|Captured Fokker E.III 210/16 in flight at Upavon, Wiltshire in 1916.|
The Fokker Eindecker was a German First World War monoplane single-seat fighter aircraft designed by Dutch engineer Anthony Fokker. Developed in April 1915, the Eindecker ("Monoplane") was the first purpose-built German fighter aircraft and the first aircraft to be fitted with synchronizer gear, enabling the pilot to fire a machine gun through the arc of the propeller without striking the blades. The Eindecker granted the German air force, or Luftstreitkräfte, a degree of air superiority from July 1915 until early 1916. Known as the Fokker Scourge, Allied aviators regarded their poorly armed aircraft as "Fokker Fodder".
The Eindecker went through five variants:
- Fokker M.5K/MG (A.III) - 5 built
- Fokker E.I - 68 built
- Fokker E.II - 49 built
- Fokker E.III - 249 built
- Fokker E.IV - 49 built
Total production was 416 aircraft (one aircraft's type is unknown). The main difference between the E.I and E.II was the engine, the former having the 7-cylinder 80 hp Oberursel U.0 rotary engine (a copy of the 80 hp French Gnôme Lambda rotary), while the latter had the 100 hp 9-cylinder Oberursel U I (a copy of the 100 hp Gnôme "Monosoupape" rotary). Production therefore depended on engine availability and the two variants were built in parallel. Many E.IIs were either completed as E.IIIs or upgraded to E.III standard when returned for repair.
All Eindeckers used a gravity fuel tank which had to be constantly filled by hand-pumping from the main fuel tank behind the pilot; this task had to be performed up to eight times an hour. Both the rudder and elevator were balanced, and had no fixed tail surfaces, which rendered the Eindecker very responsive to pitch and yaw; however, since wing-warping was used instead of ailerons, roll response was poor. For an inexperienced pilot, the extreme sensitivity of the elevators made level flight difficult; German ace Leutnant Kurt Wintgens stated "lightning is a straight line compared with the barogram of the first solo."
The Eindecker was based on Fokker's unarmed A.III scout (itself following very closely the design of the French Morane-Saulnier Type H shoulder-wing monoplane) which was fitted with a synchronizer mechanism controlling a single Parabellum LMG 14 machine gun. Anthony Fokker personally demonstrated the system, having towed the prototype aircraft behind his touring car to a military airfield near Berlin. The first Eindecker victory, though unconfirmed, was claimed by Kurt Wintgens on 1 July 1915 when, while flying one of the five M.5K/MG production prototype aircraft (numbered 'E.5/15') he forced down a French Morane-Saulnier Type L two seat parasol monoplane. By this time the first Fokker E.Is were arriving at front-line units. The two most famous Eindecker pilots were Oswald Boelcke and Max Immelmann, both of Feldflieger Abteilung 62, who scored their first kills in E.Is in August of 1915. Leutnant Otto Parschau, who was instrumental in the introduction of the Eindecker from the very start, flew an M.5K/MG (numbered E.1/15).
The definitive version was the E.III. Boelcke's Feld-Flieger Abteilung 62 began operating them towards the end of 1915. Some were armed with twin Spandau MG 08 machine guns. The final variant was the E.IV, which received a 160-hp engine and standard twin machine guns.
Boelcke scored the most Eindecker victories (19 out of his final tally of 40), his last coming on 27 June 1916. Immelmann had the second-highest Eindecker score, having achieved all his 15 victories in the type before being killed when his E.III broke up in June 1916. Eleven pilots scored five or more victories in the Eindecker. Boelcke, Immelmann, and Wintgens all received Germany's highest military decoration, the Pour le Mérite or "Blue Max", in the Eindecker.
Only one original Eindecker remains. On 8 April 1916, a novice German pilot took off from Valenciennes with a new E.III (serial number 210/16) bound for Wasquehal but became lost in haze and landed at a British aerodrome east of St. Omer. He was forced to surrender before he realised his error and could destroy the aircraft. The E.III was test-flown against the Morane-Saulnier Type N at St. Omer before going to Upavon in Wiltshire for evaluation and finally going on museum display. It now resides at the Science Museum in London. Immelmann's original E.I also survived the war and went on display in Dresden where it was destroyed by Allied bombing during the Second World War.
- Phillip Jarrett, "Database: The Fokker Eindeckers", Aeroplane Monthly, December 2004
- Windsock Datafile No. 91, Fokker E I/II, Peter M Grosz/Albatros Publications, 2002
- Windsock Datafile No. 15, Fokker E III, Peter M Grosz/Albatros Publications.
- Science Museum: History of Flight - Fokker E.III 210/16
- Model of Fokker Eindecker, c.1916 NSW Migration Heritage Centre - Statement of Significance
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It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Fokker Eindecker".