Low-powered WWII-era combat aircraft?

Can't remember the source right now, but I have seen photos of a Tiger Moth equipped with a light bomb rack under the fuselage, during the "invasion scare" of late 1940.

Also, with a little digging we can probably find lots of examples of low horsepower aircraft being used for anti-submarine patrols off the east Coast of Canada in 1939, and the US in 1941/1942.

Added in edit: found two. AW Atlas, 450 hp, used by RCAF for ASW patrols in September and October 1939 over Bay of Fundy, armed with depth charges and machine guns. They were remarkably unsuccessful and unreliable, the crews were relieved to receive Lysanders in November 1939. 110 Squadron at Dartmouth used Wapitis over the Atlantic in the same role at the same time, but at 550 hp they are just outside the scope of this thread ;). The "superior" Wapiti survived on operations up to April 1940, before being replaced by Lysanders and Hudsons.
To butt in for a moment, one of the primary armament options would have likely been small bombs from the SD series, especially the SD 1, SD 2, and SD 4. Either ejected from a rack or carried in a bomb container or two.
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Interesting Bill.
Did you find anything more re: digging?

Take a look at http://www.ohwg.cap.gov/ohio-wing-world-war-ii-history for a brief description of Civil Air Patrol anti-sub operations shortly after Pearl Harbor. Probably not armed, but aircraft as small as the Stinson 10 (80 horsepower) were used "operationally". A quote from a USN Admiral in the article probably sums it up well: "It will serve no useful purpose except to give merchant ships the illusion that an adequate air patrol is being maintained.”

also there is a Yakovlev UT-1 Project equipped with two BK machine-guns,mounted
underwing pods.
Hesham - are you sure they were underwing pods? The pictures posted by Borovik show the guns mounted on the top side of the wings. If they were underwing pods it might indicate another configuration existed (or that some authors with inadequate information assumed they were mounted under the wings).
Hi Avimimus,

it was underwing pods,and it was a project,never built.
Thought I'd link the Breda 202 thread for reference: https://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,3522.msg27913.html#msg27913
Approximately the same situation in April 1945 was Nazi
Germany, where there was an attempt at the Bucker Bu 181A
(armed with four Panzerfaust 100) to create three Panzerjagdstaffel.

There is an actual Panzerfaust Bu 181 survivor at the Deutsches Technikmuseum in Berlin. it's not merely a museum conversion; the airframe was identified as one of those modified for the role and is displayed as such.


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Justo Miranda"s book "Enemy at the Gates, Panic Fighter of World War Two" contains plenty of proposals and a few prototypes of light fighters with less than 500 horsepower. Limited horsepower limited them to single pilots, only two or three machine guns and short range. They were quickly over-shadowed by the 1,000 hp. engines available by 1940.
Latvia built one - maybe three - prototypes of the Irbitus VEF-16 light fighter powered by a 535 hp, Walter Sagita, air-cooled, inverted V engine. It could only carry a pair of rifle calibre (7.9 mm Browning) machine guns. The sole flying prototype was tested by the Luftwaffe after Germany overran the small Baltic nations.
Several similar panic fighters were proposed in France, Italy and the USA . Bell’s XP-55 prototype powered by air-cooled, V-12 engine and only carried a machine gun or three.
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Estonia built one - maybe three - prototypes of the Irbitus VEF-16 light fighter...

That should be Latvia for both the Valsts Elektrotehniskā Fabrika and designer Kārlis Irbītis (better known for his Canadair CL-84 tilt-wing VTOL design).

As you say, only one prototype of the lovely VEF-16 was completed but two very similar VEF-15 fighter trainers were also finished. The proposed production model of the VEF-16 was intended to have a fully retractable main gear and (IIRC) a 3-bladed metal propeller.

ANF les Mureaux 190 (1936) developed into Potez 230 light fighter of 1940.
The Sokół emergency fighters programme

After the Third Reich annexation of Sudetenland, the Polish Air Force was pressing for 170 per cent reserves of fighters, facilitating the reactivation of the Sokół project, which had been dismissed a year earlier in favour of the P.Z.L. P.50.

At the beginning of 1939 the Polish Department of Aeronautics issued the Sokół specification, calling for a light-weight single seat fighter powered by one 660-730 hp Gnôme-Rhône 14M-05 Mars double-row radial engine, armed with four 7.7mm KM Wz36 SG machine guns and equipped with a Walter Iskra R/T device and full oxygen installation.

