Twin Synchronized lMG 08s on a replica Fokker DR.I

Spandau LMG 08

German Empire Flag German Empire (1915)
Machine Gun – 23,000 built

The Spandau LMG 08 was the air cooled aircraft version of the German Army’s MG 08 machine gun. The infantry version of the MG 08, like the Vickers Machine Gun, was water cooled and based on the design of Hiram Maxim’s famed Maxim Gun.

Design

After the success of the MG 08 in infantry use, Spandau set about lightening the weapon and adding large slots to the water jacket for aircraft use.  The first letter in lMG 08 is actually a lowercase L which stands for luftgekühlt meaning air cooled. From the beginning the lMG was designed to fire in a fixed position from an aircraft.

Early Spandau LMG 08 Triple Mount
Early “Overlightened” LMG 08

Early designs had so many cooling slots that the weapon was considered “over-lightened” and the rigidity of the cooling jacket was considered “fragile.” Various slot patterns were experimented with until the final design of the LMG 08/15, a refined version of the weapon with many improvements as well as a lighter weight. The final weight for the refined lMG 08/15 came out to 26 lbs compared with 57 lbs for the original iteration of the MG 08. The various versions of the lMG were all designed to be interchangeable so aircraft could be easily upgraded to newer versions. Like the Vickers, the closed bolt design lent itself to easy synchronization with the propellers, with most German fighters appearing with twin LMGs by late 1916 with the introduction of the Albatros D.I and D.II.

The ammunition belt of the lMG 08 utilized the design of the Parabellum MG14 for its light weight, rather than that of the infantry version of the MG 08. After a cartridge was fired the belt was fed into a side chute on the side of the breech block. The chute would guide the empty belt into a storage compartment to prevent the empty belts from interfering with any aircraft mechanisms.  Empty cartridge cases however were expended out of a round hole on the receiver just under the barrel on all version of the MG 08. In most aircraft the empty cases were guided out of the aircraft.

Use of the Spandau lMG 08

The lMG 08 was used on almost all German fighter aircraft of the WWI period. After its introduction in 1915, synchronization technology was rapidly being developed. On the Fokker E.I the introduction of the synchronizer system with a single mounted lMG 08 led to a period of German air superiority over the Western Front known as the Fokker Scourge. Later aircraft almost universally used a twin synchronized setup, including Germany’s most famous ace, Baron von Richthofen ‘The Red Baron.’

Twin Synchronized lMG 08s on a replica Fokker DR.I
Twin Synchronized lMG 08s on a replica Fokker DR.I

There were various styles of cocking handles in use, seemingly dependent upon pilot preference. Safety interlocks were also introduced to ensure the safety of the ground crew who at times could be in the line of fire. Another modification seen in aircraft use was a countdown style rounds counter.

Spandau lMG 08 Gun Specifications

Weight 12 kg / 27 lb
Length 1.45 m / 4 ft 9 in
Barrel Length 720 mm / 28 in
Cartridge 7.92mm x 57
Action recoil with gas boost
Rate of Fire 400 to 500 rounds/min
Muzzle Velocity  860 m/s  /  2,821 ft/s
Effective Firing Range 2,000 m / 2,200 yd
Maximum Firing Range 3.500 m / 3,800 yd (indirect fire)
Feed System 250 round fabric belt

Gallery

Spandau LMG08/15 1918 - Side Profile View
Spandau lMG 08/15 – 1918

Sources

Fokker E.I. (2016, April 21). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.Synchronization gear. (2016, May 15). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.MG 08. (2016, March 22). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.The Vintage Aviator (n.d.), The Spandau LMG 08/15, Images: Fokker DR.I Spandau Guns – 2013 by Julian Herzog / CC BY 4.0

About Ed Jackson

Ed Jackson is a U.S. Air Force veteran with an interest in historical aviation living in Okinawa, Japan where he teaches as well as pursues graduate studies. Ed is also a graphic artist specializing in antique autos and aviation related art. See his work at .

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