It allowed to Bulgarian pilots, in 1943, to make frontal attacks to B17 ou B24 bomber formations while avoiding the escorting P 38, even the later were strikingly faster, but clearly less nimble.
Only in 1944, the P 51 ( wiped them from the Bulgarian sky!
But the D.520 was especially more maneuverable than the German fighter at high speed.
Several French pilots of 1940 had said to Danel and Cuny : "A 109 which was dive flying was already dead."
The Dewoitine fighter enjoyed a larger range than any other European single seater.
The Hispano-Suiza 12Y45 was very reliable for its times.
These two assets allowed easy change of location.
For example, all of the D.520 of the French Air Forces crossed the Mediterranean sea during the third week of June 1940.
To my knowledge, only one fail to land safely in Algeria and ditched near a beach, the pilot being safe.
As early as the June, 25, 1940, three French pilots flew successfully from Toulouse-Francazal airport to continue the fight for the Free France with General de Gaulle.
All three landed safely near Southampton, the complete distance they flew being likely much more than the ~1000 km in bee-line, owing to the need to avoid German fighters.
|Personnel document of the author - in Cyan, the combat range of a Dewoitine D 520 taking off at Le Bourget Airport. - in Red, the combat range of a Messerschmitt Bf 109 E starting from the same place.|
Moreover, this device was ill-designed.
All the French test pilots had begun to fly on Nieuport 62 fighters which were rather special when running on the usual rough surface of the actual French airfields.
So, they were "Darwinianly" selected to steer perfectly such planes on such surfaces and also they flew the production aircrafts after a long use of the prototypes.
So, they had not perceived the landing problem for more recent pilots or for pilots being used to very comfortable airfields.
Very late, after the experimental fixing of the ground looping obtained by the Italian pilots, the French staff understood the problem and introduced a similar patch: The standstill of the tail weel.
"The D.520, used for the first time by confirmed pilots holder of several victories, was seen as fast, manoeuvrable, allowing easy attacks against the Italian bombers. However, the pilots warned us to avoid any turning manoeuver while shooting an aircraft in order to be efficient, because the D.520 skids during turn".
The pilots think the cannon is most efficient than the machine guns. They said me: "the cannon kills, the machine gun hurts only". They have learn unofficially that the cannon will be no more fitted on the Dewoine fighter. They asked me to use my influence with the command to reject such a project. I have done that with pleasure because I'm convinced one may take into account of the advise of three pilots who have been victorious several times each.
[NB: To my knowledge, the D.520 was never projected to be without her cannon, however the alleged rumor regarded only the lighter D.551, for which there was proposed three types of armaments. The first was only the cannon, the second 5 light machine guns and the third 4 light machine guns.]
This time, our moral cheered up suddenly. This fighter was an outstanding one.
The feeling that I had actually - that all of us had until that day - to be puppets at the enemy's mercy at last vanished".
This opinion is close to that of Marcel Albert (grp I/3 "les chats" and, later, GC 3 / Normandie – Niemen in which he finished the War as second French ace with 23 victories - at least) :
"The Dewoitine, with her four machine guns and her cannon, was an excellent fighter. They were pretty numerous at Toulouse, at Châteaudun, all over the place, but in the squadrons".
"The front line situation was critical... We thank the Destiny to have got the Dewoitine D.520. Each time we encounter Germans, the were two or three times more numerous as we were. Thanks to the Dewoitine, these first quality fighters, our losses were not too high..."
"Five Me 110 rushed at me. I don't know what happened thereafter, but I came back at home absolutely uninjured, and it was possible to count 127 holes of machine gun bullets and 2 from cannon shell."
Their subject was the French overestimated the value of their actual best fighter - a question induced when one knows the overestimation of the Lioré-Olivier 451 bomber, and, worst, of the Morane-Saulnier MS 406 fighter.