WW1 Planes
An encyclopediae of 1914-18 aircraft types

Tactics & Strategy

Immelman Turn

The very first tactical approach of planes was only related to their combined use with artillery. However as the war progressed, they were soon pushed into new roles, which created branches -and tactics- of their own. The Fighters are a good example of this. They emerged of necessity, when aviation met intelligence gathering in an industrial scale. On the ground, spies were shot, but the first aviators, even from opposite sides, gently waved their hands in salute when meeting in the air. Of course this "chivalry" image persisted in culture, but the grim reality soon take over when when a pilot first shot another with a pistol. They were attempts, with grenades, lead balls, hooks, cavalry rifles, until the most deadly weapon of the war made its way in turn, amidst the canvas and ropes of the first improvized fighters. The first MG-armed serie fighters were the Fokker Eindecker E-I which advantageously replaced the prolific bird-like Erich Taube, way too frail for a machine-gun. From then on, the plane itself, thanks to the interrupter gear, could be aimed by the pilot on its target. And the first fighter tactics were born.

Max Immelman E-I Max Immelman (which gave its name to a distinctive loop) was among the first to devise air-to-air combat tactics. The Germans pilots of the Luftstreitkrafte in general were the first to codify these tactics, especially Oswald Boelcke, his own great rival. The latter indeed would be considered as the Father of Air Fighting Tactic, and wrote the famous "Boelcke's Dicta", still bedside book for pilots at the eve of the Spanish Civil War (More on this below, see "aces"). With his Jasta 2 in 1916, Boelke had his men practising strict formations, repeating tactical drills. One of his most avid students were Manfred von Richthofen and Erwin Böhme. At the time of the second "Fokker scourge" in April 1917, German pilots were the best in the world, making for inferior numbers.

See the list of WW1 aces