Air combat is nearly extinct on Planet Earth,
;e Albatros series of fighters
began with the D.I and ended
with the D.Va, seen here
replicated by ;e Vintage
Aviator in New Zealand. Its
clean lines, courtesy of the
in-line, air-cooled Mercedes
6-cylinder engine and
smooth, wooden semi-monocoque fuselage, gave
it good performance. Aces
like Boelcke and Richthofen
scored well with them. (Photo
by Luigino Caliaro)
and the age of the fighter ace
has come and gone. But between 1915 and 1982, when the last Israeli aces were
crowned, the fighter pilot was the most glamorous warrior of all time.
Today, with a century of hindsight, a fundamental year in air combat was 1916.
Based on meager Great War beginnings in 1914–15, the world’s air forces grew in
numbers, capability, and organization. In 1916, the air war transitioned from the
lone wolf to increasingly sophisticated tactics involving flights and formations.
That year, France led the world in tactical organization, combining squadrons into
groupes de combat. The German pioneer Oswald Boelcke published his combat
Dicta that still remain relevant. Other developments pointed the way to the not-so-distant future; jet fighters were only three decades away.