by: Stephen T. Lawson [ ]
History,The Siemens Schuckert Werke 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.
Motor History,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.
Box contents ,The Roden kit has well defined overall pieces, plastic has minor flash and needs the usual clean up. It also has finely moulded cockpit and detail parts. I will discuss here the Roden S.S.W D. III kit. 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: 94 pcs.
Decals 3 a/c
Instructions 16 step exploded view.
The build,Step 1.) The visual difference between the Siemens- Halske Sh.III and IIIa counter rotary motor is an overall diameter of 1050mm and 1070mm respectively. So in scale and under a cowling the difference is minimal. The instructions view for this step is from front to back. The basic kit motor items (6, 7 & 8 X 11 C ) contain the crankcase, cylinders and cylinder heads. I would replace the plastic shaft ( 7 C ) and install a brass hollow tube. (Usually found in the local hobby shops as RC structure pieces.) This tube would have to pass through all components, spinner assembly, forward engine support ( 21 A ), engine and firewall ( 20 A .)
Step 2.) The instructions view for this step is from back to front. Mount your engine assembly ( 20 A, 2 C x 11, basic engine, 1 C & 21 A ) plumb and square with the horizontal and vertical lines of the forward engine support to the fuselage assembly. I replaced the plastic push rods on 1 C with better scaled metal rods. The forward engine support is molded into the engine cowling and makes a quick work of aligning this unit (21 A ). On each side of the cowling (21 A) you will need to place a rigging wire guide /anchor If your doing the early model D. III the tough part is manufacturing a full cowling. Begin by taking a Hobbycraft 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 3 & 4 .) Involves the addition of the kit's Spandau Maxim machine guns. Remember to remove the seams on the gun's breeches (12 D X2.) The Ammunition feed ( 15 D ) were a bare aluminum and the empty belt chutes were everything from brass, copper to silver bare metal. These then form the basis on which to hang some aftermarket photoetch brass bits and pieces. When it comes to compound curves, I will nearly always tend to heat the specific part concerned unless it is made from silver nickel. I form the cylindrical gun jackets by rolling them over a drill bit. Take a look at the rear gun sights. If you can get a PE set get 1:48 these are actually closer to 1:32. The 'wings of the base should not be folded down, you should fold them up. Also when attaching these rear sights the tongue of the sights, the center flange 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. The flash suppressor assembly can be separated from the plastic items and be added to the PE end cap. Once completely dry the Spandau Maxim machine guns should be flat black and can be added to the upper cowling (10 A). The ammunition box facade (22 A ) can be added.. Save the windscreen ( P 1 ) for later. The machine guns should have individual padded gun butts. A section of rectangular sprue rounded off on one end does the trick.
Steps 5 & 6.) We begin here by pre-drilling all rigging holes and cleaning up all the fuselage halves (PP 2 & 3) edges, painting the interiors, uniting them and erasing the resultant seams. Beginning with the cockpit assembly, check your instruction for the next several steps and see how this unit develops. Next I lined up the compass gimble ( 4 A ) to the right front edge of the seat location. The altimeter (6 A ) should appear as if it were suspended by bungee chords. Add a small oil pump mechanism is best replaced with the end of a section of sprue with a small rod. The lever is to be actuated by the pilot's thumb. The switch quadrant (15 A ) is for the fuel and air mixture settings under normal or emergency operations. Once thoroughly dry add the cockpit tub to the fuselage / lower wing assembly by sliding the tub in through the open front of the fuselage. Now glue carefully in place. Add the cockpit coaming / edging ( 9 & 16 A ) and paint a wood colour. The Bruhn chronometric tachometer ( 7 A ) and magneto switch ( 5 A ) may be added next. After a good clean up of all the edges cut two holes in the upper fuselage cowling ( 10 A ) for the aileron crank rods (3 D X 2 ) and install the cowling on the forward fuselage.
Step 7 & 8.) Here you add the lower wing ailerons ( 9 D X 2 ). I added drilled holes and brass pins to keep the attachment points stable.
Step 9.) The forward cockpit panel formers could do with some additional scratch built structures. Looking at photos of the flooring area of 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. These and other smaller supports on the original aircraft were evidently made of metal. Also, there should be a cross bracing of fine wire in the horizontal opening of the floor panel as well. The rudder bar ( 29 A ) is very basic. I elected to replace this with a scratchbuilt item using heat stretched sprue and fine wire.
Step 10.) Chin pan ( 31 A ) and vent cover (30 A )are assembled here. You can thin down the pan interior and get it to the point where you can open the louvers.
Step 11.) Add the bell crank aileron control arms (10 D X 2 ), then add the 'tie rod' (25 A ) will pass across the opening in the floor but under the 'support rod' for the control column. I would wait to attach the chin pan assembly.
Step 12 .) Add the seat cradle ( 26 A ) Then add the seat ( 8 A ), 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 ( 8 A ) 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 it wont change the height by much. 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.
For this kit you should add scratchbuilt lap and shoulder harness. To keep from damaging your painted belts when adding buckles, cut one end of the center cross brace to the buckles 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.
The engine cowling access panels are molded to the forward fuselage sides. This gives it more surface to glue to. The vertical tail surface (11 A) should be dry fit first. . For the early model D.III the elevator balances on all of the wings should be rounded at their tips more like a Fok.Dr.I profile. The rudder on (19 A ) 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 (1 B.) 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' 0.20 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 scratchbuild 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 plastic strip for hand hold bars.
Steps 13.) Next add the top wing ( 2 B.) Here you add the upper wing ailerons ( 11 D X 2 ). I added drilled holes and brass pins to keep the attachment points stable. 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. 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 completely rig the model with monofilament or fine wire. Now if your going to do the D.III version, attach the interplane struts ( 7 D X 2 ) to the lower wing and the cabane struts (8 D X 2 ) 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. Then scratch build the cabane struts.
Steps 14.) Assemble the landing gear legs ( 6 D X 2 ) and add brass axle ends to the spreader foil (28 A .) By drilling open up the landing gear and strut locator holes further you make sure of a good, dry fit.. Wait to add the landing gear til step 16.
Step 15.) 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. Next glue the backplate (4 C ) to the Spinner (3 C ) then add the propeller ( 9 C ).
Step 16.) Add the landing gear and propeller assemblies to the kit.
Decal Profiles:I. 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.
II. 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.
III. S.S.W. D.III D.1611/18 was assigned to a Ltn Kessler in Kest 4b May - June, 1918.
Camouflage: The biggest difference in the Roden issues is that the Lozenge Camouflage came in the usual cookie cutter strips laid out at an angle in the general shape of the appropriate flying surfaces and the wheel covers. One problem of note is that the undersurface lozenge has the geometric pattern flipped from where it should be. The 5 colour lozenge in the kit hail back to the colours they used in their early 1:48 Fokker D.VII. But Roden improved their decal applications about the time they issued the 1:32 Fok. D.VI kit. I'll see if Roden has followed through with the SSW D.III kit.
References,Eisernes 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.
Comments,An authority on the S.S.W types. 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 V was probably applied during its Kest service. That and the fact that Veltjens used a winged arrow on his other aircraft lead me to doubt it was his. In fact, this applies to all the post-rebuild D. III types issued. . .
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