French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

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Tom from Cornwall
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French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 16 Jan 2010 21:21

Have been reading a general history of France between 1934 and 1955, and found it stated that on 10 May 1940 the French had over a thousand aircraft overseas and only 500 defending France. This must be a mistake, surely?

Regards

Tom

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Manuferey
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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by Manuferey » 16 Jan 2010 22:25

Yes, definitely a mistake!

Here is the Order of Battle of the "Armée de l'Air" on May 1940 in France and overseas territories. A quick look at North Africa, Middle East, Indochina, ... shows definitely much less than 1000 aircraft !

http://france1940.free.fr/adla/ada_may.html

Emmanuel

Carl Schwamberger
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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 17 Jan 2010 05:21

What is the name of the book? Perhaps we should avoid it for errors like that?

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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by Sewer King » 18 Jan 2010 01:21

For such an assertion, it would seem a stretch even to include the American-built warplanes on French order at the time.

-- Alan

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 19 Jan 2010 20:59

Carl, all,

The book is a general history of France rather than a military history - and is actually very interesting for the perspective it throws on the political and social structure of France both before the war and during the occupation. I certainly have learned a great deal about the Vichy structure, the social makeup of the French army and the complexities of the collaborator/resistant choices.

The book is called: France, 1934-1970 by Richard Vinen - published in 1996 by MacMillan as part of its European Studies Series.

Just seen another post on another thread which covers a very similar subject:

http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 4&t=162116

Regards
Tom

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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 20 Jan 2010 00:43

Thanks Tom. I'd seen it in the library, but not read it.

takata_1940
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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by takata_1940 » 20 Jan 2010 16:43

Hi Tom,
Tom from Cornwall wrote:Have been reading a general history of France between 1934 and 1955, and found it stated that on 10 May 1940 the French had over a thousand aircraft overseas and only 500 defending France. This must be a mistake, surely?
Everything depend how one will define what is an "aircraft" and how you are using the data...
Obviously, this book is making a complete misuse of both:
1. Yes, France did have more than a thousand "aircraft" based overseas on 10 May 1940.
2. No, France was not left with only 500 "aircraft" for defending her airspace at the same date.

If one take the total French Airforce "aircraft" inventory, April 1st 1940 (I'm taking this date because I've got a complete dataset for it), one will find that the total was... 9,860 "aircraft", including 1,538 overseas, and 8,322 in Metropolitan France. Per comparison, on October 1st 1939, the total was 7,527, including 653 overseas, and 6,871 in Metropolitan France.

On April 1st 1940, the 1,538 "aicraft" in overseas stock were:
049 Bloch 200
022 Bloch 210
017 Amiot 143
018 LeO 257 bis
009 Farman 221-222
008 Douglas DB-7
142 Morane 406
011 Potez 630
004 Potez 631
031 Dewoitine 500-510
009 Spad 510
047 NiD 622
013 Bloch 131
020 Potez 63.11
001 Potez 637
033 Glenn Martin 167
090 Potez 540-542
007 Bréguet 27
018 Loire 46
035 LeO 20-206
424 Potez 25 &TOE
008 Bloch 81
077 Potez 29
024 North American
077 Morane 315
033 Morane 230
057 Caudron Simoun
018 Caudron Goeland
003 Hanriot 182
019 Hanriot 431-437
214 Misc. types

Including 265 for training, others were either in combat unit, workshops, or used for liaisons and servitude. Now, your question was about May 10, but this is showing how some data could be misused to make moot points.

What was added after April 1st, before May 10th, was mostly US aircraft which were assembled in Morocco and most of those which could be made combat ready in time (Martin 167 and Douglas DB-7) were sent to France with some of the Morane 406 stationed in North Africa during the Battle. But, starting June 17th, every aircraft that could cross the Mediterranean was ordered to North Africa (if pilots could be found for ferrying them) and about 700-800 modern combat aircraft reached North Africa before the armistice, a good part being taken directly from the assembly lines in France.

