Deutsche Flugzeug-Werke GmbH (DFW)

DFW C.V (LVG) Serial: W Western Front, 1917. Note: colours are probable, they can be for example green.

DFW R-I Unit: RFA 500 Serial: R11/15 Baltic area, April-September 1917. Only single aircraft was built. In the beginning of Summer 1917 in went to Easter Front to Alt-Auz airfield. On 13 July it had raid to Riga. Next day aircraft destroyed during forced landing.

One of the first pure military aircraft produced by the DFW factory was the DFW B.I biplane or, to give it its correct designation, the DFW Type MD14 B.I. Developed in 1914 as a reconnaissance and training aircraft, it originally had a welded steel tube fuselage and was powered by a 100-hp Mercedes D.I engine. Later versions had an all-wood plywood-covered fuselage and were fitted with the more powerful 180-hp Benz III engines. The B.I had a wingspan of 45 ft 11½ in, a length of 27 ft 6½ in and a top speed of 75 mph.

The B.II, which was powered by the 120-hp Mercedes D.II engine, was produced at the beginning of 1915 and had a wingspan of 41 ft 4½ in – some 4½ in shorter than that of the B.I, but with the same length of fuselage. Like the B.I, the B.II was used as a reconnaissance aircraft as well as for training purposes. The German fighter ace and holder of the Order Pour le Mérite (‘Blue Max’), Oberleutnant Kurt Wüsthoff, trained in one of the B.II training aircraft at the Leipzig-Lindenthal flying training school near Berlin.

An incursion into the single-seater fighter market with the DFW Floh (‘Flea’) ended when the tiny aircraft crashed on its initial test flight early in 1915. One of the reasons given for the accident was the appalling lack of visibility from the cockpit. Powered by a 100-hp Mercedes D.I engine, with a wingspan of 20 ft 4 in, and a fuselage length of 14 ft 9½ in, the DFW Floh looked completely out of proportion.

At a request of Idflieg (Inspektion der Fliegertruppen – Inspectorate of Aviation Troops), DFW were asked to join the R-plane programme and develop a heavy bomber. Their first bomber was the DFW R.I, designed by Hermann Dorner, which took a year to make. They were unique in their construction inasmuch as the four eight-cylinder, in-line 220-hp Mercedes D.IV engines were internally mounted, each driving a separate propeller. They were mounted in an unusual manner: the two tractor-types were fitted above and slightly ahead on the two pusher-type engines. The first radiators were triangular shaped and were mounted between the centre-section struts, but these were soon replaced by four Windhoff radiators fitted to the fuselage in the centre section gap.

The first flight took place on 5 September 1916, the first of twelve flights before the aircraft was delivered to the Army Air Park at Döberitz. After further testing by Army pilots, the R.I was flown via Königsberg to Alt-Auz to join Rfa 500. On 13 June 1917, the R.I carried out its one and only mission, when it dropped 680 kg of bombs on Schlok, in retaliation for an earlier Russian attack.

Departing on its second mission in September 1917, the R.I experienced a problem when one of its four engines failed. The pilots, instead of continuing on three engines, turned the aircraft round to return to the field. Overheating of a gearbox caused the second engine to be stopped, the result being that the aircraft was now too heavy to be kept in the air. Searching for a place to land, the crew of the giant aircraft, which was now running on the two remaining engines, spotted a training field and put the aircraft down. Unfortunately they failed to spot a deep trench running across the field and the aircraft crashed as the wheels plunged down into the trench. The aircraft spilled its load of bombs and fuel onto the field then exploded. One of the crew was killed.

In September 1916, the prototype DFW C Type was produced. This was the forerunner of what was to be one of the most successful of all the two-seater German reconnaissance aircraft of the First World War, the DFW C.V. Only one C Type was built, and it was powered by a 150-hp Benz Bz III engine. This was quickly followed by the DFW C.I and C.II, and the only difference between the two aircraft was that the pilot flew the aircraft from the rear cockpit in the C.I, but in the C.II flew it from the front seat. Otherwise they were identical in every other detail and a number of these aircraft were built and delivered to the German Army. Powered by 150-hp Benz Bz.III, the C.I and C.II had a wingspan of 36 ft 9 in, a fuselage length of 23 ft 7½ in, an operating ceiling of 13,120 feet and a top speed of 87 mph. There was only one gun, a manually operated Parabellum machine gun mounted in the rear cockpit.

A second DFW R.II was built at the end of 1916 after an order from Idflieg. Basically the same as the R.I, except that the overall dimensions were increased slightly, the R.II was powered by four eight-cylinder, in-line Mercedes D.IVa engines. The fuselage of the first R.I was made up of spruce longerons covered in plywood, but because of the twisting forces that the fuselage was subjected to during flight, the R.II longerons were reinforced with steel tube frames and cables.

The first of the R.IIs made its maiden flight on 17 September 1917, and although the flight was very successful, there were still problems with vibration despite the strengthened engine mounts. Encasing the transmission shafts with stiffener tubes later solved this problem. A second of six R.IIs ordered was built in February 1918, but there were problems and modifications that had to be made before it was accepted by the Army. A third was built later, but none ever saw active service.

An attempt to develop a pusher aircraft, a DFW C.III pusher biplane powered by a 150-hp Benz Bz.III, amounted to nothing. The aircraft looked almost identical to the French Breguet pusher biplane.

The DFW C.IV was developed at the end of 1916 and featured single-bay wings. A 150-hp Benz Bz.III engine powered the C.IV, which had the radiator mounted beneath the upper leading edge. The aircraft was armed with two machine guns, a fixed forward-firing Spandau and a manually operated Parabellum mounted in the rear cockpit. A number of these aircraft were developed for the German Army.

There was another attempt to develop a single-seat fighter in 1917, with the DFW D.I. The prototype was very similar to the DFW Floh, the only difference being there was a 160-hp Mercedes D.III engine with a car-type radiator mounted at the nose. Only one was built. A second modified prototype appeared some months later fitted with twin Spandau machine guns. Again only one was built. A third DFW D.I modified prototype appeared at the end of 1917. Almost identical to the second modified D.I, only the ailerons were removed from the lower wingtips. The development of these models led to the production of the DFW Dr.I triplane. It was designed for the D Type competition at Aldershof, Berlin, in January 1918, but was not a success.

Another model, the DFW F.34, appeared in April 1918. Looking very similar to the Albatros fighter, it was powered by a 160-hp Mercedes D.III engine that gave it a top speed of 110 mph and a climb rate of 1,100 feet per minute. It was armed with twin, fixed, forward-firing Spandau machine guns, but very little is known of its whereabouts after its sudden appearance.

A third DFW heavy bomber, the R.III, was on the drawing boards at the end of September 1918. The aircraft had a separate navigator’s steering section in front of the wings, while the dual cockpit was situated directly under the trailing edge of the wings. It had a double-decked fuselage capable of carrying 2,500 kg of bombs, eight machine guns, a wireless cabin, a bomb-aimer’s position and eight sleeping bunks. One unusual feature was the replacing of the normal tailskid with a faired tail wheel, but before production could begin the war came to an end.