French fighters - Handling characteristics

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Jabberwocky, Jan 1, 2014.

  1. Jabberwocky

    Jabberwocky Active Member

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    Does anyone have any recommendations on resources (online or offline) on the handling and characteristics of French Air Force fighters of 1939/1940?

    I've got plenty on British and German fighters and a fair bit on the Hawk 75, but very little on the MB 151/152, D 520 and MS 406.

    I'm not looking for performance figures - although they wouldn't go astray - but rather on the 'personality' of the aircraft: what it was like in the air and on the ground?

    Reports/tests of handling would be ideal, as would first person accounts or even comparisons with other aircraft. I know there is a brief test of the D 520 and M?B 151 against the 109E online, but even that has only a little on the character of the aircraft.

    I've been reading a number of books on the Battle of France and the 1939/1940 air war, but I've been surprised at just how scanty the information on the French fighters actually is.
     
  2. cherry blossom

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    The Dewoitine D.520 seems to have inspired mixed emotions. You will have found Eric Brown's opinion via Wikipedia “It was a nasty little brute. Looked beautiful but didn't fly beautifully. Once you get it on the ground, I was told not to leave the controls until it was in the hangar and the engine stopped. You could be taxiing toward the hangar and sit back when suddenly it would go in a right angle.” Rather similar views come the Italian ace Luigi Gorrini "I have collected several dozen Dewoitines from various French airfields and the Toulouse factory", he recalled later. "At the time, when we were still flying the Macchi C.200, it was a good, if not very good, machine. Compared to the Macchi 200, it was superior only in one point: its armament of the Hispano-Suiza HS 404 20 mm cannon." WIP D.520. The translation is unclear but I assume he means that the Macchi C.200 was a good machine and that he didn't like the D 520 apart from its armament. There are more positive views mentioned at Flashback on glorious planes: The Dewoitine D.520 - A perfect beast for combat ! (part 5 - revised 08 / 11 / 2013). It seems that the D520 could out roll and out turn a Bf 109E but the problem for the Dewoitine pilot was that the stall came suddenly, so you had to know the aircraft well to be able to fight it effectively.
     
  3. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    For those who can read Finnish, in Jukka Raunio's Lentäjän näkökulma II (1993) there is also a description on MS 406, which turned very well, had exceptionally light controls but being underpowerred was slow, climbed poorly and bleed energy fast in tight turns. And was a mechanics' nightmare.

    There is also a very good article in a early AE, that was before the monthly magazine was divided to the monthly AI and the quartely AE. Probably the Sept. 73 number.

    HTH
    Juha
     
  4. Jabberwocky

    Jabberwocky Active Member

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    Thanks for the links gentlemen.

    I've been doing some reading and it seems to me that the French fighters were never tested or developed as well as their German and French counterparts, leading to all sorts of operational issues, reliability problems and terrible servicability levels. The French fighters seem to have been introduced into service 12 to 24 months behind the designs of Germany and the UK and with three fighters absorbing engineering resources, they weren't refined nearly to the extent that their foreign rivals were.

    Reading up on the MS 406 and I've found the aircraft had a tendency to shed the upper section of its engine cowling in tight turns, issues with its overly complex retractable radiator and was very unsteady in a dive. It also had problems with propeller overspeeds, engine cooling, gun heating, landing gear, cockpit fogging and engine vibrations and fumes. None of these problems were unusual in a WW2 fighter (except maybe the radiator and engine cowling issues), but all of them together indicate that there really was a disconnect between the French aircraft manufacturing industry and the testing/combat units.
     
  5. Aozora

    Aozora Well-Known Member

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    #5 Aozora, Jan 2, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2014
    From Docavia D.520 (English translation of French chapter, page 327):

    [​IMG]

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    From Docavia; performance curves (speed, time to height)

    [​IMG]

    and other performance figures (pages 256, 258-259):

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    In general while the D.520 was reasonably fast and manœverable, and could be handled by experienced pilots, it could also be a handful in some situations, with a tendency to ground looping if it wasn't handled carefully during landings.
     
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  6. Aozora

    Aozora Well-Known Member

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    From
    [​IMG]

    the MS.406C1:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Chances are some of the same problems with the armament, radios and other systems were inherent to all of the French manufactured fighters.
     
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  7. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    A quote from French Aces of WW2 by Barry Ketley (Osprey):

    "Whilte the Hawks [Curtiss Hawk 75] generally managed to holdtheir own against greater odds, even if rather lightly armed, the pilots in the ten Groupes flying Moranes [MS.406] had more difficulty. With a number of pneumatic systems which often failed after the slightest damage, guns which frequently froze up and a performance not much better than many of the German bombers, it is surprising just how well they did. Again on 15 May, GC III/7 sent up a patroille triple (nine aircraft) and were attacked by an entire Staffel of Bf 109s over Mezieres. With a 60 mph speed disadvantage, the Moranes quickly found themselves in a situation akin to a wagon train surrounded by Indians. Two soon went down in flames, followed by another threee as more Messerschmitts arrived on the scene. Four Moranes eventually escaped, but the unit had lost two pilots killed, two injured and one missing."

    "Some pilots, however, found that the Morane could bite, as shown by Robert Williame of CG I/2 who, on 5 June, shot down three Bf 109s in 15 seconds. Another ace who made good use of the Morane was Sous Lt Edouard le Nigen of GC III/3, who claimed ten of his twelve confirmed kills in the MS.406 between 11 and 20 May."

    "As for the pilots of the nine Groupes de Chasse equipped with the Bloch 152 during May and June, every mission from which they returned was close to miraculous. Every unit flying the Bloch during May suffered losses, some purely as a result of the Bloch's lack of endurance - about 45 minutes at full throttle. In view of the type's shortcomings, the Bloch was mostly used as a bomber escort. It was not successful. Groupement 21, which included four Bloch units, had lost some 43 aircraft in combat by the end of May. Even worse, production of the fighter could barely keep pace with the losses. However, two pilots in particular proved that the formidable twin cannons of the Bloch could be put to good use."

    Of the Caudron-Renault CR.714: "This day was noteworthy [3 June 1940] as the day the Caudron 714 light weight fighters made their combat debut. Flown by expatriate Poles, these little machines are officially credited with 12 victories, but suffered from technical problems and were found to be too fragile for combat." In a caption it is described as "...a joy to fly, it was virtually useless in combat."

    Finnish Aces of WW2 by Kari Stenmanand Kalevi Keskinen (Osprey) records about the Caudron: "France also 'gifted' 80 surplus Caudron-Renault CR.714 Cyclone lightweight fighters to the Finns, six arriving soon after the war. Fortunately no more received, as due to the type's poor landing and take-off characteristics, they were immediately grounded - permanently."
     
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  8. waroff

    waroff Member

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    #8 waroff, Jan 3, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2014
    the engine cowling parts were attached by piano hinges fixed on each side.
    For remove the cowling, it was necessary to remove the pins forward . Each pins had a lenght near 1m.
    If the cowling was lost during a turn, the longeron and frames were broken before....

    When the radiator was down, the speed decrease 5/10km/h according the altitude

    The aircraft quality is one thing. Their jobs, another.
    It is that difficult to assess their quality given the tactics imposed at that time at the French pilot.
     
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