Albatros D.III (Oef) by Blue Max

1/48 scale
Cost: $35.00
Decals: Three versions
Comments: Very nice multimedia kit with specialized parts for 3 individual versions

History

Manufactured under license from the German Albatros mbH, Johannistal, the Oeffag (Oesterreichische Flugzeugfabrik AG) Company developed an already superlative airframe into the most successful fighter of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Instead of evolving the D.III into an altogether different beast, as Albatros mbH did with the D.V and D.Va, Oeffag set about refining and strengthening the existing airframe to accept a more powerful engine in the form of the 185/200 hp Austro Daimler.

Perhaps the most significant advantage the D.III (Oef) had over its Teutonic cousin was the strengthened and much improved fuselage and wing structure, always the bane of the sesquiplane. Combined with the Oeffag Company’s legendary reputation for only the finest craftsmanship, the D.III (Oef) had all the ingredients for a truly excellent gun platform. This is illustrated by the successful use of the fighter by most of Austria-Hungary’s ace pilots: Linke-Crawford, Brumowski, Ritter von Fernbrugg, and Bonsch all scored heavily while piloting the D.III (Oef). Constantly improved during its service life, the D.III (Oef) was fitted with the improved 200 hp Austro Daimler engine, resulting in the 153 series.

The extensive use of pewter parts, particularly for the wing and landing gear struts, might seem to contribute to the structural integrity of the kit. But these parts are so pliable that the opposite may be true. Special effort will be needed to adequately straighten the machine gun barrels.

Similarly, with the addition of the 225 hp version and the revised tail plane, the 253 series was born. Although the differences in the two versions were visually indistinguishable, the progressive increases in performance endowed the D.III (Oef) with the constant improvements needed to keep pace with the increasingly sophisticated Allied fighters. So versatile was the D.III (Oef) that it served from the Italian front through Albania and the Balkans, on to the harsh environment of the Eastern Front where it had to withstand the legendary Russian winter. Often used there with the full winter cowlings, these streamlined and elegant aircraft took on an altogether more racy and thoroughbred appearance.

Serving until the end of hostilities, the D.III (Oef) was still being flown by the Polish Air Force as late as the mid-1920’s. The Oeffag Company continued until 1935, when the harsh post-war economy forced its closure.

The Kit

Blue Max’ Albatros D.III (Oeffag) is injection molded in white and consists of 34 plastic and 15 pewter parts. It can be built as one of three versions, each with a different engine configuration involving unique parts and markings. The kit can be assembled as one of the 53 series, the 153 series, or the 253 series. One notable and considerate addition is that one of the plastic parts is a length of pre-stretched sprue for the front and rear radiator tubes, and for the gun tubes which protrude from the winter cowling, which fully enclosed the engine on the 53 series. The pewter parts are for the engine, internal fuselage frame, machine guns, as well as the wing and landing gear struts.

Markings are provided for one of three versions of the D.III (Oeffag), serving on the Mediterranean or Eastern fronts during the Great War.

At first glance the plastic components do not look terribly detailed and contain a minor amount of flash — but closer examination reveals the engraved panel lines providing significant fuselage detail. The cockpit includes parts for a seat, control column and rudder pedals, and there is a decal for the pewter instrument panel consisting of 5 gauges. There are options for two different tails, two cowlings, two different propellers (one with the spinner attached), and a cover for the engine if the modeler chooses the version that served on the Eastern Front.

The instructions include a single exploded diagram of the kit parts to aid construction, together with photos of each of the three versions of the Albatros once fully assembled. The photos are marked with painting instructions for each version, and there is a paint guide for the Federal Standard, Methuen and Xtracolor systems. There are additional notes to aid the modeler’s depiction of each version. Finally, there is an explicit recommendation to consult the Windsock Datafile book on the D.III (Oef).

Details on the Three Versions

The 53 Series
This version is the only one to include a spinner over the propeller (they are attached), giving the Albatros a strong aerodynamic appearance. It also bears the engine cover for the winterized Eastern Front version, the only one with a fully enclosed powerplant, with openings in the front for the machine guns. Markings are provided for the mount of Zgsf. Wilhelm Haring, aircraft no. 53.24 with traditional black Maltese unbordered crosses, bearing natural metal engine coverings and and otherwise varnished plywood fuselage with unbleached linen wings; Winter 1917.

Blue Max provides a thin length of sprue for both front and rear radiator pipes, as well as the ends of the machine gun barrels that protrude from the engine cover on the winterized version of the D.III (Oef) that served on the Eastern Front.

The 153 Series
This version has an exposed Jaray propeller adjacent a flat, enclosed, “frying pan bottom” cowling, with the top of the engine and forward ends of the machine guns exposed. Markings are provided for the mount of Oberleutnant Friedrich Losert, aircraft no. 153.95 with traditional black Maltese crosses bordered in white, bearing dark green engine coverings, dark green mottle over a varnished plywood fuselage, and dark green mottle over unbleached linen wing upper surfaces. The undersides of the wings and tail planes are simply unbleached linen. The fuselage aft of the cockpit has a marking of slanted black and white pointed stripes resembling a “zebra” picket fence (decal provided); Summer 1917.

The 253 Series
This version has an exposed Jaray propeller over an enclosed, domed cowling, and also has a very aerodynamic look, although the engine and forward ends of the machine guns remain exposed. Markings are provided for the mount of Oberleutnant Friedrich Navratil, aircraft no. 06, bearing overall camouflage scheme of dark green and grey-green mottle over yellow-gray with unbleached linen wing and tail plane undersides; Summer 1918.

Conclusion

This is an excellent multimedia kit that at first blush is rather simple, but is actually fairly detailed and has the makings of a top-notch model — if the modeler will put in the work. The pewter parts will require cyanoacrylate glue and a metal file. A definite strong point of the kit is the detailed research that has gone into providing options for individual series versions and their unique configurations, paint schemes and markings. The one drawback may be the lack of rigging diagrams, which are still necessary despite the D.III (Oef)’s metal struts, but the box illustration should serve as a sufficient guide. Highly recommended.

References

  • History by Christopher J.B. Gannon, courtesy of Blue Max/Pegasus Models
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