The 8,322 aircraft in Metropolitan France at the same date:
144 LeO 45
037 Potez 633
062 Bréguet 691
006 Farman 224
022 Amiot 351
125 Bloch 200
215 Bloch 210
109 Amiot 143
029 Farman 221-222
013 Bréguet 693
820 Morane 406
138 Bloch 151
346 Bloch 152
180 Curtiss H-75
032 Dewoitine 520
073 Potez 630
178 Potez 631
206 Dewoitine 500-510
035 Spad 510
074 NiD 622
008 Caudron 714
013 Koolhoven
116 Bloch 131
491 Potez 63.11
031 Bloch 174-175
044 Potez 637
007 Glenn Martin 167
247 Mureaux 113-117
051 Autogyres
130 Potez 540-542
099 Bréguet 27
060 Potez 39
046 Loire 46
016 Potez 650
032 Morane 225
023 Nieuport 622-629
175 LeO 20-206
752 Potez 25 &TOE
011 Bloch 81
009 Potez 29
107 North American
142 Morane 315
378 Morane 230
441 Caudron Simoun
151 Caudron Goeland
237 Hanriot 182
141 Romano 82
051 Hanriot 431-437
037 Caproni 164
1,432 Misc. types

S~
Olivier

takata_1940
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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by takata_1940 » 20 Jan 2010 19:20

This table is showing how are dispatched the combat aircraft at the same date (from the previous inventory less the non combat aircraft).

There is three main groups totalling 4,639 aircraft:
1. "Aux Armées" = combat units in Métropole = D = A + B + C.
2. "Colonies" = overseas = E.
3. "Intérieur" = instruction, repair, various stocks (EAA) = L = F + G + H + I + J + K.
1940.04.01c.jpg
This is the same table for May 10th, total 5,026 aircraft (+ 387):
1940.05.10c.jpg
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Tom from Cornwall
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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 20 Jan 2010 19:36

takata_1940,

Wow!! Thanks very much for the details, and the table is very easy to understand as well. Makes my reearch efforts seem a bit weak. :oops:

Thanks again,

Tom

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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by takata_1940 » 21 Jan 2010 21:56

I'll add this table showing the variation between 1 April and 10 May.

474 combat aircraft were delivered during the period. In fact, 491 as the 17 Caudron 714s in the "losses" column (written off + export) were not resurected from the dead, but 17 (out of 23) exported aircraft undelivered to Finland which were returned to Airforce. The 9 yellow aircraft (2 Spad 510, 1 Bloch 200, 3 Potez 540/2, 3 Bré 270/Po 390) were certainly not newly produced ones.
During the same period, 87 aicraft were lost (in fact 104 without the 17 Caudrons), including 28 aircraft exported, making a stock increase of only 387 at the end.
variation.jpg
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Tim Smith
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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by Tim Smith » 25 Jan 2010 13:14

Fantastic tables, thank you very much! Worthy of a sticky IMO.

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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by Puma11 » 06 Mar 2010 01:10

Does anyone else find it amazing how quickly French aircraft designs went from hideous flying house brick aircraft like the Potez 54, Farman F.220's to the advanced and let's face it sexy Amoit 354, Dewoitine HD.730, Latecoere 28, Loire-Nieuport 40's etc. in such a short time. Also how different would the outcome to the air aspect of the Battle of France have been had these aircraft been available in much larger numbers?

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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by Jon G. » 06 Mar 2010 01:29

Thread promoted to sticky in order to keep takata_1940's very informative tables easily accessible.

Puma11, there is a whole thread devoted to the subject of ugly aircraft here http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... &p=1406988

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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by rbannon01 » 03 Jan 2011 05:23

