WW1 Planes
An encyclopediae of 1914-18 aircraft types

flag Etrich Taube

The first German war planes

The Etrich Taube was in practice the first largely available plane to the german Military when the war broke out in August 1914. The plane itself would vary in design, and be named after several manufacturers, such as the Rumpler Taube, first military aeroplane mass-produced in Germany. This very popular monoplanebefore the war was also used by Italy and Austria-Hungary and tested once by the Royal Flying Corps. A Taube became in 1911 the first ad how bomber over Libya.

From 1914 onwards the Taube was used at best for the first few monthes before it was realized how old the design was and iits limitation under these new conditions became apparent. The type was replaced relatively quickly but left its mark at least until the winter of 1914. The first pistol and rifle aerial duels happened from Taube planes, against French Bleriot XII and others of these early models.

A 1909 design

Just like the Blériot XII, the Taube was of the same generation of sportsmen, engineers, daredevil adventurers which pioneered aviation. By then the monoplane configuration was the most "natural" one and was widespread. But the irony was this design was not German, but Austro-Hungarian, by Igo Etrich in 1909. The Taube ("dove") first flew in 1910. This model was directly inspired by the many gliders that followed otto Lilienthal early grounbreaking works in aerodynamics and primitive controls. However despite its name, the wings shape was in reality modelled after a particular seed, of Alsomitra macrocarpa, which can flew quite great distances from the mother tree. Karl Jatho and Frederick Handley Page also worked on similar "natural" shapes.
Etrich-Wels glider prototype
Etrich-Wels glider prototype

About the plane

The wing has three spars and was braced by a steel tube truss (Brücke) under each wing. The uprights ends of this structure rose above the upper wing surfaces to carry bracing and warping wires for the enlarged wingtips. Etrich also added to his model the crosswind-capable main landing gear developed by Blériot. In addition there was sometimes a small landing wheel mounted under both kingposts to prevent damages in case of rough landings.

Later models adopted a simpler V-strut main gear format. For the sake of production simplification and aerodynamic efficiency, the underwing "bridges" were also often omitted. Wing warping was used for roll control as well as the rear half of the stabilizer for elevation control. Twinned triangular rudder surfaces however were hinged. The Taube was inherently a stable platform, ideal for observation and the thin, somewhat translucent wings made it difficult to spot above 400 meters, its usual service ceiling.

Rumple-Taube general design
Rumpler-Taube general design. This was the most common version

Manufacturers (Variants)

Outside Germany, the Taube was also used by Austro-Hungary and Italy as indicated before, but also Turkey, China, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, Argentina, and Bulgaria.
  • Albatros Taube
  • Albatros Doppeltaube (Biplane version)
  • Aviatik Taube
  • DFW Stahltaube (Stahltaube, with a steel frame)
  • Etrich Taube
  • Etrich-Rumpler-Taube (initial production in 1910)
  • Gotha Taube (LE.1, LE.2 and LE.3)
  • Harlan-Pfeil-Taube
  • Halberstadt Taube III
  • Jeannin Taube (Jeannin Stahltaube, steel tubing fuselage)
  • Kondor Taube
  • RFG Taube
  • Roland Taube
  • Rumpler Taube
  • Rumpler Delfin-Taube (Rumpler Kabinentaube "Delfin", with a closed cabin)
  • Isobe Rumpler Taube (Captured, repicated in Japan)

Operational History

Jeannin Stahltaube, Technikmuseum Berlin
Jeannin Stahltaube, Technikmuseum Berlin

Before WW1, an Italian Taube bombed an enemy position in 1911 in Libya, dropping grenades. Taube were also used as bomber/observation planes in the Balkans war in 1912–13. Despite the initial reticence of the prussian old guard present in the general staff and high command, the Taube made quite an impression. One of these planes indeed detected the advancing Imperial Russian Army in East Prussia before the battle of Tannenberg took place.

Taube were the first, in the fall of 1914, to bomb Paris (or drop propaganda leaflets). Dozens of Taube flew everyday on every part of the front, and at first if pilots exchanged amiabilities when crossing each others, soon, pistols and rifles, or even grappling hooks and flechettes were exchanged... However the Taube was too slow and too stable to be a fighter.

This plane had poor rudder and lateral control and quickly became a very easy target for more modern Allied fighters. Just six months into the war, the Taube, used until then as an observation or surveillance plane, but also had oc fighter or Bomber, was removed from the front line and went to the rear to train pilots. Generations of future German aces made their teeth on this platform.

Ironically the first operational unit was not even on the Western front, but at Qingdao in China, near to German naval assets. The unique Rumpler Taube capable of flying was confronted to the Japanese there, with an eight aircrafts strong force. On October 2, 1914, Lieutenant Gunther Plüschow tried to attack Japanese warships and later took off to flew top secret documents to Shanghai, but made a force landing in Jiangsu instead.


-Length: 9.9 m (32 ft 6 in), Wingspan: 14.3 m (46 ft 11 in), Height: 3.2 m (10 ft 6 in), Wing area: 32.5 m2 (350 sq ft)
-Empty weight: 650 kg (1,433 lb), Gross weight: 850 kg (1,874 lb)
-Crew: 2
-Powerplant: 1 × Mercedes Typ E4F[12] 4-cyl. water-cooled piston engine, 64 kW (86 hp) -Performances: Max speed: 100 km/h (62 mph; 54 kn), Range: 140 km (87 mi; 76 nmi), Service ceiling: 2,000 m (6,600 ft)
-Armament: Rifles, pistols and hand dropped bombs.