SER­VICE HIS­TORY

EN­TER­ING SER­VICE WITH GER­MAN SQUADRONS IN THE SPRING OF 1915, THE FOKKER EIN­DECKER SHAPED THE FU­TURE OF AERIAL COM­BAT

History of War - - FOKKER EINDECKER -

On 24 June 1915, Lieu­tenant Oswald Boel­cke, the leader of the first gen­er­a­tion of Ger­man fighter pi­lots, took to the air in the Fokker Ein­decker, the ini­tial op­er­a­tional flight of the new air­craft. It was in­no­va­tive for its sin­gle-wing con­struc­tion and its syn­chro­ni­sa­tion gear that al­lowed the for­ward-fir­ing ma­chine gun to shoot through the pro­pel­ler arc.

Boel­cke, fel­low ace Max Im­mel­mann and other Ger­man pi­lots soon made the Ein­decker dom­i­nant in the skies over the Western Front. Dur­ing the dark months of the ‘Fokker Scourge’, Bri­tish pi­lots be­gan re­fer­ring to their planes as ‘Fokker fodder’ sim­ply be­cause they had no ad­e­quate means of fight­ing back against the marauding Ger­man air­craft.

On the evening of 1 July 1915, Lieu­tenant Kurt Wint­gens prob­a­bly recorded the first aerial vic­tory for an Ein­decker pi­lot. About

6pm, Wint­gens en­coun­tered a French Mo­rane­saulnier Type L two-seater ob­ser­va­tion plane and at­tacked. As the French ob­server fired back with a ri­fle, Wint­gens pep­pered the en­emy’s en­gine with 7.92mm ma­chine gun bul­lets. The French ma­chine was forced out of the sky and went down be­hind Al­lied lines, so Wint­gens’s kill could not be of­fi­cially con­firmed.

Only 416 Ein­decker fighters were com­pleted, in­clud­ing 249 ex­am­ples of the E.III, the main pro­duc­tion model and the first to be­come avail­able in suf­fi­cient num­bers to or­gan­ise true fighter squadrons. On 1 Au­gust 1915, Boel­cke and Im­mel­mann shocked their Bri­tish ad­ver­saries, pounc­ing on a for­ma­tion of

Royal Air­craft Fac­tory BE2C re­con­nais­sance and bomber air­craft that were re­turn­ing from a mis­sion. Boel­cke’s guns jammed, but Im­mel­mann chased a BE2C for ten min­utes, pour­ing hun­dreds of bul­lets into the plane, which crashed. That sum­mer, Boel­cke and Im­mel­mann claimed 13 kills, while seven other Ger­man pi­lots shot down an­other 15 Al­lied planes.

The Fokker Scourge ended in early 1916 with the in­tro­duc­tion of new Al­lied fighter types. But the Fokker Ein­decker – soon out­moded – had al­ready rev­o­lu­tionised aerial war­fare.

“BRI­TISH PI­LOTS BE­GAN RE­FER­RING TO THEIR PLANES AS ‘FOKKER FODDER’ SIM­PLY BE­CAUSE THEY HAD NO AD­E­QUATE MEANS OF FIGHT­ING BACK AGAINST THE MARAUDING GER­MAN AIR­CRAFT”

This image of a mod­ern Fokker Ein­decker re­veals the struc­ture of the fixed un­der­car­riage that was de­signed to han­dle the im­pact of dif­fi­cult land­ings and add sta­bil­ity to the air­craft, both on the ground and in the air

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