The World War One era AEG G.IV (Registration Number 574/18) at the Canada Aviation & Space Museum in Ottawa, Ontario is a rare aircraft indeed. The standard twin-engine G-type (Großflugzeug) biplane medium bomber was built by Allgemeine Elektrizitäts Gesellschaft (A.E.G. – General Electric Company) of Berlin and the type first entered German service in late 1916. The museum example was produced in Germany in 1918 and of 320 produced between 1916 and 1918, this is the only surviving example of its type. The aircraft is also the only surviving twin-engine bomber of the Imperial German Air Service (Luftstreitkräfte).
Given its relatively short-range of 652 km (405 miles), the A.E.G. G.IV was used as a tactical day and night bomber close to the Western, Eastern and Southern Fronts (in France, Romania, Greece and Italy). As the war progressed and the Allies gained air superiority, the type was used primarily as a night bomber. The design by A.E.G. utilised metal rather than an all wooden construction to provide a more rugged aircraft and featured a welded tube metal airframe (one of the earliest large aircraft to employ this method of construction).
The three aircrew (a pilot and two gunners) of the A.E.G. G.IV sat in three open cockpits and wore electrically heated suits to keep warm in the cold air. The aircraft was fitted with radio equipment for air and ground communication. Apparently the pilot was the only crew member to have a padded seat. Although typically a 3 man crew, an additional crew member – an observer or commanding officer could be accommodated.
The A.E.G. G.IV is of a reasonable size, with a wingspan of 18.4 metres (60 feet 4 inches) and a length of 9.7 metres (31 feet 10 inches). The bomber was powered by two 260 hp Mercedes D.IVa 6 cylinder water-cooled inline engines that were mounted on metal struts attached to the lower wing and undercarriage supports. The top speed was 165 km/h (103 mph) and the aircraft had a service ceiling of 4,500 metres (14,764 feet),
Defensive armament consisted of a 7.92mm Parabellum MG14 machine gun on a trainable ring mount in the forward and rear gunners position (apparently the rear gunner position was fitted with a floor mounted hinged window for observation and to fire the gun through). The aircraft had a bomb payload of 400 kg (880 lb) which were mounted on bomb racks between the undercarriage.
An Allied evaluation report on a captured A.E.G. G.IV example in 1917 was not overly flattering. It was reported to be constructed in a “clumsy” manner, difficult to fly if a gunner was not present in the nose (weight distribution) and to have issues with the elevator control, which were very evident upon attempting to land. Despite this, the Germans used it as a capable bomber aircraft.
Two other variants were also produced during the war. The G.IVg featured a three bay wing with an increased span. The G.IVk (kanone) was an attempt at producing a ground attack / anti-tank aircraft that featured a modified tail fin, armoured protection for the forward fuselage and engines, and 2 x 20mm Becker cannons for low-level strafing (one under the nose in a turret and another in the rear gunner position on a trainable mount – tank armour was light on top, so this caliber of gun could have pierced it). Standard defensive armament seems to have also been retained – only 5 G.IVk were produced and the type did not go into service (I suspect it was just too big a target for ground fire yet alone Allied fighters!).
To see such aircraft that could so easily have been lost in the pages of history is a great opportunity. The museum example was intended to be used as a night bomber and the aircraft features a dark geometric “Night Lozenge” camouflage pattern on the fabric coverings, with a black livery elsewhere (also the only surviving aircraft in this night scheme). According to the museum information board, it appears to have been used by a training unit as it has no signs of combat action and features fuselage markings consistent with such units.
The G.IV was shipped to Canada as a war trophy in 1919 and entered the museum collection in 1970 (although a number were captured and evaluated by the Allies in Great Britain, it appears the others were scrapped by February 1919). Before being at the museum the records of the aircraft are scarce. It was stored in a Canadian War Museum warehouse in the 1950’s and somewhere along the line the original engines and radiators were lost! They were replaced by 160 hp Daimler Mercedes D.III engines during a partial restoration conducted between 1968 and 1969 by No. 6 Repair Depot at RCAF Trenton (the search for the originals continues!).