mardi 10 avril 2012

The lightweight fighter Caudron CR 714: Why such hatred? (enriched 12 / 08 / 2014)

About the Caudron-Renault company

The Caudron company had build a lot of biplane aircrafts during WW I and entered in the bigger Louis Renault company at the end of the 20's.

Louis Renault, a very skilled inventor and engineer, had chosen Marcel Riffard as the technical director of Caudron.

Marcel Riffard became quickly very famous when his racers won a lot of races, as the Deutsch de la Meurthe cup, before to win (with Michel Détroyat as pilot) the Greve Trophy and the Thompson Trophy in September 1936.

She was ordered very late, after mid-1938, and worst, she was never affected to a regular perfecting unit of the Armée de l’Air during the peace time. 

After the beginning of the Guderian’s Blitzkrieg, the Armée de l’Air affected the Caudron 714 fighter to the Polish Groupe de Chasse I/145. 

A bit too late…

A lightweight fighter

Impressed by the qualities of the Caudron racers, the French Air Staff opened the fighter contest defined by the program of 1934 to the lightweight fighters..

(Obviously, a lightweight fighter is defined by comparison with standard contemporary fighters. 

A PZL 11 fighter of 1933, with a fixed landing gear, a wooden fixed pitch air screw, an open cockpit and 2 riffle caliber machine guns, even if her take off weight was only 1650 kg, cannot be seen as a lightweight fighter: The contemporary standard fighter Dewoitine 500 - carrying 4 Darne machine guns - weighted 1710 kg.)

Facing a strong opposition from deciders 

The first prototype of this fighter was the Caudron CR 710, with a fixed landing gear. 

The Renault V 12 engine, at it initial step of development, yielded 420 hp but the fighter achieved 435 kph at altitude and climbed to 8,000 m in 18 minutes.

The CR 713 used a retractable landing gear and achieved 470 kph with her 450 hp engine.

The CR 714 appeared in 1938. 

(source :  les avions  Caudron-Renault, by Mihaly et Robinson, Docavia, 2001)

With a take off weight of 1713 kg, the performances were better :
  • 390 kph at sea level,
  • 476 kph at 4,500 m (480 kph at 5000 m),
  • the climbing times being:
    • 4,000 m ...   7'
    • 5,000 m ...   9'
    • 6,000 m ...  11' 22"
    • 7,000 m ...  15'
    • 8,000 m ...  20' 
    • 9,000 m ...  29'12"
For all these data, nobody used the extra-power of the new Renault 12 R 03 yielding 500 hp for 3 minutes.

The fighters were rejected if their speed at 5,000 m was under 462 kph.

They were also rejected if the climb times were worse than 9' 40" to 4,000 m, 18' to 6,000 m and 30' to 8,000 m.

To use these data, please, remember that the top speed of all the Lioré & Olivier 451 bombers were spread from 462 kph to 498 kph.
In Spring 1940, during the mock up combat against the captured Bf 109 E, the Caudron demonstrated a clearly better maneuverability than her German enemy.

Some high level peoples (among those who had so much lobbied to choose the Morane-Saulnier 406 fighter…) predicted the complete failure of the Caudron fighter. 

More than 20 years later, the Chief Engineer Bonte wrote: “always during a war, the best fighter plane will be the most powerful one carrying the heaviest armament”. 

If Master Yoda, in another galaxy, far, far away, had known this arrogant man, I'm sure he would had say him: "So certain are you!" 

Perhaps, the 334 US pilots who were downed by the nimble Vietnamese Mig 17 or 21, 3 to 4 times lighter than their own plane, while flying their F 105 Thunder-chief (weighting up to 24 metric tonnes), did not share such an opinion? 

Their losses were even worst than the ones of the Potez 63-11 Recce plane during the Battle of France!

In action

Alone among all the lightweight fighters of the WW II, the Caudron CR 714 Cyclone reached the operational status during a true war time. 

Moreover, she fought the Luftwaffe she was intended to fight. 

However, the more robust and most interesting opinion is the one of Captain Laguna, the leader of the Polish unit. 

In the report he wrote when he was in Great Britain (thanks to Mathieu Comas who translated it to French in his book – les chasseurs Caudron CR 714, Avion, hors-série #11 ). 

For Capt. Laguna, the CR 714 was especially well designed and built. 

Nevertheless, he expressed strong regrets about the lack of detailed service manual and, worst, a total lack of spare parts.

This last point explaining perfectly how the number of available fighters was dwingling from a combat to the following one.

During the fighting of the GC I/145, M. Comas authenticated 10 victories, for the price of 3 pilotes KIA and one wounded. 

These victories have been obtained in 10 days, at the beginning of June 1940. 

It is absolutely not bad at all, contrarily as it was told everywhere : The best score of all MS 406 units was deserved by GC III/1, claiming 36 victories (after gathering all confirmed and unconfirmed victories). 
The 10 days rate of victories seems very similar (10 for the CR 714 / 9 for the MS 406), but its 8 victories obtained the May, 10, were on not escorted bombers. 

The conditions between the June 2 and June 12 were much more dramatic ! 

So, the CEMA beloved Morane fighter, in a good fighter group, with a much more steady strength, did not obtain better results than the constantly vilified Caudron Cyclone.

One may wonder about the reason why the Caudron was never used by any regular French unit. 

If it had be done, this fighter could be better known, more reliable and the spars would have been collected in sufficient amount.

My only technical regret regards the weapons fitted in this plane – four 7.5 mm machine guns, gathered in a voluminous “suitcase” in each wing – even though a couple of 0.5 cal. Browning would have given a longer range and a much stronger punch (as also a significantly better speed). 

In such a case, the Cyclone fighter could obtain very much striking results !

My personal opinion is the Caudron Cyclone, once finalized, could have been a very better fighter than the Morane MS 406.

2 commentaires:

  1. " Nevertheless, he expressed strong regrets about the lack of detailed service manual and, worst, a total lack of spars.

    This last point explaining perfectly how the number of available fighters was dwingling from a combat to the following one.."

    deux phrases que je ne trouve pas dans la V.O. --> " a lack of spars" --> comprends pas ce que tu veux dire..

    1. Thank you!

      Yes, you could not understand because I wrote wrongly "spars" instead of "spare parts":

      {En Français : Pièces détachées.}

      After war missions, the fighters needed very often to be repaired.

      Without separate parts and without the handbooks explaining the way for repairing, the fighter must stay on the ground...