Vichy Air Force in Indochina

In May 1940 Groupe Aérien Autonome 41 had a total strength of around thirteen aircraft. By September of the same year the group was believed to be considerably weaker, but throughout the whole of Indochina there were around thirty Potez 25s available.

Groupe Aérien Autonome 42 had around sixteen aircraft available in May 1940. Figures for September 1940 seem to suggest that this had dropped to fewer than ten serviceable aircraft.

Groupe Aérien Mixte 595 had seven Potez 25s available to them in May 1940 and around sixteen by the September.

Groupe Aérien Mixte 596 had just six Potez 25s in May, but thirteen were available to them in the September, including seven Morane 406s. In fact, the Moranes, strictly speaking, were not available in September 1940, as Esc2/696 was only created in the October. In addition, there were twelve aircraft available to Esc1/CBS in May 1940.

Three Potez 631C were purchased by China (those with C designation). The aircraft were impounded in Hai Phong. It is believed that two of the aircraft were used for reconnaissance missions until around 1943. The third aircraft was used for spare parts. It is probable that of the two used aircraft one was used by the squadron commander of GAA41 and the other by the squadron commander of GAA42. The Morane 406s that were part of 596 were originally due to be sold to the Chinese, but they were also impounded.

The Aéronautique Navale’s EscHS6, based at Cat-Laï, had Loire 130s, Gourdou-Leseurre 832s and Potez 452s, amounting to eight aircraft in total. The Loire 130s were seaplanes and predominantly used for night missions and fitted with anti-submarine bombs. By June 1941, it is believed that there were nineteen Morane 406s left in Indochina. Seven of the Morane 406s were with Escadrille 2/595, an additional six flying with Escadrille 2/596. It is believed that the remainder were in the repair pool and being used for spare parts.

The Franco–Thai War (1940–1941)

The Armée de l’Air had, theoretically, around a hundred aircraft available for this conflict. The front-line aircraft amounted to some sixty aircraft of a variety of types including:

  • thirty Potez 25 TOEs
  • four Farman 221s
  • six Potez 542s
  • nine Morane-Saulnier M.S.406
  • eight Loire 130 flying boats

The Royal Thai Air Force could muster around 140 aircraft, comprising:

  • twenty-four Mitsubishi Ki-30 light bombers
  • nine Mitsubishi Ki-21 medium bombers
  • twenty-five Hawk 75Ns pursuit planes
  • six Martin B-10 medium bombers
  • seventy O2U Corsair light bombers

During the war with Thailand, the French launched just over 190 day missions and just over fifty night missions. The conflict ended on 28 January 1941. It had led to a number of key servicing problems for the aircraft. There were still nineteen French Moranes, of which only fourteen were serviceable. In addition, the French still had three serviceable Farman 221s, three out of four Potez 542s, only thirty-four of their fifty-four Potez 25s, nine of their twelve Loire 130s and none of their three Potez 631s available.

At the end of the hostilities, the German Armistice Commission allowed the transfer of aircraft reinforcements to Indochina. The Commission authorized the following aircraft to be transferred from Martinique:

  • twenty-three Hawk H-75s
  • forty-four Curtiss SBC-4s

However, the Japanese resisted this transfer and the plans to move the aircraft from Martinique were cancelled. As a result, Escadrille 2/596

was disbanded due to lack of spare parts for its aircraft and what remained of the unit, including both the pilots and the aircraft, were transferred to Escadrille 2/595. This disbandment and transfer took place in the middle of 1941.

Vichy Air Force in Indochina – January 1942

Throughout 1942 there had been a major reorganization in Indochina. Operating out of Tong in Tonkin were both units of the newly created Northern Indochina Air Command, consisting of Groupement Mixte 1 and 2. The first unit had Farman 221s and Potez 542s and the second had Potez 25s and Morane 406s. The second grouping, Central Indochina Air Command, consisted of an observation unit based at Bach Mai in Tonkin and equipped with Potez 25s. Groupe Aérien Mixte 4, based at Dong Hoy in Annam and at Vatchay in Cambodia, had Potez 25s and Loire 130s. Unfortunately, we do not know the strength of these units at this time. More reliable figures are available for November 1942, when the total strength of Northern Indochina Air Command amounted to eighteen aircraft. Central Indochina Air Command could muster twenty-nine aircraft.

By the end of 1942, the Vichy Air Force in Indochina had been reduced to the following:

  • three Farman 221s
  • two Potez 542s
  • eighteen Potez 25TOEs
  • seven Loire 130s
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