|First flight||27 March 1936|
|Primary users|| Finnish Air Force|
Dutch Air Force
Danish Air Force
The Fokker D.XXI fighter was designed in 1935 for use by the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army Air Force (Militaire Luchtvaart van het Koninklijk Nederlands-Indisch Leger, ML-KNIL) . As such, it was designed as an inexpensive and small, but rugged aircraft, which had respectable performance for its time. Entering operational use in the early years of World War II, it provided yeoman service for both the Luchtvaartafdeling (Dutch Army Aviation Group) and the Finnish Air Force, and a few were built by the El Carmolí factory before it fell into rebel hands during the Spanish Civil War.
Design and development
The Fokker D.XXI was a low-wing monoplane with a fixed spatted undercarriage. It was designed to meet the specifications drawn up by the Royal Netherlands Indies Army. Following standard Fokker design practice of the period, it had a steel tube fuselage covered in large part by fabric, with wooden cantilever wings. When flown for the first time on March 27, 1936, power was provided by a Bristol Mercury VI-S radial driving a three-blade two-pitch propeller. It was found to be easy to fly and possessed no serious vices. Unfortunately, shortly after the prototypes first flight, defense thinking in the Netherlands Indies underwent a radical change and no orders were placed for the fighter.
In 1937, the Dutch government voted funds for a limited expansion of the Army Aviation Group resulting on an order for 36 Fokker D.XXI fighters powered by the 830 h.p. Bristol Mercury VII or VIII. At this time the fighter had also attracted the attention of a number of foreign governments. The Finnish government ordered seven aircraft and acquired a manufacturing license. The Spanish government also acquired a manufacturing license for the D.XXI. Unfortunately, the plant building the fighter was overrun by Nationalist forces and no Spanish-built aircraft were completed. The Danish government ordered two D.XXI fighters and another manufacturing license. The Danish D.XXI fighters were powered by a 645 h.p. Bristol Mercury VI-S radial and carried a Madsen 20 mm cannon under each wing. Ten aircraft were completed by the Royal Army Aircraft Factory in Copenhagen prior to the German invasion of Denmark in April 1940.
When it entered service in 1938 it was a significant leap forward for the Dutch Army Aviation Group, whose fighter force had until that time consisted of aging biplanes with open cockpits. The new Fokker proved to be an extremely sturdy aircraft capable of attaining a speed of 700 km/h in a dive.
During the early production of the D.XXI, Fokker's design office considered a number of developments to the basic design, including a wing re-design. A number of alternative engines were considered, including such power plants as the 650 h.p. Rolls-Royce Kestrel V and the 750 h.p. Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasp Junior. During 1938, work on three extensively modified versions known as the 150, 151 and 152 were initiated. These craft were to be powered by the 1,375 h.p. Bristol Hercules, the 1,050 h.p. Rolls-Royce Merlin and the 1,090 h.p. Daimler-Benz DB 600H. Retractable landing gear was incorporated into these redesigns.
In 1936 a few Fokker D.XXIs were used by the Spanish Republic. Although the order by the ML-KNIL was cancelled, the Luchtvaartafdeling (Dutch Army Air Force before World War II) placed an order of 36 aircraft, which were all delivered in time to participate in the war against the Germans in May 1940. The Fokker D.XXI, although much slower and more lightly armed than the Bf 109, performed surprisingly well in dogfights, due to its maneuverability. It was also one of the few aircraft that could follow a Stuka bomber into its dive. Nonetheless, the numerical inferiority of the Luchtvaartafdeling compared to the Luftwaffe resulted in the destruction of most Dutch Fokker D.XXI fighters during the campaign. Some were captured during and after 15 May, but their fates, apart from their capture, are unknown.
The Fokker D.XXI performed better and for much longer in the Finnish Air Force. Against the aircraft of the Soviet Air Force, the Fokker was more evenly matched, and its rugged design with a radial engine and fixed undercarriage made it very suitable for Finnish conditions. Later in the war, as newer models of Soviet fighters appeared, the Fokker D.XXI was underpowered and too lightly armed (with only four 7.92 mm/.312 in machine guns) to compete. Plans to arm the Fokkers with 20 mm cannons were dropped and only one fighter was armed as such (two 20 mm cannons and two 7.92 mm/.312 in machine guns). Another fighter was equipped with retractable landing gear, but due to less than anticipated performance improvement, wasn't continued in the series. The fixed undercarriage lent itself to both unimproved runways and conversion to skis for winter use, both of which were advantages in the Finnish theater.
