Riesenflugzeug

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A Riesenflugzeug (plural Riesenflugzeuge, German for "giant aircraft"), sometimes colloquially referred to in English as an R-plane, was a large World War I German bomber. These were large multi-engine aircraft capable of flying several hours with larger bomb loads than the smaller Grossflugzeug bombers such as the Gotha G.V. Some of the earliest Riesenflugzeuge were given G-type designations before being redesignated, but a major distinction was that the requirements for the R-type specified that the engines had to be serviceable in flight. As a result designs fell into two groups - those with the engines mounted centrally inside the fuselage using gearboxes and driveshafts to transfer the power to propellers mounted between the wings, and those with conventional powerplant installations mounted in large nacelles or the nose of the aircraft where engineers would be stationed for each group of engines. The transmission of power from the centrally mounted engines to the remote propellers proved troublesome in practice and most operations examples were of the second type.

The Idflieg (Inspektion der Fliegertruppen (Inspection of the Air Force), the German Army department responsible for military aviation), assigned the letter R to this type of aircraft, which would then be followed by a period and a Roman numeral type number. Seaplanes were denoted by the addition of a lower case "s" after the "R" in the designation.

The Riesenflugzeuge were the largest aircraft of World War I. In comparison, the largest equivalent Allied aircraft were the Sikorsky Ilya Muromets[note 1] with a span of 29.8 m (97 ft 9 in), the Caproni Ca.4 with a span of 29.9 m (98 ft 1 in), the one-off Felixstowe Fury with a span of 37.5m (123 ft) and the Handley Page V/1500 with a span of 38.41 m (126 ft 0 in), of which only three had been delivered by the time the war ended. The Riesenflugzeuge that bombed London during the First World War were larger than any of the German bombers used during the Second World War, and the largest built, the Siemens-Schuckert R.VIII had a wingspan of 48.0 m (157 ft 6 in), greater than the 43.06 m (141 ft 3 in) span of a Boeing B-29 Superfortress.

The Riesenflugzeuge were operational from 1915 to 1919, most of which were built as "one-off" aircraft.

List of aircraft[edit]

