French airforce from 1935 to 1940-41?

tomo pauk

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With decades worth of hindsight, what might be the best steps for French AF and industry to make in the 1935 to 1940-41 time frame, in order to put up a better fight against Luftwaffe? Organizational changes, logistics, choice of what to make (whether the historical types, or whatever you think serves the purpose), what to buy abroad (from complete aircraft down to items that French industry is not well versed in), etc. Copy what works in other countries, with or without licence. AA guns are included, too. I've included 1941 here for a case Allies actually managed to thwart the German onslaught in 1940.

Not a thread about the Army- or Navy-related questions, like doctrine, tanks, MGs, guns, Maginot line, ships etc.
 

Archibald

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Burn everything to the ground and start from scratch. Nah, just kidding.

But where to start ? I've said it before: from RFP to combat, the entire life cycle of French combat aircraft was hopelessly flawed.

One early POD: don't eviscerate the truly formidable WWI aircraft industry in 1919-1923. The damage done at this moment wasn't truly repaired until... 1952 !

Next possible POD: Albert Cacquot, 1928. That's the moment when first atempts at reforms were made. While Caquot was a good man, he couldn't move things, which stagnated until 1934.

So next try is 1934-1936. And there - throw Pierre Cot under a bus. More generally, the Front Populaire SNCAs - Sociétés Nationales de Constructions Aéronautiques - were a cataclysm of biblical scale - coming on top of the devastation done in 1921.

Let me explain.

1909 Louis Blériot: cross the Channel, makes a fortune with the Blériot XI. Dies in 1936 as his company is nationalized into SNCA.

So what happened ? As late as 1936 there were at least 20 major aircraft companies in France, most of them private and heir of Blériot era pioneers - Farman, Voisin...

The Front Populaire (the left) came to power, with one major scare. That these old private pioneers, grow into millionaires, go far-right and makes their aircraft available to a French Fransisco Franco - and we all know what happened to that Frente Popular on the other side of the Pyrénées, in July 1936.

So, in the name of a supposed massive modernization (and unofficially, because of the above) every single French aeronautic private plant is taken over by the Government, nationalized by Pierre Cot.

But under what basis ?

GEOGRAPHY.

Imagine France as a giant pizza. Then it is cut into huge slices, according to geography.

SNCA - North (of Paris: Potez former plant in Méaulte)
SNCA - West (Atlantic coast above Bordeaux: Saint Nazaire)
SNCA - Center (Bourges)
SNCA - South-West (Bordeaux)
SNCA - Middle (Midi: center south, Toulouse)
SNCA - South East (Cannes: Mediterranean coast)

Okay ?

Now, once those geographic zones have been determined, every aeronautic plants inside will be glued together - into the said SNCA.

Even if the said plant was a Bloch, a Breguet, or a Potez. We don't care about former private owner, geography must prevail.

End result: Frankein-plants. Poguet, Blochez, Breguoch... you get the point.

And you can imagine the damage done.

Even more startling: engine-makers were not concerned, although their bosses were ruthless, corrupted bastards unable to squeez enough horsepower out of working engines - notably Gnome & Rhone.

Neither were propellers, radios, and other accessories.

The end result was: no aircraft in 1937, then agonizing slow deliveries of flawed, uncomplete aircraft in 1938-39. Things improved slightly in 1940 - too late.

More on the quagmire later.
 
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Archibald

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Some other plagues, from the top of my head

- AdA RFP / requirements were flawed: BCR siliness

- Re-armement plans were crazy and blue-sky: Plan I to Plant VI: from 1500 aircraft in 1938 to 9500 aircraft by 1942 !

- pilot training was abysmal

- all aircraft were to be armed, not at their plant, but at one single secured place: AIA-301. Bomb racks, machine-guns, guns, bomb sights, were added to aircraft there. Except the place was ill-equiped: only 300 aircraft armed during winter 1939-1940

- aircraft accessories makers (radios, bomb sights, gun sights, propellers) did not properly coordinated with airframe manufacturers. End result: incomplete aircraft with no bomb sights and the wrong propellers.

- airframe manufacturers were encouraged to churn airframes out of their plants... even incomplete ones. "I did my quota for the months, accessories: not my business." (I kid you not there)

- the Armée de l'Air had been created only in 1933 and the Armée de Terre truly hated the hell out of them.

- Armée de l'Air boss Général Henri Vuillemin was a good man but he lacked charisma. Compared to the Navy Darlan; and to the Armée de Terre "Geriatric HQ & Generals" - Pétain, Gamelin, Weygand, and tons of others - Vuillemin was a nobody. They made him pay the AdA creation in 1933.

- More generally, relationships between the three armies were acrimonious if not horrible. Darlan had an ego the size of the Richelieu battleship; the Army HQ was mostly senile old farts.

- At a gathering in September 1939, Vuillemin was told (by one of the senile HQ Generals) that France could very well win the war without any aviation.

- Half of the AdA inventory were tactical reconnaissance aircraft under command of the Armée de Terre. Most of them utterly obsolete death traps like Les Mureaux 117.

