In 1917 Fokker and Reinhold Platz began work on a new aircraft. Platz was also the designer of the Fokker Dr.1. triplane fighter.
The D.7. had a fuselage of welded steel tubing covered with aluminum and fabric. Thick-section wood wings were covered with plywood and fabric. The D.7. prototype demonstrated the necessity of a longer fuselage and fixed vertical fin in addition to the comma-shaped moving rudder.
|Making use of the advice given by Manfred von Richthofen, the Fokker Flugzeug-Werke company produced the Fokker D.7.
Work started late in 1917 to meet a specification calling for a D-type fighter powered by a 160 hp Mercedes D.III in-line engine with an auto-type radiator, the first in a German fighter.
The D.7. entered the German War Ministry's competition at Johannistal Airfield, in Adlershof, in January and February of 1918, outclassing all 30 of the other participants.
Among the evaluators was Manfred von Richthofen, who was particularly impressed by the 7's performance. Orders were placed for 400 from Fokker and a large number from Albatross and OAW. Of the 2,000 ordered only 1,000 were built before the war's end.
The D.7. entered combat in April 1918 at the second battle of the Aisne with the first consignment going to Jagdgeschwader I (Fighter Wing One) commanded by von Richtofen. One month before the Armistice, 800 D.7.'s were in service at the front.
There were still some 700 in service at the time of the Armistice, the terms of which acknowledged the superiority of the D.7. as a combat aircraft, with the treaty of Versailles specifically singling out this airplane for surrender to the allies.
The Fokker D.7. was strong, fast and superb at high altitudes and was extremely popular with the German pilots.
The Fokker D.7. became the platform for a number of German aces, including Herman Goering, who was later to become the Reichmarshal of the Luftwaffe in World War II.
Although von Richtofen evaluated the D.7. he achieved his aerial victories while flying the Albatross D.IIIs and Dr.1. triplanes (painted generally red, hence "Red Baron").
He was killed in a Fokker Dr.1. on the morning of April 21st 1918, in the Somme valley, by a bullet through the heart while in combat against six British fighters.
The Fokker D.7. increased German kills more than two-fold after its introduction, achieving 565 victories in August 1918, as compared to 217 by earlier German fighters the previous August.
Later in 1918 a more powerful BMW D.IIIa engine of 185 hp was installed in the D.7., increasing its rate of climb and raising its ceiling to almost 20,000 feet.
Among the exceptional qualities of the airplane, apart from speed, maneuverability and rate of climb, were ruggedness and outstanding performance at high altitude.
The D.7. was easy to fly, yet responsive to the controls right up to it ceiling. The F, and final, version appeared in August, 1918.