The Fokker D.III was the German army designation for the Fokker M.19 biplane, initially ordered in 1916 as a fighter, but soon relegated to training duties. The prototype M.19 had been sent to Adlershof for testing on 20 July 1916, but by then fifty aircraft had already been ordered as the new design was very similar to the D.II. Another sixty aircraft were ordered in August and one hundred more in November, for a total of 210 aircraft.
Aircraft began to reach the front line during September 1916. One aircraft was used by the German ace Oswald Boelke. His initial impressions were good, and he scored six victories while flying the type, but he soon moved on to the faster Albatros D.I. In combat the D.III was on a par with its allied opponents of September 1916 (amongst them the Sopwith 1 ½ Strutter), so it would always have had a limited front-line career as newer allied aircraft appeared.
The frontline career of the Fokker D.III was cut short by the quality problems that plagued Fokker aircraft during 1916. In October 1916 the Fokker M.21 prototype failed a number of tests. In response a random D.III was pulled from the production line for detailed tests in November. The general build-quality of the aircraft was criticized, while important control elements failed completely, amongst them the rudder, the elevator and the control cables!
Fokker received yet another in the series of lectures from the German army over his quality control methods, but production was allowed to continue. However, on 6 December 1916, after a series of crashes involving other Fokker aircraft, all Fokker-built aircraft were withdrawn from front line combat duties. Existing D.IIIs were either used for training, or sent to join home defence units. The type had a final burst of life in 1918, when a new generation of rotary engined aircraft (including the Fokker Dr.I) were about to enter service. Rotary engined aircraft were rare during 1917, and so surviving D.IIIs (and D.Vs) were sent to the front to give pilots some experience of flying rotary engine powered aircraft.
Span: 29ft 8in
Length: 20ft 8in
Engine: 160hp Oberursal UR.III
Max Speed: 100mph
Time to 3,300ft: 3 minutes
Time to 13,000ft: 20 minutes
Armaments: Two LMG 08/15 machine-guns synchronized firing forward.