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Fokker D.VII
Role Fighter
Manufacturer Fokker-Flugzeugwerke
Designed by Reinhold Platz
First flight January 1918
Primary user Luftstreitkräfte
Number built approximately 1700

The Fokker D.VII was a German World War I fighter aircraft designed by Reinhold Platz of the Fokker-Flugzeugwerke. Germany produced around 1,700 D.VII aircraft in the summer and autumn of 1918. In service, the D.VII quickly proved itself to be a formidable aircraft. The Armistice ending the war specifically required Germany to surrender all D.VIIs to the Allies at the conclusion of hostilities.[1] Surviving aircraft saw continued widespread service with many other countries in the years after World War I.


Development and production

Fokker D.VII
Fokker D.VII(F)

Fokker's chief designer, Reinhold Platz, had been working on a series of experimental planes, the V-series, since 1916. These planes were characterized by the use of cantilever wings, first developed during Fokker's government-mandated collaboration with Hugo Junkers. Junkers had originated the idea in 1915 with the first all-metal aircraft, the Junkers J 1, nicknamed Blechesel ("Sheet Metal Donkey" or "Tin Donkey"). The resulting wings were thick, with a rounded leading edge. This gave greater lift and more docile stalling behavior than conventional thin wings.

Late in 1917, Fokker built the experimental V 11 biplane, fitted with the standard Mercedes D.IIIa engine. In January 1918, Idflieg held a fighter competition at Adlershof. For the first time, frontline pilots would directly participate in the evaluation and selection of new fighters. Fokker submitted the V 11 along with several other prototypes. Manfred von Richthofen flew the V 11 and found it tricky, unpleasant, and directionally unstable in a dive. In response to these complaints, Reinhold Platz lengthened the rear fuselage by one structural bay, and added a triangular fixed vertical fin in front of the rudder. Upon flying the modified V 11, Richthofen praised it as the best aircraft of the competition. It offered excellent performance from the outdated Mercedes engine, yet it was safe and easy to fly. Richthofen's recommendation virtually decided the competition, but he was not alone in recommending it. Fokker immediately received a provisional order for 400 production aircraft, which were designated D.VII by Idflieg.

Fokker's factory was not up to the task of meeting all D.VII production orders. Idflieg therefore directed Albatros and AEG to build the D.VII under license, though AEG did not ultimately produce any aircraft. Because the Fokker factory did not use detailed plans as part of its production process, Fokker simply sent a completed D.VII airframe for Albatros to copy. Albatros paid Fokker a five percent royalty for every D.VII built under license. Albatros Flugzeugwerke and its subsidiary, Ostdeutsche Albatros Werke (OAW), built the D.VII at factories in Johannisthal (designated Fokker D.VII (Alb)) and Schneidemühl (Fokker D.VII (OAW)), respectively. Some parts were not interchangeable between aircraft produced at different factories, even between Albatros and OAW.[2]

Although each manufacturer received serial number blocks for their respective production, the serials also had the added appropriate (Fok),(Alb) or (OAW) to the serial. Additionally each manufaturer tended to differ in nose paint styles. OAW produced examples can be quickly identified by the mauve and green splotches on the cowling although field applied fuselage colors could obliterate all identifying markings. Fokker first production block started with 227/18 but the numbers would jump significantly as each manufacturer used up authorized blocks and were issued with new number blocks. All DVII's were produced with the lozenge camoflauge covering except for the first approximately Fokker produced DVII's which had streaked green doped covering although the wings were done in lozenge. Due to the German practice of using colorful marking for the rear fuselages and tail surfaces for each Jasta (leaving the rudder white), the practice often extended to the entire fuselage and pilots would also add personal insignia. In some cases the entire plane would be redoped in colorful markings, usually by the most successful and flamboyant pilots and when this occurred the serial could be obliterated.

Albatros soon surpassed Fokker in the quantity and quality of aircraft produced. Despite the massive production program, under 2,000 D.VII aircraft were delivered from all three plants, with the most commonly quoted figure being 1,700.

Late in 1918, the Austro-Hungarian company MÁG (Magyar Általános Gépgyár - Hungarian General Machine Company) commenced licensed production of the D.VII with Austro-Daimler engines. Production continued after the end of the war, with as many as 50 aircraft completed.[3]



Hermann Göring's Fokker D.VII(F) (serial 5125/18)

Although many sources suggest the DVII was first equipped with 160hp Mercedes DIII engines, this is not the case. Part of the reason for this consistent error is that the Germans themselves still referred to the 160hp DIII designation type although the improved DIII engine in mid 1917 was producing 170-180hp and would produce more in 1918. No DVII's ever flew with the 160hp Mercedes DIII powerplant.

