It was the last fabric-covered biplane fighter developed in a lineage that extended back to the First World Wars D.VII.
Problems with severe vibration in the Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar radial engine on the Fokker D.XVI resulted in one being converted to use a normally aspirated 500 hp (370 kW) Curtiss Conqueror V-1570 V-twelve, becoming the prototype for the D.XVII.
Production versions were fitted with a 600 hp (450 kW) Rolls-Royce Kestrel, while one aircraft was built with a 790 hp (590 kW) Lorraine Pétrel and another was built with a 690 hp (510 kW) Hispano-Suiza 12Xbrs for comparison purposes.
The structure was standard for Fokker aircraft throughout the 1920s.
The sesquiplane’s fuselage was welded steel tube with fabric covering and the wings were made with wood spars and ribs covered with plywood.