Luft-Fahrzeug-Gesellschaft, also referred to as LFG, was a German aircraft manufacturer during World War I. They are best known for their various "Roland" designs, notably the Roland C.II and Roland D.VI, although they also produced a number of airships and experimental designs.
Luft-Fahrzeug-Gesellschaft formed on April 30, 1908, from the assets of an experimental airship engine company located in Bitterfeld, Motorluftschiff Studiengesellscaft (MStG). Additional funding for the new enterprise was provided primarily by Krupp, AEG, and a local chemical company. The company's offices were located in Berlin along with the factory at Adlershof. Manufacture was transferred to Charlottenburg following a fire on 6 September 1916, allegedly caused by the British Secret Service.
Their first project was an airship design by August von Parseval, a German airship designer. This entered service as the PL.II in 1910. During World War I, four were delivered to the German Army and Navy. In total some 25 "PL" airships were built, flown and delivered to various customers. The PL-26, one of the last, crashed on landing and burnt inside hangar Luftschiffhalle 2 with no fatalities. For the rest of the war the hangars were used mostly for repairs of observation balloons.
When Édouard de Nié Port (Nieuport) died, one of his engineers, Franz Schneider, joined LFG and started producing new designs under the name Roland. Roland was a trade name adopted to avoid confusion with the LVG firm. In 1916 the company adapted an Albatros design to produce the LFG W, a floatplane. Some parts were built in Bitterfeld, but final assembly and checkout was carried out in new factories in Stralsund.
Their first successful design was the Roland C.II Walfisch (whale), a two-seat reconnaissance aircraft; The design used a unique semi-monocoque fuselage, skinned with two layers of long plywood strips wrapped at opposing diagonal angles around a male mold and covered with fabric inside and outside the plywood layers, and securely glued together, that filled the entire area between the wings, leaving the pilot and observer/gunner high over the planform with an excellent view. The finished fuselage "half-shells" were then each fitted onto a skeletal framework of thin-section wooden formers and longerons for unitized support within the finished and joined "shells", to form the complete basic fuselage structure. The "wrapping" technique of the long plywood strips for the outer fuselage surface led to this particular technique of manufacture being described in German as the Wickelrumpf (wrapped body) style of construction, and was subsequently patented by the firm, licensing the construction method to Pfalz in 1917 for construction of their own single-seat fighter designs. Although it was said to have tricky handling, the Roland C.II had excellent performance, and was also used on long-range missions as a bomber escort. A version with the 200 hp Benz Bz.IV engine and new wing struts was built as the D.III, but only one prototype was ever built, as was the case for the 160 hp Mercedes D.III-powered C.V.
The C.II was adapted to the pure fighter role as the Roland D.I, but in this role the lack of a direct forward view proved to be a problem. A fire at the factory severely constrained production, and only 20 were built. A newer version with a more conventional layout, the Roland D.II, followed, "thinning" the fuselage vertically but keeping the overall design similar. Although generally a good design, it was inferior to the Albatros D.I and built only to the extent of about 230 examples, mostly being used on the eastern front and in Macedonia. The fuselage was further thinned in the D.III, which looked almost conventional, but the 180 hp Argus As.III proved temperamental and only a handful were built. Six D.IIs were delivered in July 1917 to the Bulgarian Air Force, as were six D.IIIs in May 1918.
Although the Wickelrumpf style of wood-structure monocoque fuselage was extremely strong, it was also very difficult and time consuming to build. A new method of construction was introduced that used spruce planking running the length of the plane in place of the formed plywood, and the D.III was adapted using this technique to produce D.IV triplane and D.V biplane, both powered by the D.III's 160 hp Mercedes. The fuselage shell's construction technique for these aircraft closely resembled a clinker-planked boat hull in external appearance when finished, and was named Klinkerrumpf (clinker body) construction, also patented by the firm. A further adaptation of the D.IV with the 185 hp Benz Bz. III resulted in the Roland D.VI, which was entered in the First Fighter Competition trials at Adlershof in early 1918. Although the Fokker D.VII won that contest, the D.VI was also ordered into production as it used a different engine, and by the end of the war about 350 had been delivered. A large number of different versions using various engines were built as prototypes without entering production, as well as a triplane adaptation as the D.VI (also known as the Dr. I).
