I am not at all convinced that you are pointing your finger at the right culprit.Vaeltaja wrote:No it does not make then useless or antique. But it was known before the WW that Fokker D XXI was a second rate fighter (it had been such all the way from the design board). And the need to get more modern fighters was growing - but ignored by Air Force Command.
About the Fokker acquisition, I just checked the chapter on “The Air Force in the 1930’s – growth to a Branch of Defence makes progress”, p. 59-61, in The History of the Karelian Air Command by Veli Pernaa, Col (ret), 1997.
Without going to a full-length translation of the text (which I highly recommend to all Finnish readers), I will point out some issues in it:
- the new Council of Defence (Puolustusneuvosto) was established in 1931, with expert representation covering also politics and economy
- the apparent lagging behind of the Air Force during the 1920’s had already been investigated by the Hohenthal Committee in 1928. Its proposals had not improved the funding of the Air Force. The Cabinet finally ended up with an “Emergency Program” in 1930, to cover the most crying needs.
- Cavalry General Mannerheim had got thoroughly acquainted with the state of our Defence Forces after his nomination as the Chairman of the Council of Defence. He paid special attention to the performance of the Air Force.
- In 1931 the Council of Defence proposed setting up a committee for investigating the Air Force. The task was given to a committee chaired by Major General Oesch, with its report being presented in 1932.
- The Committee on State Finances established in 1935 ended up proposing remarkable additional acquisitions to especially the Air Force.
- A later Committee on Basic Procurements prepared its report in 1938, when the Act on Basic Procurements was given. It gave a great weight to developing the Air Force, too.
- procurements of aircraft required contacts abroad, as the development of combat aircraft accelerated significantly in the 1930’s. The types with the best performance were generally held secret, which is why Finns had difficulty in getting information on the latest constructs. However, experts of our Air Force did get opportunities to familiarize themselves with the production of the leading European aviation states.
- Mannerheim, promoted to Field Marshal in 1933, showed interest in the Air Force and visited aircraft industry in Britain, Germany, and France. In Germany, he heard Hermann Göring’s lecture on the significance of the air force, which he considered “enlightening”. Mannerheim would have preferred highest quality, which in his view was to be found in Germany.
- despite of the Emergency Program and Mannerheim’s support, politicians axed the budget proposals of the Air Force. The State Finance Committee of 1935 reduced five of the proposed 17 squadrons of the development program. A revised basic procurement program was prepared for the Air Force in 1935, including 12 squadrons as follows:
land army support squadrons (maayhteistoimintalaivueet) 10, 12, 14, and 16 (34% of the aircraft)
fighter squadrons 24, 26, and 28 (34% of the aircraft)
long range squadrons (kaukotoimintalaivueet) 42, 44, 46, and 48 (24% of the aircraft)
maritime support squadron (meriyhteystoimintalaivue) 36 (8% of the aircraft)
- reinforcing the fighter force did not proceed as planned: one squadron (28) was scrapped in 1938
- as the State Aircraft Factory moved from Suomenlinna to Tampere in 1936, its production potential grew remarkably. Both the then Command of the Air Force and the Council of Defence had positive attitude towards domestic aircraft production, as no funding was available for purchasing more expensive aircraft from abroad. Also the State Finance Committee favoured domestic production.
- the Council of Defence decided on the acquisition of the first Fokker D.XXI squadron in October 1936.
- the Council of Defence discussed fighter procurement again in the spring of 1937. The Commander of the Air Force proposed more Fokkers with unlimited license and domestic production. The outcome was a decision on purchase of the license rights and an order on 21 aircraft from the Aircraft Factory. The license production of Blenheim bombers commenced respectively in 1938 and went on till the war years.
- the Council of Defence decided on changing one of the long range squadrons to a fighter squadron on 6 June 1939. The decision was a right one, but it came far too late.
- in the spring of 1939 the Air Force Command made a new operational plan, emphasizing the role of fighters., which led to hurrying up the fighter procurement in the Council of Defence. The Council worked on the fighter question during the summer and autumn of 1939. Fokker was not regarded as fulfilling the requirements for a fighter, and Marshal Mannerheim was doubtful on the selection of Fokker.
- as the international situation grew tense and the possibilities of purchasing aircraft narrowed, the Commander of the Air Force, Major General Lundqvist, proposed in early September 1939 establishing a new aircraft factory in Pori, with raw material to be acquired for one year’s production. The factory was to produce license aircraft at first, to be followed by a new type of fighter of domestic construct later on. The initiative included other plans, like the acquisition of the American Seversky fighter, which however had numerous problems. The plane was expensive, and there were problems in getting the raw materials.
- although the Council of Defence decided on 10 September 1939 to both purchase Seversky fighters and begin their production under license, the political lead refused to grant funding for foreing purchases on a quick schedule. Remarkable procrastination on the aircraft acquisition of the Air Force took place right on the threshold to war.
- on 10 September 1939 an additional batch of Fokkers was ordered from the State Aircraft Factory, and the domestic Myrsky fighter on 20 December 1939.
- in the autumn of 1939, the Commander of the Air Force also made a decision to purchase 25 Fiat G.50 fighters from Italy instead of the long range aircraft. The contract was signed on 23 October 1939.
- G. E. Magnusson later criticized the decisions made in 1939. He felt the acquisition was started far too late, as Finns should have realized by the spring of 1939 the future outcome of the division of spheres of interests between Germany and the Soviet Union. The thought of producing domestic fighters in wartime was in his opinion unrealistic.
As you can see from the above, there were more players involved than the Military Command, and the chronic negligence was mostly due to opposition by frugal civilian politicians, who thought wishfully about international political developments and lacked insight into the long time span required for building up defence.
And finally, I will illustrate this post with my photo of the Fokker D.XXI at the Central Finland Museum of Aviation.