by: Stephen T. Lawson [ ]
Originally published on:
HistoryThe Siemens Schuckert D.III type fighter was the marriage of several great ideas. First the "monococque" fuselage was a wooden frame with 3mm plywood panels as a skin. The rudder,
elevators and wings were fabric covered and conventionally built. Ailerons were in both upper
and lower wings. The S.S.W. D.IV differed from its predecessor the D.III in that the top wing of
the D. IV was built narrower in chord and the number of wing ribs was 60% more than the D.III in both upper and lower wings. The resultant airfoil added 500-1000 ft to its maximum ceiling. On the D. IV, the number of Average rib spacing was decreased from 250 to 170 mm, although some of the rib bays on both aircraft were odd dimensions.
Siemens experimented with a lot of wingspans and chords, and according to one test record, the D.III could climb faster and had a higher ceiling than the D.IV. This makes sense, because of the added wing area. However, that was a sacrifice SSW was willing to make, because the D.IV was considerably faster (193 vs.173 km/h at 2000 m). Interestingly, as altitude increased, the D.IV speed fell off more quickly. The two were even at about 7300 m, and the D. III was faster above that, but it wasn't of much consequence because very little fighting took place at those altitudes.
The powerplant was the Siemens-Halske Sh III 160 hp, 11 cylinder counter rotary. A standard rotary turned cylinders and propeller on a stationary crankshaft, turning in one direction at 1800 rpms on a stationary Crankshaft. The propeller and the cylinders turned at 900 rpms in one direction, while and the Crankshaft turned 900 rpms in the other direction. This counteracted the torque inherent in the standard rotary and produced a maximum of 210hp. Later a modified version, the Sh.IIIa put out a maximum of 240hp. Another company named 'Rhemag' developed the reliable Sh.III(Rh.) These rotaries were to be the first to be equipped with a true form of throttle control instead of a 'blip' switch. Being highly maneuverable and fast climbing aircraft
types, they became ideal for Germany's Home Defense units known as KEST ( Kampf-einsitzer-staffeln.) Several examples were flown successfully by pilots like Oblt. Ernst Udet and Ltn. Alfred Lenz. Though it looked like a barrel with wings, it was unequaled in maneuverability.
The kitIssued first in 1992 the Eduard kit has defined overall shape to its pieces, but the surface details are a bit soft. The Eduard plastic has its share of flash (lower wing)and needs careful clean up. It also has finely etched metal cockpit and detail parts. I will also reference the variations you can make to alter this kit into either the early production D.III variant or the later model D.IV.
Plastic: 33 pcs.
Resin: 00 pcs.
Metal: 88 pcs.
Decals: 06 aircraft profiles.
Instructions: 26 step exploded views.
Steps 1-3 & 17.) We begin here by pre-drilling all rigging holes and cleaning up all the fuselage halves (PP 2 & 3) edges, uniting them and erasing the resultant seams. The engine cowling access panels (PE 12 & 13) should replace the items molded to the forward fuselage sides. I also added a triangle shaped shelf to fit in the cutout for the horizontal tail surfaces (PP 6.) This gives it more surface to glue to. The vertical tail surface (PP 5) should have two brass pins inserted into mating holes for attachment to PP 6. For the early model D.III the elevator balances on PP 6 should be rounded at their tips more like a Fok.Dr.I profile. The rudder on PP 5 should be reduced in area as well. The forward balance needs to be angled and the trailing edge needs to be cut vertical. Check your references.
The lower wing and wing roots are one unit (PP 7.) Clean up mating edges and attach to the united fuselage. Remember to use children's building block set ('Lego' brand plastic blocks.) Both of the wings had their ribs doubled in number on the D. IV. Sand down the existing surfaces then add heat stretched sprue or 'Plastruct' 0.10 micro-rod for rib caps. For the early D.III the balances on all of the aileron ends should be removed. The aileron break is partially filled in and re-scribed at these modified ends to have an angular balance that is inset across the airfoil. Check your references. I would plan to separate all four of the ailerons entirely and
scratch build new ones. Next add the tail skid housing (PP 11) and fill any seams with gel super glue. Blend the pieces and re-scribe any portion of the panel lines that you erase. Check, which profile that your going to do and choose to add or delete the head rest (PP 18) now. Next, I added the metal hand hold bars (PE 23 X3.)