This is a repost but it applies here also:As stated, the French airforce was in the process of re-equiping with new types that were just begining to come off of the assembly lines. Some bugs in the designs would be a natural part of the process, just as the U.S. has had problems with the Joint Strike fighter, which was in the design stage for years.
When 300+ MPH monoplane fighter designs were just begining to come off of the drawing boards, France was one of the first to design and build in significant quanities, the Morane-Saulnier 406 (305-315 MPH), which 900-1000 were built (sources differ).
You could say they they designed and built too quickly, technology was changing rapidly in those days. The Germans started producing the Me109 which was about 40 MPH faster in 1940. So they had no choice other than to push ahead faster than normal with new designs. But going from design to production is a long process, factories have to be specially tooled for each aircraft design. 3-6 more months would have made all the difference considering Allied aircraft would be being produced in France, England, the Low Countries and the U.S. quickly outpacing the Germans.
But,there was no excuse for the French letting so much of what they had fall into disrepair, they had more planes on paper than the Germans did, many which could have inflicted a great deal of damage on the Germans had they been kept battleworthy until the new types arrived. It has been estimated that only 20% of what they French had built was operational. This could have been prevented.
Not all German planes were super fast, many bombers used, like the Stuka were pretty slow. The French Potez aircraft, also built in large numbers, were compairable in preformance, with the exception of bomb load.
If all, or most French aircraft had been kept in fighting shape, they could have, along with the RAF have done serious damage to the Luftwaffe.
If you doubt that, consider that even with what the French DID have ready (which included several hundred U.S. built aircraft including Curtis Hawk fighters) and the RAF, the Germans lost about 100 more aircraft than the Allies did durring the battle of France. Since they were mostly opperating over French territory, this meant the Germans usually lost all pilots and crews, where the Allies often recoverd theirs alive. Allied aircraft production was increasing rapidly, and production orders were being quickly produced in the U.S. The Allies won the air war in France (by the numbers), or at least it was a draw. The Allies could replace their losses faster than Germany could.
All this points to the fact that if the ground war had gone better and longer in Allied favor, the airwar would have almost certainly have been won by the Allies.
The French airforce as well as, the RAF fought well in the Battle of France, unfortunatelly they have long been used as a scapegoat for the defeat of France. This is a fallacy created, I guess for political reasons, durring the years after the war. Could the French airforce have been better prepared or at least had more planes in the air? Yes. Did they fail? Were they, in fact weak? No. German losses confirm that.

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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by Bronsky » 03 Jan 2011 10:37

rbannon01 wrote:So they had no choice other than to push ahead faster than normal with new designs.


Every country underwent the same problems when transitioning from biplanes to fast monoplanes. The French had to do it while fighting a war, for reasons that would be fall outside the exact topic of this thread. Suffice it to say that they had produced some very advanced types until the early 1930s but then started lagging behind for reasons related to industrial policy.
rbannon01 wrote:But,there was no excuse for the French letting so much of what they had fall into disrepair, they had more planes on paper than the Germans did, many which could have inflicted a great deal of damage on the Germans had they been kept battleworthy until the new types arrived.
Do you know exactly how many planes, on paper, the French and the Germans had? My understanding is that, if you're counting everything with wings and an air force serial number, the RAF was the largest of all.

As to falling into disrepair, it's not a case of one or the other. Many planes were not combat worthy because they were lacking critical spare parts, the reason for which being that these spares had been directed to the newer types. Also, many of these aircraft were simply worn out, the French had just not taken the time to write them off their books.
rbannon01 wrote:It has been estimated that only 20% of what they French had built was operational. This could have been prevented.
20% of what the French had built... when? There was a point when the readiness rate of the French squadrons plummeted in early June. They were receiving new aircraft types and changing bases in a hurry, so there were no spares to be had.

If you have some other ratio in mind, please clarify what you meant.
rbannon01 wrote:Not all German planes were super fast, many bombers used, like the Stuka were pretty slow. The French Potez aircraft, also built in large numbers, were compairable in preformance, with the exception of bomb load.
The Potez 63/11 was only built in large numbers in comparison to other French aircraft types, and it wasn't a bomber. Here's a comparison with the Stuka. The main difference was of course that the Stuka operated with friendly air superiority and against far less competent AA defenses than what Allied airmen faced.
rbannon01 wrote:If all, or most French aircraft had been kept in fighting shape, they could have, along with the RAF have done serious damage to the Luftwaffe.
Yes, but that's meaningless. The late-war German and Japanese air forces had large aircraft inventories. If they'd had the fuel to fly them all, as well as trained pilots for all of them, they could have amounted to quite a challenge to Allied air forces. But they hadn't so they didn't.
rbannon01 wrote:If you doubt that, consider that even with what the French DID have ready (which included several hundred U.S. built aircraft including Curtis Hawk fighters) and the RAF, the Germans lost about 100 more aircraft than the Allies did durring the battle of France.
As I can't be bothered to rehash all the details, I'll simply paste something I wrote a few years ago in another forum. There are more recent books about aircraft losses, but the overall picture remains the same. The short version for those who don't want to read the following is that the claim is incorrect: the Allies lost more planes than the Germans did.

