Albatros D.III The Albatros D.I and Albatros
D.II, introduced in 1916, were two of the best planes of their time.
They had very good flying characteristics and were structurally
strong. However, the pace of technical progress during this period
was very quick, and soon the Allies had again taken the initiative,
having come up with the outstanding Nieuport 11 Bébé.
For a short time it drove the Fokker monoplanes from the sky, creating
a new myth about the superior qualities of biplanes. The Nieuport
11 was not a standard biplane, but a sesquiplane: its bottom wing
was much smaller in area and chord dimension than the top. It gave
the plane increased maneuverability and improved the pilot's view
from the cockpit. The dominant feature of aerial combat was the
short distances between planes, so these two factors were of prime
importance. Oswald Boelcke, the leading ace at that time and the
'father' of aerial tactics, made the greatest contribution to the
official report which judged the new French development to be a
serious threat to German aircraft.
The appearance of the Nieuport 11 forced designers at the Albatros
firm to improve on their existing type. The design of the fuselage
was not significantly changed, because it was already progressive
for its time - in comparison with the fabric-covered frames of other
planes, its plywood skin was heavier, but much stronger. The principal
changes were made to the wing, taking as its example the French
design. Altogether the various design changes allowed the engineers
to manage the weight of the plane to give it an opportunity to fight
the extremely light Nieuport 11 on equal terms.
The prototype of the future Albatros D.III rose into the air for
the first time at the end of August 1916. It featured more rounded
wing tips, had new V-shaped interwing struts and a wing mounted
radiator. In general it made a very favorable impression, even without
the expected increase in speed. What with its good handling, its
speed and its graceful appearance, the D.III was an advance on all
other contemporary German planes, and by the end of the year the
first production Albatros D.IIIs arrived at the fighter units.
In the first few months of operations there were some worrying accidents
with the Albatros D.III. During certain maneuvers the bottom wing
collapsed, and even the famous Manfred von Richthofen did not avoid
falling victim to a similar incident, while at a height of 400 meters.
The Albatros D.III was tested to destruction. At the end of January
1917, all Albatros D.IIIs were withdrawn from the front to investigate
the reasons for wing collapse. After numerous tests the design was
strengthened, and soon the type returned to active service. However,
cases of wing collapse continued to occur, though with much less
In April 1917 the Albatros D.III gained the majority of the 150
victories achieved by the Germans in the air - this period has become
notorious in the history of the Great War as 'Bloody April'. Never
had the aircraft of the Allied nations incurred such heavy losses
during such a short period of time.
Every month the Albatros firm together with the OAW branch increased
production of the D.III. Even after the appearance of the later,
improved, Albatros D.V, D.III manufacture was not stopped, because
certain characteristics remained superior even to its successor.
At its peak presence at the front, in October 1917, a total of 446
of the Albatros D.III were in the service of the German Air Force.
This type played the part of 'the fighting soldier' and it took
part in all the major air battles of 1917-1918. Even with the advent
of the Albatros D.V, the Fokker Dr.I, and the Fokker D.VII, it did
not disappear from the first line. Despite all the controversy over
the wing design and the numerous accidents, it was actively employed
everywhere where there was conflict - on the Western Front in Europe,
in the roasting skies of Palestine, or in the cold climate of the
Baltic. Out of more than a total of 1,300 Albatros D.IIIs built
during the war, an insignificant number of planes of this type survived
to the end of the war. However, their contribution to the history
of aerial combat in that era of chivalry was a hugely important