Junkers D. 1 by Roden

1/72 scale
Kit No. Ro 041
Cost: $9.00
Decals: Two versions – both for German Luftstreitkräfte (Imperial German Air Service), 1918
Comments: Detailed simulated corrugated aluminum surfaces throughout; complete Mercedes in-line six cylinder engine; fairly detailed cockpit includes seat, rudder pedals, control yoke and minor raised sidewall detail; separately mounted control surfaces; detailed Spandau machine guns

History

The Junkers D. 1 (factory designation J. 9) was a monoplane fighter aircraft produced in Germany late in World War I, significant for becoming the first all-metal fighter to enter service. It was preceded by the Junkers J. 1, a large, heavily armored two seat ground attack aircraft that entered service in 1916. Using radical design techniques at the time, both aircraft departed from the traditional wood-and-canvas construction of the day and employed an internal frame of thin duraluminum tubing covered by sheets of corrugated aluminum. In the case of the D. 1, this completely eliminated the need for external struts and bracing wires.

What really set the Junkers D.I apart from any previous aircraft was its cantilevered low-wing design and corrugated duraluminum skin. Duraluminum, the same metal used for Zeppelin construction, was light yet strong. The Junkers monoplane was rugged, fast, and agile. The D.I was every fighter pilots’ dream. The design was a decade ahead of its time, but appeared at the front lines a year too late to affect the outcome of the war.

The prototype, a private venture by Junkers designated the J. 7, first flew on 17 September 1917. Demonstrated to the Idflieg early the following year, it proved impressive enough to result in an order for three additional aircraft for trials. However, the half dozen changes made by Junkers were significant enough for the firm to redesignate the next example the J. 9, featuring a redesigned fuselage and ailerons and a broader wingspan. It was the J.9 which was supplied to the Idflieg instead of the three J. 7s ordered.

There are conflicting accounts as to the D. 1’s effectiveness as a fighter. During trials, the J. 9 on which it was based was felt to lack the maneuverability necessary for a front-line Air Force ( Luftstreitkräfte )
fighter, but was judged fit enough to be a naval fighter, and a batch of 12 was ordered. These were to have been supplied to a naval unit by September 1918, but instead equipped the same unit redeployed to the Eastern Front after the Armistice.

By other accounts, the D-1 was speedy and maneuverable but, having all-metal construction — a very new development at the time, involving techniques aircraft manufacturers were still learning — it was more difficult to build than the Fokker D-VII, Germany’s leading late-war fighter which was already in production. One thing is certain: No more than about forty D. 1’s reached the front by the time of the Armistice in November 1918. They were never deployed in any concentrated numbers, instead being issued piecemeal in ones and twos to various Jagdstaffeln.

Nicknamed the ‘Blechesel’ (Tin Donkey), the D. 1 represented a new and unfamiliar technology, and was regarded with suspicion by the German military authorities, which may have played a role in how it was deployed. At the July 1918 Fighter Competition in which it participated, Hermann Goering, at the time a decorated ace flying in Von Richtofen’s squadron, is said to have recommended it strictly as “an airplane for struggle with balloons and airships,” which many fighter pilots regarded as easy prey.

Due to this perception, and the D. 1’s breathtakingly short career, the full measure of its effectiveness as a fighter may never be known. However, the D.1 saw brief post-war service when Germany aided the Baltic States in an ill-fated struggle against the newly formed Soviet Union in the Spring of 1919. Although Germany was prohibited from even maintaining an air force by the Treaty of Versailles, it is likely that the Allies, if they knew about German air operations against the Bolsheviks, were willing to turn a blind eye since they supported the objective.

In 1918, mulitple Allied nations including the U.S., Britain, France, and Italy had invaded Russia to support the White Russians who opposed the Bolsheviks and wanted to keep Russia in the war. In its new post-war theatre, Junkers’ monoplane received high marks for its ruggedness and ability to withstand constantly adverse weather conditions. One example survives in a French museum, the Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace, outside Paris, France.

Specifications

Powerplant: 150 hp Mercedes or 180 hp BMW engine
Wing Span: 29 ft 6 in (9 m)
Length: 23 ft 9 in (7.25 m)
Height: 7 ft 4 in (2.25 m)
Maximum Speed: 119 mph (185 kph)
Service Ceicling: 19,685 ft (6,000 m)
Endurance: 1 hr 30 min
Armament: Two 7.92mm Spandau machine-guns

The Kit

Roden’s Junkers D. 1 is injection molded in grey and pale tan and consists of 56 parts on three sprues. The corrugated aluminum (or duraluminum) surface is faithfully recreated throughout the airframe. Two different engines are provided, but the instructions indicate that that modeler should disregard one of them, which is neither identified nor distinguished from the other in any way. Both engines are quite detailed.

The overall level of detail for a kit of this scale is above average, from the separately mounted control surfaces and aileron actuators, to the Spandau machine guns, to the intricate raised detail on the propeller hub. There are a fair number of small detail parts ( I counted 18) so some kind of sure-grip tweezers will be a good tool to keep handy during the build (beware the carpet monster!). Other than this unavoidable hazard, the kit should be a quick build as unlike most WWI kits, it has neither upper wing nor struts to worry about, and no bracing wires to be added as a final touch.

Markings

Decals are provided for two different machines, both identified as serving the Luftstreitkräfte on the Western Front in the Autumn of 1918 – no unit information is provided. Both call for a camouflage paint scheme of Marine Green and World War I Purple over Hellblau (Light Blue), with a White tail. The instructions cite Humbrol colours only. While this green and purple camouflage pattern was common to many German aircraft in the latter half of World War I, another scheme the Junkers D. 1 sported was a camouflage pattern of Grey RLM 02 with Dark Green (or Marine Green if you like) over Hellblau.

Conclusion

This is an interesting kit of a truly revolutionary, late WWI combat aircraft design that was at least a decade ahead of its time — for it was not until the mid-1930’s that the world’s leading air forces began to field monoplane fighters in appreciable numbers. While it pointed the way to the future of aircraft design, at the time it was under-appreciated in its country of origin. The Junkers D. 1 was ground breaking, but could not be said to be either sleek or aesthetically appealing, hence the somewhat derisive nickname “Tin Donkey.” Highly recommended.

References

  • Roden Junkers D. 1 instructions
  • www.wwiaviation.com
  • www.fiddlersgreen.net
  • spartacus-educational.com
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