DML 1/48 Fokker D.VII






See review


Tom Cleaver


Kit is currently (July 2000) OOP


The Fokker D.VII is generally considered the best fighter used by either side during the First World War.

Anthony Fokker had redeemed his reputation with the Dr.I Triplane, only to suffer the ignominy of having the airplane grounded at the moment when it might have achieved its greatest success, due to shoddy workmanship in the Fokker factory that resulted in structural failure of the wings in flight. In the eyes of Idflieg, the headquarters of the German Air Service, Fokker was back in the doghouse. Unfortunately for the Germans - and fortunately for Fokker - the Albatros and Pfalz fighters that had formed the backbone of the Jagdstaffeln for a year were now outperformed by the latest Allied fighters. A Fighter Competition was announced for January, 1918, where the top German pilots would choose among the best designs of the aircraft industry, to get a top-notch replacement as quickly as possible.

Fokker brought several prototypes to the competition, including the V.11, which is commonly considered the prototype of the D.VII. No less than Manfred von Richtofen flew it, and reported to Fokker that, while he had bested an Albatros D.Va, the airplane did not handle well.

The industrious Fokker brought his design team to Johannistal from Schwerin and rebuilt the V.11 in a shed on the spot. Within a matter of days, the fuselage had been lengthened, a larger tail was installed, and the wings were moved backwards. With these changes, Richtofen flew the airplane again and was so impressed he had two of his other pilots fly it. Fokker walked away from the First Fighter Competition with production orders for the D.VII.

The first D.VIIs appeared on the Western Front shortly after the death of Richtofen in late April, 1918. These were powered by the 160 h.p. Mercedes. Their overall performance was good, but they were considered underpowered. In May, the D.VIIf appeared, powered by the 185 h.p. B.M.W. engine. This was the best of the lot; unfortunately, Fokker had to compete to get the engine, and so full production could not be turned over to this type, which was only given to the better pilots for the rest of the war.

It was said that the airplane was so good that "it made the average pilot good and the good pilot great." Fortunately for the Allies, though the D.VII entered combat in late April, it did not appear in numbers on the Western Front until the summer of 1918. By that time, Allied air superiority in sheer numbers was nearly overwhelming, and the shortage of aviation gasoline and other items limited German operations. At the end of the war, the Allies paid it the ultimate compliment of naming it specifically in the Versailles Treaty as war booty for which all examples must be turned over to the victors. No other airplanes were so listed.


The DML Fokker D.VII appeared in the early 1990s, as part of the Knights of the Sky series, which saw the S.P.A.D. XIII, Fokker Dr.I and Fokker D.VIII produced. These are considered some of the best World War I models ever made. With the changes in corporate fortunes of DML, the models have been in and out of production over the past ten years. Currently, the Spad and the Triplane can be found as new production from Dragon, but the D.VII has been out of production for several years. Hasegawa has released the kit under their banner recently, and it can be obtained in some situations. The best version of the kit if you can get it is the first one - with the box art of August Raben's D.VII - since this includes the side panels that allow a modeler to make the early Fokker version, the D.VIIf and the OAW-built D.VII; all of these differed primarily in the louvres on these side panels. The version of the kit most likely to be available has only the side panels for the D.VIIf - while this was the best of the series, it was also produced in the fewest numbers, and many of the possible markings are not for this sub-type.

Past that, the kit is well-molded, with the proper taper in wing thickness of both the upper and lower wings, with the "twist" in airfoil section in the upper wing that delayed the onset of stall so that the fighter could virtually "hang on its prop and shoot all day," in the words of its Allied opponents.

There are a number of aftermarket sheets for the D.VII available, with the best from Americal-Gryphon. Aeromaster produced two good sheets, and there is an older sheet from MicroScale/SuperScale which is now out of production but can still be found.


Construction of the kit is straightforward, and any modeler who follows the very complete instruction sheet will find no problems. (Editors note: For those of you unable to find the DML Fokker D.VII, the older and less detailed Monogram D.VII in this scale is generally available second hand and from swap meets for around $10 or so. I built one of the Monogram kits  around 15 years ago using Microscale/Superscale decals, and it made into a very nice model [see the image to the left]. You can see the difference in colors between this Superscale sheet and the one used on Tom's D.VII.)


While the D.VII carried some of the most colorful personal markings of any fighter in the war, it is also well-known for using lozenge camouflage. This was a pre-printed fabric that came in upper surface and lower surface 4 and 5 color sets. There are some modelers who have painted this very difficult pattern, and I once tried it about 20 years ago on a 1/72 model. It involved cutting out masks and airbrushing different colors. After the one experience I said "never again!"

Fortunately, there are decals sheets of this fabric available. There has been controversy for years among World War I modelers as to the accuracy of the colors, and a great cry went up when Aeromaster released a set of 5-color lozenge that was declared completely inaccurate back in 1995. The sheets most commonly considered accurate come from Americal-Gryphon; they are expensive and thicker, but definitely do-able. There was also a sheet of 4-color upper and lower lozenge done by SuperScale, which is the sheet most commonly available, though now out of production; the colors of the upper sheet are considered inaccurate, but they make up into a good-looking model.

Given that I had a sheet of the upper and lower SuperScale lozenge, and the SuperScale markings sheet, these were what I used on this D.VII.