- engines were crap. Hispano 12Y and Gnome Rhone 14N: 860 hp and 1080 hp respectively. Not enough to face Bf-109E.

- bureaucracy was ramping, and truly atrocious (Brazil cubed)

- bombing panzers was to be done by Breguet 693s at tree tops. There were less than 100 of them, and it was found too late and the hard way that tree top attacks were suicidal: 2000 ft was more reasonable

- dive bombing Stuka style was considered in 1938 but rejected for the Breguets: a handful of Loire Nieuport 401 and 411 were passed to the Aéronavale, only to be thrown into the fire in May 1940 and butchered.

- France political and military system was hopelessly broken and dysfunctional, to truly absurd levels.

- Daladier and Gamelin alliance was the final nail in the coffin. Daladier not only brought Munich absolute shame, he also staunchly backed the inept Gamelin all the way from 1935 to May 1940.

- Parti Radical = Daladier = Gamelin: that was the deadly poison that led to the 1940 disaster.

Parti Radical was good for nothing EXCEPT as a Parliamentary heavyweight in any late 3rd Republic coalitions, center-right or center-left.
End result
- as long as there was 3rd Republic instability...
- parliamentary coalitions only survived through Parti Radical
- Parti Radical = Daladier
- Daladier is a Gamelin groupie.
- Nobody can remove Gamelin
- Remove Gamelin = lose Daladier, lose Parti Radical, lose your coalition, gvt collapse, new elections. Rinse, repeat (1933 - 1940).

Frack.
 
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Archibald

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An amazing (and funny) factoid.

Pierre Cot and Guy La Chambre were the two aviation ministers before WWII (1936-38 and 1938-40)

The former was from the left and feared a right-wing revolution by right-wing bosses.

The latter was from the right and feared an insurrection by... communist aviation workers.

And thus, in the name of these polar opposite fears, truly absurd decisions were made that further hampered rearmement. Such as the AIA-301 I mentionned.

Pierre Cot wanted combat aircraft to be armed there... because he feared big aviation bosses might size their machine guns to topple the Front Populaire, Spanish Civil war style.

Guy La Chambre wanted combat aircraft to be armed there... because he feared communist aviation workers might size their machine guns in a 1917-like revolution.

Ain't that perfectly absurd ?

"Fifth column" fear was ramping, up to absurd level. After the war in 1945, analyzing the reasons that led to the 1940 disasters, many people said

"ah sure, the aircraft were sabotaged by a fifth column."

"What fifth column ?

"The communist workers !
"No, the fascists !
"No, infiltrated Nazi agents !

Then further analyzis showed the said fifth column and sabotages never existed in the first place.

So why did the aircraft were flawed ?

Not because of deliberate sabotage. Just because the very aviation industry was rotten to the core: defective engines, absent propellers or radios, onboard weapons at AIA-301... end result: defective aircraft in frontline units, and enraged pilots shaking their heads in disbelief and saying "this can only be sabotage. By a fifth column." Hell no. Just a rotten industry in a decaying country.

Enough for tonight. I need to cool down.
 
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Archibald

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Just wanted to say

a) sorry for the rants and if I discouraged the OP

b) I have no axe to grind, neither political or something else

c) I'm really not pessimistic by nature, on the contrary

All this carefully considered, I swear the situation of the French aircraft industry, pre-WWII, was an hopeless mess.

Don't be fooled by the cute prototypes or combat aircraft (there were some very good ones, admittedly: D-520, Breguets)- it was a few trees masking an amazonian-size forrest of miseries.

I'm not even sure they could have saved the May 1940 situation even with tactical nukes. They would have been unable to drop them on Rommel panzers... because they didn't knew where on Earth where they !

"Somewhere between Sedan (May 13) and Abbeville (May 19)"... but that's 250 km across northern France !

I kid you not: nobody in Paris, May 16, 1940, knew where was Rommel and the other 7 panzer divisions - and where did they intended to strike - Paris or elsewhere.

It was a complete mess. No surprise you British saw PM Reynaud and Gamelin deputy Alphonse Georges crying like kids.
 

_Del_

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I think the main problems were time and money-- not enough of either.

If you have to pick a major bottleneck, I'd look at the native engine capability. Quite a few French designs of this era which, in my opinion, would have been perfectly serviceable with the benefit of more powerful and reliable engines.

Hawks and Marylands put in pretty good work for the fledgling AdA, but mostly because of the available engines, not because they were substantially more advanced than the best French designs. Unfortunately, the foreign designs (and engines) cost the treasury substantially more than native designs (not to mention the benefits of keeping the monetary flow, production capability, and knowledge, in-house, so to speak).

As Archibald notes, there is simply too much ground to make up by the mid -thirties. Not enough production capability for airframes or the advanced engines to get them in service fast enough and in enough numbers to make a difference, no matter how good the designs.
 

Archibald

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The engines, let's talk about then. There was a lot of good reasons behind the creation of SNECMA in 1946. ;)

Hispano-Suiza and Gnome-Rhone were the two main providers of engines in the 30's, and both were troubled companies - at the human and technical level.