The next major design from Roland were parasol monoplane designs, the D.XVI with the Siemens-Halske Sh.III or 170 hp Goebel Goe.IIIa rotary piston engines, and the otherwise similar D.XVII with the inline 185 hp BMW IIIa. Both were entered into the Second Fighter Competition at Adlershof, but lost to the Fokker D.VIII.
After the war all aircraft production in Germany was banned, and the company was forced to close the Bitterfeld plant and reopen in Seddin, producing airplanes, balloons and life boats. In 1933, aircraft production was shut down. Three additional airships of the Parseval pattern were also built during this period.
This is a list of aeroplane produced, taken from Nowarra, Heinz: Flugzeuge 1914-1918, München 1959 and Emmanuel Gustin's list of German military aircraft.
- C.II und C.IIa "Walfisch" biplane reconnaissance, two-seater
- C.III variant of C.II, one built - destroyed by fire when LFG plant burned, 6 September 1916
- LFG Roland C.V- two-seat version of D.II, prototype only
- C.VIII - prototype only
- C.X - reconnaissance
- W - Floatplane version of Albatros C.Ia
- W-1 - Seaplane, single seater fighter
- W-16 - Seaplane
- WD - Seaplane variant of D.I, one built, rejected due to poor visibility
- D.I "Haifisch" - fighter
- D.II - fighter, about 230 built
- D.III - fighter, few built
- D.IV - triplane, prototype only (also known as Dr. I)
- LFG Roland D.V - D.III variant, only three prototypes
- D.VI - fighter, 350 built, similar to D III, ordered as backup for D VII
- D.VII - one prototype built
- D.VIII - one prototype built
- D.IX - only three preproduction models
- D.X - projected only
- D.XI - projected only
- D.XII - projected only
- D.XIII - development abandoned when destroyed in a fire
- D.XIV - Biplane fighter, variant of D.XIII, very unreliable
- D.XV - Biplane fighter, three of a first design built, two of a second design also named D.XV
- D.XVI - fighter, prototypes only
- D.XVII - Parasol-wing monoplane fighter, one built
- G.I - Biplane bomber, only one built
- ME 8 - Seaplane fighter, only projected
- MD 14 - reconnaissance, only projected
- MD 15 - reconnaissance, only projected
- V 13 - floatplane airliner
- V 20 - floatplane airliner
- V 19- Single-seat seaplane, to operate from submarines, prototype completed after 1918
- V 39
- V 40
- V 42
- V 44 - one prototype built
- V 52
- V 59
- V 60
- V 61
- V 101 - floatplane airliner
- German Aircraft of the First World War, Gray P. & Thetford O., 1970 Putnam
- German Combat Planes: A Comprehensive Survey and History of the Development of German Military Aircraft from 1914 to 1945. New York: Doubleday. 1971. pp. 75 & 76.
- Aviation in Bulgaria in the Wars from 1912 to 1945, Vol I, Milano Y., 1995 Sveti Gueorgui Pobedonosetz, Sofia
- German Combat Planes: A Comprehensive Survey and History of the Development of German Military Aircraft from 1914 to 1945. New York: Doubleday. 1971. p. 90.
- , Emmanuel Gustin, 1997-07-04
- Abbott, Dan S., and Grosz, Peter M. "The Benighted Rolands", Air Enthusiast Quarterly, Bromley, Kent., U.K., Volume 3, 1976, pages 39-40.
- LFG V 44
- Jahrbuch der Motorluftschiff-Studiengesellschaft / Luft-Fahrzeug-Gesellschaft m.b.H. - company year books from 1907 to 1912 digitized (German)
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