Steps 4-5 &7.) Beginning with the cockpit tub (PE 5), check your instruction for the next several steps and see how this unit folds. Add an appropriate diameter rod through the locator holes trapping the base of the control column assembly (PE 37 X2, 39 & 46) on PE 5. Looking at photos of the flooring area of PE 5 it appears to be painted over. It may be either wood or
metal and the possibility exists that both were used depending on what was available at the time. I would continue to add parts for the seat cradle (PE 21) from the instruction's step 7. Then add
the seat (PE 18), which has a metal back and a plywood base. Notably this base appears to be
painted a similar colour to the flooring. The seat cushion took the form of a parachute pack that
the pilot sat on and was attached to him by means of a harness. If you choose to add the cushion
don't add it to the top of the base area. Add it to the underside of the base area. This may raise
the seat (PE 18) overall in height but the item is shallow to begin with. The top of the base is where the cushion should be. So if you add depth do it to the underside. Blend and paint the outer face of this assembly to look like dull aluminum. Add a thin layer of putty to the top of the cushion area, let dry and then paint this a drab earth colour. The belt harness' (PE 11 X4) should be annealed then painted a similar but darker drab earth colour. To keep from damaging your painted belts, cut one end of the center cross brace to the buckles (PE 36 X4) and pull it away from the frame. Next paint the buckles and let dry thoroughly. Then add the buckles to the belts by sliding the buckles on from the side of the belt and trap the belt by pushing back the cross brace. Nothing up my sleeve - presto! Another trick is revealed.
Step 6.) The forward cockpit panel formers (PE 27 & 28) go on next to brace this area of the cockpit tub (PE 5.) These and the smaller support (PE 4) and those already attached to the cockpit tub (PE 5) are evidently made of metal. The smaller support (PE 4) can be replaced or skinned with a solid plastic cresent shape painted like the floor. Be sure that you leave two holes in this replacement piece for the rudder cables to pass through back to the rear of the cockpit tub (PE 5.) There should be a cross bracing of fine wire in the horizontal opening of the floor panel in PE 5 as well. The rudder bar (PE 45) is very two-dimensional in brass. I elected to replace this with a scratchbuilt item using heat stretched sprue and fine wire. The ammunition box facade (PE 3) should have rounded lower corners.
Step 7.) See step 4.
Step 8.) Add the bell crank aileron control arms (PE 25 & 35), then add a short section of sprue or brass to the forward legs. The resulting tie rod will pass across the opening in the floor but under the support rod for the control column, see step 4.
Steps 9 - 12.) Next I lined up the compass gimble to the front edge of the installed seat. The altimeter (PE 6) should appear as if it were suspended by bungee chords. The small oil pump (PE 17) mechanism is best replaced with the end of a section of sprue from a small rod. The lever is to be actuated by the pilot's thumb. The switch quadrant (PE 1) is for the fuel and air mixture settings under normal or emergency operations. Once thoroughly dry add the cockpit tub to the fuselage assembly by sliding the tub in through the open front of the fuselage. Now glue carefully in place. Add the cockpit coaming / edging (PE 7,8 & 31) and paint a wood colour. The Bruhn chronometric tachometer (PE 41) and magneto switch (PE 44) may be added next. After a good clean up of all the edges cut two holes in the upper fuselage cowling (PP 44) for the aileron crank rods (PE 29 X2) and install the cowling on the forward fuselage.
Steps 13-14.) Add the windscreen frame / coaming (PE 40) but save the windscreen for later. The small photo-etch square with tabs is a tie-in unit (PE 26) for the rigging between the rear cabane struts. Don't install the aileron cranks (PE 29 X2) yet. Wait until you have the top wing in place then install them by passing their ends through the holes cut in the upper fuselage cowling (PP 44) and securing them first to their place on the underside of the top wing.
Step 15.) Involves the build up of the kit's Spandau Maxim machine guns 08/15. Remember to remove the seams on the gun's breeches (PP 15 X2.) These then form the basis on which to hang the photoetch brass bits and pieces. When it comes to compound curves, I will nearly always tend to heat the specific part concerned. Using the ‘DML /Dragon’ jacket roller from their Fok.Dr.I kit, I form the cylindrical gun jackets (PE 32 X2.) The kit instructions indicate that the plastic gun barrels on PP15 X2 ( are too short anyway) should be replaced by metal tubing. Take a look at the rear gun sights (PE 20 X2. The wings of the base should not be folded down, you should fold them up. Also when attaching these sights (PE 20 X2) the tongue of the sights, where the wings are attached should face forward, not back toward the cockpit. When the sight is flipped up, the tongue should be in-front. Then add the jacket end caps with front sights (PE 33 X2) and the recoil spring box facades (PE 10 X2.) The flash suppressor assembly can come from the spares box or be scratchbuilt. Once completely dry the completed Spandau Maxim machine guns can be added to The upper cowling (PP 4) that is already attached to the fuselage assembly.