On paper at least, 12Z and 14R would have been powerful enough - 1200 hp and 1600 hp respectively. MB-157 and D-551 were glimpse of "what might have been". But they weren't ready by a long shot in 1940.

12Y and 14N were not bad per se but lacked power.

At least 14N was good enough for LeO-451 bombers, MB-174s and MB-155. Too late, just too late... and too few.

12Y-31 only had 860 hp - standard engine of MS-406 to Arsenal VG-33. D-520 was a bit luckier: Turbomeca compressor and 910 hp.

But the 109E had 1100 hp... and Merlin I, 1030 hp.

One of the few (but very few if none) good ideas French politicians had related to combat aircraft was buying American types.

H-75, DB-7 and 167F did wonders and were loved by their crews. The Curtiss despite lack of speed and small machine guns armement, kicked 109E asses by turning faster than them and diving fast (one reached 850 km per hour in a dive !)

Unfortunately, they were delivered to... Casablanca. For reasons essentially related to France colonial empire. (facepalm).

The Curtiss did not cared as deliveries started early enough, 1938-39.

The bombers... if you wonder, the lone DB-7 bombing group entered the battle on May 17 and from Evreux... Normandy (as if it was 1944).

The few Martin 167F bombing group was... in the Alps (bombing what - I don't know. Goats ? gophers ? ).
 

tomo pauk

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To me it is quite unbelievable that BM.152 was so slow - 470-500 km/h - on same power as with what the Re.2000 had (that went to 530 km/h), despite the Bloch fighter being considerably smaller. Early Zeros were faster despite a bit less power. Granted, the early Ki-43s were also much slower on same HP than early Zeroes.
Same with MS.406 - despite it's small size and more power it was slower than the Jumo 210 powered German fighters, like the early Bf 109s and the He 112B.

Not sure what one should do with these fighters, perhaps better exhaust stacks for the small but the much needed speed boost (talk 10-15 km/h?)? How much the time-line for the D.520 and VG.33 can be improved? Nick the plans for I-16 and Bf 109, and then shove the French engine in the nose?
 

_Del_

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One of the few (but very few if none) good ideas French politicians had related to combat aircraft was buying American types.
Didn't help that the Neutrality Act (1937) resulted in the cancellation of on-going arms trades to France after the Polish invasion and the subsequent French declaration of war. Lasted a few critical months. Under law, Cash-and-carry didn't extend to military equipment when the war broke out.
It also meant the French could no longer buy on American credit -- and that lasted even under the "new" revised Neutrality Act of 1939 allowing military sales. That would not change until Lend-Lease became policy a few years later (by which time France had long been subjugated).
 

klem

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I admit it's a pretty broad topic because it touches many fields, I don't know if you have considered that at the risk that the participants can sometimes go out of the subject and at the same time it's difficult to define the subject itself. However, I was going to make a synthesis-response, but I realized that it would take me a lot of time to translate and knowing that the subject has close relations with other fields, also important, so I opted for a reading orientation of which I attach here some of the links that I considered useful.
 

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Hood

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From the background Archibald has posted, you'd need a lot of industrial changes and doctrinal changes in the AdA to make any meaningful improvement.
Avoiding the nationalisations sounds a good place to start but even then if the AdA is incompetent its not going a massive difference to the outcome of 1940. The RAF was also full of flawed thinking in 1940, the Luftwaffe had the edge in doctrine but its overall military successes successfully hid its flaws. Arguably no side had all the answers in 1940.
The late 30s were about the numbers game, churn out airframes no matter what they were or how useful they were. Then go and buy stuff from Italy or America, anywhere people had aircraft to sell. The US rubbed their hands, Lockheed and North American going out of their way to make bespoke stuff (Hudson and Mustang) knowing it would sell like hot cakes.
 

Archibald

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One of the few (but very few if none) good ideas French politicians had related to combat aircraft was buying American types.
Didn't help that the Neutrality Act (1937) resulted in the cancellation of on-going arms trades to France after the Polish invasion and the subsequent French declaration of war. Lasted a few critical months. Under law, Cash-and-carry didn't extend to military equipment when the war broke out.
It also meant the French could no longer buy on American credit -- and that lasted even under the "new" revised Neutrality Act of 1939 allowing military sales. That would not change until Lend-Lease became policy a few years later (by which time France had long been subjugated).
Yup. France had to dig into its gold reserves. In the FFO verse that issue is even more serious since the fight carries on into 1941... and it hurts.
 

Archibald

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From the background Archibald has posted, you'd need a lot of industrial changes and doctrinal changes in the AdA to make any meaningful improvement.

Definitively - yes.
- I like to daydream alt histories
- of the optimistic kind.
- I'm an aviation buff
- I like 1930's french prototypes
- I'm french and all too painfully aware of the epic scale disaster that was 1940 and Vichy afterwards absolute shame
- I've closely followed FFO since 2007, discussed and learned a lot from the authors there.

Yet, all these things considered, I still can't really figure... where to start with this thread OP !

Basically there were so many things flawed, wrong and absurd in 1930's France, its military politics, industry... I have no clue.

Maybe a massive buyout of US types earlier (1934 or 36 !) and reducing accordingly the amount of french types. With less devastating nationalizations, as suggested.
 

