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Aircraft of the Spanish Civil War - Loire 46 and Me Bf 109


By Sakhal

Loire 46

The 1st September 1934, the French SNCAO (Societe Nationale des Constructions Aeronautiques de l'Ouest or Western National Society of Aeronautical Constructions) presented the prototype of a high-wing monoplane fighter destined to equip the first-line units of l'Armee de l'Air (Air Army), which received the denomination Loire 46 C1. It was an aircraft of metallic structure coated with fabric in large proportion and covered with metallic plates in the engine cover and fore part of the fuselage. The wings, metallic and placed high, were of the type known as "seagull", being braced to the fuselage by four braces on which rested the main landing gear, whose wheels had a large fairing (not present in the exemplar depicted in the illustration). The Loire 46 C1 had a 14-cylinder, air-cooled, radial engine Gnome-Rhone 14KFS of 930 horsepower, which moved a metallic three-bladed propeller, granting to it a great speed according to testimony from the pilots who faced in combat this aircraft. Its wingspan was 11.80 meters, its length was 7.76 meters and its height was 4.18 meters, with a takeoff weight of 1985 kilograms. With a service ceiling of 11750 meters, it achieved a maximum speed of 410 kilometers/hour at an altitude of 4000 meters and an operational range of 750 kilometers. As armament it carried four 7.5-millimeter machine guns.

Entering service with the French Aviation in January 1936, a total of 60 exemplars were built, which suffered during their career continuous problems with both the propulsion system and the structural weakness of the landing gear, which caused the Loire 46 C1 to be retired from the fighter squadrons from September 1938, to be used as training aircraft. In September 1936 arrived to Spain, piloted by the volunteers of Malraux, six of these Loire 46 C1, albeit, apparently, there was a contract for a total of 20, which was never fulfilled. With their code CN, the history of these aircraft in the Spanish skies was short, for the 26th September it was downed the first of them over Bargas, and two days later another one was downed in the road to Navalcarnero. The pilot Lacalle affirmed that he had damaged one of them while effectuating a takeoff and, later, another one when having to land in unprepared terrain because of engine failure.

Messerschmitt Bf 109

In 1934, the Technical Office of which would be later the Luftwaffe, published technical specifications for the project, development and construction of a single-seater fighter aircraft with which provide the nascent German Air Force. The contracts were awarded to the aeronautical manufacturers Arado, Focke-Wulf, Heinkel and Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG (BDW). The Projects and Studies Bureau of this latter company, directed by a young Willy Messerschmitt, worked during the rest of the year in the new project, for which they took as base the four-seater tourism aircraft Bf 108 Taifun. With the new year it was started the construction of the Bf 109 V-1 (Versuchmaschine-1 or Prototype-1), which flew for the first time in September of the same year with test pilot Knotsch at the controls. One month later, the aircraft was transferred to Rechlin to submit it for the final, definitive proof, in competition with the prototypes of the rival companies. During the proof, the prototypes by Focke-Wulf and Arado were quickly eliminated, remaining the Heinkel He 112 and the Bf-109 V-1, whose similarity in prestations made the Technical Office of the Luftwaffe to reserve the final decision for later, ordering to each manufacturer a lot of ten aircraft of each model presented. But while in Heinkel the technicians entertained themselves with numerous modifications and prototypes, Messerschmitt, after reinforcing some elements and improving some aspects of the aircraft, quickly delivered the ten exemplars demanded, becoming so the virtual winner of the contest, whereby the Bf 109 became the backbone of the German fighter aviation.

In December 1936, incorporated to the Condor Legion, arrived to Spain the three first Bf 109, specifically the prototypes V-3, V-4 and V-5 (albeit some authors mention the V-4, V-5 and V-6) which formed the experimental unit VB/88 for tests in real combat. Soon after appeared the series aircraft of the variant B-1, which with the code number 6 were incorporated to the unit 2/J88, followed by the 1/J88, from the 6-1 to the 6-90. These numerals identified all the aircraft Bf 109B-1, C-1 and D-1 that operated in Spain in the Nationalist side. Undoubtedly, the Bf 109 was the best fighter that intervened in the Spanish Civil War, which, along with the adoption of the tactic of double pairs, later extended to all the German "hunters", and a more rational and intelligent use would lead it to be the absolute master on the Spanish skies in which it fought. When, at the end of the war, the Condor Legion was repatriated, it left in Spain all the fighters Bf 109, which passed to form part of the Fighter Regiments on the new Spanish Air Army, which kept them in service, in the original versions, until 1954, and in the ones produced in Spain, until 1966.

Aircraft of the Spanish Civil War - Loire 46 and Me Bf 109

Loire 46 C1 and Messerschmitt Bf 109B-1 "Zacuto" from the 2/J88 of the Condor Legion.

Categories: Aviation - 20th Century - [General] - [General] - [General]

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Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2015-07-17


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