|Manufacturer||Flugzeugbau Friedrichshafen GmbH|
|Produced||1917 to 1918|
The Friedrichshafen G.III (factory designation FF.45) was a medium bomber designed and manufactured by Flugzeugbau Friedrichshafen. They were used by the German Imperial Air Service (the Luftstreitkräfte) during World War I for tactical and limited strategic bombing operations. After the end of the war a number of Friedrichshafen bombers were converted into transport aircraft while a small number also saw service as dedicated airliners.
The earlier G.II paved the way for the larger and more powerful G.III, which entered service in early 1917. While it looked somewhat similar to the G.II, the G.III was longer and had a greater wingspan which caused its designers to increase the number of interplane struts to three pairs on each side of the fuselage. Operational experience with the G.II had revealed a tendency for the aircraft to "nose over" during landings with deadly consequences for the nose gunner and possibly also the pilot. Friedrichshafen engineers solved this problem by equipping the G.III with an auxiliary wheel mounted under the nose gunner's position. The G.III also used the more powerful six-cylinder 190 kW (260 hp) Mercedes D.IVa engines. The extra power increased the bomb carrying capability enabling the aircraft to carry a bomb load of up to 1,000 kg (2,200 lb), though this severely reduced operational range. In practice, the heaviest bomb load rarely exceeded 600 kg (1,320 lb). Some of the bomb load could be carried internally but most of it was carried on removable external bomb-racks and usually consisted of streamlined P.u.W bombs but specialized munitions such as air-mines could also be carried. As production continued modifications were made to the G.III series that resulted in further two sub-variants:
This sub-variant reintroduced a box-shaped biplane tail unit which improved the aircraft's control response when it was being flown on one engine. Another modification was the installation of a third 7.92 mm (.312 in) machine gun to combat British night fighters, which often attacked German bombers from below where they were hard to spot but the bomber's silhouette was easy to see against the night sky. This gun was mounted on a tubular, sliding mounting bolted to the floor of the rear gunner's position and was fired downward through a small sloping gun-tunnel cut into the bottom of the rear fuselage. By the last year of the war, the G.IIIa had replaced the G.III in production.
Towards the end of the war, the G.IIIa was further modified by re-designing the rear gunner's position, which was connected to the pilot's cockpit by an open passageway.
The Friedrichshafen G.III series was ordered in large numbers from Friedrichshafen (709 ordered), Daimler (75 ordered) and Hanseatische Flugzeug Werke (280 ordered) and most of these aircraft were delivered before the war ended. A license for the production of the Friedrichshafen G.IIIa was acquired by the Oesterreichische Flugzeugfabrik A.G. (Oeffag) for the Austro-Hungarian Luftfahrttruppe but the project was cut short before production began by the end of World War I.
In front-line service with the Luftstreitkräfte, the G.III series equipped a large portion of the bomber force until the end of the war. The G.III series bombers served mainly on the Western Front where they were used to great effect. Being the most numerous German bomber type, Friedrichshafen G.III/IIIa bombers would have been responsible for much of the damage done by the German bomber force. Friedrichshafen bombers were used for attacks on tactical targets behind the Allied lines as well as for strategic air raids on major urban centers such as Paris. As far as is known no Friedrichshafen bombers of any type ever participated in strategic air raids on Britain. The attacks on Britain were conducted exclusively  by Gotha G.IV and G.V medium bombers, Zeppelin Staaken R.IV heavy bombers and Zeppelin airships. The G.III was generally well liked by its military crews for its load carrying capability, reliability and robustness. These same qualities also made it popular with commercial operators during its short post-war career as a transport aircraft and airliner.
Transport and airliner conversions
After the end of World War I, the German government and at least one commercial airline, Deutsche Luft-Reederei (DLR), operated a fleet of Friedrichshafen G.III series aircraft which were used to transport mail, high priority cargoes and the occasional passenger to and from a variety of destinations including some long distance flights to Ukraine. For this purpose, a standard bomber, usually a G.IIIa or G.IIIb, was subjected to a set of modifications ranging from the simple disarmament to fitting a rudimentary cargo compartment in place of the rear gunner's position. Some of the DLR aircraft had the rear gunner's position replaced with a fully enclosed, glazed passenger cabin. Eventually, all these operations were stopped by the Allies in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles.