Archibald

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At times I wonder if a "soft dictatorship" by Francois de la Rocque (as a proto "1958 De Gaulle") from the 1934, February 6 riot - wouldn't be a "necessary evil" to clean the mess.
Make no mistake: I have no sympathy for antisemits, Franco or Mussolini or even less Hitler. No love for Action Francaise either (Maurras antisemit catholics /royalists / fanatics).
A tight rope to walk on, for sure. De La Rocque was a weird guy, halfway between Franco and "1958 De Gaulle" - coup d'etat, legal or not legal ? fascist or not fascist ? A tight rope to walk on, even more in 1930's France, which was a hotbed of extremisms of every kind, TBH.
 

Elan Vital

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Yet, all these things considered, I still can't really figure... where to start with this thread OP !

Basically there were so many things flawed, wrong and absurd in 1930's France, its military politics, industry... I have no clue.

Maybe a massive buyout of US types earlier (1934 or 36 !) and reducing accordingly the amount of french types. With less devastating nationalizations, as suggested.
Having thought about the subject myself, I have found two possibly satisfactory PODs (there are probably some more):

- the Italian win during the Istres-Damas air race in 1937 causes such outrage that the government has no choice but to replace Pierre Cot and revitalize French aeronautics. This was proposed by French historian Pierre-Yves Hénin for a what-if and involves the recently retired général Paul Armengaud becoming the new Air Minister with a newer team. He receives extra funding to address the situation, not necessarily huge but still a lot for the budget of the time.

This is seen as an opportunity to improve some of the choices made at the time. It's hard to know what Paul Armengaud would have actually wanted to do in that situation but he was a competent officer during the Rif War (and not a civilian like Guy La Chambre or Cot) and aeronautics get a lot more attention than OTL.

- The other, possibly more thorough option is that Gaston Doumergue actually prioritizes the constitutional reform at the beginning of his term in 1934 when there was sufficient consensus to pass the reform (following advice from other reformists), instead of when it was already too late. This would involve in particular going to a proportional electoral system (as advised) with the National Assembly and Senate (IIRC?) being dissolved after this first set of reforms is passed to rejuvenate both assemblies and vote the remainder of the reform.
Going by what was actually proposed at the time, this would probably have improved political stability enough to focus on economic, social and military reforms. The rest depends on whether the assassination of King Alexander of Yugoslavia and the subsequent collapse of the government (assuming it was not changed much after the snap elections) happens and whether the deflationary policy of the central-right govs cease earlier.
This is because avoiding the Laval government and its last-ditch austerity plan and the fall of Pétain as War Minister would at least allow the early rearmament of 1934 to continue as intended instead of being nipped in the bud. Hopefully by 1936 the massive rearmament still happens, even if the Front Populaire is somehow butterflied or its electoral victory reduced.
 

Archibald

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I think we met before... either at AH.com or at FFO / France fights on. Your first scenario is familiar to me.

This is because avoiding the Laval government and its last-ditch austerity plan and the fall of Pétain as War Minister would at least allow the early rearmament of 1934 to continue as intended instead of being nipped in the bud.

Two think these two A-holes crossed paths so early... no surprise some still think (9-11 "truthers" style) that the 1940 collapse was a carefully planned conspiracy to screw the Republic and allow Vichy to happen (which makes no sense whatsoever, as the May-June 1940 chain of events was largely unpredictible).
 

Justo Miranda

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The French plan was to make an attrition war with most of its army protected behind the Maginot Line to avoid another Verdun and gain time for the blockade by the Royal Navy to collapse the economy of the Third Reich. It was not a bad plan if they had abandoned Belgium, but the possibility of turning this small country into a French protectorate (always the territorial ambition) made the politicians persuade the generals to send the army into the trap.
 

Deltafan

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One early POD: don't eviscerate the truly formidable WWI aircraft industry in 1919-1923. The damage done at this moment wasn't truly repaired until... 1952 !
Yes, immediately after the end of WW1, it is already the beginning of the end ...:

French aeronautical piston engines 1900-1960, volume 2 (Bodemer-Laugier 1987)
-chapter 20 : France's position in the global aeronautics industry:

According to a law passed in Parliament and assimilating them to gun dealers, engine manufacturers, like aircraft manufacturers, must pay the war profits to the Public Treasury (in 1917, the State had made savings of 13,448,750 F on the motors).
The rigorous application of the law then deals a terrible blow to the national aeronautics whose workforce which, at the end of 1918, numbered 200,000 people, will literally melt away, since it is no more than 3,700 people in 1921: while, of the 4,000 Technical Services engineers who structured our beautiful aeronautical building, only 24 will remain in place at about the same time. Most engine companies did not recover.

1940 was already over in 1918...


Otherwise, I sometimes dream of Renault (with the industrial power that was its own: much more solid, industrially, than any French engine manufacturer or aircraft manufacturer at this time) turning to combat aircraft engines at the beginning of the 30's, rather than racing / light aircraft engines ...
 
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Elan Vital

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I think we met before... either at AH.com or at FFO / France fights on. Your first scenario is familiar to me.

