Let’s finish up our tour of Battlefield’s four Fighter class aircraft with Germany’s Albatros D.III.
First flown in August 1916, the D.III quickly became the fighter of choice for the German air arm, equipping the majority of air units during 1917. Most famous German aces of the period, including Manfred von Richthofen, Ernst Udet, and Kurt Wolff flew them, and the aircraft’s speed and maneuverability contributed greatly to “Bloody April” in 1917.
|Illustration from Great Fighting Planes, my personal copy.|
The aircraft was armed with two 7.62mm machineguns synchronized to fire through the propeller arc; power came from a 170hp Mercedes D.IIIa inline engine. The D.III suffered from a pair of flaws: poor radiator placement and a structurally weak lower wing.
Early models (and previous marks, the D.I and D.II) mounted the radiator in an exposed position on the upper wing, above and ahead of the pilot. When hit, this had the unfortunate tendency to scald the pilot of boiling water used to cool the engine. This was not considered to be a particularly good design, and was eventually changed on later models.
A further problem emerged with the lower wing spars suffering cracking, similar to the French Nieuport 17s. A design flaw in the wing configuration caused the lower wing to twist and bend under load, resulting in cracks to the main spars. Later aircraft were built with strengthened lower spars to correct that flaw.
There are no flying original D.IIIs. Some very faithful reproductions do exist, and there are a couple of originals left in museums. With the streamlined, sleek lines, the Albatros line was one of the best looking, and most lethal series of World War 1.