Halberstadt D.II

The Halberstadt D.II was a biplane fighter aircraft of the Luftstreitkräfte (Imperial German Army Air Service) that served through the period of Allied air superiority in early 1916. As the first-ever biplane configuration fighter aircraft to serve in combat for the German Empire, it had begun to be superseded in the then-forming Jagdstaffeln by the superior Albatros fighters by the autumn of that year, although small numbers of Halberstadts continued in use well into 1917.

Halberstadt D.II
Class Aircraft
Type Fighter
Manufacturer Halberstadter Flugzeugwerke
Origin Austria-Hungary
Country Name Origin Year
Austria-Hungary 1915
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Germany View
Turkey (Ottoman Empire) View
Austria-Hungary 1915 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Halberstadter Flugzeugwerke 65 View

The D.II was the production version of the experimental D.I. Lightened to improve performance, it also featured staggered wings and a more powerful 120 hp Mercedes D.II engine. The side and frontal radiators that had been tried in the D.I were replaced by a wing mounted radiator, similar to that later used by the Albatros D.III and D.V. The two bay wings were very strongly braced, with the trailing edge a wooden member, as opposed to the wire or cable common on many World War I German single-engined aircraft. Photographic evidence indicates that many examples were rigged with washout on the lower wings – giving the impression of a curved or twisted lower wing trailing edge. In some photos even the upper wings have a similar sort of "trailing edge droop" on the fixed section inboard of the ailerons. The cockpit was raised in relation to where it had been on the D.I, which required a turtledeck to be built up on the rear fuselage to fair the cockpit into the lines of the fuselage. Lateral control was by ailerons, designed to use a single-forward-projecting control horn for one of the twin aileron cable's connections, with the twin cables for each surface running from the lower fuselage, outwards through the lower wing and upwards to the forward horns and the ailerons' lower surfaces, a common system for early German WW I biplane aircraft that had been used previously on the 1914-vintage DFW B.I unarmed two-seater as just one example, and on the later Albatros D.I fighter that replaced the Halberstadt D.II in 1916. However, like the earlier Fokker Eindecker, the Halberstadt D.II had no fixed tail surfaces and over-sensitive "Morane"-style balanced elevators, and rudder with no fixed fin were used for the tail surface design. Although it must have shared the typical "Morane" elevator sensitivity and the controls cannot have been well harmonised, it was very maneuvrable in skilled hands and could be dived safely at high speed. A single synchronised 7.92 mm (.312 in) lMG 08 "Spandau" machine gun fired through the propeller arc, from a mostly-exterior mount beside the starboard side of the engine cylinders.

If the only performance figures available for the type are accurate, the Halberstadt fighter’s speed and climb were little better than the Eindecker’s and inferior to such Allied contemporaries as the Nieuport 11 and the DH.2 but it earned the respect of Allied fighter pilots and was a preferred mount of the pilots of the early Jagdstaffeln, until the Albatros D.I became available.

Variants

Aviatik of Germany built the D.II under license. It was originally known as the Aviatik D.I (not to be confused with their Austrian subsidiary's independently-designed Aviatik (Berg) D.I) but was later called the Halberstadt D.II(Av).

The Halberstadt D.III primarily differed from the D.II version in its substitution of the Argus As.II 90 kW (120 hp) straight-six engine, which differed from the usual Mercedes D.II powerplant in having its camshaft in the engine block and using pushrods to operate the overhead valves, rather than having a camshaft running atop all of the cylinders as in a single overhead cam engine. A total of 50 D.III examples were built by Halberstadt, with the first 30 ordered in July 1916 and the last 20 ordered in August 1916.

The D.IV version, of which only three were built to an order placed in early March 1916, changed the wing bracing layout to a single bay, dispensed with the twin bracing struts for the "all moving" vertical tail rudder surface, and used a Benz Bz.III 110 kW (150 hp) straight-six engine for power, with a small conical spinner for better streamlining. Tested by IdFlieg in October 1916, this type was rejected for further evaluation due to a poor forward field of view for the pilot.

The D.V version was a less radical departure from the earlier D.II version and mostly differed from the D.II, in having its four-member cabane strut structure supporting a central panel for the upper wing, rather than both upper wing panel's wing roots meeting along the centreline of the aircraft, for better forward pilot vision. It also used the D.III version's Argus As.II engine and changed the mounting position of the aircraft's 7.92 mm (.312 in) lMG 08 machine gun from the right to the left side of the nose. A total of 57 D.V aircraft were built, from orders placed in October 1916 and January–June 1917, with 31 of these being sent to Germany's ally in the Central Powers, the Ottoman Empire.


Like other early German fighter types, the D.II was at first supplied in ones and twos to the ordinary six-aircraft reconnaissance units or Feldflieger Abteilungen of what would become the Luftstreitkräfte in October 1916, then gathered into small specialised fighter units – the Kampfeinsitzer-Kommandos or "KEK" units. When the first true fighter Jagdstaffeln were formed in mid-1916, the Halberstadt was the best fighter available and was used by Oswald Boelcke to demonstrate his famous pioneering air fighting tactics (the Dicta Boelcke) to the new units (although he is also recorded as flying a Fokker D.III at this period). His Halberstadt was painted bright blue – probably the first instance of the gaudy personal finishes applied by German fighter pilots to their mounts for the remainder of the war.

In service, unlike the previous Fokker Eindeckers and succeeding D-series biplanes from every other manufacturer of the era, the Halberstadt-built D-series fighters bore no marked IdFlieg-issued military serial numbers anywhere on their exteriors. The license-built Aviatik and Hannover-constructed examples of the Halberstadt D-series fighters, however, usually had IdFlieg-issued serial numbers on their rear fuselage sides.

As the new Albatros fighters came into service the Halberstadts were quickly replaced, although a few survived into early 1917. Manfred von Richthofen flew a red Halberstadt D.II for a few weeks in February and March 1917, after the spar of his Albatros D.III cracked in combat.

Role Fighter
Manufacturer Halberstädter Flugzeugwerke
Designer Karl Theis
First flight Late 1915
Introduction Early 1916
Retired 1917
Primary user Imperial German Army Air Service
Produced 1916
Number built 65


General characteristics

  • Crew: one, pilot
  • Length: 7.3 m (23 ft 11 in)
  • Wingspan: 8.8 m (28 ft 10-1/4 in)
  • Height: 2.66 m (8 ft 9 in)
  • Wing area: 23.6 m² (254 sq ft)
  • Empty weight: 519 kg (1,144 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 728.5 kg (1,606 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Mercedes D.II six cylinder in-line, 90 kW (120 hp)

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 150 km/h (93 mph)
  • Service ceiling: 4,000 m (13,123 ft)
  • Climb to 1,000 m (3,280 ft): 3.5 minutes
  • Climb to 2,000 m (6,560 ft): 8.5 minutes
  • Climb to 3,000 m (9,840 ft): 14.5 minutes
  • Climb to 4,000 m (13,120 ft): 22.5 minutes
  • Climb to 5,000 m (16,400 ft): 38.5 minutes

Armament

  • 1 × forward-firing 7.92 mm (.312 in) lMG 08 "Spandau" machine gun

End notes