Corgi AA28702 German Fokker E.III Eindecker Fighter - Manfred von Richthofen, Kasta 8, Kagol No. 2, Eastern Front, June 1916 (1:48 Scale)
"When you march into France, let the last man on the right brush the Channel with his sleeve."
- General Alfred von Schlieffen, referring to the Schlieffen Plan just prior to his death in 1913
The Fokker Eindecker fighters were a series of German World War I monoplane single-seat fighter aircraft designed by Dutch engineer Anthony Fokker. Developed in April 1915, the first Eindecker ("Monoplane") was the first purpose-built German fighter aircraft and the first aircraft to be fitted with a synchronization gear, enabling the pilot to fire a machine gun through the arc of the propeller without striking the blades. The Eindecker gave the German Air Service a degree of air superiority from July 1915 until early 1916. This period, during which Allied aviators regarded their poorly armed aircraft as "Fokker Fodder", became known as the "Fokker Scourge".
The Eindecker was based on Fokker's unarmed Fokker M.5K scout (military designation Fokker A.III) which in turn was based on the design of the French Morane-Saulnier H shoulder-wing monoplane, although it differed in using chrome-molybdenum steel tubing for the fuselage structure instead of wood. It was fitted with an early version of the Fokker synchronizer mechanism controlling a single Parabellum MG14 machine gun. Anthony Fokker personally demonstrated the system on May 23rd, 1915, having towed the prototype aircraft behind his touring car to a military airfield near Berlin.
Pictured here is a 1:48 scale replica of a German Fokker E.II Eindecker fighter that was piloted by Manfred von Richthofen, who was attached to Kasta 8 then deployed to the Eastern Front during June 1916.
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Historical Account: "The Fokker Scourge" - For a man who stands as arguably the most famous fighter ace of all time, Manfred von Richthofen would begin WW1 as a cavalry reconnaissance officer, however, the advent of trench warfare soon had him searching for a more appropriate challenge. Attracted by the thrill of flying, he applied to join the Imperial German Army Air Service, initially as an aerial observer, but only because the training was shorter than that of a pilot, so he could get into the action more quickly.
As an armed observer, von Richthofen shot down two Allied aircraft, but neither were credited as both came down behind enemy lines and could not be verified. A chance meeting with the influential airman Oswald Boelcke on a train journey across France inspired von Richthofen to apply for pilot training almost immediately and on passing his final examinations on Christmas Day 1915, he was assigned to Kasta 8 on the Eastern Front.
Honing his undoubted flying skills whilst conducting reconnaissance flights over the trenches, von Richthofen would meet Boelcke once more during the summer of 1916, where he was invited to become one of the first dedicated fighter pilots of the Luftstreitkrafte and a member of the specialist Jasta 2 hunting squadron.
With influential airmen such as Max Immelmann and Oswald Boelcke championing the use of the airplane as an offensive weapon during WW1, the arrival of the Fokker Eindecker at front line units would prove significant in the history of aviation.
The world's first true dedicated fighter aircraft, the Eindecker introduced an effective interrupter gear system, which allowed the pilot to fire through the arc of the propeller and in his line of sight, making targeting of an enemy aircraft much easier. Its introduction led to a devastating period of aerial supremacy for the Luftstreitkrafte which became known as the 'Fokker Scourge', however, despite the horrendous toll the Eindecker took of Allied aircraft, its destructive impact could have been so much worse.
Initially, the German High Command would not allow their new aircraft to be flown near Allied lines, for fear the secrets of their new fighter would be discovered and resulted in many simply being used to chaperone reconnaissance aircraft. Also, the handling characteristics of the Eindecker could prove extremely challenging for the pilot, with its flight control systems having changed little from those employed by the Wright Brothers during their famous first flight of 1903 - it required a pilot's undivided attention all the time.
A relatively fragile airplane, it would not be long before more robust and maneuverable aircraft ended the dominance of the Eindecker.