dimanche 30 avril 2017

Renard 36, 37 and 38: Three very promising fighters...

Belgium on the edge of WW II

Leopold III, King of the Belgians, was famous in the 30's for several reasons.

Among these reasons, one was the Neutrality Act he promulgated in July 1936 by his refusal of the electoral victory of the Front Populaire in France.

This neutrality disorganized the entire Allied defense against the Hitler's Wehrmacht...

Four years after that decision, the German offensive was so swift that the lack of common training between Belgian and Allied high ranking officers bring to a lot of military catastrophic failures.

Obviously, Leopold III believed he had created a powerful army backed by strongholds of great military value. 

Unfortunately, that was disproved by the war experience.  

His Army, with 22 well trained divisions, was much powerful than the British Army in France.

Nevertheless, it suffered two dramatic flaws: 
  • The total lack of efficient armored vehicle, only 200 tank-destroyers T 13,  using a good  47 mm anti-tank gun but armored at 6 mm to 12 mm) and one dozen of French Renault ACG 1 (14.5 tons) which were really efficient and fast but fuel greedy!
  • The Belgian Air Force had some ancient aircrafts (about 30 recco ones, about 30 light bombers and about 60 fighters). As that was also the case for the Dutch, the Belgians were convinced France and United Kingdom were able to contribute significantly to their defense.    
Since the beginning of 1936, the deciders of the Belgian Aéronautique Militaire understood their more recent aircrafts were completely obsolete. 

The poor Fairey Firefly II were unable of any military action.

The Renard 36

The Belgian engineer Alfred Renard, well known in Belgium as in Europe, designed a brand new fighter, the single-seater R 36.

She was a low wing aircraft of metallic construction except the rear fuselage covered with fabric.

The engine was an Hispano-Suiza 12 Y 29 delivering 920 hp at 3,600 m.

The maiden flight was accomplished by the excellent pilot Georges Van Damme, the November 4, 1937, at Haren near Brussel.

Renard 36  :  A perfect streamlining !

The French aeronautical weekly Les Ailes, published, the Novembe25, 1937, a good paper on the R 36. 

This fighter was also described by Williame Green (Fighters, vol. I, 1960). 

The reference site is the  Fond National Alfred Renard.

The Renard 36 was 8.80 m long

The will of a perfect streamlining induced a fuselage of more than one meter of diameter, larger than the fuselage of the other fighters using a in-line engine.

{One may see here the roots of a trend leading to the transatlantic transport Miles X, one year later}.

The wings had a span of 11.64 m and an area of 20 m², giving an aspect ratio of 6.77. 

The cockpit canopy, as the one of the Nieuport 161, allowed a 360° view.

The empty weight was 1,770 kg and the take off weight was 2,470 kg.

So, the wing loading was  123 kg/m², allowing a good turning radius.

The Renard R 36 in flight


The fuel tank contained 450 liters allowed a total range of 1,000 km at the cruising speed of 400 kph. So, on her internal resources, she may escort any bomber with a combat radius of at least 300 km! 

The top speeds were obtained without rearward exhaust pipes, which allowed a speed gain between 15 to 20 kph. 

This aircraft was performing similarly to the French D 520-01 similarly engined:
  • 417 kph              at          0 m
  • 465 kph              at   2,000 m
  • 505 kph              at   4,000 m (515 kph on En Wikipedia)
  • 492 kph              at   6,000 m (L'Aérophile, Sept. 1938, published 505 kph at 5,000 m)
  • 485 kph              at   8,000 m
  • 475 kph              at   9,000 m
  • 450 kph              at 11,000 m
  • 433 kph              at 12,000 m
The landing speed was 115 kph.
    The climbing times were:
    •   2,000 m             in   2' 35"
    •   4,000 m             in   4' 56"
    •   6,000 m             in   7' 36"
    •   8,000 m             in 11' 17"  
    •   9,000 m             in 13' 56"  
    • 11,000 m             in 23' 06" 

    The service ceiling was 12,000 m.

    These performances ridiculed those of the Morane 406 and of the Curtiss H 75 as well as those of the Hurricane Mk I, even with the Rotol air-screw.

    An order of 6 R 36 was achieved and another contract of 40 was prepared. 

    The prototype of the Renard fighter flew 14 months with 8 different pilots without any incident. 

    The French minister refused to order the R 36, likely because, at 1,750,000 FF, she was more expansive than the Morane-Saulnier 406 (which was decidedly inferior). 

    But this price was 600,000 FF inferior to the price the French government will paid the Curtiss H 75 (P 36).

    It was also said the R 36 cannot resist the same g-trial the French fighters had to perform.

    Unfortunately, the great Georges Van Damme had fatally crashed during the maiden flight of the stratospheric transport prototype Renard R 35, the April 1st, 1938. 

    {The atmospheric circumstances were very hazardous and the pilot, very accustomed to fly nimble and fast aircrafts, was not sufficiently patient to perfecting all the commands of his heavy new airplane.}

    The excellent R 36, after 75.5 flight hours, dramatically crashed at Nivelles the January 17, 1939. 

    Her pilot, Eric de Spoelbergh, was killed. 

    Similarly as it happened for the Nieuport 161-01, no error was found.

    One hypothesis was the radio emitter/receiver device was ejected from its rack and had disabled the flying commands.

    In less than one year, two completely different aircrafts designed by Alfred Renard crashed, allowing the ever-present British lobby to obtain an order for two squadrons of the very inferior Hurricane Mk I

    At this very time, even the French aeronautic reviews published a top speed of 545 kph for the Hurricane Mk I (Les Ailes and l'Aérophile, e.g.), 40 to 55 kph above the Truth!

    A beautiful family

    Three of the R 36 were nevertheless already built.

    The R 38, with a Rolls-Royce Merlin III engine, first flew the August 4, 1938. 

    During her numerous flights, she displayed excellent flying qualities.

    This fighter had a top speed of 545 kph at 6,000 m. 

    Some sources have given lower top speed, but taking into account the 505 kph obtained by the R 36 with the 910 hp HS 12 Y 29, the 545 kph are very likely.

    Her climbing time to 5,000 m was 5' 03" . 

    That was one minute faster than the Messerschmitt 109 E and 2 minutes faster than the Spitfire Mk I of the Battle of Dunkirk!

    In June 1940, she was on the way to be sent to Morocco when she was captured by German soldiers.

    She bested the Hurricane of any type and she appeared quite equal to the Spitfire Mk I.

    The R 37 fighter used the radial Gnome et Rhône 14 N engine.

    As the other fighters of this lineage, she was issued from a thorough research of aerodynamic fineness.

    The gathering of the rearward facing exhaust pipes were similar to the ones of the FW 190 A. 

    Renard 37 -  A promising fighter

    The expected top speed of the R 37 was 527 kph at 5,000 m.

    She was ready to fly in May 1940 when the German troops invaded the airfield where she was abandoned.

    The brand new fighter interested the enemy engineers

    A German pilot Allemand take off quickly with the R 37, not aware at all she never flew until this very day!

    The fighter was conveyed to Germany. What a maiden flight!

    This story demonstrated the very good flying qualities of all three Renard 3x fighters.


    The Belgian government bought some unfortunate Gloster Gladiator (405 kph), some highly maneuvering and marginally better performing Fiat CR 42 and some Hurricane Mk I whose best characteristic was a really lethal armament of four 0.5 cal Browning machine-guns.

    These ill-matched squadrons disappeared in few days, because of incompetent high ranking commanding officers, unrealistic training and of obsolete fighters.

    A homogenized fighting force with 200 Renard R 36 and R 38 would have been much more efficient.

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