This is because avoiding the Laval government and its last-ditch austerity plan and the fall of Pétain as War Minister would at least allow the early rearmament of 1934 to continue as intended instead of being nipped in the bud.

Two think these two A-holes crossed paths so early... no surprise some still think (9-11 "truthers" style) that the 1940 collapse was a carefully planned conspiracy to screw the Republic and allow Vichy to happen (which makes no sense whatsoever, as the May-June 1940 chain of events was largely unpredictible).
I believe you were in the very same AH.com thread where I talked about this, and the technical/industrial options that existed at the time.

Otherwise, I sometimes dream of Renault (with the industrial power that was its own: much more solid, industrially, than any French engine manufacturer or aircraft manufacturer at this time) turning to combat aircraft engines at the beginning of the 30's, rather than racing / light aircraft engines ...

Renault truly is a mystery to me...Arguably the largest and most powerful military-industrial complex in France during the period and pretty much the only one able to churn out the armament needed to equip the entire armed forces. And yet much of that potential was completely wasted due to Renault's lack of technological ambition and poor financial performance, coupled with some questionable decisions.

Renault churned out thousands of FTs in WW1 and was a crucial partner during the development process of the B1, but the AMC 34/35, D2 and to some degree even the AMRs had little success, the R35 was an abject failure on the automotive front compared to the other infantry light tanks and the attempts at military aircrafts achieved little...
Louis Renault even rejected welding in the 1930s when it was suggested by the engineers. A missed opportunity considering the sudden popularity of this technique among late 1930s French AFV programs.
 

Archibald

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Louis Renault's very controversial actions during WWII ended... badly for him, in 1945. Very badly.
 

Archibald

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The French plan was to make an attrition war with most of its army protected behind the Maginot Line to avoid another Verdun and gain time for the blockade by the Royal Navy to collapse the economy of the Third Reich. It was not a bad plan if they had abandoned Belgium, but the possibility of turning this small country into a French protectorate (always the territorial ambition) made the politicians persuade the generals to send the army into the trap.

Between September 1939 and March 1940 the French Armies defensive line moved West to East by 300 miles.
from
- Escault (northern France)
- to Dyle (center Belgium)
- to Breda (southern tip of the Netherlands)

This, because fellow democracies could not be abandonned. Send to Breda from May 10, 1940 was Henri Giraud 7th Army, no longer the strategic reserve hold in Reims...
(Churchill, May 15, 1940 "Where is your strategic reserve ?"
(Paul Reynaud, weeping "There is none !"

Meanwhile the main thrust of the German attack shifted North to South
from
- central Belgium flatlands (Shlieffen 2.0)
- southern Belgium, Ardennes (Von Manstein, Sickle cut)

As I explained elsewhere, the original plan (Escault vs Central Belgium) was like two boxers punching each other in the face with nearly equal strength.

With the two UNRELATED moves happening during the winter...

The French boxer send a huge punch toward the German boxer head.
Seeing it coming, the German boxer flexed and collapsed his legs, leaving the French punch going over his head; then hit his adversary from below: in the lower belly or even in the testicles.

The French boxer (surprised and broken in two - and in pain), was knocked out, down for the count.

It is very much Rocky III's Balboa versus Clubber Lang, first fight.
 
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riggerrob

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... The few Martin 167F bombing group was... in the Alps (bombing what - I don't know. Goats ? gophers ? ).
Italians.
They were bombing Italians.
After Germany invaded Northern France, Italy tried to invade the South East corner of France. Italian soldiers advanced out of the Po River Valley, but were soon rebuffed by French soldiers defending the Southern Alps.
 

Archibald

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... The few Martin 167F bombing group was... in the Alps (bombing what - I don't know. Goats ? gophers ? ).
Italians.
They were bombing Italians.
After Germany invaded Northern France, Italy tried to invade the South East corner of France. Italian soldiers advanced out of the Po River Valley, but were soon rebuffed by French soldiers defending the Southern Alps.

Not on May 10 ! On June 10, yes. The Martins were in the Alps early May. Ok, maybe they were there waiting for the Italians to attack...

According to a law passed in Parliament and assimilating them to gun dealers, engine manufacturers, like aircraft manufacturers, must pay the war profits to the Public Treasury (in 1917, the State had made savings of 13,448,750 F on the motors).
The rigorous application of the law then deals a terrible blow to the national aeronautics whose workforce which, at the end of 1918, numbered 200,000 people, will literally melt away, since it is no more than 3,700 people in 1921: while, of the 4,000 Technical Services engineers who structured our beautiful aeronautical building, only 24 will remain in place at about the same time. Most engine companies did not recover.

Oh Gosh, I knew it had been BAD, but to this point... frack. No surprise it took 30 years and a complete disaster to repair that... by essentially starting from scratch.
 

riggerrob

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Too bad that during the 1930s, French politicians feared their working class more than they feared their bellicose neighbor to the east (Germany).
Mind you, British industry and politics suffered similar problems.
 

Archibald

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Too bad that during the 1930s, French politicians feared their working class more than they feared their bellicose neighbor to the east (Germany).
Mind you, British industry and politics suffered similar problems.

