The Fokker E.I was the first successful fighter aircraft to enter service with the Luftstreitkräfte in mid-1915. Its arrival at the front marked the start of a period known as the "Fokker Scourge" during which the E.I and its Eindecker successors achieved a measure of air superiority over the Western Front.
Design and development
The E.I was essentially an armed version of the Fokker M.5K single-seat reconnaissance aircraft(military designation A.III), which was in turn very closely based on the design of the 1913 French Morane-Saulnier Type H. Like the Morane, the Fokker was an externally braced mid-winged monoplane with a tapered box section fuselage, with fully movable horizontal and vertical stabilizing surfaces, also known as "flying" surfaces, giving the pilot the usual tail control functions - roll control was achieved through controlled wing warping, as was conventional in contemporary monoplanes.Wing warping was achieved through external cables attached to the surface and running through a king post located in the front of the cockpit. The fuselage structure was fabric covered welded steel tubing - this constituted the biggest difference between the Fokker and the Morane, which had an entirely wooden framework. Welded steel tube provided the basis for the structure of all Fokker aircraft for many years.
This unremarkable and derivative design was, however, transformed into a formidable fighter when it was fitted with the newly-developed synchronizer gear, the Fokker Stangensteuerung, firing a single 7.92 mm (.312 in) Parabellum LMG 14 or Spandau LMG 08 machine gun through the spinning propeller. Indeed the first five E.Is had been ordered and were under construction as A.IIIs but were completed as M.5K/MG aircraft, retaining the earlier "shoulder-wing" placement of the A.III type. Subsequent production E.Is had their wings lowered slightly from the M.5's shoulder configuration, which improved pilot visibility. (These were designated by Fokker as the M.14 which was also used for the following two Eindecker variants.)
All Fokker E.I aircraft had a 68.5 l (18.1 US gal) capacity, single gravity fuel tank.
Two German pilots, Leutnants Otto Parschau and Kurt Wintgens, worked very closely with Anthony Fokker in early 1915 during the introduction of the M.5K/MG aircraft to evaluational service. Parschau was given the first production M.5K/MG, serial number E.1/15. Wintgens received the last aircraft, serial number E.5/15. Wintgens was flying this aircraft when he scored the first true fighter victory in aviation history on July 1, 1915, over a two-seat Morane-Saulnier Type L parasol monoplane.
The E.I was mainly flown by the ordinary Fliegertruppe, later known as the Luftstreitkräfte, of the German Army - the formation of specialised fighter squadrons in the German air service was still to come. Two were supplied to the Austro-Hungarian air force and five to the Kaiserliche Marine in April 1916. The E.I was soon joined by the improved Fokker E.II and, as the first E.Is were entering service in June 1915, the first of the E.II type was being demonstrated by Anthony Fokker. However, E.I production continued in parallel with the E.II and output of the types depended on the availability of the Oberursel engines; the 60 kW (80 hp) U.0 copy of the Gnôme Lambda rotary engine for the E.I and the 75 kW (100 hp) U.I copy of the Gnôme Monosoupape for the E.II. In fact, E.Is were still being produced in 1916 well after E.II production had ceased, having been superseded by the Fokker E.III. By 1916, a total of 54 had been manufactured and delivered to the German Army, Navy and the Austro-Hungarian army.
Published - July 2009
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