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Austrian Fighters

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I made a mistake in the Austrian Albatros thread: the most common Austrian fighter was in fact the Aviatik D.I by a considerable margin. So, I went through my book on Austrian airplanes and compiled a list of Austrian fighters that actually entered frontline service as more than prototypes. Here it is:


Fokker A.III

- February 1916 - July 1916

- German-surplus E.IIIs sold to Austria, obsolete already

- 12 purchased

Brandenburg D.I (aka KD}

- Late 1916 to January 1918

- Fast but 3000m ceiling and extremely dangerous flight characteristics

- Called "Totschläger" (Killer) and "der fliegender Sarg" (flying coffin)

- Armed with 1 gun in pack on upper wing, a few with 1 synchronized

- 122 produced

Aviatik D.I (aka "Berg")

- Mid 1917 to end of war

- Very fast, average maneuverability, wings failed in dives

- Armed with 1 MG on upper wing fixed at 15^ angle until 1918, then twin syncrhonized

- 677 produced in numerous series by many manufacturers

Albatros D.II(Oef) Series 53

- May 1917

- Performance slightly superior to German version

- Armed with 2 synchronized guns

- 16 produced

Albatros D.III(Oef) Series 53.2

- June 1917 - August 1917

- Performance slightly superior to German version, plus stronger wings

- 45 produced

Albatros D.III(Oef) Series 153

- June 1917 to end of war

- Performance considerably better than German version

- Equipped 1st dedicated Austrian fighter units, formed in mid-1917

- 281 produced

Fokker D.II(MAG)

- October 1917 to December 1917 (ordered in August 1916)

- German 1916 rotary design with 185ph Daimler engine

- Utterly obsolete on arrival at front, immediately transferred to training use

- ~30-40 produced

Phönix D.I

- October 1917 - May 1918

- Good but not great, safe and sturdy

- 120 produced, 72 still in service August 1918

Phönix D.II

- May 1918 to end of war

- Good performance but inferior to D.III(Oef) Series 253

- Initial structural problems delayed service entry

- 48 produced

Albatros D.III(Oef) Series 253

- June 1918 to end of war

- All-round excellent performance

- ~220 produced


The Austrians had huge problems with getting guns and engines to their aircraft factories. In many cases, completed airframes sat uselessly for up to several months before these parts arrived. In fact, many were sent to the front unarmed and had their guns installed by squadron mechanics from whatever they had on hand.


Guns were always a big problem for the Austrians anyway. As can be seen above, they didn't have synchronized guns until the latter part of 1917 and it wasn't universal until early 1918. Their Schwarzlose guns weren't great, either, having a low and rather erratic rate of fire that caused problems with synchronizers. In addition, the guns required oiled cartridges which sprayed oil in the pilot's face. Thus, either guns had to be mounted inside the fuselage and out of reach if there was a stoppage, or on top in reach but having to be aimed by leaning well out to the side of the cockpit. But in a number of planes, the pilot had to lean over anyway due to the engine cylinders blocking forward view, which never seems to have been considered very important by Austrian designers.


There was also a decided lack of standardization on Austrian production lines. Sequential planes on the lines would be built with different radiators, different gun positions, even different engines, seemingly at random.

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Thanks for all the detail, Bullet!

I hadn't known there had been an OeFFAG Albatros D.II - well, 16 of them.

The production numbers were incredibly small for a big Kaiserreich like Austria-Hungary.

Shows, how much Germany already was a more modern industrial state.


A real pity they couldn't have worked together much more, and shared their good points.

If even the Austrian D.II had a better performance, and then their D.III even so much better

wing structure, they could have built great fighters together.

The Germans could have given the Austrians the faster firing LMG 08/15, and both sides

would have... would have... could have... Oh, the war is long over.


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Thanks for posting, Bullethead.


I think that these aircraft production numbers can be used to describe the problems of the Austro-Hungarian war effort in general. Their industry simply wasn't up to the task of fighting a total war for many years on several fronts. It didn't help matters that the alliance with Germany was in many ways so troubled and there was a serious lack of true cooperation between the two nations.

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I hadn't known there had been an OeFFAG Albatros D.II - well, 16 of them.

The production numbers were incredibly small for a big Kaiserreich like Austria-Hungary.

Shows, how much Germany already was a more modern industrial state.


