The Zeppelin-Staaken Riesenflugzeuge were a series of very large bomber aircraft, usually powered by four or more engines, designed and built in Germany from 1915 to 1919.
Built at Staaken after production moved from VGO, the R.IV although generally similar to the V.G.O.III, retained the paired 160 hp (120 kW) Mercedes D.III engines in the nose, but was fitted with paired 220 hp (160 kW) Benz Bz.IV engines in each of the twin engine nacelles, each pair driving single four-bladed pusher propellers.
One built, and the only “nose-engined” Zeppelin-Staaken R-plane to survive to the end of the war.
Adhering to the same layout as the previous Zeppelin-Staaken R-planes, the R.V differed in having the engine nacelles arranged as tractor units with tandem mounted 240 hp (180 kW) Maybach Mb.IV powerplants and the engineers and gunners transferred to the rear of the nacelles.
A single Mb.IV straight-six engine replaced the paired units of the R.IV in the nose.
Additional defensive firepower was fitted in the form of the Schwalbennest, a nacelle on the centre-line of the upper main plane leading edge housing a gunner with a single machine-gun.
The first true production Zeppelin-Staaken R-plane was the R.VI.
This giant aircraft was powered either by four 245 hp (183 kW) Maybach Mb.IV engines or four 260 hp (190 kW) Mercedes D.IVa engines.
The fuselage was similar to the previous aircraft but the cockpit was extended forward, enclosed and glazed with a gunner’s cockpit in the extreme nose.
Other improvements included aluminium alloy structure in the triple-finned biplane tail unit, whose twin horizontal planes were built with both inverse camber and a positive angle of incidence to improve the stabilising downforce.
The IdFlieg-designated ‘R.30/16’ example acted as a supercharged engine test-bed, and saw service in the Luftstreitkräfte with Rfa 500 and Rfa 501 on the western front, stationed in the Ghent area.
Differing little from the R.IV, the R.VII had a revised arrangement of struts in the tail unit.
The sole R.VII built, serials, R 14/15, crashed during its delivery flight to the front line.
The R.XIV closely resembled previous Zeppelin-Staaken R-planes differing only in engine installation and details.
The five Maybach Mb.IV engines were arranged as push-pull pairs in the nacelles, with the engineer accommodated between the engines, and a single tractor engine in the nose.
Three R.XIVs were built, serials, R 43/16 to R 45/16. R 43/16 was shot down by Captain Yaille of No. 151 Squadron RAF in July 1918.
The R.XV also carried on the five engine layout of the R.XIV but introduced a large central fin in the tail unit.
Three R.XVs were built, serials, R 46/16 to R 48/16, but there is no evidence that they carried out operational flights.
Zeppelin-Staaken R.XVI (Av)
When the new 530 hp (395 kW) Benz VI engine became available, early in 1918, Aviatik at Leipzig-Heiterblick were tasked with integrating the new more powerful engine into the R.VI airframe due to the commitments of the Zeppelin-Staaken factory and Aviatiks experience in building the R.VI under licence.
The new engines were installed in the nose positions of the nacelles driving tractor propellers, with 220 hp (164 KW) Benz BzIV engines in the rear positions driving pusher propellers via extension shafts.
Three R.XVI (Av)s were built; R 49 was completed in October 1918 but damaged its landing gear during a test flight, evidence that repairs were carried out is not available.
R 50 was completed after the armistice as a civil aircraft but was scrapped under the orders of the Military Inter-Allied Commission of Control.
Construction of R 51 was well advanced at the time of the armistice, but was not completed.
Zeppelin-Staaken Type “L” Seaplane
This aircraft was essentially an R.VI fitted with large 13-metre (42 ft 8 in) long duralumin floats.
Allocated the serial no. 1432 by the Kaiserliche Marine (German Navy) the aircraft was wrecked during trials.
Zeppelin-Staaken Type 8301 Seaplane
In a further attempt to develop a useful large seaplane for the Kaiserliche Marine, Zeppelin-Staaken used R.VI wings mated to an all new fuselage, which incorporated the large central fin of the R.XV, suspended midway between the main-planes, all supported by floats similar to the ‘Type ”L”’.