And in reverse: the Front Populaire was liked very much by workers... but hated by the bosses ! And there were real fears the said bosses pulled a Franco against the Front Populaire, or helped a military coup to happen.

And so the Front Populaire nationalized 20 private companies into 6 SNCAs: North, Center, West, and three in the south. Except they butchered and eviscerated the whole thing.
 

uk 75

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A fascinating thread to learn so much about France's history and the background to the aviation industry in particular.
Some British historians have argued that the only way to have stopped Hitler before 1939 would have been to work with the Soviet Union.
It is pretty hard to see this happening, even in an alternate world. But France and the Soviet Union were the only countries able to field large enough land and air forces to thwart Hitler in 1938.
Merging French and Soviet aircraft development in the 1930s would also be interesting.
 

Deltafan

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A fascinating thread to learn so much about France's history and the background to the aviation industry in particular.
Some British historians have argued that the only way to have stopped Hitler before 1939 would have been to work with the Soviet Union.
It is pretty hard to see this happening, even in an alternate world. But France and the Soviet Union were the only countries able to field large enough land and air forces to thwart Hitler in 1938.
Merging French and Soviet aircraft development in the 1930s would also be interesting.
In 1938, the Stalinist purges had already wiped out two-thirds of senior Soviet officers and, in France, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force (General Vuillemin) declared that in the event of war with Germany, French aviation would be "wiped out in fifteen days ".
 

_Del_

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I don't want to derail this thread, but now I want to see Archibald sketch out a Popular Front coalition in the mid-20's which substantially thaws relations with Russia. Maybe the Bolsheviks decide to honour the Imperial debts to France, and things get rosy.
If the Franco-Polish and -Czech alliances still come off, maybe the Russians get a seat at Munich and that changes the agreement. Perhaps regardless of that outcome, the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact never gets signed.
Etc, etc
 

Archibald

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A fascinating thread to learn so much about France's history and the background to the aviation industry in particular.
Some British historians have argued that the only way to have stopped Hitler before 1939 would have been to work with the Soviet Union.
It is pretty hard to see this happening, even in an alternate world. But France and the Soviet Union were the only countries able to field large enough land and air forces to thwart Hitler in 1938.
Merging French and Soviet aircraft development in the 1930s would also be interesting.
In 1938, the Stalinist purges had already wiped out two-thirds of senior Soviet officers and, in France, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force (General Vuillemin) declared that in the event of war with Germany, French aviation would be "wiped out in fifteen days ".

Two things

- Vuillemin went to Germany in August 1938 onboard an Amiot 350 prototype to try and inpress the nazis and LW. Instead he was granted a (mostly) Potemkine LW show of strength - that worked perfectly and let him very depressed. He returned to Paris and his report essentially led to Daladier dropping the ball at Munich.
"As far as aviation is concerned, if we fight Germany over the Sudetes we are toast" was his message. The AdA had 1500 aircraft at the time, mostly obsolescent.

What was forgotten was Skoda works... that afterwards churned most of the panzers that crushed France two years later.

- Despite their hatred of Stalin and communism, in June - August 1939 the French and British governments were actively negociating to try and isolate Germany in case of war... but Ribbentrop proved smarter, and we all know how that ended on August 23, 1939.
 
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uk 75

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France was not helped by the pro-German sentiment of the Brits who even in 1918 thought Germany was being treated too harshly.
Historians now seem more inclined to blame the Kaiser for World War One. If the Brits had shared this view and supported France over its occupation of the Ruhr in the 1920s and continued to react more effectively to German attempts to overturn Versailles.
Churchill is reputed to have said at one point, "I thank God for the French Army".
Maybe if he rather than Baldwin had been Prime Minister..
 

riggerrob

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A fascinating thread to learn so much about France's history and the background to the aviation industry in particular.
Some British historians have argued that the only way to have stopped Hitler before 1939 would have been to work with the Soviet Union.
It is pretty hard to see this happening, even in an alternate world. But France and the Soviet Union were the only countries able to field large enough land and air forces to thwart Hitler in 1938.
Merging French and Soviet aircraft development in the 1930s would also be interesting.
In 1938, the Stalinist purges had already wiped out two-thirds of senior Soviet officers and, in France, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force (General Vuillemin) declared that in the event of war with Germany, French aviation would be "wiped out in fifteen days ".

We are left wondering if Stalin-style purges might have improved French leadership by killing off the most senile generals during the late 1930s????
Hah! Hah!
 

Archibald

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We are left wondering if Stalin-style purges might have improved French leadership by killing off the most senile generals during the late 1930s????
Hah! Hah!

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=momI9XSV3kM


As much as I hate Stalin the monster, I have to concede it wouldn't been that bad an idea, in the French case...
Just don't kill the poor guys, just send them to Limoges or the Sahara desert...

Oh, wait a minute...

Point 1


Yes, we have a French word for "to sack / to fire" which means "send to Limoges"
"To Coventry with you" well "To Limoges with you" but why Limoges ? look at a map.
It is the farthest from Germany, France bully from Napoléon to 1945. So the worst Generals were send to Limoges to keep them at arm's length from any important command.