From what I gather, the Austrians started negotiating the Albatros deal in the fall of 1916 based on not having any fighter of their own at that point (the pathetic KD was just then entering service). At this time, the Austrians had only heard of the D.II so that's what they originally wanted, but in the course of negotiations they learned the D.III was under development so decided to go with it. Thus, the D.II(Oef) was essentially just a prototype series to get the production line going and to mark time while OeFFAG redesigned the D.III wing structure.


But you're right, Austria wasn't very industrialized. They had some brilliant designers in several different fields but lacked the factories to make their designs in the necessary quantity, as well as sufficient raw materials when they did have some factories. But OTOH, they also had about as many total idiots as they had geniuses and the idiots often had more stroke with the cumbersome bureaucracy, so the Austrians wasted a lot of their limited capacity making total crap, too.


The Germans could have given the Austrians the faster firing LMG 08/15, and both sides

would have... would have... could have... Oh, the war is long over.


The Schwarzlose was actually very good in its intended role as an infantry weapon. It was extremely mechanically reliable because it used a blowback action with very few moving parts compared to the Maxim-type, recoil-operated guns. This only really caused it problems when it came to synchronization. First off, it lacked the mechanical linkages of the Maxim-type so there wasn't an easy place to tie in a synchronizer. Second, its ROF was much more variable as a result of inconsistent ammunition, which made controlling the timing of its shots more difficult. And on top of all that, the blowback action relied on having a heavier bolt and spring than the recoil action, which made the Schwarzlose a bit heavier overall.


Notice, however, that the worst problems with the Schwarzlose only became apparent in the late-1915 to early-1916 timeframe, when the need for synchronization arose. Prior to then, all anybody had was observer guns and in this role, the Schwarzlose was perfectly adequate, if somewhat heavier and slower-firing than desired. However, the Austrians were able to modify the gun to shoot faster, so (again as an observer's weapon) it wasn't too shabby.


Synchronization gave them fits, however. The Austrians hired Fokker to develop a system but the problem exceeded his abilities. Fortunately, the Austrians came up with their own system. Actually, they came up with several different systems, all of which were put into service because each type of aircraft engine required a different device. The problem was, however, that all these mechanisms were high-tolerance devices requiring top-end manufacturing facilities, of which the Austrians didn't have enough. Thus, although they had a working synchronizer by mid-1916, they couldn't build enough of them fast enough to equip every fighter (or, if they had they synchronizer in stock, they might not have any MGs).


As a result, even OeFFAG Albatri were shipped off to the front unarmed for the squadrons to do what they could with them. The squadron might have some spare MGs lying around but not synchronizers, so they'd cobble together some retro 1915-looking expedient. My book has pics of OeFFAG D.IIIs armed with 1 MG angled off to the side like in the Bristol Scout, others with 2 guns sticking through the upper wing at an upwards angle, 1 on each side of the central radiator. The standard armament for the Berg was 1 fixed upward-angled gun on the top wing well into 1917.


But the blowback nature of the Schwarzlose made its synchronizers rather unreliable anyway. Thus, a standard fitting on Austrian fighters was a wire glued to the inside of the prop blades in line with the guns. As long as this wire was intact, it formed a circuit that illuminated a light on the instrument panel. If this light ever went out, the pilot knew he'd probably shot a hole in his prop and had better break off the action. Luckily, it seems to have take several hits to break a prop completely so this simple device seems to have saved many lives.


Despite all this, however, the Austrians finally came up with the perfect synchronizer, better than all other systems before or since. This was the Gebauer Engine Gun, where the gun was driven directly from the engine in the same way as the oil pump. The gun was thus very simple, synchronization was guaranteed, and synchronized rate of fire was WAY higher than possible with conventional (as in stand-alone) guns. Unfortunately, this system wasn't perfected until the latter half of 1918 so never entered service, and the sudden stoppage of military spending after the war prevented it from achieving the post-war success it deserved.


On the subject of ROF, don't be deceived by the high number for the German gun compared to the Schwarzlose. When synchronizing a conventional gun, the ROF is always greatly reduced from what the gun can do. This is because it's not a question of interrupting the stream of bullets to let the prop go by, it's a question of timing the gun to fire in an opening between blade passes. Most WW1 aircraft engines ran about 1500rpm in combat, so with 2 prop blades, a blade was going by 3000 times per minute, whereas the gun might fire 800 times a minute at best, if sitting on a ground tripod. As a result, the bullets have to fit between the blades, not the blades between the bullets. This always results in a significant reduction in the gun's ROF, usually in the neighborhood of 40-50%. Thus, even though a gun might have a maximum ROF of 800, it probably could only fire 400-500 in a synchronized mounting.

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