Archive digitization



Aviation and Diplomacy

Frank Piasecki

NATO 1949-2009 Projekt ekspozycji w Muzeum Lotnictwa Polskiego w Krakowie

Województwo Małopolskie





Aeroplane: LFG Roland D.VI

LFG Roland D.VI
Germany
fighter
1918



  • Technical data


Span 9.4 m
Length 6.3 m
Take-off weight 820 kg
Maximum speed 182 km/h
Ceiling 6000 m
Range 2 hours
Armament Two fixed 7.92 mm Spandau machine guns
Powerplant :
6-cylinder inline Benz Bz IIIa, 185 hp (136 kW)

 

A late WWI German fighter with unusual fuselage construction.

The last months of 1917 and the beginning of the final year of the First World War for Germany were under the sign of fixing the shortages. The lack of qualified personnel, equipment, fuel, engines, materials, and the never ending efforts of regaining the air superiority, fruited in designing ever more interesting constructions.

A single seat wooden biplane fighter, the LFG Roland D.VI was constructed at the end of 1917 at Berlin's Luftfahrzeug-Gesellschaft m.b.H. The company's trademark was Roland the knight, hence the name of aircraft manufactured by LFG. The chief designer of the company, Kurt Tantzen, together with engineers Richter and Cammerer worked out a method of making streamlined fuselages as shells formed from strips of plywood, attached to light skeleton made of multi-layer, glued formers and spruce longerons.

This method, known as Klinkerrumpf (lit. clinker construction fuselage), appeared as a way of coping with plywood shortages that were suffered by Germany due to Allied naval blockade. Interestingly, the Klinkerrumpf had its roots in an ancient boat-building technique, employed e.g. by the Vikings. However, the construction process was very time-consuming. After an initial forming of the two halves of a fuselage on a wooden mould, they were put together on a light skeleton. After the assembly, the entire fuselage was coated with a special dope, based on copal resin.

Mass production started in February 1918. At first, there came three Roland D.VI aircraft of the prototype series, powered by the Mercedes D III/Benz Bz IIIa engine. Also in February, the first fifty airframes of the D.VIa version were produced. The next hundred machines were assembled in June 1918. This batch was powered by the Mercedes D III engine. The airframes of the D.VIb series with the Bz IIIa engines were produced from April until September same year. In total, 359 examples of the fighter were built.

The first Roland D.VI reached the frontline in May 1918. Based on available sources it is known that the majority of those machines equipped fighter squadrons (Jagdstaffeln, abbr. Jasta) No. 23b, 32b, 33, 35b as well as naval aviation squadrons. By the end of June, fifty five Roland VI fighters were engaged in combat altogether, with another seventy joining in August. This is the last month, from which there is credible information concerning combat engagement of these machines.

Despite unquestionable advantages, the Roland did not play a major role in the First World War – it was outperformed by the simpler in construction and better powered Fokker D.VII. The Roland D.VI, despite excellent aerodynamics, had insufficient power for vertical combat. Another problem was the frequent breaking of the fuselage in the section behind the pilot's cockpit - especially during hard landings.

The LFG Roland D.VI serial number 2225/18 took part in the second fighter's competition in Adlershof. After the war it became a part of the German Aviation Collection. Found in Poland in 1945, its remains were shipped to Krakow in 1963. The demolished fuselage, broken into three large and several smaller pieces, was integrated (recreating part of the formers and many fragments of the skin). All the original fragments were put back to their places and the whole of the fuselage was impregnated with a dope based on copal resin (as was originally done). The Krakow's Roland D.VI is the only suriving example in the world.

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