Most of what follows comes from an excellent synthesis that I've already mentioned here: Patrick Facon's "L'Armée de l'air dans la tourmente", Economica 1997. Dr Facon is head of the historical service of the French airforce.

The French made different claims, but they all centered around a figure of 900 German planes, including losses to AAA. Just to show off: Vuillemin in 1940 reported 982, d'Harcourt (1940) reported 919 for the fighter arm alone, Mendigal (1940) gave 830 for the fighters and 210 for the AAA, Buffotot and Ogier (1975) say 733 for the fighters and 120 by AAA, more recent sources (Paul Marin: "Invisibles vainqueurs. Exploits et sacrifices de l'armée de l'Air en 1939-1940". Paris, Yves Michelet Editeur, 1990, counts 594 claims from French fighters) say less. So let's remember 900.
The British claimed 821 victories: 201 for the Air Component of the BEF, 131 for the AASF, and 489 for FC (this comes from a study by the RAF historical branch in 1995-96).
The Dutch claimed 325 transport planes + 200 other planes destroyed. (source: "The Luftwaffe's airborne Losses in May 1940. An Interpretation" by Ausens in Aerospace Historian, sept 85)
The Belgians reported some 120 (source: French archives, documents from Belgian liaison mission)

So the total claims add up to 2,300 German planes. However, we already know that Luftwaffe loss estimates in May-June varied from 1,389 (Cooper) to 1,428 (Murray). These figures take into account ALL losses, including planes lost over German rear areas and Norway. By doing a manual recount, Dr Facon arrived at a figure of 1,290 German planes lost (all causes) in France and the Low Countries from May 10th to June 24th. Of these (again according to German archives), 18% were from air combat, 15% from accidents, 0.7% destroyed on the ground, 7.3% from enemy AA fire, and 54.5% from "unknown causes" (obviously combat losses).

After correction, this gives the following figures: Dutch 220 kills, Belgians 6 kills (Hervé Gérard: "Histoire de l'aviation belge", Bruxelles, Paullegrain éditeur, 1980), and between 800 and 850 to share between the French and the British. At this point, Facon says that since there aren't detailed daily records for the RAF part, trying to acertain the exact share of British/French air victories will probably never be possible, except by making educated guesses.

Concerning French losses, General Vuillemin says the total was 892 of which 413 combat losses, 234 on the ground, and 245 by accident (some of these are actually combat losses, e.g. a damaged plane crashing on landing is counted as "accident"). General Mendigal's total is 795 of which 320 from fighters and flak, 240 lost on the ground and 235 from accidents. According to the GQGA archives, combat losses were 410, losses from bombarments were 232 and accidents accounted for another 230 for a total of 872. It is quite clear that the French lost well over 1,000 planes, including after mid-June when the reporting system essentially broke down, but let's remember 800-900 losses. That's 70% of the initial frontline strength, and actually less taking replacements into account.

For the RAF, comparable figures are 1,029 planes lost (55%): 299 AASF, 279 Air Component, 219 FC, 166 BC.

rbannon01 wrote: Since they were mostly opperating over French territory, this meant the Germans usually lost all pilots and crews, where the Allies often recoverd theirs alive.
A questionable assumption, many German planes crash-landed in Germany. Also, a lot of the areas over which air combat took place (e.g. the Meuse bridges, Dunkirk) were contested territory and ended up in German control.
rbannon01 wrote:All this points to the fact that if the ground war had gone better and longer in Allied favor, the airwar would have almost certainly have been won by the Allies.
All three main air forces were losing planes and crews faster than they could replace them. Had the ground front stabilized, the French air force would have run itself into the ground and would have had to spend most of 1941 with competitive planes but not enough pilots, the RAF was producing more planes and aircrews than the Luftwaffe but was also taking more losses (as opposed to the BoB where tactical conditions favored the British side), so my bet would be the RAF largely standing back after being gutted, and the Luftwaffe winning a sort of pyrrhic victory which the Allies (mostly the RAF, especially at first) would start seriously challenging a little under a year later.

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