Bloch 150-157

Bloch 152C-1 of GC 11/1, in operational service when the Germans invaded France on 10 May 1940. On that date only two GC (Groupes de Chasse) were combat-ready despite the fact that well over 300 had been completed except for small but vital items. Total production was 140 MB. 151 and 488 MB. 152. Not especially good performers, they were at least tough. One 152C-1 landed on 15 May 1940 after a fight against 12 Bf 109s; it had 360 bullet holes.

French single-seat fighter aircraft. Designed to a July 1934 French Air Ministry specification, the Bloch 150 was an attractive, all- metal low-wing monoplane fighter with a retractable landing gear. However, the original prototype was considerably overweight, and two first-flight attempts, on July 17 and August 8, 1936, both proved abortive. Both failures were followed by extensive structural redesign, and eventually, on September 29, 1937, with wings of increased area and a more efficient 940-hp Gnome-Rhone 14N engine, a successful first flight was made. Even so, the design was considered unsuitable for mass production necessitating yet further redesign (as the Bloch 151) in order to implement the initial contract for 25 aircraft.

The first Bloch 151 (920-hp Gnome-Rhone 14N 11 engine) was flown on August 18, 1938, and more than 200 should have been delivered to the Armee de I’ Air from the SNCA du Sud-Ouest factories by April I, 1939. In fact, only one had been delivered by that date, and only 85 by the outbreak of war. Production was limited to 140 aircraft, and their disappointing performance, combined with problems of control and engine over- heating, led to their relegation, after modification, to a training role. Armament comprised four 7.5-mm (0.295-in) MAC 1934 machine-guns in the wings, outboard of the propeller disc.

The prototype of an improved version, the Bloch 152, had been ordered in April 1938. This aircraft, first flown on December 15 that year, was powered by a 1030-hp Gnome- Rhone 14N 21 engine. Production aircraft, built from 1939 in parallel with the Bloch 151, were powered by either a 1080-hp 14N 25 or 1100-hp 14N 29. Armament consisted of either two 20-mm (0.79-in) Hispano HS-404 cannon and two 7. S-mm MAC 1934 machine-guns, or four MAC 1934s. In flight the MB 152 displayed good maneuverability, was a stable gun platform, and could out dive other fighters with ease.

By the outbreak of the Second World War the Armee de I ‘Air had only one squadron equipped with the Bloch 152, and even these were non-operational. By the beginning of 1940 the Armee de I’ Air had just over 100 in flyable condition and nearly twice as many, lacking propellers, were non-operational. When the Germans attacked on May 10, 1940, eight French pursuit groups were equipped with Bloch 151 or 152 fighters.

The eventual total of Bloch 152s delivered was 482, of which about two-thirds were still effective till the end of July 1940. Many of these were used by the Vichy French air force, and Germany supplied 20 to its ally, Rumania. At about the same time, nine Bloch 151s (of 25 ordered) were supplied by France to the Royal Hellenic Air Force.

Like so many French aircraft of the time, the Bloch monoplane fighter story began badly, got into its stride just in time for the capitulation and eventually produced outstanding aircraft which were unable to be used. The prototype 150 was not only ugly but actually failed to fly. the frightened test pilot giving up on 17 July 1936. It was only after redesign with more power and larger wing that the aircraft finally left the ground. Bloch had been absorbed into the new nationalised industry as part of SNCASO and five of the new group’s factories were put to work making 25. But the detail design was difficult to make, so the MB-151 was produced with the hope that 180 would be made each month from late 1938 Orders were also placed for the slightly more powerful MB-152. but by the start of World War II only 85 Blochs had been delivered and not one was fit for use; all lacked gunsights and most lacked propellers! Eventually, after overcoming desperate problems and shortages. 593 were delivered by the capitulation, equipping GC 1/1. 11/1. 1/8. 11/8. 11/9. 11/10. 111/10 and III/9 The Germans impressed 173 surviving Bloch 151 and 152 fighters, passing 20 to Romania. The MB-155 had a 1,180hp engine and was used by Vichy France. The ultimate model was the superb MB-157. with 1,580hp 14R-4 engine and 441 mph (710km/h) speed, never put into production. By this time the firm’s founder had changed his name to Dassault. Units while equipped with Blochs shot down 156 German planes and lost 59 pilots.

The auxiliary units, known as the Escadrilles Légeres de Défense (ELD), or Escadrilles de Chasse de Défense (ECD), had been mobilized on 11 May 1940, although some local defence units were already established. These auxiliary units were mainly reservist pilots. Some of them were test pilots attached to aircraft factories. At the Chateaudun base one of the pilots flying a Bloch 152 shot down a He111 on 12 May. More of these local defence flights were called up to protect aircraft plants. In the majority of cases the aircraft they were flying had come straight off the production line and others were there for repairs. Many of the pilots were not, in fact, French Air Force at all, but were employed by aircraft companies. The majority of the units could muster no more than six aircraft. Most of them flew Bloch fighters, others Morane 406s or Dewoitine 501s and 510s. A number of Dewoitine 500s were also being flown.