Step 17.) Has be discussed previously in the first steps 1- 3
Step 18.) This tells you to drill out the molded details and replace them with the photoetch items provided (PE 15 X4.) To my thinking each hole should have two adjustable opposing shudders that open from the center and then can be locked in place. To do this drill out the back of the spinner (PP 13) and cut four scrap plugs from 0.005 plastic and split them in half. Then glue the halves to the inside, of the Spinner over the cooling holes. Remember to leave a slight gap to simulate them in an open position. Each cooling hole should look like an oblong cat's eye.
Step 19.) Next glue the backplate (PP 14) to the Spinner (PP 13) then add the propeller blades
(PP 21 X4.) During my initial clean-up process I removed the plastic stems on these items and replaced them with brass-rod. I really like the propeller decals provided by Koster in their kit
and I did not mind buying extra sets.
Steps 20 - 21.) The visual difference between the Siemens- Halske Sh.III and IIIa is an overall
diameter of 1050mm and 1070mm respectively. So in scale and under a cowling the difference is minimal. I began by thinning the rear edges to the cowling (PP 17.) Next I added the forward support frame (PE 43) for the engine. Remember to keep this item level and square with the cowling (PP 17.) In the kit the cast metal engine is a better choice than the plastic item (PP 9 & 10.) In one case I used an 'Atlee' resin item that was purchased through the old Rosemont Hobbies shop and was very happy with the resin kit. If you go with the metal item, I would replace the retainer (PP 24) and install a brass rod for the shaft. This rod would have to pass through all components, spinner assembly, forward engine support, engine and firewall (PP 16.) On each
side of the cowling (PP 17) you will need to place a rigging wire guide (PE 43.) Mount your engine assembly plumb and square with the horizontal and vertical lines of the forward engine support (PE 43) to the fuselage assembly. Due to the fragile propeller blades I saved the addition of this assembly as a last step. If your doing the early model D.III the tough part is manufacturing a full cowling. Begin by taking a Hawk / Testors Nieuport 17 cowling. Quarter it and add spacers to each break. Use a flat level surface to lay the pieces on to dry. Finally sand down the spacers to conform with the cowling contours. Use filler to smooth the surfaces. Not much of the engine will be visible with this arrangement.
Steps 22 - 24.) By drilling open up the landing gear and strut locator holes further. Make sure you have a good, dry fit. Now if your going to do the D.III version, attach the interplane struts (PP 22 X2) to the lower wing and the cabane struts (PP 25 X2) to the fuselage. If your going to do the D.IV, delete the kit cabane struts. Then, pinch the legs of interplane struts together, by opening the crotch of the units to match the D.IV profile. Modify the upper ends of these struts accordingly before attachment to the lower wing. Next glue the tire stem covers (PE 34 X2) to the tires (PP 8 X2) outer side walls, just above the wheel rim. Wait to add the landing gear.
Steps 25 - 26.) Next add the top wing (PP 1.) Check your references. If your doing the D.IV you will have to remove a section of the kit wing's leading edge and reposition the strut locator holes and double the ribs as discussed in Step 1-3. Once the top wing is ready put it in place using a jig made of children's plastic building blocks ( I use the 'Lego' blocks because they fit together tightly and are square and plumb.) Let the model dry completely. Next, if your doing the D.IV scratchbuild your cabane struts from brass rod. Let them dry thoroughly. Next, I would attach the remaining control horns (PE 22 X4) the turnbuckles (PE 16 X14) and completely rig the model with monofilament or fine wire. Now add the landing gear legs (PP 20 X2) and add brass axle ends to the spreader foil (PP 23.) Then rig this unit's rear legs and add the wheels (PP 8.)
Decal ProfilesA. S.S.W. D.III D.8350/17 was assigned to Oblt. E. Udet, Commander of Jasta 4/ J.G.I in late
19 Sept.1918. There is strong evidence that says that the wings were red as well and the rudder was white. This machine was refitted with a Rhemag rotary.
B. S.S.W. D.III Possibly may have been assigned to Ltn. Seppl Veltjens (NOT Vallendor) of
Jasta 15/ J.G.II. as a reserve aircraft. The headrest identifies it as a machine from the first series of 20; the balanced ailerons show this photo was taken after it was returned to the factory to be upgraded with a new engine, wings and other modifications.
C. S.S.W. D.III D.3025/18 assigned to a pilot in Kest 8 Nov.9, 1918. Used for training by the
A.E.F. at Trier after the war.