The very first production D.VII's appear to have been equipped with Mercedes DIIIa 170-180hp engines with production gearing up quickly to the intended standard engine, the higher-compression 149 kW (180-200 hp) Mercedes D.IIIaü. DIIIa engines may also have initially been upgraded with DIIIau parts giving them DIIIau performance and thus installed on some production DVII's. There is some indication that some of these early production DVII's with the less powerful DIIIa engines may have had their engines replaced very quickly with DIIIau's. The designation DIIIau was never technically official but it represented the modernized DIII engines to a consistent standard as used by DVII's. Modern sources, however, commonly refer to this engine and the DIIIa (170-180hp)engine the DIIIau replaced (the DIIIa having earlier replaced the 160hp DIII) under the generic (but earlier engine type) designation of "160 hp Mercedes D.III." A small number of D.VIIs received the "overcompressed" 138 kW (185/(240) hp) BMW IIIa, the first product of the BMW firm. The BMW IIIa followed the SOHC, straight-six configuration of the Mercedes D.III, but incorporated several improvements. Increased displacement, higher compression, and an alititude-adjusting carburetor produced a marked increase in speed and climb rate at high altitude. Because the BMW IIIa was overcompressed, using full throttle at altitudes below 2,000 m (6,700 ft) risked premature detonation in the cylinders and damage to the engine. At low altitudes, full throttle could produce up to 179 kW (240 hp) for a short time. Some DVII's supplied to Austria had Austrian supplied Daimlier engines, the same as which they used on the Austrian licensed-manufacturered Albatros types. Small numbers of other types may have been experimentally used, but when one generalizes, the only two numerically significant DVII engines were the DIIIau (standardized type) and the BMW IIIa.

Fokker-built aircraft with the new BMW engine were designated D.VII(F), while some Albatros-built aircraft may have received separate designation. BMW-engined aircraft entered service with Jasta 11 in late June 1918. While pilots clamored for the D.VII(F) of which about 700 were built, production of the BMW IIIa was very limited and the D.VII continued to be produced with the 134 kW (180/200 hp) Mercedes D.IIIaü until the end of the war. The Pfalz DXII, a late war stablemate of the DVII, also was forced to use the DIIIau as the BMW IIIa's were reserved only for the DVII type. Therefore although the Pfalz DXII has been compared to the BMW IIIa powered DVII's, it should only be compared to the DIIIau powered DVII's. There is no question that the DIIIau caused both types of aircraft to be engine limited and did not exploit as well the airframe as did the BMW IIIa. WIth the DIIIau both the DVII and the Pfalz DXII were competitive fighters, but with the BMW IIIa the DVII design was superlative and DVII attrition lessened as the war progressed, probably due the increased numbers of DVII(F)'s at the front.

DVII's flew with different propeller designs from different manufacturers. Despite the differing appearances there is no indication these propellers gave disparate performance. Axial, Wolff, Wotan, and Hiene (and other?)propellers have been noted. As for the Axial propellers, although they appeared to be the same on the DR1 and the DVII, the DR 1 propeller was smaller and shorter than the DVII propeller as the DR1 powerplant was significantly less powerful.

Operational history

Fokker D.VII of Jasta 66

The D.VII entered squadron service with Jasta 10 in early May 1918. The type quickly proved to have many important advantages over the Albatros and Pfalz scouts. Unlike the Albatros scouts, the D.VII could dive without any fear of structural failure. The D.VII was also noted for its ability to climb at high angles of attack, its remarkably docile stall, and its reluctance to spin. These handling characteristics contrasted with contemporary scouts such as the Camel and SPAD, which stalled sharply and spun vigorously.

However, the D.VII also had problems. Several aircraft suffered rib failures and fabric shedding on the upper wing. Heat from the engine often ignited phosphorus ammunition until cooling vents were installed in the engine cowling, and fuel tanks sometimes broke at the seams. Aircraft built by the Fokker factory at Schwerin were noted for their lower standard of workmanship and materials. Nevertheless, the D.VII proved to be a remarkably successful design, leading to the familiar aphorism that it could turn a mediocre pilot into a good one, and a good pilot into an ace.

Manfred von Richthofen died only days before the D.VII began to reach the Jagdstaffeln and never flew it in combat. Other pilots, including Erich Löwenhardt and Hermann Göring, quickly racked up victories and generally lauded the design. Aircraft availability was limited at first, but by July there were 407 on charge. Larger numbers became available by August, when D.VIIs achieved 565 victories. The D.VII eventually equipped 46 Jagdstaffeln. When the war ended in November, 775 D.VII aircraft were in service.

Postwar service

Preserved D.VII in Swiss markings

The Allies confiscated large numbers of D.VII aircraft after the Armistice. The United States evaluated 142 captured examples and tested/used them extensively for several years but when the time came for new fighters to replace the various WWI types then in service, a derivation of the Spad XIII wing design was chosen.[4] France, Great Britain, and Canada also received large numbers of war prizes.

