In our previous installment, we looked at the Bristol F.2B Fighter, the “Brisfit” hero of Battlefield 1’s Friends in High Places single player War Story. Today we look at the primary enemy fighter from that campaign, Germany’s Fokker DR.I, the triplane made famous by Baron Manfred von Richtofen (the Red Baron).
|Photo credit Fokkerdr1.com|
February 1917 saw the British Royal Naval Air Service taking flight with a new fighter, the Sopwith Triplane. With ailerons fitted to all three pairs of wings, the Triplane or “Tripe” to its pilots, proved to be extremely maneuverable, exacting an impressive shoot down ratio against the slower but better armed German fighters of the time.
So impressed were the Germans by the performance of this new aircraft, that several manufacturers set out to make triplanes of their own. Anthony Fokker, after viewing a captured “Tripe”, instructed his designers to create what would become known as the DR.I (DR being the abbreviation for Dreidecker, the German word for “triplane”).
When tested, the DR.I proved to have excellent maneuverability, much like its British predecessor. The lift from its three wings also allowed it to climb like a homesick angel, at least to altitudes where the low compression of its rotary engine caught up with it. For a brief moment, the Fokker Scourge returned to the Western front.
Most famous, of course, was the red DR.I of the Red Baron, whose final nineteen kills were achieved in this aircraft. Multiple German squadrons equipped the triplane, with its presence on the Western Front peaking in April 1918.
|Hunter, by Barry Weekley|
However, the triplane configuration suffered from an insurmountable flaw: drag. Three sets of wings required three sets of bracing struts and wires, all exacting a weight and speed penalty. As faster, better armed French and British aircraft such as the SPAD XIII and Sopwith Camel reached the front, pilots of the DR.I found themselves unable to keep up.
The DR.I also suffered from some self-inflicted problems. Wood rot from poor construction caused structural failures. Furthermore, the DR.I’s top wing took a heavier aerodynamic load than the other two wings, causing it to sometimes fail during hard maneuvers.
There are no known original surviving Fokker DR.Is in flyable condition. However, a number of replicas have been built, and companies such as Airdrome Aeroplanes even offer full scale kits.