During the summer of 1916, in the sky over the Western Front, German pilots met a new British fighter, the Sopwith Triplane. The new plane had excellent performance; No.10 Sqn of the RNAS claimed 87 German planes in 4 months, other units also had great successes.
The German Idflieg became anxious with the situation. At first the decision was simple: make a copy of the Triplane, like had been previously done with the Morane and the Nieuport. But the Fokker Flugzeugwerke Company, headed by Anthony Fokker, developed its own triplane based on studies of the Sopwith triplane.
After many successful test flights, which confirmed the high performance level of the new plane (especially maneuverability), the company started building a few pre-production planes. These planes were delivered to elite fighter units for use by the most famous aces.
In June of 1917, the first two planes with serial numbers F.I 102/17 and F.I 103/17 were passed on to Jagdgeshwader I, the famous "Flying Circus" which was headed by Manfred Von Richthofen (Pour le Merite, 59 victories by this time). Richthofen received plane number 102/17, another was delivered to Jasta 10, and another famous pilot, Werner Voss (38 victories by this time, Pour le Merite) flew 103/17.
But the combat service of both of pre-production aircraft was short. Von Richthofen claimed two victories with 102/17, another pilot, Kurt Wolff, who was shot down in combat with Camels from No.10 Sqn RNAS on September 15th, later flew this plane.
Werner Voss claimed 10 victories, with his final victory on September 23rd, when he shot down a British DH4. On the same day Voss was killed in combat with seven SE5A's from 56th Sqn RFC.
At this time the Fokker Company started its serial production of the new aircraft. In accordance with the German classification system, the plane received the official name Dr.I (Dreidecker - triplane).
Soon this plane would come into world history as a symbol of World War I.