Point 2

The purge you mention... it happens, in FFO / France Fights On. With De Gaulle ascending and the May 1940 disaster forcing a mostly shameful move to Algiers (of all places) - all the "vieilles ganaches" are send to Sahara desert.
Pétain has blown an aneurysm and died in Paris, September 1940; while his good pal Weygand died gloriously fighting on the Loire.

But Gamelin-crétin and a whole bunch of old senile farts (Freydenberg) are still available for punishment.


Not to kill them by thirst: we are no Stalinist barbarians. They are just kept at arm's length from any important command... and since Limoges is no longer available, Germany being there...

 
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Archibald

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Too bad that during the 1930s, French politicians feared their working class more than they feared their bellicose neighbor to the east (Germany).
Mind you, British industry and politics suffered similar problems.

Boucing off this - I really appreciate the way you British optimized your fighter production around only THREE core elements
- Hurricane
- Spitfire
- Merlin engine

And that was it. From 1938, no other fighter with a different engine was allowed to happen. 100% efficiency that saved your souls in September 1940.

I wish France could have proceeded with the same brutal efficiency. If that paradigm is applied to OTL bazillions variants of fighters...

Merlin would essentially be the Hispano 12Y, perhaps with the Turboméca compressor: 12Y-51. The D-520 variant with it would have been the D-523.


Except it was near the end of its development rope and future belonged to the larger, 1200 hp 12Z... that never worked properly, in 1939 or 1946.

But what the Hurricane and Spitfire equivalents would be ? hard to guess.

MS-406 is the closest thing from a Hurricane, except it sucks even more than a P-40, notably at aerodynamics.
Yet, look at what the Swiss did with the poor thing: D-3800 was a similar donkey, 3801 was already better, 3802 and 3803 were flying wonders.

Aternative to Swiss MS-406s: his french competitor, the Loire Nieuport 161.


One FFO member has made a thorough inquiry on that aircraft case and built a proto-TL out of it. He makes a very convincing case the LN-161 could have been an honest-to-God French Hurricane.

This leaves a Spitfire. D-520 immediately come to mind, but it was too late in the race, as Dewoitine lost two years trying to turn a donkey into a thoroughbred: the D-513 was hopeless.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dewoitine_D.513

The missing link between the good-yet-obsolete D-501 / 510 series; and the extended D-520 / D-550 family that come too late: October 1938.

The D-523 was the all time best variant, 1085 hp rather than 920 hp, thanks to the 12Y-51.
And then there is the D-550 family, kind of "racer D-520" spinoff.

France "joker" compared to Great Britain: Curtiss H-75.

I would say in the end: LN-161 and Dewoitine D-523; Curtiss H-75 to back the LN and fill the gaps waiting for the Dewoitine(s).

Drop MB-150 series, it was horse shit until MB-155. Or turn MB-152 into a ground attack plane: radial + 20 mm guns.

In passing, this free some hundreds of G&R 14N 1080 hp radials for MB-174 / 175, LeO-451 and Amiot 351/354 that badly needed them.
 
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tomo pauk

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Merlin would essentially be the Hispano 12Y, perhaps with the Turboméca compressor: 12Y-51. The D-520 variant with it would have been the D-523.

Hispano-Suiza is not to be allowed to make radial engines. Every man-hour and franc spent on those means less resources spent to improving the HS 12Y.
Turbomeca compressor - that was both of greater capacity and efficiency than H-S counterpart - was introduced with -45 version, and installed on the D.520. Granted, if 3-6 months can be shaved from that development it would've been a boon for the FAF.
MS.406 has gotten the -31 version, despite the 'old' HS-12Ycrs and drs were making a better power at altitude. Have the MS.406 (or whatever the French will be making) receive the equivalent of those engines, with ejector exhausts retrofitted - hopefully more than 500 km/h might be possible?
 

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20 mm motor-kanons were a major advantage enjoyed by Hispano-Suiza 12Y engines. Granted, few air forces understood the need for 20 mm cannons before WW2, but it soon became apparent that they needed 20 mm or more to shoot down the newer all-metal airplanes.
Klimov built - under license - many thousands of Hispano-Suiza 12 Y engines for MiG, Yak, etc. fighters.
 

Archibald

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Merlin would essentially be the Hispano 12Y, perhaps with the Turboméca compressor: 12Y-51. The D-520 variant with it would have been the D-523.

Hispano-Suiza is not to be allowed to make radial engines. Every man-hour and franc spent on those means less resources spent to improving the HS 12Y.
Turbomeca compressor - that was both of greater capacity and efficiency than H-S counterpart - was introduced with -45 version, and installed on the D.520. Granted, if 3-6 months can be shaved from that development it would've been a boon for the FAF.
MS.406 has gotten the -31 version, despite the 'old' HS-12Ycrs and drs were making a better power at altitude. Have the MS.406 (or whatever the French will be making) receive the equivalent of those engines, with ejector exhausts retrofitted - hopefully more than 500 km/h might be possible?

The Swiss did exactly that. They replaced the 860 hp 12Y-31 with the 1085 hp 12Y-51 already mentionned; put a better radiator than the MS-406 barn door; - and instantly got 535 km per hour out of the D-3801, instead of 460 for the standard MS-406.

