The Albatros D.II was the first version of the Albatros biplane fighter to be produced in significant numbers, and alongside the later D.III helped the Germans to gain air supremacy early in 1917.
The first D.I design was ready in April 1916 and in June Albatros received a control to produce twelve prototypes, possibly including the first D.II.
The Albatros D.I was ordered into production in July 1916, but work was already underway on an improved model. The D.I had two main flaws - its upper wing was set too high and blocked the pilots view upwards, and the inverted V central wing struts interfered with the pilot's view when he was aiming at fast moving targets.
On the D.II the upper wing was lowered, bringing it down just above head level. This allowed the pilot to easily look above or below the wing, eliminating the blank spot above. At the same time the centre struts were modified - on the D.I they had connected the sides of the fuselage to the wing centre point, forming the inverted V that interfered with the pilot's view. On the D.II the struts went outwards from the fuselage, connecting to the upper wing some way out. The vulnerable ear-type fuselage mounted radiators of the D.I were replaced on most D.IIs with Teves and Braun flush-fitting radiators mounted on the upper wing.
A total of 275 D.IIs were ordered. Two batches of fifty were ordered from Albatros in August 1916 and another batch of 100 in September. Another 75 were to be built under licence by LVG, originally as the LVG D.I but eventually as the Albatros D.II (LVG). Production then moved onto the Albatros D.III, with the first batch of that aircraft being ordered in October 1916.
Sixteen D.IIs were produced in Austria by the Osterreichische Flugzeugfabrik AG. These aircraft were powered by Austro-Daimler engines providing between 185 and 225hp.
The D.II entered service just as the German fighters were organised into squadrons for the first time. Previously they had been allocated to reconnaissance units, operating in one and twos to escort bombers or reconnaissance aircraft. Early in 1916 a small number of fighter squadrons had been formed (the Kampf-einsitzer Kommandos). Finally in the summer the first seven Jastas (Jagdstaffel) were formed, each with an establishment of twelve fighters. At first these Jastas were equipped with a mix of biplanes including the Fokker D.III and D.IV, the Halberstadt D.II and D.III and the Albatros D.I and D.II.
Jasta 2, under Oswald Boelcke, received its first D.IIs during October 1916. Boelcke used the type to score his last victories, but on 28 October he was killed after a collision with another German aircraft. In November Manfred von Richthofen was flying a D.II when he shot down one of the most famous Allied aces, Major Lanoe Hawker, V.C.
The first D.II reached the front in September 1916. Twenty eight were in use in November 1917 and by the end of January 1917 there were 214 D.IIs at the front but by May that figure had fallen to only 107, and the D.II was being replaced by D.III. The D.II was thus still a major part of the German air force during April 1917, known as 'Bloody April' in the R.F.C. because of the high number of aircraft lost. The numbers in use fell off dramatically in the second half of 1917 and by January 1918 only 6 were at the front.
Engine: Mercedes D.III
Span: 27ft 10in upper, 26ft 3in lower
Length: 24ft 3in
Height: 8ft 8in
Empty weight: 1,484lb (Albatros), 1,556lb (LVG)
Loaded weight: 1,980lb (Albatros), 2,068lb (LVG)
Max speed: 102mph
Armament: Two synchronised 7.92mm LMG 08/15 Spandau machine guns