D. S.S.W. D.III D.8349/17 was assigned to a pilot in Kest 4b Sept.16,1918.
E. S.S.W. D.III assigned to Vzfw. Beckhardt of Kest 5. Beckhardt a Jew, had previously served with Jasta 26. The 'Female' Hakenkreuz was an ancient sign of good luck. This machine was interned at the end of the war in Switzerland.
F. S.S.W. D.III, Skull-n-bones. The first time I ever saw it rendered was in Eisernes Kreuz und Balkan Kreuz by Nowarra. Hypothetically, this profile is supposed to represent a machine that might have been flown by Ltn. Georg von Hantelmann of Jasta 15 / J.G.II and is even mislabeled Jasta 13. Also entirely conjectural are the renderings showing Veltjens' winged arrow machine in other Jasta 15 profiles. The only D. III that seems to have been photographed in Jasta 15 livery was von Ziegesar's 3 feathers, and to be authentic, it would have to be built with the full cowling, unvented spinner and original unbalanced ailerons.
CamouflageThe biggest difference in the Eduard issues is that the inaccurate 4 colour lozenge camouflage came in the usual strips in the first issue. In the second the inaccurate 5 Lozenge was already laid out at an angle in the general shape of the appropriate flying surfaces and the wheel covers. The profiles were the same except the mythical von Hantelmann's became unpainted plywood with side metal cowlings. Along with lozenge camouflage a section of simulated wood grain decal was provided to do a wood varnished fuselage.
ReferencesEisernes Kreuz und Balkan Kreuz by H.Nowarra, Hoffman Pub. p.120, 1968.
German Army Air Service in WWI, Osprey, Vintage Warbirds #2, Photos 102-105, 1985.
German Fighter Units - June 1917-1918 by A.Imrie, Osprey Pub. 1978.
Lafayette Foundation Archive, Denver CO. USA.
Over the Front Vol. 2, #4, p.376, 1986.
Over the Front Vol.14, #3, p.280 1999.
Over the Front Vol.14, #4, p.368-370, 1999.
Over the Front Vol.15, #4, p.370, 2000.
Pictorial History of the German Army Air Service by A.Imrie, Ian Allan Pub. p.173, 1971.
Siemens Schuckert D.I/ III/ IV by Harry Woodman, Scale Models, Pp.348-352, July 1981.
Siemens Schuckert D.III & IV by P.L.Gray, Profile Pub. #86, 1966.
Spandau Machine Gun by David Watts, 1998 WWI Aero.
SSW D.III by Dick Bennett, WWI Aero #123, Feb. 1989.Pp.8-25.
SSW D.III Cockpits & Instruments by Roy Meyers, WWI Aero #123, Feb. 1989, Pp.72-75.
SSW D.III - D.IV by P.M.Grosz, Albatros Pub. Ltd. Windsock Datafile #29, 1991 & 98.
CommentsAn authority on the S.S.W. Mr. Richard (Dick) Bennett has graciously allowed me to use his data throughout this article and further his recent comments; ‘...The power developed by this engine is all over the map, depending on the source. Siemens ran dynamometer tests on one of the prototypes in 1917, and it put out 160 - 170 hp. One Siemens document credits it with a sustained power rating of 170 hp and a peak output of 240. Problem was that at low altitudes, where that peak power could have been developed, pilots' instructions forbid opening the throttle all the way. They were concerned that the high (for those days) compression would cause engine failure. Pilots were instructed to keep it below 850 rpm until they were above 3000 m. After that they could push it to the full 900 (or 1800, depending on how you look at it). Of course, at that altitude, the air density had dropped off, so a genuine 240 hp was unattainable...The British ran one on a test brake after the war and got 205 hp out of it...Both the Sh.3 and Sh.3a had the same displacement; I believe their power outputs were identical. The Rhemag engines were all Sh.3a's, because they didn't start production until after the engine had been redesigned. This is probably why they developed the reputation as being more reliable than the first Siemens-built engines. From what I've been able to find, the Siemens-built Sh.3a's were just as reliable & powerful as Rhemag's. Udet's engine is a fascinating one, because there doesn't seem to be any surviving information about what Rhemag did to hop it up. It may have been simply "balanced and blueprinted", as the professional high performance engine builders say...
Concerning the SSW D.III marked with the ‘V” Here's where the problem arises: Of the first 18 D. III types modified this way, one was sent to Idflieg for testing, one (D. 8350/17) went to Rhemag to become Udet's red hopped-up engine airframe, and the others were assigned to various Kests. Unless Jasta 15 markings were left on it through all this, the letter V was probably applied during its Kest service. . ."
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