My understanding is that the MS-406 radiator was a retractable, two positions system.
In typical 1930's France rot and siliness...
- if extended, it acted like a huge drag device (and you thought the P-40 radiator was bad ?)
- if retracted the plane was faster but the engine overheated
(facepalm)

The Swiss managed to get the best of both worlds: a radiator that cooled the engine with reasonable drag. With 1085 hp and a decent radiator, the D-3801 pulled a Hurricane or D-520.

Note that the French had a "streamlined" MS-406 update (that could have been applied to in service machines, but wasn't of course) - rebranded MS-410: that nearly hit 500 km per hour, so the potential was there.

It was (as usual) Morane being jerks and the French government being weak enough not to kick their rear ends.
 

Archibald

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20 mm motor-kanons were a major advantage enjoyed by Hispano-Suiza 12Y engines. Granted, few air forces understood the need for 20 mm cannons before WW2, but it soon became apparent that they needed 20 mm or more to shoot down the newer all-metal airplanes.
Klimov built - under license - many thousands of Hispano-Suiza 12 Y engines for MiG, Yak, etc. fighters.

Well the "motor cannon" while theoretically an excellent idea, was marred by two issues
- it had difficulties working properly (as way too many things in 1930's France, unfortunately)
- it only had 60 shells (not sure if drums or bands, but "not enough shells" was a pilot complaint).

Still it was a terrific idea the Soviets put to good use. In passing, Klimov M-100 / 103 / 105 / VK-107 extended family is a glimpse at what the 12Y-51 / 12Z might have been. Shame to Hispano Suiza: once again, the potential was there.
 

tomo pauk

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The Swiss did exactly that. They replaced the 860 hp 12Y-31 with the 1085 hp 12Y-51 already mentionned; put a better radiator than the MS-406 barn door; - and instantly got 535 km per hour out of the D-3801, instead of 460 for the standard MS-406.

My understanding is that the MS-406 radiator was a retractable, two positions system.
In typical 1930's France rot and siliness...
- if extended, it acted like a huge drag device (and you thought the P-40 radiator was bad ?)
- if retracted the plane was faster but the engine overheated
(facepalm)

The Swiss managed to get the best of both worlds: a radiator that cooled the engine with reasonable drag. With 1085 hp and a decent radiator, the D-3801 pulled a Hurricane or D-520.

It is again that low speed of the whole MS.406 line that leaves one shaking it's head. The MC.202, whose engine was in the ballpark with the HS-12Y-51, was 70 km/h (!) faster. The P-40B -a bigger and much heavier A/C - was
still 35 km/h faster on similar power; same with Ki-61. Making a fighter faster than Hurricane on same HP was easy. Hurricane was one draggy aircraft, due to the wing thickness and area, as well as due to radiator being a draggy item.

Radiator of P-40 was okay, granted it was not perfect.
 

tomo pauk

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20 mm motor-kanons were a major advantage enjoyed by Hispano-Suiza 12Y engines. Granted, few air forces understood the need for 20 mm cannons before WW2, but it soon became apparent that they needed 20 mm or more to shoot down the newer all-metal airplanes.
Klimov built - under license - many thousands of Hispano-Suiza 12 Y engines for MiG, Yak, etc. fighters.

Well the "motor cannon" while theoretically an excellent idea, was marred by two issues
- it had difficulties working properly (as way too many things in 1930's France, unfortunately)
- it only had 60 shells (not sure if drums or bands, but "not enough shells" was a pilot complaint).

French were using the drum-fed cannons, 1st the Oerlikon S (both imported and licence-produced), then the Hispano 404. Oerlikon was marketing the bigger drums (75-rd drum was offered for the FF-armed Spitfire), so there is a precedent for better ammo load for the cannon. Swiss were also offering belt-fed cannons between the wars, no takers.
Bf 109E3/E4/E7 were also using drums for the cannons.
 

iverson

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20 mm motor-kanons were a major advantage enjoyed by Hispano-Suiza 12Y engines. Granted, few air forces understood the need for 20 mm cannons before WW2, but it soon became apparent that they needed 20 mm or more to shoot down the newer all-metal airplanes.
Klimov built - under license - many thousands of Hispano-Suiza 12 Y engines for MiG, Yak, etc. fighters.

Well the "motor cannon" while theoretically an excellent idea, was marred by two issues
- it had difficulties working properly (as way too many things in 1930's France, unfortunately)
- it only had 60 shells (not sure if drums or bands, but "not enough shells" was a pilot complaint).

French were using the drum-fed cannons, 1st the Oerlikon S (both imported and licence-produced), then the Hispano 404. Oerlikon was marketing the bigger drums (75-rd drum was offered for the FF-armed Spitfire), so there is a precedent for better ammo load for the cannon. Swiss were also offering belt-fed cannons between the wars, no takers.
Bf 109E3/E4/E7 were also using drums for the cannons.
I believe that the French had a Chatellerault belt feed for the HS404 by 1940. It was the basis of later British belt-feed systems.
 

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