Lesser Known German World War I Fighters
Roland D.II – Fokker D.VIII – Junkers D.I

About the only good thing that can be said for war is that it brings on rapid technological change. Improvements which might have taken years or decades to be tested and adopted took only months or years under the pressure of war. World War I brought rapid change to the field of aviation in which the simple wood, fabric and wire biplanes of 1914, like the Morane G, had been replaced by sophisticated wood and metal machine only four years later. Here are three examples, two of which might have revolutionized fighter design further had the war continued into 1919.

Roland D.II in 1/72 by Kovozavody Prostejov
This aircraft represents the state of German aviation technology in 1916 when the prototype made its first flight in October that year. The flying surfaces were the traditional wood and fabric but the fuselage was constructed from laminated plywood which gave a strong and streamlined shape. (This was the same basic construction as Germany’s famous Albatros fighters.) Despite being constructed using the latest techniques the Roland D.II was not a successful fighter, only 300 were manufactured and most were relegated to operations on the Eastern Front.

This model was made using the Kovozavody Prostejov kit that was first published in 2021 in three different boxings. I quite liked it and wrote a Workbench Note about the experience and would recommend it to anyone.  Before these recent kits there was a Roseplane vacform kit, Merlin and Pegasus injection moulded kits and a CMR resin kit. Of these, the CMR kit was probably pretty good. I would have been very skeptical that anything could be done with either the Merlin or Pegasus kits but the build review on the iModeler.com website shows what can be done with, skill and patience on the Pegasus kit.

Fokker E.V/D.VIII in 1/72 Roden
The Fokker E.V was the latest evolution of Fokker fighter that had begun in 1915 with the famous Fokker Eindecker. The main feature of this fighter was the wooden wing which made the fighter light and agile. They began entering service in July 1918 but were soon withdrawn from service after several wing failures which, it turned out, were due to very shoddly work practices. With properly manufactured wings deliveries began again in October 1918 under the designation Fokker D.VIII. A total of 381 were manufactured but only 85 had reached front line service when the fighting ended.

There are probably three kits from which you can make a good replica of this aircraft. The first was the Eduard kit first published in 1995, I once owned a copy but didn’t make it because it looked too challenging for my skills at that time. Next is the Roden kit that I made this model from. It was a pleasant little build experience up until it came time to apply the decals, which were horrendously brittle and showed little inclination to settle on the model except for the harshest treatment. The review of this kit on internetmodeler rates this kit highly and equal to or better to the Eduard kit in most respects. More recent than the Roden kit is 2017 Arma Hobbies kit, which is not quite to the standard of more recent Arma kits, but is still very nice, according to the review on the Hyperscale website.  Cybermodeler agrees and concluded that this kit is ‘totally terrific!’  I think the Fokker D.VIII is such a lovely looking little fighter that I’m very tempted.

Junkers D.I in 1/72 by in 1/72 by Roden
Hugo Junkers was experimenting with the idea of all-metal aircraft around the beginning of World War I and his ideas had evolved through nine increasingly improved aircraft, culminating in the J9 which first flew in May 1918. Official opinions about it were mixed but around 40 were ordered in May and August 1918. When production stopped in May 1919 around 27 aircraft had been produced. There is uncertainty about whether any flew in combat but what is certain is that the D.I was the world’s first operational all-metal fighter, but it would not be until the mid 1930s before that technology became accepted in fighter production again.

I made this model from the Roden kit and really enjoyed the experience. I didn’t find any real problems with the process and think the finished model is delightful. You can find reviews of this kit on the IPMS/USA and Hyperscale websites which agree with me (which is always nice). The only real option to equal this is perhaps the Choroszy Modelbud kit which dates from 2006, which is probably resin and, from my experience with kits from this company, may build up into a decent model. But in this scale the Roden kit captures as much detail as you are likely to see and looks very nice, so buy one (if you haven’t already) and build it.