During the Continuation War (1941–44) the Finnish State Aircraft Factory (Valtion Lentokonetehdas, VL) also built some 50 D.XXIs with the Swedish-built Pratt & Whitney R-1535 Twin Wasp Junior as the Bristol Mercury was in short supply. These can be identified by their longer cockpit glazing, smooth cowl, and large ventral air intake under the cowl. The two fuselage-mounted machine guns on these D.XXIs were relocated in the wings and the vertical tail surface was increased in size to offset the new engine. Owing to the increased loaded weight, the R1535-powered D.XXI had a slightly reduced performance and was not as maneuverable as the Mercury-powered versions.
Several Finnish Air Force pilots became fighter aces with the Fokker D.XXI. The top scoring Fokker ace was Jorma Sarvanto who obtained 12 5/6 victories with the type. Many other future aces scored at least one victory with the Fokker. The highest scoring airframe was FK-110, with 10 victories. This aircraft survived the war and is on display at the Central Finland Aviation Museum.
- Prototype serial no FD-322
- Pattern aircraft supplied to Denmark, three built, powered by 645 hp (481 kW) Bristol Mercury VIS engines. Armed with 2x 8 mm (0.315 in) machine guns and 2x 20 mm (0.787 in) Madsen cannon
- Production aircraft built at the Royal Army Aircraft Factory, ten built powered by 830 hp (619 kW) Bristol Mercury VIII engines.
- 53 Built, of which 36 were delivered to the RNLAF.
- Finnish license-built D.XXI-2s. Number built: 38
- Upgraded D.XXI-3, powered by 825 hp (615 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1535-SB4C-G Twin Wasp Junior engines. Number built: 50
- Upgraded D.XXI-4, powered by 920 hp (686 kW) Bristol Pegasus radial engines. Number built: five
- Project 150
- Proposed version powered by a Bristol Hercules radial piston engine. Not built.
- Project 151
- Proposed version powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin piston engine. Not built.
- Project 152
- Proposed version powered by a Daimler-Benz DB 600H engine. Not built.
- Hærens Flyvertropper (Danish Army Aviation Troops) received three aircraft and built ten on license. Locally designated IIIJ ("third fighter aircraft")
- Finnish Air Force received seven aircraft and built 93 on license.
- Luftwaffe operated an unknown number of captured Dutch aircraft.
- Dutch Army Aviation Group received 36 aircraft.
1 Luchtvaartregiment (1 aviation regiment) 1 and 2 Jachtvliegersafdeling (JaVa) (fighter squadron) 2 Luchtvaartregiment
- Spanish Republican Air Force May have completed one aircraft.
Aircraft on display
- Aviation Museum of Central Finland has FR-110 on display having been restored with additional parts from FR-81 and FR-137.
- Militaire Luchtvaart Museum has a replica painted in KLu markings.
- Crash Foundation
Specifications (D.XXI - Finland - Mercury)
- Crew: one
- Length: 8.2 m (26 ft 11 in)
- Wingspan: 11 m (36 ft 1 in)
- Height: 2.92 m (9 ft 7 in)
- Wing area: 16.2 m2 (174 sq ft)
- Empty weight: 1,594 kg (3,514 lb)
- Gross weight: 1,970 kg (4,343 lb)
- Powerplant: 1 × Bristol Mercury VIII 9-cyl. air-cooled radial piston engine, 620 kW (830 hp)
- Maximum speed: 460 km/h (286 mph; 248 kn)
- Cruising speed: 429 km/h (267 mph; 232 kn)
- Never exceed speed: 700 km/h (435 mph; 378 kn)
- Range: 930 km (578 mi; 502 nmi)
- Service ceiling: 11,350 m (37,238 ft) service ceiling
- Time to altitude: 6,000 m (19,685 ft 0 in) in 7 min 30 sec
- Power/mass: 0.309 kW/kg (0.188 hp/lb)
- 4 × 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Vickers machine guns
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Related lists
- List of fighter aircraft
- List of aircraft of the Spanish Republican Air Force
- List of aircraft of World War II
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- 4th improved edition republished in two parts as:
- Keskinen, Kalevi and Kari Stenman. Fokker D.XXI [Mercury] (Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 3a) (in Finnish). Helsinki, Finland: Hobby Kustannus Oy, 2000. ISBN 952-5334-02-3.
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- 4th improved edition republished in two parts as:
- Ledwoch, Janusz. Fokker D.XXI (Wydawnictwo Militaria 5) (in Polish). Warsawa, Poland: Wydawnictwo Militaria, 1995. ISBN 83-86209-34-8.
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- Skulski, Przemysław. Fokker D.21 (Seria "Pod Lupą" 10) (in Polish, with English summary). Wrocław, Poland: Ace Publication, 1999. ISBN 83-86153-79-2.
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- Toll, Karl. "The Last of the Fighting Fokkers". Airpower, January 1982.
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