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Fokker C.V [C.5]


During the May War in 1940 two remarkable biplanes proved to be worthy workhorses over the battlefield, although their design and capabilities were outdated by the vast developments of aircraft modernisation. These two plane-types were the Fokker C.V tactical recce plane and the C.X strategic recce and light ground support plane.

The Fokker C.V [or C.5] was the most successful export product of the Fokker factories after WWI. It was sold to Italy, Norway, Denmark, Hungary, Bolivia, China, Finland, Japan, Russia and the US. In the first four countries the C.V was operational during WWII. Also the NEI [Netherlands East-Indies] army had bought the C.V as well as the Royal Dutch Navy.

The design of the C.V was a derivative of the design of the last Fokker fighter, the D.VII [or D.7]. This plane was a well known fighter during WWI. Although the Fokker D-series represented fighters - and the C-series reconnaissance planes - the C.V as a recce plane was a direct next of kin of a WWI fighter. It proved that the design of military planes had strongly improved over the years.


The design and construction

The first acceptable design of the C.V was presented in 1925. It was offered in five different configurations:

- C.Va: tactical recce, 12,03 m wing span
- C.Vb: strategic recce: 13,33 m wing span
- C.Vc: light ground support: 14,63 m wing span
- C.Vd: fighter/tactical recce: 12,50 m wing span
- C.Ve: light bomber/strategic recce: 15,30 m wing span

As off 1926 only two marketable configurations survived, the C.Vd and C.Ve.

In 1926 the Dutch Airforce ordered 33 off C.Vd that were registered 590 u /I 622. They were all designated as tactical recce planes and fitted with a 350 hp Hispano Suiza engine [two were fitted with a 380 hp Armstrong engine]. In 1927 a follow-up order was filed for another 26 off C.Vd fitted with a 450 hp Hispano Suiza engine. These were registered in the 300-series, but later migrated to the 600-series [623 u/I 641]. The final order for the C.Vd came in 1931, when 5 additional planes were ordered with a 500 hp Hispano Suiza engine. Also these planes received final registration in the 600-series [650 u/I 654]. In 1936 all remaining C.V's - with exception of the last five ordered - were refitted with a 630 hp Rolls Royce Kestrel engine [types VIIb and XI].

The C.V was fitted with twin FN 7.9 mm synchronized machineguns and one manually operated Lewis 7.9 mm machinegun in the rear which was operated by the navigator/observer/bomb-aimer.

The two-crew manned plane was also capable of delivering a modest pay-load to the battlefield. For this purpose two racks were installed under the wings, which could carry either 16 shrapnel bombs of 8 kg each, 4 x 25 kg or 4 x 50 kg. During the May War only the first two options were applied.

In May 1940 still 34 C.V's were in service. They had several different roles. A number were assigned as training planes, but the majority was incorporated in recce units. These planes were frequently used during the war. It was indeed applied in the roles it was intended for; tactical recce and light ground support. By making use of the technique called "hedge-hopping" the C.V's proved to be able to survive many Luftwaffe packed skies and deliver quite some support to the ground troops. In particular at the AFB Valkenburg, AFB Waalhaven and the Grebbeberg they were able to successfully attack German positions. During the battle over Holland 20 C.V's were destroyed, mainly on the ground. The 14 survivors would be confiscated by the Luftwaffe and be used as training planes, together with quite a number of captured Danish and Norwegian C.V's.

The Dutch Navy Air Service had also ordered a number of C.Vs. These special versions of the plane were able to operate on both a wheel gear and floater devices for sea-service. The latter version received the "W" extension [C.5W]. The trials with the sea version failed dramatically however and soon the sea-plane service was abandoned. The merits of the C.V in Navy service are quite limited. The Navy didn't like the plane and although some more were ordered, they were merely used as training and test planes. Some were shipped to the NEI for protection of Naval Air Force bases, but during the thirties all C.V's were phased-out.