The P.Z.L. firm proposed two Sokół versions, with all-metal construction, semi-monocoque fuselage structure and P.Z.L. two-blade, adjustable pitch airscrew: the P.45/I with fixed undercarriage and the P.45/II with retractable undercarriage. Both versions used structural solutions based on the P.Z.L.19 Challenge tourer wings, spanning 12.14 m, with 10.3 aspect ratio and 14.3 sq.m surface. Each wing panel housed one 175 litres fuel tank and one flap. A third flap was located in the belly fuselage. The estimated maximum speed of the P.45/II was 520 kph and the gross weight 1,940 kg. The construction of the P.45/I had still not concluded in September 1939.

The design proposed by the firm R.W.D. was very similar to the Fokker D.XXI and used the same construction system, with all-wood wings, spanning 10.5 m without flaps to simplify production. The fuselage, with welded Chrome-Molybdenum tubular structure, had a coating of light metal sheets in the front section and fabric in the rest.

The Letov three-blade fixed-pitch airscrew foreseen for the original design, should be replaced by another model after the invasion of Czechoslovakia. This version of the Sokół, called R.W.D. 25, would have an estimated maximum speed of 450 kph and a gross weight of 1,800 kg. The construction of the prototype, started in July 1939, could not be completed.

The Design Number 42, proposed by the firm P.W.S. early in 1939, would be totally built of wood/plywood, with inwards retractable landing gear, 9 m wingspan and 16 sq.m wing area.
It should be armed with two machine guns in the wings and two more in the nose. Its estimated maximum speed would be 520 kph and its gross weight of 1,900 kg.


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In anticipation of political circumstances prevented the import of the Italian fighters, the Danish Naval Shipyard Orlogs Vaerftet began working on the design of the OV-J-1 Marinejager. It was a single-seat light fighter powered by an inverted-Vee, air-cooled engine, of the type Walter Sagitta or Isotta Fraschini Delta. It would have been completely manufactured in metal, with retractable landing gear and four 7.92mm Madsen machine guns. There was also to be a fighter-bomber version, with inverted gull-wing and ventral bomb-rack.


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During the period between both World Wars, the size and weight of the fighters was progressively augmented in parallel with the increasing power of the available engines. Against that general trend, there was a minority of aeronautical designers defending the small sized fighters, known as 'Jockey Fighters' at that time. This type of airplanes, if well designed, could generally compete in performance with the conventional fighters, using a less powerful engine, with an important save in fuel, manpower and strategic materials. They were also easier to maintain and store and their reduced size and weight helped to increase agility in combat, making more difficult to be seen by the rear gunners in the bombers, or by the pilots in the escort fighters, and their destruction required a higher consumption of ammunition.

At the beginning of World War II, the conventional fighters used to have 10 to 12 m of wingspan, operational weight of 2,500 to 3,500 kg and a maximum speed of 450 to 500 km/h. The light fighters of the time could be divided in two categories:

‘Jockey Fighters’, with less than 10 m. wingspan, maximum weight of 1,800 to 2,500 kg and the same speed than the conventional fighters.

‘Midget Fighters’, with less than 10 m wingspan, maximum weight of 600 to 1,800 kg and maximum speed of 350 to 400 km/h.

Potez 230​

The Potez 230 inherited the most advanced elliptical wing of the time, built with an integral torque box, from its ancestor, Les Mureaux 190 light fighter, developed during the 30s. The philosophy of design of the Potez 230 was based on the specification Chasseur Monoplace C1 (June 3, 1937), calling for one high-performance small airplane that could use some technical elements left aside by first line fighters.

Thus, the surplus of Hispano-Suiza H.S.12 Xcrs engines, H.S.9 cannons and MAC 34A machine guns coming from the obsolete Dewoitine D.510 fighters could go back to combat without overloading the French war production of H.S.12 Y-45, H.S.404 and MAC 34 M39, intended for the Dewoitine D.520. Would the new equipment be available in enough quantity, it would also had been used by the Potez 230 as it was compatible to both of them.

