The Albatros C.I was the first in a series of armed Albatros scout aircraft that were a mainstay of the German air force from 1915 until the end of 1917.
By the end of 1914 it was clear that the scout aircraft would need to be armed. The German air service decided to order a number of C-class designs (two-seat armed aircraft) to replace the B-class (two-seat, unarmed) aircraft then in use. The new aircraft would require more powerful engines than the 100-120hp engines used in aircraft such as the Albatros B.II, and so their entry into service would be delayed while Benz, Mercedes and Argus got their more powerful engines into production.
The standard C.I was armed with a single flexibly mounted 7.92mm machine gun mounted on the rear cockpit. This meant that the observer and pilot swapped positions - on the B series aircraft the pilot had been at the back and the observer at the front, with his view limited by the wings. Some aircraft were modified in the field to carry a fixed forward firing machine gun, mounted on the centre of the upper wing. The C.I also had an internal bomb racks for four 10kg bombs.
The C.I had an angular tail unit. The horizontal and vertical surfaces were both triangular in plan, with control surfaces at their end, producing an arrow-head shape.
The Albatros C.I had a slab sided fuselage, built around a wooden frame and covered in plywood. It was an unequal span two-bay biplane, with a slightly longer upper wing. It was similar in appearance and construction to the unarmed B.II (and thus with the pre-war Albatros DD twin bay biplane). The fuselage had a wooden frame and plywood covering while the wings used wooden spars and ribs with a fabric covering.
The radiators were mounted on both sides of the fuselage, and were built up from a number of separate units which could be turned on or off individually to adjust the cooling capacity and take into account local temperature.
The first Albatros C.Is reached the front in the spring of 1915 and were present by 30 April. They entered service alongside the Aviatik C.I and just before the LVG C.I. By the end of June there were 36 Albatros C.Is at the front (out of a total of 91 C-class aircraft) and by the end of 1915 the total of C-class aircraft had risen to 660 of which 228 were Albatros C.Is. Two months later the Albatros C.I was at its most numerous, with 349 at the front. The C.I was popular with its crews as it combined the reliability of the B.I and B.II with improved performance and built-in defensive armament.
The C.I was produced under licence by Roland, who received three orders (in August, October and November 1915) for 78 aircraft. It was also produced as a trainer by the Bayerische Flugzeug Werke and by Murcur.
The C.I was produced by the Oesterreichishc-Ungarische Albatros Werke near Vienna. It received the Austrian designation Albatros B.I(Ph).
The C.I was intended to act as a scout, but it was also used for some light bombing, aerial photography and with radio equipment for early experiments in artillery spotting. It was also the first combat aircraft flown by many future German aces, including Oswald Boelcke and Manfred von Richthofen.
The C.I had a second life as an advanced trainer during the Amerika Programm of 1917 (put in place to help expand the air service in preparation for a possible American entry into the war). The C.Ia (Bay), C.Ib (Mer) and CIf (Mer) were purpose-built as trainers in 1917-1918. The C.I was used both for pilot training and for observers.
One aircraft produced with the C.I fuselage and a Benz Bz.III engine, used to test a deep-section wing.
A small number of aircraft were built with a single radiator forward of the leading edge of the upper wing centre section.
The C.Ia (Bay) was a dedicated trainer built by the Bayerische Flugzeug Werke. Three hundred were ordered in November 1917 and another 150 in June 1918. The C.Ia (Bay) used a 18-hp Argus As.III engine, had wooden wing struts and had cameras and radio equipment installed.
The C.Ib (Mer) was a trainer built by the Mercur Flugzeugbau. 250 were ordered in October 1917 and 100 in June 1918. The C.Ib (Mer) was powered by the 160hp Mercedes D.III engine. It had wooden wing struts, cameras and radio equipment and probably came with dual controls.
The C.If (Mer) was the designation given to 200 trainers ordered from Mercur in August 1918. Albatros also received a production order for the C.If, which probably differed from earlier aircraft in having pneumatic springs in the undercarriage.
Engine: 180hp Argus As.III or 150hp Benz Bz.III or 160hp Mercedes D.III
Span: 42ft 3.75in
Length: 25ft 9in
Height: 10ft 3.5in
Empty weight: 1,929lb
Maximum take-off weight: 2,624lb
Max speed: 87mph
Climb rate: 9m 45sec to 3,280ft
Endurance: 2 hours 30 minutes
Armament: One flexibly mounted 7.92mm Parabellum machine-gun, four 10kg bombs