In the Spring of 1918, German forces launched the Spring Offensive also known as the Kaiserschlacht. In the skies along no-mans land, the latest aircraft rolling off the production lines in Britain, France, and German clashed in what would be some of the fiercest and among the last battles of World War I.
Four years of warfare had honed the aerial battle into a deadly one with each side bringing the best aircraft of the war into direct conflict with each other – an ideal setting for a flight simulation battle that is featured in Flying Circus Vol 1.
Appearing over the battlefields of World War I in late summer of 1917, the improved SPAD XIII was eagerly awaited by frontline pilots and improving on the previous SPAD VII in nearly every way. Fast in straight lines and able to dive at excellent speeds, the SPAD XIII also boasted twin Vickers Mk.I 7.69mm machine guns doubling the firepower of earlier versions.
The SPAD was well regarded by French, American, British and Italian pilots that all flew it in combat.
- One of the fastest and best diving fighters of WWI
- Well armed
- Poor overall visibility
The Sopwith Camel had a dual reputation for being one of the deadliest and most agile fighters in the Entente air armada but with tricky handling characteristics that could easily prove deadly to the pilots flying them. The Sopwith Camel’s legendary status was earned in the skies over the Western Front in 1917 and 1918 where it helped turn the tide against the previously superior German fighters.
- Highly agile and reasonably fast in top speed and climb (though outclassed by newer opponents)
- Well armed
- Good visibility except upwards
- Rotary engine and design characteristics makes the aircraft prone to spins
- Poor upward visibility
Arriving in the winter of 1918 to frontline squadrons, the Sopwith Dolphin was intended to rectify many of the Sopwith Camel’s undesirable traits including poor upward visibility and tricky handling characteristics. With agility similar to the Camel and performance approaching that of the S.E.5a, the Dolphin never achieved the legendary status of its predecessor but was well used until the end of the war.
- Great forward and upward visibility
- Well armed with up to four machine guns including adjustable machine gun mounts for attacking bombers
- Rear and downward visibility somewhat restricted
Slow to arrive to the frontlines, the S.E.5a is widely considered to be one of the best scout fighters of World War I and often thought of as an “ace maker” in the hands of the Entente’s best pilots. Armed with a single Vickers Mk.I and a wing mounted Lewis machine gun, the S.E.5a was as well armed as its contemporaries and thanks to the 200hp V8 Wolseley Viper engine, it was also one of the fastest and highest flying though slightly less responsive on the controls compared to other types like the Sopwith Camel.
- Fast climbing and excellent top speed
- Well armed
- Few negative handling attributes
- Not as agile or responsive as the Camel or other highly agile fighters
The Bristol F.2 fighter was designed to be an aerial reconnaissance and scout aircraft and cable enough to be able to carry a small bombload and function as a light bomber. Bristol’s F.2B was the definitive version. It was armed typically with a single forward firing Vickers 7.69mm machine gun and the rear observer was armed with a single or dual mount .303 Lewis gun.
Fast and robustly constructed, the F.2B was also highly agile despite its size and weight and was capable of engaging single seat fighters. The F.2B’s operational history took it from late 1916 for earlier versions with the last versions serving until 1932.
- Fast and capable of climbing quickly given its size and weight
- Durable and robust construction
- Good handling characteristics
Fokker Dr. I
The infamous Fokker Dr.I triplane exists like few other aircraft in the public consciousness. It is the “aircraft the the Red Baron flew” and although Manfred von Richthofen scored many kills in other fighters, it is this one that is forever joined with his reputation. The Dr. I was quick climbing, well armed with twin Spandau machine guns, and thanks to its triplane design was highly agile.
Outclassed by the spring of 1918, the Dr. I remained a potent force in the hands of many German aces that had honed their skills on the fighter and were able to extract every last bit of performance from the aircraft.
- Highly agile with a good climb rate
- Superb visibility
- Good firepower
- Much slower than opposing fighters
Fighter squadrons began receiving the Albatross D.Va in May 1917 and the fighter made a big impression right away. Fast and maneuverable, the Albatross D.Va solved many of the design defects from earlier Albatross fighters and earned the distinction of one of the best fighters of WWI.
- Good general all around performance in all attributes
- Relatively easy to fly
- Good firepower with twin Spandau machine guns
- Not as fast, or quick to climb as some late war types
Flying with a 175 hp Mercedes or 185 hp BMW engine, the Fokker D.VII is another candidate as one of the best fighters of WWI and was widely regarded as one of the most impressive of the period with the ability to climb and even hang on its propeller. With a docile stall and high structural strength, pilots could dive the D.VII with little fear of structural failure as with earlier German types. Many Fokker D.VII’s were retained after the war as ‘war trophies.’
- Simply put, one of the best fighters of WWI
- Excellent top speed at higher altitudes, excellent climb rate
- Somewhat larger than some other contemporaries makes it easier to spot
Coming into service at approximately the same time as the Albatross D.V, the Pfalz D.III never quite matched the reputation of its closest rival being somewhat lower performing and with poorer handling than the superb Albatross. The Pfalz did, however, have one significant advantage over its rival and that was structural strength as the Pfalz was able to perform dives that the Albatross was unable to.
A fighter and ground attack aircraft, the Halberstadt CL.II proved to be an excellent close support aircraft that was highly agile and capable of combating single seat fighters. Early versions entered service in August of 1917 and continued flying until the end of the war. The CL.II could be configured to carry a 20mm cannon operated by the rear observer on a flexible mount and could carry a wide variety of grenades and bombs for use in ground attack.