A prototype was built in the Potez C.A.M.S. factory of Sartrouville in 1939. During a series of tests performed in the Villacoublay test centre in March 1940, it reached the speed of 560 km/h being equipped with an H.S.12 Xcrs of just 680 hp (the Dewoitine D.520 reached 525 km/h and the Bf 109 E-1, 575 km/h with much more powerful engines). It was expected that the Potez 230 could fly at 622 km/h after the installation of one of the new H.S.12 Y-45 of 910 hp but it was captured by German forces in June and translated to a technical research centre of the Luftwaffe to study the wing construction system.

Technical data

Engine: one 680 hp Hispano-Suiza H.S.12 Xcrs twelve-cylinder ‘Vee’ liquid-cooled, driving a three-bladed Ratier airscrew with pneumatic variable-pitch. Armament: one 20 mm engine-mounted H.S.9 cannon and four 7.5 mm. MAC 34A machine guns mounted under the wings. Wingspan: 8.74 m, length: 7.57 m, height: 2.18 m, wing area: 10.97 sq.m, maximum weight: 1,800 kg, maximum speed: 560 kph.

Roussel R.30​

The Roussel R.30 was conceived as a private venture ‘Jockey Fighter’ in answer to the Programme technique A.23 (12 January 1937) that required a light fighter able to fly at 520 km/h. Construction of the prototype began at Courbevoie, flying for the first time equipped with a 690 hp Gnôme-Rhône 14 M7 engine in April 1939.

In August 1939 it was transferred to the Centre d’Essais du Matériel Aérien (C.E.M.A.) for official trials, as a result of which it was recommended to install a more powerful engine to better use its excellent flying performances. During the Battle of France, the airplane was armed with two 20 mm Oerlikon FFS cannons mounted in the wings and some tests were performed for the installation of a bomb rack under the fuselage.

In combat, the R.30 could have destroyed any Luftwaffe bomber thanks to its high fire power of 2 Kg/sec, 2.8 times that of the Bf 109 E-1. In ground attack mode it would have had more possibilities to survive the Flak than the unfortunate Breguet 693 of the GBA 54 due to its high speed and small size. The only prototype was destroyed in Bordeaux-Mérignac airbase during a He111 bomb raid.

Technical data

Engine: one 690 hp Gnôme-Rhône 14 M7 of fourteen-cylinder, air-cooled radial driving a Ratier 1527 airscrew with electrically adjusted pitch. Armament: two 20 mm Oerlikon FFS cannons and one 250 kg G.P. bomb. Wingspan: 7.75 m, length: 6.15 m, height: 2.10 m, wing surface: 10 sq.m, maximum weight: 1,766 kg, maximum speed: 520 kph at 6,000 m.

Bloch M.B.700​

The Bloch M.B.700 was also designed as an answer to the Programme technique A.23. This small interceptor differentiated from the Roussel in that it was built from wood. This fact made its mass production easier as it did not require strategic materials that could be used for the Dewoitine D.520 conventional fighter. Outwardly, it looked like an 83% scaled down version of the conventional fighter Bloch M.B.152. The main advantage of the M.B.700 reduced size was that while equipped with an engine with 75% the power of an M.B.152, it flew 80 kph faster, still carrying the same armament, and was a more difficult target in dog-fight.

In 1939 a prototype was built in the Blériot-Aéronautique of Suresnes, flying for the first time by mid-April 1940. During the flight tests made on 13 May, it reached a maximum speed of just 380 kph, instead of the expected 580 km/h. As a consequence, the Mercier engine cowling and clear canopy were modified, and external plates were installed in the main undercarriage.

The airplane was destroyed shortly afterwards by the German troops in Buc airfield. There was a plan for a shipboard variant named M.B. 720 with tail hook and the armament reduced to four MAC 1934 M 39 machine guns.

Technical data

Engine: one 700 hp Gnôme-Rhône 14 M6 fourteen-cylinder, air-cooled radial engine driving a Gnôme Rhône variable-pitch airscrew. Armament: two 20 mm Hispano-Suiza H.S. 404 cannons and two 7.5 mm MAC 1934 M39 belt-feed machine guns mounted in the wings. Wingspan: 8.9 m, length: 7.34 m, height: 3.4 m, wing surface: 12.4 sq.m, maximum weight: 2,000 kg, maximum speed: 550 kph.

