Albatros D.V(a) in combat.

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Albatros D.V(a) in combat.

Berichtdoor Brigade Piron » 11 jan 2009, 17:33

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Over the Front journal actually rated the best aircraft of the war and came to the "scientific" conclusion that the best fighter of the war was the Siemens Schukert D.IIIa ! Four 'tied' for second...the Fokker DVIIF, Bristol F.2b, Spad XIIIC.1 and the Snipe 7F.1.

The criteria were: Maximum speed, Snap turn, Rate of climb, Armament, Ceiling, Steady State Turns, and Endurance.

The thumbnail comments on each of the top 5 were. "Good balance of all features" Siemens Shuckert and Fokker D.VIIF. "Superior turns and best guns" -Bristol F.2b, "Top Speed and good turns" Spad XIII and Superior Turns and Guns" Sopwith Snipe. Very poor scorers were Albatros D.Va and the Fokker DR.I - they were the only two rated as POOR.

The Albatros vee-strutters (D.III and V) were an attempt to give the Albatros D.II more of the maneuverability enjoyed by the Nieuport 11, 16, and 17. Pfalz went so far as to build a more or less straight copy of the Nieuport.

Comments about the Albatros D.V /Va should be seen in context. The Albatros D.III was the best German fighter when it appeared and was in its heyday in April 1917 and continued in production until May 1918 alongside the D.V/Va. Richthofen also flew the OAW build D.III at times. Indeed in Jasta lineups photos of Jasta 28w and Jasta 27 and other units you can see that the Jastaführers of these units, Karl-Emil Schäfer, Otto Hartmann, Hermann Göring, and countless others continued to fly the D.III. The retrofit, while not entirely solving the problem eased the fears of the pilots enough to let them focus on their task, which they did very well. The D.V appeared during this time, but the performance was not as great an improvement as the D.III had been over the D.II. (except diving) Although von Richthofen disliked the type he flew it and recognized it was the best that they had. And, he did well in it. 60 victories on the Albatros D.I,II,III, and V are not shabby at all. Consider the remark made by Paul Strähle of Jasta 18 and later of Jasta 57. He said that in his opinion it was the equal of the Fokker D.VII. A surprising remark, but he was there, and we weren't. (see the Smithsonian Albatros D.Va book by Robert Mikesh) Richthofen's comments about the "lousy Albatroses" was made to serve a purpose. He said that to get those back at Idflieg to stop resting on their laurels and foster support for more competition between manufacturers. (Perhaps he overstated it to make a point, his opinion, although highly regarded, still had to be carefully floated to the right people who could do something about the situation. He was, after all, a junior officer.)

Someone stated that why not put the BMW IIIa engine in the D.II? Albatros tested that engine in a variety of the D. type airframe combinations and there was no appreciable improvement to warrant a contract. Besides, by 1918, the Albatros was a late 1916-early 1917 design. As we have seen, the Fokker D.VII and some other designs were to take the limelight as far as the pilot's aspirations were concerned. But, the Albatros D.V and D.III (OAW) soldiered on for that matter, much like the ME-109 would in a later war although surpassed by superior designs.

Lower-wing failure

According to the Windsock Datafile on the Albatros, the problem wasn’t confined to the D.V; it plagued both the D.III and D.Va.

Pilots started to experience lower-wing failure with the D.III, the Datafile saying that this has been attributed by several writers as being caused by the single-spar lower wing fluttering, leading to failure. But it goes on to say that exhaustive tests proved the strength of the wing to be quite adequate and that the problem was largely countered by reinforcing the wings structure and improving quality control.

However, when the first D.Vs arrived at the front, the problem resurfaced and, this time, the problem was never totally identified or completely resolved.

On 24 July 1917, Idflieg admitted that the D.V could be considered only as a lightened D.III of virtually equal performance: production was consequently halted after about 900 aircraft had been ordered and the model superseded by the D.Va.

The D.Va started to arrive at the front in October 1917. It was similar to the D.V but the whole structure was beefed-up with additional fuselage ribs, stronger wing spars and heavier ribs. Aileron control cables were routed through the lower wings as per the D.III and wing tip support cables were also fitted for additional strength (the only way of identifying a D.Va from a D.V). As a result, the aircraft was heavier than even the D.III and its reputation was only partly salvaged by engine developments giving more power.

The wing failures continued to occur and testing continued in an effort to resolve the problem. As a result of these tests, the aircraft were modified in-the-field by replacing the spar attachments, increasing the diameter of the drag and anti-lift cables and reinforcing the wing ribs at the point where the auxiliary bracing strut was fitted to the leading edge of the wings; all of which seemed to resolve the problem.
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