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Albatros D.III

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Albatros D.III
Type Fighter
Manufacturer Albatros-Flugzeugwerke
Designed by Robert Thelen
Maiden flight August 1916
Primary users Luftstreitkräfte
Number built approximately 1866

The Albatros D.III was a biplane fighter aircraft used by the Imperial German Army Air Service (Luftstreitkräfte) and the Austro-Hungarian Air Service (Luftfahrtruppen) during the First World War. The D.III was flown by many top German aces, including Manfred von Richthofen, Ernst Udet, Erich Löwenhardt, Kurt Wolff, and Karl Emil Schaeffer. It was the preeminent fighter during the period of German aerial dominance known as "Bloody April" 1917.

Design and development

Ernst Udet in front of his Albatros D.III (serial D.1941/16)
Albatros D.III fighters of Jasta 11 at Douai, France

Work on the prototype D.III started in late July or early August 1916. The date of the maiden flight is unknown, but is believed to have occurred in late August or early September. Following on the successful Albatros D.I and D.II series, the D.III utilized the same semi-monocoque, plywood-skinned fuselage. At the request of the Idflieg (Inspektion der Fliegertruppen, Inspector of Flying Troops), however, the D.III adopted a sesquiplane wing arrangement broadly similar to the French Nieuport 11. The upper wing was extended while the lower wing was redesigned with reduced chord and a single main spar. "V" shaped interplane struts replaced the previous parallel struts. After a Typenprüfung (official type test) on 26 September 1916, Albatros received an order for 400 D.III aircraft.

Operational history

The D.III entered squadron service in December 1916. British aircrews commonly referred to the D.III as the "V-strutter." Two faults with the new aircraft were soon identified. Early D.IIIs featured a Teeves and Braun radiator in the center of the upper wing, where it tended to scald the pilot if punctured. From the 290th aircraft onward, the radiator was offset to the right.

More seriously, the new aircraft immediately began experiencing lower wing failures. On 24 January 1917, Manfred von Richthofen suffered a crack in the lower wing of his new D.III. While he landed safely, Richthofen switched back to the Albatros D.II for the next five weeks. The D.III was temporarily grounded in March 1917, forcing Jastas to use the Albatros D.II and Halberstadt D.II during the interim. The D.III returned to service with wing modifications in April, but these failed to resolve the structural problems. At the time, the continued wing failures were attributed to poor workmanship and materials at the Johannisthal factory.

The cause of the wing failures lay in the sesquiplane arrangement taken from the Nieuport. While the lower wing had sufficient strength in static tests, it was subsequently determined that the main spar was located too far aft, causing the wing to twist under aerodynamic loads. Pilots were therefore advised not to perform steep or prolonged dives in the D.III. This design flaw persisted despite attempts to rectify the problem in the D.III and succeeding D.V.

Apart from its structural deficiencies, the D.III was considered pleasant and easy to fly, if somewhat heavy on the controls. The sesquiplane arrangement offered improved climb, maneuverablity, and downward visibility compared to the preceding D.II. Like most contemporary aircraft, the D.III was prone to spinning, but recovery was straightforward.

Albatros built approximately 500 D.III aircraft at its Johannisthal factory. In the spring of 1917, D.III production shifted to Albatros' subsidiary, Ostdeutsche Albatros Werke (OAW), to permit Albatros to concentrate on development and production of the D.V. OAW received five separate orders for 840 aircraft between April and August 1917. They were produced at the Schneidemühl factory between June and December 1917. OAW aircraft were distinguishable by their larger, rounded rudders.

Peak service was in November 1917, with 446 aircraft on the Western Front. The D.III did not disappear with the end of production, however. It remained in frontline service well into 1918. As of August 31, 1918, 54 D.III aircraft remained on the Western Front.

Austro-Hungarian variants

Albatros D.III (Oeffag) series 153
Albatros D.III (Oeffag) series 253

In the fall of 1916, Oesterreichische Flugzeugfabrik AG (Oeffag) obtained a licence to build the D.III at Wiener-Neustadt. Deliveries commenced in May 1917. The Oeffag aircraft were built in three main versions (series 53, 153, 253) using the 185, 200, or 225 hp Austro-Daimler engines respectively. These were fitted with a more complete cowling than the German version, although parts of this were removed in summer to improve cooling. The Austro-Daimlers provided improved performance over the Mercedes D.IIIa engine.

Oeffag engineers noted the wing failures of the D.III and modified the lower wing to use thicker ribs and spar flanges. These changes, as well as other detail improvements, largely resolved the structural problems that had plagued the German fighters. In service, Oeffag aircraft proved to be popular, robust, and effective.

Austrian pilots often removed the propeller spinner from their planes, since it was prone to falling off. Beginning with aircraft 112 of the series 153 production run, Oeffag introduced a new rounded nose to eliminate the spinner. Remarkably, German wind-tunnel tests showed the simple rounded nose improved propeller efficiency and raised top speed by 9 mph.

All Oeffag variants were armed with two 8 mm Schwarzlose machine guns. In most planes, the guns were buried in the fuselage, where they were inaccessible to the pilot. Late in the series 253 production run, the guns were relocated on top of the fuselage decking. In service, the Schwarzlose proved to be somewhat less reliable than the LMG 08/15, mainly due to problems with the synchronization gear. The Schwarzlose also had a poor rate of fire and produced excessive muzzle flash.

Oeffag built approximately 526 D.III aircraft between May 1917 and the Armistice.


After the Armistice, Poland acquired 38 series 253 aircraft, as well as several OAW machines, and operated them in the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-20. They were primarily employed in ground attack duties. The Poles thought so highly of the D.III that they sent a letter of commendation to the Oeffag factory. The newly formed Czechoslovakian air force also obtained and operated several Oeffag machines after the war.

Modern reproductions

An Austrian aviation enthusiast, Koloman Mayrhofer, has constructed a pair of Albatros D.III (Oeffag) series 253 reproductions. Both are equipped with vintage Austro-Daimler engines. One aircraft will be flown and operated by a non-profit organization. The second aircraft is slated for static display at the Flugmuseum AVIATICUM, near Wiener-Neustadt, Austria.


Specifications (D.III)

General characteristics

  • Crew: one
  • Length: 7.33 m (24 ft 0 in)
  • Wingspan: 9.00 m (29 ft 6 in)
  • Height: 2.90 m (9 ft 6 in)
  • Wing area: 23.6 m² (254 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 695 kg (1,532 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 886 kg (1,949 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 955 kg (2,105 lb)
  • Powerplant:Mercedes D.IIIa inline water cooled engine, 127 kW (170 hp)



  • 2x 7.92mm LMG 08/15 machineguns (cowl)


  • Connors, John F. Albatros Fighters In Action (Aircraft No. 46). Carrollton, TX: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1981. ISBN 0-89747-115-6.
  • Grosz, Peter, Haddow, George and Schiemer, Peter. Austro-Hungarian Army Aircraft of World War I. Boulder, CO: Flying Machines Press, 2002. ISBN 1-89126-805-8.

External link

See also

Related development
D.I - D.II - D.IV - D.V

Designation sequence
D.I - D.II - D.III - D.IV - D.V - D.VI - D.VII - Dr.I - D.VIII - D.IX - D.X - Dr.II - D.XI - D.XII

Template:Idflieg fighter designations

cs:Albatros D.III de:Albatros D III es:Albatros D.III fr:Albatros D.III hu:Albatros D III nl:Albatros D.III no:Albatros D.III pl:Albatros D.III fi:Albatros D.III

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Albatros D.III".