Type Engines Span First
flight
Service Notes Number
built
AEG R.I 4 × 260 hp Mercedes D.IV 36 m (118 ft 1 in) 1916 None broke up in flight in 1918 1 completed, 7 more partially built
DFW R.I 4 × 220 hp Mercedes D.IV 29.5 m (96 ft 9 in) 1916 Eastern Front crashed on 2nd combat flight[1] 1
DFW R.II 4 × 260 hp Mercedes D.IVa 30.06 m (98 ft 7 in) 1918 Trainer as unsuitable for combat 2 of 6 ordered
DFW R.III 8 × 260 hp Mercedes D.IV 53.5 m (175 ft 6 in) n/a None Incomplete at end of war, cancelled None
Linke-Hofmann R.I 4 × 260 hp Mercedes D.IVa 33.2 m (108 ft 11 in) 1917 None First example had 32.02 m (105 ft 1 in) span[1] 4
Linke-Hofmann R.II 4 × 260 hp Mercedes D.IVa 42.16 m (138 ft 4 in) 1919 None 2
Poll/Forssman Giant[2] 10 × unk. engines 50.3 m (165 ft 0 in) n/a None Cancelled incomplete None
Siemens-Schuckert Forssman R 2 × 110 hp Mercedes D.III
& 2 × 220 hp Mercedes D.IVa
24.0 m (78 ft 9 in) 1915 Trainer 1
Siemens-Schuckert R.I 3 × 150 hp Benz Bz.III 28.0 m (91 ft 10 in) 1915 Eastern Front
& training
[1] 1
Siemens-Schuckert R.II 3 × 260 hp Mercedes D.IVa 38.0 m (124 ft 8 in) 1915 Training span increased[1] 1
Siemens-Schuckert R.III 3 × 220 hp Benz Bz.IV 34.33 m (112 ft 8 in) 1915 Training [1] 1
Siemens-Schuckert R.IV 3 × 220 hp Benz Bz.IV 37.6 m (123 ft 4 in) 1916 Training Span increased[1] 1
Siemens-Schuckert R.V 3 × 220 hp Benz Bz.IV 34.33 m (112 ft 8 in) 1916 Eastern front Span increased[1] 1
Siemens-Schuckert R.VI 3 × 220 hp Benz Bz.IV 33.36 m (109 ft 5 in) 1916 Eastern front Span increased[1] 1
Siemens-Schuckert R.VII 3 × 260 hp Mercedes D.IVa 38.44 m (126 ft 1 in) 1917 Eastern front [1] 1
Siemens-Schuckert R.VIII 6 × 300 hp Basse und Selve BuS.IVa 48.0 m (157 ft 6 in) n/a None 2 (one unfinished)
Zeppelin-Lindau Rs.I 3 × 240 hp Maybach Mb.IV 43.5 m (142 ft 9 in) n/a None Wrecked unflown, 1915[note 2] 1
Zeppelin-Lindau Rs.II 3 × 240 hp Maybach Mb.IV 33.2 m (108 ft 11 in) 1916 None [note 2] 1
Zeppelin-Lindau Rs.III 3 × 245 hp Maybach Mb.IVa 37.0 m (121 ft 5 in) 1917 Evaluation [note 2] 1
Zeppelin-Lindau Rs.IV 4 × 245 hp Maybach Mb.IVa 37 m (121 ft 5 in) 1918 None [note 2]
Zeppelin-Staaken VGO.I 3 × 240 hp Maybach HS
or 5 × 245 hp Maybach Mb.IVa
42.2 m (138 ft 5 in) 1915 Kaiserliche Marine [note 3]
Zeppelin-Staaken VGO.II 3 × 240 hp Maybach HS 42.2 m (138 ft 5 in) 1916 Eastern front
& trainer
[note 3][1]
Zeppelin-Staaken VGO.III 6 × 160 hp Mercedes D.III 42.2 m (138 ft 5 in) 1916 Eastern front [note 3][1]
Zeppelin-Staaken R.IV 2 × 160 hp Mercedes D.III
& 4 × 220 hp Benz Bz.IV
42.2 m (138 ft 5 in) 1917? Eastern front
& Western front
One built
Zeppelin-Staaken R.V 5 × 245 hp Maybach Mb.IVa 42.2 m (138 ft 5 in) 1917? Western front One built
Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI 4 × 260 hp Mercedes D.IVa 42.2 m (138 ft 5 in) 1917? Western front 18 built
Zeppelin-Staaken R.VII 2 × 160 hp Mercedes D.III
& 4 × 220 hp Benz Bz.IV
42.2 m (138 ft 5 in) 1917 None Wrecked on delivery
Zeppelin-Staaken R.XIV 5 × 245 hp Maybach Mb.IVa 42.2 m (138 ft 5 in) 1918 Western front Three built
Zeppelin-Staaken R.XIVa 5 × 245 hp Maybach Mb.IVa 42.2 m (138 ft 5.5in) ? Post-war Seized while smuggling
Zeppelin-Staaken R.XV 5 × 245 hp Maybach Mb.IVa 42.2 m (138 ft 5.5in) 1918 Western Front
Zeppelin-Staaken R.XVI 2 × 530 hp Benz Bz.VI
& 2 × 220 hp Benz Bz.IV
42.2 m (138 ft 5 in) 1918 Airliner Two completed, 3rd unfinished[note 4]
Zeppelin-Staaken L 4 × 245 hp Maybach Mb.IVa 42.2 m (138 ft 5 in) ? None Floatplane variant. Wrecked in trials.[note 5] 1
Zeppelin-Staaken Type 8301 4 × 245 hp Maybach Mb.IVa 42.2 m (138 ft 5 in) ? floatplane airliner 3 built for Kaiserliche Marine 3

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The first successful large aircraft, and the inspiration for the German Grossflugzeug and Riesenflugzeuge bombers
  2. ^ a b c d Flying-boat developed by Claudius Dornier while working for Zeppelin.
  3. ^ a b c Built at Versuchsbau Gotha Ost to Zeppelin design
  4. ^ One built during war which did not see any service. One was never completed. One was built as a civilian airliner
  5. ^ Built for Kaiserliche Marine

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Haddow, 1962, p.67
  2. ^ G. Sollinger, "The Forssman Tri-plane, The Largest Aeroplane Of World War I" The Forssmann-Triplane

Bibliography[edit]

  • Gray, Peter; Thetford, Owen (1962). German Aircraft of the First World War. London: Putman. 
  • Haddow, G.W.; Grosz, Peter M. (1962). The German Giants, The Story of the R-planes 1914–1919. London: Putman. 
  • Sollinger, G. (2009). Villehad Forssman: Constructing German Bombers 1914-1918. Moscow: Rusavia Publishing House. 

External links[edit]