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Zeppelin Staaken Riesenflugzeuge

The Zeppelin-Staaken Riesenflugzeuge comprised a series of exceptionally large bomber aircraft, often known as “giant aircraft,” which were usually outfitted with four or more engines.

These aircraft were designed and built in Germany from 1915 to 1919.

The first Zeppelin-Staaken R-planes were developed by Ferdinand von Zeppelin, with support from engineers at Robert Bosch GmbH and Versuchsbau Gotha-Ost (V.G.O.).


Zeppelin-Staaken R.IV 

The Zeppelin-Staaken R.IV was assembled at Staaken, following a production move from VGO.

While it bore resemblance to the V.G.O.III, it featured paired 220 hp (160 kW) Benz Bz.IV engines within each twin engine nacelle and paired 160 hp (120 kW) Mercedes D.III engines in the nose.

Each engine pair powered a single four-bladed pusher propeller.

The R.IV, bearing the serial number ‘R 12/15’, was the sole “nose-engined” Zeppelin-Staaken R-plane to remain operational until the war’s end, participating in missions on both the eastern and western fronts.

Only a single R.IV was constructed.

Zeppelin-Staaken R.V 

The R.V aircraft preserved the design of its forerunner, the Zeppelin-Staaken R-planes, except for the engine nacelles.

The R.V’s nacelles were configured as tractor units with tandem-mounted 240 hp (180 kW) Maybach Mb.IV engines, and the engineers and gunners were positioned at the rear of the nacelles.

In contrast to the R.IV, the R.V was equipped with a single Mb.IV straight-six engine at the front.

For enhanced defence, the R.V incorporated the Schwalbennest, a nacelle located on the upper main plane’s centreline leading edge, which accommodated a gunner with a single machine gun.

Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI 

The R.VI, the first genuine production model of the Zeppelin-Staaken R-plane, featured impressive characteristics.

It operated on either four 245 hp (183 kW) Maybach MB.IV engines or four 260 hp (190 kW) Mercedes D.IVa engines.

Despite the fuselage’s resemblance to earlier models, significant alterations were introduced.

The cockpit was expanded forward, enclosed, and fitted with glass for a more sophisticated design.

A gunner’s cockpit was also installed at the very front.

Structural enhancements were evident in the aircraft.

An aluminium alloy was used for the triple-finned biplane tail unit, and the twin horizontal planes were crafted with inverse camber and a positive angle of incidence to increase stabilising downforce.

The ‘R.30/16’ model, in particular, was recognised by IdFlieg as a testbed for supercharged engines and was utilised by the Luftstreitkräfte, assigned to Rfa 500 and Rfa 501 on the Western Front near Ghent.

Zeppelin-Staaken R.VII

The R.VII aircraft showed minimal differences from its predecessor, the R.IV, with the exception of a modified strut configuration in the tail unit.

Regrettably, the only R.VII built, designated R 14/15, suffered a mishap during transit to the front lines and was involved in a crash.

Zeppelin-Staaken R.XIV 

The R.XIV bore a striking similarity to its forerunners, the Zeppelin-Staaken R-planes, except for its engine configuration and minor nuances.

The Maybach MB.IV engines were arranged in push-pull configurations within the nacelles, with the engineer situated between them, and a single tractor engine was mounted at the front.

Three R.XIVs were produced, bearing the serial numbers R 43/16 through R 45/16.

Unfortunately, R 43/16 was lost in July 1918 when Captain Yaille from No. 151 Squadron RAF shot it down.

Zeppelin-Staaken R.XV 

The R.XV aircraft maintained the five-engine configuration of its predecessor, the R.XIV, and incorporated a substantial central fin into the tail unit.

Although three R.XV planes, bearing the serial numbers R 46/16 to R 48/16, were constructed, there is no confirmed record of their use in operational flights.

Zeppelin-Staaken R.XVI (Av) 

With the debut of the new 530 horsepower (395 kilowatt) Benz VI engine in early 1918, Aviatik at Leipzig-Heiterblick was tasked with integrating this more potent engine into the R.VI airframe.

This task fell to Aviatik due to the obligations of the Zeppelin-Staaken factory and Aviatik’s experience in licensed R.VI construction.

The new engines were mounted in the nacelles’ nose positions to drive tractor propellers, while 220 horsepower (164 kilowatt) Benz BzIV engines were placed in the rear, powering pusher propellers via extension shafts.

Consequently, three R.XVI (Av) aircraft were built, with R 49 being the first, completed in October 1918.

However, R 49 suffered landing gear damage during a test flight, with no evidence of subsequent repairs.

R 50 was finished post-armistice as a civilian plane but was later dismantled by the Military Inter-Allied Commission of Control’s directive.

The construction of R 51 was in progress at the armistice but remained incomplete.

Zeppelin-Staaken Type “L” Seaplane 

This particular aircraft is identifiable as an R.VI model, modified to include significant duralumin floats that were 13 metres (42 ft 8 in) long.

It was assigned the serial number 1432 by the Kaiserliche Marine (German Navy).

Unfortunately, the aircraft experienced operational difficulties and became inoperative during its testing phase.

Zeppelin-Staaken Type 8301 Seaplane 

In their quest to create a functional and noteworthy seaplane for the Kaiserliche Marine, Zeppelin-Staaken employed the wings of the R.VI along with a distinctive fuselage design.

This novel fuselage featured the substantial central fin from the R.XV, situated midway between the mainplanes and upheld by floats akin to those on the “Type L”.






22.1 m (72 ft 6.2 in)


42.2 m (138 ft 5.6 in)


6.3 m (20 ft 8 in)

Wing area

332 m2 (3,595 sq ft)

Empty weight

7,921 kg (17,426 lb)

Gross weight

11,848 kg (26,066 lb)


4 × Maybach Mb.IV 6-cyl. inline,

183 kW (245 hp) each


4 × Mercedes D.IVa 6-cyl. inline,

194 kW (260 hp) each,

Displacement of 21.7 l (1,325


Maximum speed

135 km/h (84 mph, 73 kn)


7-10 hrs

Service ceiling

4,320 m (14,710 ft)

Rate of sink

1.16 m/s (229 ft/min).


Zeppelin-Staaken Aircraft of WWI, Vol 1, VGO.I – R.VI R.29/16-Jack Herris.

Zeppelin-Staaken Aircraft of WWI, Vol 2, R.VI R.30/16 – E.4/20-Jack Herris.

Staaken at War, Winsock 123-Ray Rimell.

German Bombers of WW1, In Action-Squadron Signal 173.

German Bombers of World War One-Alex Imrie.

German G-Type Bombers of WWI, A Centennial Perspective on Great War Airplanes-Jack Herris.

Charles Daniels Photo Collection.




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