balance of power in air superiority repeatedly shifted during WWI. It is not unlikely that it could have been regained by the Germans had the war not ended in November 1918. The fact that in the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was forbidden to have any military aircraft, indicates the importance of their newer designs to the victors of WWI.

Creating an Organized Air Force

In 1910, the unified German Empire bought its first heavier-than-air aircraft. During WWI, the importance of aircraft was quickly recognized. However the organization of an effective air force lagged far behind the technological innovation.

Evolution of Heavy Bombers

Gotha G.I - 1915
Gotha G.I – 1915

The Gotha G.I was a heavy bomber used by the Luftstreitkräfte (Imperial German Air Service) during World War I.

Gotha G.IV - 1917
Gotha G.IV – 1917

The Gotha G.IV was a heavy bomber used by the Luftstreitkräfte during World War I. Experience with the G.III showed that the rear gunner could not efficiently operate both the dorsal and ventral positions. The solution was the "Gotha tunnel," a trough connecting an aperture in the upper decking with a large opening extending across the bottom of the rear fuselage.

Development of Ground Attack Planes

Halberstadt CL.II - 1916
Halberstadt CL.II – 1916
Halberstadt CL.IV - 1918
Halberstadt CL.IV – 1918

Sea Plane Development

Float Planes

Albatros W.IV - 1916
Albatros W.IV – 1916
Hansa-Brandenburg W.29 - 1918
Hansa-Brandenburg W.29 – 1918

Flying Boats

Hansa-Brandenburg W.20 - 1918
Hansa-Brandenburg W.20 – 1918

Reconnaissance Aircraft

Albatros B.II - 1914
Albatros B.II – 1914
LFG Roland C.II - 1916
LFG Roland C.II – 1916