C.A.P.R.A. R.300​

The midget fighters usually are a good defensive solution when a country feels threatened and needs to quickly increase its production of combat airplanes. The C.A.P.R.A. R.R.20 was a small racer airplane designed by Roger Robert in 1938 to compete in the Coupe Deutsch 1939 race. After the declaration of war the project was modified to be used as a fighter-trainer under the name R.30 or as the R.300 Midget Fighter.

Entirely built in metal, the R.30 would be powered by a 360 hp Bèarn 6C-1, six-cylinder in-line air-cooled engine, with which it was expected to reach 539 kph maximum speed and 9,500 m service ceiling. The wings, spanning 7.5 m with sq.m surface, would serve as housing for the hyper- sustentation system, the Messier landing gear and the armament, possibly two MAC 34A machine guns for the R.300 version. Not a single unit was built.


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During the critical days of 1940 the 'Panic Effect' boosted numerous interim solutions to increase the number of fighters available: A.A. Bage, the Percival chief designer, proposed to build a version of the Mew Gull armed with two 0.303 in Vickers Mk.II machine guns. The projected light fighter, called Percival P.32 AA, would have 7.62 m wingspan, 6.57 m overall length and 1,087 kg maximum weight. But it was rejected in favour of the Miles M.24, the single-seat version of the Miles Master trainer.


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The Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact signed in August 1940, the Mutual Assistance Pact imposed by the Soviets in September to the Baltic States and the beginning of the Second World War took the Estonian Air Force by surprise with a strength of four Gladiators and seven Harts.

The local aeronautical industry reached the capacity to manufacture the PON-1 biplane trainer in 1935 and the PTO-4 monoplane trainer in 1938. The first flight of the prototype Aviotehase PN-3, designed as a conversion trainer for the Spitfire, took place in January 1939. It could fly at 395 kph, powered by a Rolls-Royce Kestrel XI and was armed with two 7.62 mm machine guns. It would have served as the basis for the construction of an advanced fighter, but its development was interrupted by the soviet occupation on 16 June 1940.


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Between 1937 and 1940, the Latvian local industry Valsts Elektro-Fabrika (VEF) produced several all-wood monoplane trainers, with fixed landing gear, that proved to have exceptional flight performances and a great potential, susceptible of being used as ‘emergency fighters’. The VEF I-12 light trainer, built in a number of 12 units, reached 230 kph powered by a Cirrus engine of 90 hp only. In 1938 four aircraft were converted to single-seat fighters, armed with a light machine gun, to be used by the Latvian National Guard.

The VEF I-15, built in 1939, was a single seat training aircraft with two machine guns that could fly at 330 kph with a 210 hp Gipsy Six engine. The VEF I-16, that performed its first flight in 1940, with a maximum speed of 460 kph, a 520 hp Walter Sagitta ISR engine and four machine guns, was roughly the equal of Polikarpov I-16 Type 24. Construction began on a series of twelve aircraft that was interrupted by the Soviet occupation on 17 June.

In the autumn of 1939 the Cukurs C-6 record airplane was converted into the C-6bis dive bomber with the installation of a 280 hp Hispano- Suiza 6 Mb engine, two machine guns and underwing racks for 150 kg of bombs.

After being tested by the LAR, reaching a speed of 440 kph (clean), the manufacture of 12 units was ordered only 10 days before the Soviet occupation.


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Do those U-boots' towed autogyro 'kites' qualify ??

All I remember of them was the last words of report that recommended against further use as the hapless volunteer pilots generally 'drowned in the usual way'...
Can't remember the source right now, but I have seen photos of a Tiger Moth equipped with a light bomb rack under the fuselage, during the "invasion scare" of late 1940.
There was also the Tiger Moth 'Paraslasher' blade for cutting up parachutes (or landed troops), and containers for dusting enemy troops with poison.

edit: Photo from 'Paraslasher' trials:

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Kayaba Ka-1 (Not that secret since it saw service, but it is relatively unknown by most people.)
It was used for artillery spotting, anti-submarine warfare, and reconnaissance.
Can't remember the source right now, but I have seen photos of a Tiger Moth equipped with a light bomb rack under the fuselage, during the "invasion scare" of late 1940.
There was also the Tiger Moth 'Paraslasher' blade for cutting up parachutes (or landed troops), and containers for dusting enemy troops with poison.

edit: Photo from 'Paraslasher' trials:

View attachment 646486

Para-slasher was an optimistic device, considering that WW2 era paratroopers had a "hang time" of less than a minute.

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