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Zeppelin Staaken Riesenflugzeuge

The Zeppelin-Staaken Riesenflugzeuge were a collection of exceedingly large bomber aircraft, commonly referred to as “giant aircraft” or Riesenflugzeuge, that were typically equipped with four or more engines.

These aircraft were conceived and constructed in Germany between the years of 1915 and 1919.

The initial Zeppelin-Staaken R-planes were crafted by Ferdinand von Zeppelin, with the assistance of engineers from Robert Bosch GmbH and the Versuchsbau Gotha-Ost (V.G.O.).


Zeppelin-Staaken R.IV 

The Zeppelin-Staaken R.IV was constructed at Staaken after the production was shifted from VGO.

Although it shared many similarities with the V.G.O.III, it was equipped with paired 220 hp (160 kW) Benz Bz.IV engines in each of the twin engine nacelles, in addition to the paired 160 hp (120 kW) Mercedes D.III engines in the nose.

Each pair of engines drove a single four-bladed pusher propeller.

The R.IV, with the serial number ‘R 12/15’, was the only “nose-engined” Zeppelin-Staaken R-plane to survive till the end of the war.

It carried out operations on both the eastern and western fronts.

Only one R.IV was built.

Zeppelin-Staaken R.V 

The R.V aircraft maintained the same design as its predecessor, the Zeppelin-Staaken R-planes, with the exception of its engine nacelles.

The R.V’s nacelles were arranged as tractor units with tandem mounted 240 hp (180 kW) Maybach Mb.IV powerplants, and the engineers and gunners were relocated to the rear of the nacelles.

Unlike the R.IV, the R.V featured a single Mb.IV straight-six engine in the nose.

To improve its defensive capabilities, the R.V was outfitted with the Schwalbennest, a nacelle situated on the centreline of the upper main plane leading edge, which housed a gunner equipped with a single machine-gun.

Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI 

The R.VI, the inaugural authentic production Zeppelin-Staaken R-plane, boasted remarkable features.

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

While the fuselage bore similarities to its predecessor, notable modifications were made.

The cockpit was extended forward, enclosed, and glazed, providing a more advanced design.

Additionally, a gunner’s cockpit was positioned in the extreme nose.

The aircraft also showcased improvements in its structure.

The triple-finned biplane tail unit was constructed using an aluminium alloy, and the twin horizontal planes were designed with both inverse camber and a positive angle of incidence.

These enhancements were aimed at augmenting the stabilizing downforce.

One specific model, the ‘R.30/16’, was designated by IdFlieg and served as a testbed for supercharged engines.

It was deployed in the Luftstreitkräfte with Rfa 500 and Rfa 501 on the western front, stationed in the Ghent area.

Zeppelin-Staaken R.VII

The R.VII aircraft displayed a negligible departure from its predecessor, the R.IV, except for a revised strut arrangement in the tail unit.

Unfortunately, the sole R.VII produced, which was designated as R 14/15, encountered an unfavorable incident while being transported to the battlefront and was involved in a crash.

Zeppelin-Staaken R.XIV 

The R.XIV exhibited a notable resemblance to its predecessors, the Zeppelin-Staaken R-planes, with the exception of its engine installation and minor details.

The Maybach MB.IV engines were positioned in push-pull pairs within the nacelles, with the engineer positioned between them, while a single tractor engine was located in the nose.

A total of three R.XIVs were manufactured, identified by the serial numbers R 43/16 to R 45/16.

Regrettably, R 43/16 met its demise in July 1918 when it was downed by Captain Yaille of No. 151 Squadron RAF.

Zeppelin-Staaken R.XV 

The R.XV aircraft retained the five-engine arrangement from its predecessor, the R.XIV, while integrating a significant central fin into the tail unit.

Despite the construction of three R.XV planes, identified by serial numbers R 46/16 to R 48/16, there is no verified documentation of their utilization in operational flights.

Zeppelin-Staaken R.XVI (Av) 

Upon the introduction of the new 530 horsepower (395 kilowatt) Benz VI engine in early 1918, the responsibility of integrating this more powerful engine into the R.VI airframe was entrusted to Aviatik at Leipzig-Heiterblick.

This decision was made due to the commitments of the Zeppelin-Staaken factory and Aviatik’s prior experience in constructing the R.VI under license.

The installation of the new engines involved placing them in the nose positions of the nacelles, where they drove tractor propellers.

In addition, 220 horsepower (164 kilowatt) Benz BzIV engines were installed in the rear positions, driving pusher propellers through extension shafts.

As a result of these modifications, three R.XVI (Av) aircraft were constructed, with R 49 being the first to be completed in October 1918.

However, during a test flight, R 49 experienced damage to its landing gear, and there is no available evidence of repairs being carried out.

R 50, on the other hand, was completed after the armistice as a civil aircraft but was subsequently scrapped under the orders of the Military Inter-Allied Commission of Control.

Lastly, the construction of R 51 was well underway at the time of the armistice but was ultimately left unfinished.

Zeppelin-Staaken Type “L” Seaplane 

This specific aircraft can be identified as an R.VI model, which underwent modifications to incorporate substantial duralumin floats measuring 13 metres (42 ft 8 in) in length.

The Kaiserliche Marine (German Navy) designated it with the serial number 1432.

Regrettably, the aircraft encountered operational issues and became non-functional during its testing phase.

Zeppelin-Staaken Type 8301 Seaplane 

As part of their efforts to develop a functional and significant seaplane for the Kaiserliche Marine, Zeppelin-Staaken utilized R.VI wings in combination with a unique fuselage design.

This innovative fuselage incorporated the large central fin of the R.XV, which was positioned at the midpoint between the mainplanes and supported by floats similar to those used in 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. in-line, 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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