Other countries used the D.VII operationally. The Polish deployed approximately 50 aircraft during the Polish-Soviet War, using them mainly for ground attack missions.[5] The Hungarian Soviet Republic used a number of D.VIIs, both built by MAG and ex-German aircraft in the Hungarian-Romanian War of 1919.[6]

The Dutch, Swiss, and Belgian air forces also operated the D.VII. The aircraft proved so popular that Fokker completed and sold a large number of D.VII airframes that he had smuggled into the Netherlands after the Armistice. As late as 1929, the Alfred Comte company manufactured eight new D.VII airframes under licence for the Swiss Fliegertruppe.


Fokker D.VII preserved in the Deutsches Museum
Fokker D.VII displayed at the Royal Air Force Museum

The widespread acquisition of the D.VII by Allied countries after the Armistice ensured the survival and preservation of several aircraft. One war prize was captured in 1918 when it accidentally landed at a small American airstrip near Verdun, France. Donated to the Smithsonian Institution by the War Department in 1920, it is now displayed at the National Air And Space Museum in Washington, D.C.[7] Two other American war prizes were retained by private owners until sold abroad in 1971 and 1981. They are today displayed at the Canada Aviation Museum, in Ottawa, Ontario, and the Militaire Luchtvaart Museum in Soesterberg, Netherlands, respectively. The latter aircraft is painted in fictitious Royal Netherlands Air Force markings.

A former Marine Luchtvaartdienst D.VII was discovered in a German barn in 1948. This aircraft is now displayed at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany.[8]

Both Canada and France also acquired numerous D.VII aircraft. A former war prize, one of 22 acquired by Canada, is displayed at the Brome County Historical Society, in the Knowlton suburb of Lac-Brome, Quebec. This unrestored Albatros-built example is the only surviving D.VII that retains its original fabric covering. Of the aircraft sent to France, examples are today displayed at the Royal Air Force Museum in Hendon, England,[9] and the Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace in Paris, France.


  • V 11 : Prototype
  • V 21 : Prototype with tapered wings
  • V 22 : Prototype with four-bladed propeller
  • V 24 : Prototype with 179 kW (240 hp) Benz Bz.IVü engine
  • V 31 : One D.VII aircraft fitted with a hook to tow the V 30 glider
  • V 34 : D.VII development with 138 kW (185 hp) BMW IIIa engine
  • V 35 : Two-seat development with 138 kW (185 hp) BMW IIIa engine and undercarriage fuel tank
  • V 36 : D.VII development with 138 kW (185 hp) BMW IIIa engine and undercarriage fuel tank
  • V 38 : Prototype Fokker C.I


Interned Fokker D.VII in Swiss markings


General characteristics

  • Crew: One
  • Length: 22 ft 9 in (6.93 m)
  • Wingspan: 29 ft 3 in (8.93 m)
  • Height: 9 ft 2 in (2.80 m)
  • Wing area: 217.4 ft² (20.2 m²)
  • Empty weight: 1,540 lb (698 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 1,874 lb (850 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 1,936 lb (878 kg)
  • Powerplant:Mercedes D.IIIa, 180hp (134 kW)



See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft



  1. ^ TERMS OF ARMISTICE WITH GERMANY 11th November, 1918. The National Archives of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 7 June 2008
  2. ^ Gray and Thetford 1962, p. 105-106.
  3. ^ Owers 1995, pp. 67-66.
  4. ^ Swanborough and Bowers 1962, p.551.
  5. ^ Owers 1995, pp. 69-70.
  6. ^ Owers 1995, p.68.
  7. ^ Legend, Memory and the Great War in the Air: Fokker D.VII. National Air and Space Museum. Retrieved 7 June 2008.
  8. ^ Fokker D VII. Deutsches Museum. Retrieved 7 June 2008.
  9. ^ Fokker DVII airplane pictures & aircraft photos. Royal Air Force Museum. Retrieved 7 June 2008.


  • Gray, Peter and Thetford, Owen. German Aircraft of the First World War. London: Putnam, 1962.
  • Owers, Colin. ""Especially...The D.VII...": The post-1918 career of the Fokker D.VII: Part One". Air Enthusiast, No. 60, November-December 1995. ISSN 0143 5450. pp. 63-70.
  • Owers, Colin. ""Especially...The D.VII...": The post-1918 career of the Fokker D.VII: Part Two". Air Enthusiast, No. 61, January-February 1996. ISSN 0143 5450. pp. 52-63.
  • Swanborough, Gordon and Bowers, Peter M. United States Military Aircraft since 1908. London:Putnam, 1963.
  • Weyl, A.R. Fokker: The Creative Years. London: Putnam, 1988. ISBN 0-85177-817-8.

External links


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