Specifications (Friedrichshafen G.III)
- Crew: 3
- Length: 12.8 m (42 ft 0 in)
- Wingspan: 23.7 m (77 ft 9 in)
- Height: 3.66 m (12 ft 0 in)
- Wing area: 95.0 m2 (1,023 sq ft)
- Empty weight: 2,695 kg (5,941 lb)
- Max takeoff weight: 3,930 kg (8,664 lb)
- Powerplant: 2 × Mercedes D.IVa six-cylinder, water-cooled, inline engine, 194 kW (260 hp) each
- Maximum speed: 135 km/h (84 mph; 73 kn)
- Range: 600 km (373 mi; 324 nmi) approx.
- Endurance: 5 hours
- Service ceiling: 4,500 m (14,764 ft) 
- Usually 2-3 × 7.92 mm (.312 in) Parabellum MG14 machine guns.
- Any combination of 12.5 kg (7.5 lb), 50 kg (110 lb), 100 kg (220 lb), 300 kg (660 lb) or 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) P.u.W bombs or air-mines up to a maximum warload of 1000 kg (2,200 lb).
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
References and notes
- Murphy, Justin D. (2005). Military aircraft, origins to 1918 : an illustrated history of their impact. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. p. 174. ISBN 1-85109-488-1. Retrieved 14 April 2011.
- Production figures can be found in Groz (1994, 1995, 1997)
- There are numerous sources that testify to the effectiveness of the German World War I bomber force in general. These include: Imrie (1971), Groz (1988, 1994, 1995, 1997), Fredette (1991).
- While not as deadly as their World War II counterparts World War I bombers could be quite effective. One example of this is an attack by nine german bombers on No. 2 Base Mechanical Transport Depot on the 11th of August 1918 which destroyed spares for over 20,000 vehicles. This was equivalent to almost half the British motor transport fleet on the western front at the time (Harvey, 1993, P.401) . The total monetary damage caused in this one air raid amounted to £1.25 million in which was almost as much damage as caused by the entire bombing campaign on Britain (Imrie 1991, p.6).
- Fredette (1991) gives a history of the raids on Britain and Groz et. al (1988) which contains they history of the Zeppelin R planes. Neither source mentions the involvement of Friedrichshafen bombers.
- The G.III/G.IIIa had a useful load of 1235/1500kg, that of the Gotha G.IV 730kg and that of the AEG G.IV was 1235kg Groz (1994 P.15, 1995 P.36, 1997 P.31).
- Range was not normally specified in contemporary documents who simply stated that flight duration was '5 hours'. This could, and frequently was, extended somewhat by installing additional fuel tanks.
- The Complete Encyclopedia of Flight 1848-1939 by John Batchelor and Malcolm V. Lowe
- Grosz, Peter M.: Windsock Datafile 51 AEG G.IV, Berkhamsted 1995, ISBN 0-948414-68-5
- Grosz, Peter M.: Windsock Datafile 65 Friedrichshafen G.III / G.IIIa, Berkhamsted 1997, ISBN 0-948414-97-9
- Grosz, Peter M.: Windsock Datafile Special, Gotha!, Berkhamsted 1994, ISBN 0-948414-57-X
- Groz, Peter M; Haddow, George W; The German Giants - The German R-Planes 1914-1918, 3rd ed., London 1988, ISBN 0-85177-812-7
- Fredette, Raymond H; The Sky on Fire, Washington D.C. 1991, ISBN 1-56098-016-8
- Imrie, Alex; Pictorial History of the German Army Air Service 1914-1918, Chicago 1971, Library of Congress Card Number 72-11940
- Harvey, Arnold D; Collision of empires: Britain in three world wars 1793-1945, London 1993, ISBN 1-85285-078-7
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