|Fokker D.VIII |
|Missing image |
|Role ||Day fighter |
|Crew ||one, pilot |
|Length ||19 ft 4 in ||5.86 m |
|Wingspan ||27 ft 6.75 in ||8.40 m |
|Height ||9 ft 3 in ||2.80 m |
|Wing area || ||10.70 mē |
|Empty || || |
|Maximum take-off ||1,238 lb ||562 kg |
|Engines ||1x Oberursel Ur.II |
|Power ||110 hp || |
|Maximum speed ||127 mph ||204 km/h |
|Combat range || || |
|Ferry range || || |
|Service ceiling ||20,670 ft ||6300 m |
|Guns ||2x 7.92mm Spandau machine guns |
|Bombs ||none |
The Fokker D.VIII (also E.V) was a late World War I parasol-monoplane fighter aircraft designed by Anton Fokker Rheinhold Platz at the Fokker company. Dubbed the Flying Razor by Allied pilots, it had the distinction of scoring the last aerial victory of the war, but was otherwise better known for three lethal accidents due to wing failures.
By late 1917 the industrial might of the Allies had been able to build air forces of such a size that the Germans were simply not able to maintain air superiority over the whole of the front. However their better pilots and planes meant that they could move their Jastas around the front to any location of interest and maintain control there. By January 1918 even this ability was lost when newer fighter designs from both British and French factories started entering service in massive numbers.
In response the German command held a contest for a new fighter design based on the 160hp Mercedes D.III engine. The clear winner of the contest was the Fokker D.VII, which was rushed into production. However the supplies of the Mercedes were limited, and with all designs moving to larger engines of this class, or even bigger, high command decided to hold another competition in April to choose another design for side-by-side production.
Fokker and Platz had been working on a series of experimental planes starting in 1916, all based on a cantilever structure instead of external bracing in order to reduce drag. At first he had problems with the strength of the wings and had moved to a larger number of smaller wings to compensate, leading to the V.4 design that was the basis for the Fokker Dr.I. However the added drag of the third wing was a serious problem, and as the strength of the cantilever improved he again returned to the biplane for lower drag, used in the D.VII. Of course if two wings had lower drag than three, then clearly one wing would be even better, and they started a prototype run of monoplanes starting with V.21. The latest model, V.26/28 consisted of three similar planes, the V.26 was powered by the relatively weak 110hp Oberursel UR.II engine, but the design's low drag meant it could nevertheless keep up with some of the fastest of the Allied designs. The similar V.27 mounted the 145hp Oberursel UR.III or 160hp Goebel Goe.III, and the V.28 the 185hp Mercedes D.IV. Platz felt even the V.26 could compete with some of the newest fighters being offered by other designers. Fokker was just as interested in it, as it was perhaps the only new design that still used the Oberursel engine, a factory he had purchased in 1916.
A large number of aircraft were offered for the contest, from practically every current manufacturer and even a few hopefuls. The Fokker managed to beat them all, even though it was considered radically different than the other more conventional biplanes. In the end the V.26 was ordered into production as the Fokker E.V (E for Eindecker, monoplane). In both contests the Fokker designs had only barely beaten out competition from Siemens-Schuckert, and in this case the Siemens-Schuckert D.IV with a complex twin-row geared rotary engine was put into production as well.
The D.VIII had an exceptional rate of climb, able to reach 6000m in 16 minutes. It was also highly maneuverable, although not to the same degree as the Siemens-Schuckert. Perhaps most importantly it was also considered to cost "less man-hours to build than any other WWI aircraft" according to Platz. 400 were ordered immediately with either the UR.III or Goe.III, but neither engine was available in any quantity and the production examples all mounted the UR.II.
The first production examples of the E.V were shipped to Jagdstaffel 6 in late July and soon were in operation. Emil Rolff scored the first kill in a E.V on August 17, 1918, but two days later he was killed when the wing delaminated in flight. Two more planes would be lost over the next two weeks, and on August 24 the design was removed from service. This was the third Fokker design to suffer wing failures, and Fokker soon initiated a study to finally get to the bottom of the matter. The reason was apparently poor quality building at one of the three factories, where all three of the failed aircraft were built.
Production resumed in October after being renamed the D.VIII. The "D" normally refers to Doppeldecker, biplane, but in this case it was used to refer to the wing being twice as strong. The first new examples started arriving at front line units late that month and started operations on the 24th. 85 were eventually delivered by the end of the war three weeks later.
289 planes of this type were built in total, and some served in the post-war era. Eight (four according to other sources) E.Vs from the Polish Air Forces flew against Soviet forces in 1919 and 1920 war. One of these planes was captured by the Red Army and used by the Soviets until the mid-1920s. Some planes reached Holland, Italy, Japan, the USA, and England as trophies, but the rest were scrapped in accordance with conditions set forth in the Armistice.