The NEI airforce flew 29 C.V's, of which six were former Navy Air Service C.Vd planes. The NEI airforce fitted these planes with a 450 hp Napier Lion engine, with exception of the C.Vd's from the Navy, which received the 450 hp Bristol Jupiter engine. The planes were only used at training facilities.


Italy: Also the Italian Regia Aeronautica - who received the planes from licence constructions at Societa Italiana Ernesto Breda [Milan] and Officine Ferroviarie Meridionale [Napels] - made extensive use of the C.V [in Italy designated Ro.1, from Romeo - the automobile company of which Meridionale was a subsidiary]. The Ro.1 was used in Italy, Libya, Ethiopia and Somalia [the latter three being Italian colonies in those days].

Denmark: The Danish airforce received 5 C.Vb's from Fokker in 1926, after which Danish constructor Flyvertroppernes Vaerkstaeder delivered 13 C.Ve's built in license. Later Fokker delivered a better powered C.Ve, which was followed by 23 C.Ve's constructed by FV. After the capitulation of Denmark at 9 April 1940, all remaining Danish C.V's were adopted by the Luftwaffe.

Hungary: Like Germany, Hungary was not allowed to have an airforce as a result of the WWI peace negotiations outcome. Yet the Hungarians ordered 9 C.V's [C.Vd and e] which were designated civil registrations and duties in order to cover up their genuine purpose. The Manfred Weiss Company in Budapest bought the license rights from Fokker and constructed no less than 59 C.Vd's more, all with civil registrations. Also a considerable [exact number unknown to us] number of C.Ve's were built in licence by the MF Company. All these planes - for as far not lost due to accidents in the years before - served in 1940 as recce or training planes.

Norway: In 1928 the Norwegian airforce selected the Fokker C.Ve as its prime bomber, and 5 C.Ve's were purchased at Fokker in The Netherlands. Simultaneously a licence contract between the Dutch manufacturer and Haerens Flyvemaskinfabrikk [Kjeller, Norway] was established. HF delivered another 15 C.Ve's and 27 C.Vd's to the Norwegian airforce. In April 1940 still more than 40 of these planes were operational. These planes formed the striking back-bone of the Norwegian airforce in 1940, which is a clear indication of the vintage material status of that organisation when Germany struck ...

Sweden: In 1927 and 1928 Fokker delivered 2 C.Vd's and 6 C.Ve's to the Swedish airforce. In 1928 a licence agreement with the CVM factory at Malmstätt was finalized, after which this manufacturer delivered 35 C.Ve's [1 C.Vd] to the airforce. Later, in 1929 Fokker themselves produced and delivered another 6 C.Vd's. The well-known balloon incident at the polar ice at June 23, 1928 involving the Italian General Nobile also involved a rescue mission by a Swedish C.V. With this plane [registration 31 and flown by Lieutenant Einar Lundborg] the Italian General was flown to safety.

Switzerland: In 1927 the Swiss bought 3 C.Vd's that were extensively tested by them. In 1931 another 3 C.Ve's were ordered at Fokker. Soon after, a licence agreement with the Swiss manufacturer EKW in Thun was agreed, after which 50 C.Ve's were constructed as off 1932. Another 8 followed in 1934. The C.V remained in service with the Swiss Flugwaffe until well into the fifties.

Typicals C.V in service with the Dutch airforce May 1940

Type:  Tactical recce / light ground support
Manufacturer:  Fokker [Netherlands]
Crew:  2 [Pilot and navigator/observer/bomb-aimer]
Engine:  Rolls Royce Kestrel V IIb, 630 hp [1936]
Armament:  2 off 7.9 mm FN synchronised machineguns frontal
1 off 7.9 mm Lewis MO machinegun in the rear
200 kg of bombs max., wing-borne
Size:  Length: 9,25 m
Wing span: 12,50 m [C.Vd], 15,30 m [C.Ve]
Weight [empty]:  1,920 kg
Max. speed:  250 km/hr [cruising speed 180 km/hr]
Range:  800 km
Ceiling:  6,500 m [22,000 feet]
In service May 1940:  34
Lost in May 1940:  20