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Old 9th April 2005, 12:56
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Complement : WW II Fighter Conflict (Alfred Price)

I forgot to mention the wonderful little book - a booklet - "World War Two Fighter Conflict", by Alfred Price. For a horrible Englishman this work is a remarkable achievement. It is one of my top favourites although quite naturally French aicraft are very marginal in these pages. The author explains, very clearly, some of the most important aspects of air combat including armament. Although it was not his goal his data on 1939 fighter armament show very clearly that 1939-40 French fighters had a very powerful armament (for the time; armour was not widely used yet on aircraft). Unfortunately Price takes only what he calls the "weight of fire" into account, the weight, in lbs, of projectiles fired by all weapons of every fighter type in a 3-second burst. It is a good criterion already but forgets at least two important factors : the missile velocity and the much higher destructive power of explosive cannon shells as compared to machine-gun bullets.
Even so we can see that the Morane 406 (one cannon, two 7.5. mm machine-guns) had a Price-firepower 20 % higher than that of the "Hurricane" (and "Spitfire") (8 .303 MGs) and only 8 % lower than that of the Me 109 E-3 (two cannon, two 7.92 MGs) - namely 13 lbs as compared to 12 lbs. In particular the French cannon had a very high missile velocity, which resulted in a straight trajectory, short time between firing and impact (an advantage in combat), much better aiming precision and much higher, devastating kinetic energy. All in all the Morane was better armed than the 109. (What counts in my eyes is the effect achieved in combat). Many a 109-pilot could confirm this for you!
So be careful when reading that 1940 French fighters had a weak armament, in most cases this has nothing to do with reality. Only the American-made Curtiss H-75 had 4 7.5 mm machine-guns, later 6. This was too light an armament for the 1940 fighting and French Curtiss pilots lamented this (French HQ had abolished the original heavy machine-gun of the US design, which I absolutely cannot understand) but they were the by far most successful French fighter pilots so the other, general qualities of the "Curtiss" certainly have compensated for the armament. Nevertheless many pilots paid a high price, including their life, because the light armament, with too short a range, forced them to come too close to German bombers and their very dangerous air-gunners.
Anyway, Alfred Price's booklet no doubt is one of the best on WW II from 1939 to 1945 (jets, heavy German 30 mm cannon etc.) including a little 1939-40.

Last edited by Hawk-Eye; 9th April 2005 at 12:59.
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