One peculiar aircraft that was also used was the Koolhoven FK-58A. It was Dutch built and there were fourteen of them parked at Romorantin. Four of them were sent to Lyons-Bron, where former Polish Air Force pilots were being trained to use French aircraft. The Ecole de l’Air based at Salon was ordered to create another Polish unit with seven of these aircraft on 16 May. It actually received nine of them. The school itself had its own local defence flight with Dewoitine 520s. At Bourges, the defence flight was equipped with Curtiss Hawks, where ten were in service. They managed to shoot down a number of German aircraft. Meanwhile, on the front line, small numbers of French aircraft threw themselves at the advancing German ground forces. Little by little, attrition was beginning to make its mark. Between the period 26 May to 3 June 1940 the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (BAE) and large numbers of French troops was being undertaken at Dunkirk. The RAF provided much of the air cover for this operation, but Bloch 152s of GCII/8, operating out of Lympne, were also on hand. These aircraft had left France on the afternoon of 30 May and had been ordered to support the 1st French Army, which by this time had been surrounded. There was a delay in being able to deploy them, as the engine oil designed for Hurricanes did not meet the Bloch 152s requirements. Oil did not arrive until 31 May. Also at Lympne were some Potez 63s belonging to GRI/14 and a pair of Glenn Martin 167s of GBI/63.

The Belgian army had surrendered on 28 May and on 31 May one of the Potez aircraft, escorted by Hurricanes, undertook a reconnaissance mission. Another Potez took off in the afternoon of 1 June, protected by eight Bloch 152s and Hurricanes. The mission was to spot German artillery positions so that the French artillery could zero in on the target. The aircraft arrived just as the Germans were launching a bombing attack against Dunkirk. The Bloch fighters shot down a He111, but then they were nearly attacked themselves by Hurricanes and French anti-aircraft batteries. Once the Dunkirk withdrawal had come to an end GRI/14 and GCII/8 returned to France.

The heaviest fighting had been taking place around the Somme. The French had lost 112 aircraft up to 25 May.

For all of the problems that the French Air Force had been struggling with in the run up to hostilities, and the appallingly bad showing that the French ground forces had exhibited during the campaign, the French Air Force’s record was comparatively good. In all, although the figures can only ever be approximate, the French Air Force lost 1,200 aircraft to all causes. Despite this, the strength of the French Air Force at the end of operations on 25 June 1940 was actually greater than when war was declared in September 1939. In the period from 10 May to 12 June, French industry had delivered 1,131 new aircraft; some 668 of these were fighters. Many of the French aircraft losses during this period had been of older types of aircraft, but all of the replacements were obviously modern ones.

The exodus of French aircraft from the mainland was by no means complete. Large numbers of aircraft, many of which had literally just been delivered, fell into German hands. This included 453 Morane 406s, 170 Dewoitine 520s, 260 Bloch 152s and a host of other aircraft, including Curtiss Hawks and Glenn Martins.

After France surrendered unoccupied France had several units with Bloch 152s and Bloch 155s, each with a strength of twenty-four aircraft.

A third version, the Bloch 155, entered production following its first flight on December 3, 1939, but only nine had been delivered before the fall of France. This version, at first armed similarly to the Bloch 152, was powered by an 1100-hp Gnome- Rhone 14N 49 engine, increasing the maximum speed (despite a higher gross weight) to 520 km/h (323 mph). The Bloch 155 was the first production French fighter to incorporate both belt-fed cannon and an armoured-glass windscreen. About 15 were built altogether these being used later by the Vichy air force until seized by the Luftwaffe in 1942.

The Bloch 153 and 154 designations were applied to proposed versions of the Bloch 152, fitted, respectively, with American Twin Wasp and Cyclone engines. Of these, only the Bloch 153 was flown in prototype form. Similarly, the Gnome-Rhone-engined Bloch 156 remained only a project.

The final development of this series of fighters was the Bloch 157, virtually a complete redesign by Lucien Servanty. The prototype was still under construction when France was overrun, but its completion was approved by the German authorities, and the Bloch 157 eventually flew in March 1942, powered by a 1590-hp Gnome-Rhone 14R 4 engine but without its intended six-gun armament (two cannon and four machine-guns). Subsequent test flights confirmed early impressions that the Bloch 157 was superior in all respects to its predecessors, performance including a maximum speed of 710 km/h (441 mph). However, no further development was undertaken.

MB-152

Origin: SNCASO.

Type: Single-seat fighter.

Engine: 1 .080hp Gnome-Rhone 14N-25 14-cylinder radial.

Dimensions Span 34ft 6in (105m); length 29ft 10in (9 1m): height 13ft 0in (3 95m).

Weights: Empty 4.453lb (2020kg); loaded 5.842lb (2650kg).

Performance: Maximum speed 323mph (520km/h): climb to 16.400ft (5000m) in 6 minutes; service ceiling 32.800ft (10.000m); range 373 miles (600km).

Armament: Two 20mm Hispano 404 cannon (60-round drum) and two 7 5mm MAC 1934 machine guns (500 rounds each): alternatively four MAC 1934

History: First flight (MB-150) October 1937; (MB-151) 18 August 1938: (MB-152) December 1938: (MB-155) 3 December 1939: (MB-157) March 1942.

Users: France (Armee de I’Air, Vichy AF). Greece. Romania.

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1 thought on “Bloch 150-157

  1. “By the beginning of 1940 the Armee de I’ Air had just over 100 in flyable condition and nearly twice as many, lacking propellers, were non-operational.”

    It seems that the French Air Force had major logistical issues in making new aircraft operational – why weren’t the propellors fitted at the factory?

    Like

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