I chose the personal markings that are listed as belonging to Ltn. Starke on the sheet. This is incorrect. From the call for a black/white tail section, this airplane comes from Jasta 2 "Boelcke," in the summer of 1918, though the individual pilot has not been identified by researchers. This was, however, the one airplane on the sheet in a full upper and lower lozenge camouflage, so it was chosen.

Applying the Lozenge:

To do the model accurately, the lozenge needs to be applied to the sides of the cockpit inside. The real pattern would be the reverse of the exterior pattern, with the colors changed as they were printed only on one side of the fabric. I know serious WW1 modelers who hand-paint this, but I am not one of them. I Futured the inside of the fuselage, and applied some upper-color lozenge decal sheet, prior to assembly of the fuselage.

The rest of the application comes at the end of construction. The model should be in sub-assemblies of lower wing/fuselage, upper wing, axle wing, and tail surfaces, unassembled past this point. If the modeler is going to pose the elevators and ailerons, they should also be separated now, but not assembled in position.

The engine cowling should be painted the appropriate color (in this case, medium grey). Once it is dry, this is what you will handle the model by. In my case, I also painted the left rear quarter of the fuselage white and the right side black. I also painted the horizontal stabilizer and elevators at this time.

After Futuring the model, it is best to start with the upper surfaces. Tracing the contours of the fuselage onto paper, then cutting it out as a pattern for the lozenge is a good idea. Apply the panel for the upper fuselage turtle deck, with separate pieces of the section of fuselage between the cockpit and engine cowling, then apply the side panels, which should be one piece. It is important to not stint in the use of decal solvent here. Once these decals have been applied, handle the fuselage only by the forward cowling.

The fabric was applied to the wings chordwise. These pieces of decal should have been measured off the wing surface and cut prior to the application of the fuselage decals. It's OK to have some excess fore and aft on this part, due to the fact the upper surface has the most curvature. You want it to completely cover the upper surfaces. The upper wing is done in the same manner. Use lots of solvent, and set the parts aside. The decal should be applied span-wise on the lower axle wing.

I was not using lozenge on the tail of my model, so I left it alone. However, had I done so, I would have applied the lozenge lengthwise on the horizontal stabilizer and span-wise on the elevator. You also apply the lozenge span-wise on the ailerons.

As the decals set up, check for air bubbles. As you spot these, pierce them with the tip of a sharp #11 Xacto blade, and apply more solvent. After a couple of hours, the bubbles should have been beaten, and the model should be left alone till the next day for the decal to set up completely.

Before further handling of the model at the point where the upper lozenge is dry, wash the model to get the remaining solvent off, then Future it to seal the decals so they can be handled. Once this is dry, it's time for the lower surfaces.

Here, you need the lower fuselage piece, and for the underside of the wings. Cut these pieces to fit closely; they will cover any overage of the upper surface lozenge. Again, use lots of solvent, watch for bubbles, prick them and use more solvent. Let this set up for a day, and then wash and Future the undersides.

Now we're on to the fun, part, doing the wing rib tapes. You cannot avoid these - the fabric of an airplane has to be taped over the ribs to cover the holes made by sewing the fabric onto the wing during construction, otherwise the fabric will peel off under the stress of flight - if you ever see a fabric-covered airplane that does not have rib tapes on its wings, do not go flying in it!

If you are using the SuperScale sheet, the rib tape decals are too wide, and need to be cut in half down the middle - not an easy process. Fortunately for me, I had some rib tape from the old Aeromaster sheet, which is the right width and the right colors. If you do not have rib tape decals, you can alternatively cut lozenge decal to make these tapes, as the lozenge fabric was used this way. The commonly-accepted manner of doing these nowadays is to use the light blue tape on the upper surfaces, the pink tape on the lowers. However, no one has ever been able to prove that airplanes were not finished using one color or the other overall, and this would be correct to do. Have I confused you sufficiently? Let's proceed.

I cut sections of the rib tape decal the proper chord length of the wings. Dip them in water and apply them on the raised rib. Be careful - they will get out of alignment if you look at them wrong! Let them set up a bit, then slather on the decal solvent. Do the uppers first, then the lowers after the uppers have dried and been sealed with Future. The ailerons do not need rib tapes, though the horizontal stabilizer and elevators do if you are doing an overall-lozenge airplane. Upper-color rib tape should also be applied to the leading edge of the wings. Technically it should also be applied to the trailing edge, but I have never been able to make the decal adhere straight, so when I do the trailing edge I usually do it with paint at the end of the process.

Once this is done, you then apply the national markings per the instructions, slather decal solvent on them, and later seal them with Future (you'll be good at it by now - you know what they say about practice!).

I shot the model with a thin coat of "Flat Future," my mixture of Tamiya Flat Base and Future, to bring down the shininess of six coats of Future.

Final Assembly:

Once all this was done, I attached the machine guns in position, attached the struts and then the upper wing. I glued the horizontal surfaces in position, and finally the landing gear.


This is a laborious, time-consuming process, but the result is outstanding. The German lozenge camouflage is easily the most distinctive ever applied to any airplane. Any modeler willing to invest the necessary time and take care not to harm the decals during the setting process (lifting one with a finger means starting over), can achieve this look. Be sure you have sealed all seams during construction, because they will be very apparent when the lozenge decals dissolve into them during the setting process. 

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