samedi 18 janvier 2014

The Royal Air Force during the Campaign of France

The Allied defeat in France was a as cutting one for the Great Britain as it was for France, but without the same dramatic consequences.

During this short campaign (as during the preceding Phoney War), all the supreme commanders appeared equally inefficient because they lacked any proficiency.

In the History, the Royal Air Force had left a very good picture of herself during the 1940 year.

If this picture is relevant for the last third of that year (during the Battle of Britain), the picture is not as brilliant for the 2 preceding thirds.

The Fighter Command

At the end of the 20's, the Fighter Command was very comfortable with a lot of biplane fighters.

They were sturdy, very maneuverable and most of them were fitted with 2 riffle caliber machine guns.

Some new concepts had arisen during the early 30's: The all metal monocoque structures, the monoplanes, the supercharged engines, and the retractable undercarriages. 

All of this concepts have increased the speed capacities of the fighters by at least 100 kph.

So, in 1934, the RAF published the specifications which will allow her to obtain an up-to-date set of modern fighters. 

  • The Supermarine Spitfire Mk I, by far the best British fighter until the end of 1943, but a stunningly slow enter in mass production as, also, an unreasonable refusal of the air battles in France, triggering abnormally high losses during the Dunkirk battles.
  • The Boulton-Paul Defiant was the materialization of an obsolete concept. She suffered heavy losses but, also, she was not used wisely. However, if transformed into a single-seater, as proposed by her designers, she could have been a better partner for the Spitfire than the Hurricane to eliminate the German bombers. 

Two years later, the British government discovered how powerful were the very recent on board 20 mm cannons, as was the Hispano-Suiza HS 404. 

  • The Westland Whirlwind was a very sturdy, maneuverable and very fast fighter. Her pilots were enthusiastic.She could have been ready for the Battle of Dunkirk and was ready for the Battle of Britain. OK, she deserved more reliable engines, but also, more imaginative generals. If used there, she could save dozens of Blenheim Mk I F pilots...  

The Bomber Command

Most of the fan of the British Aviation know perfectly the heroic actions of the Lancaster pilots, as also those of the Mosquito strafing bombers.

They are less numerous to know the heroic actions led by their forerunners during the Battle of France.

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