Dewoitine D.520

The Dewoitine D.520 was a French fighter aircraft that entered service in early 1940, shortly after the opening of World War II. Unlike the Morane-Saulnier M.S.406, which was at that time the Armée de l'Air's most numerous fighter, the Dewoitine D.520 came close to being a match for the latest German types, such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109. It was slower than the Bf 109E but superior in manoeuvrability. Because of a delayed production cycle, only a small number were available for combat with the Luftwaffe.

The D.520 was designed in response to a 1936 requirement from the Armée de l'Air for a fast, modern fighter with a good climbing speed and an armament centred around a 20 mm cannon. At the time the most powerful V 12 liquid cooled engine available in France was the Hispano-Suiza 12Y, which was less powerful, but lighter, than contemporary engines such as the Rolls-Royce Merlin and Daimler-Benz DB 601. Other fighters were designed to meet the specifications but none of them entered service, or entered service in small numbers and too late to play a significant role during the Battle of France.

The Groupe de Chasse I/3 was the first unit to get the D.520, receiving its first aircraft in January 1940. These were unarmed and used for pilot training. In April and May 1940, operational units received 34 production D.520s; the type proving to be very popular with the pilots. In comparative trials on 21 April 1940 at CEMA at Orleans-Bricy against a captured Bf 109E-3, the German aircraft had a 32 km/h (20 mph) speed advantage owing to its more powerful engine. However, the D.520 had superior maneuverability, matching its turning circle, although displaying nasty characteristics when departing and spinning out of the turn repeatedly during the tests. The Bf 109, owing to its slats, could easily sustain the turn on the edge of a stall.

By 10 May 1940, when Germany invaded France and the Low Countries, 228 D.520s had been manufactured, but the Armée de l'Air had only accepted 75, as most others had been sent back to the factory to be retrofitted to the new standard. As a result, only GC I/3 was fully equipped, having 36 aircraft. They met the Luftwaffe on 13 May, shooting down three Henschel Hs 126s and one Heinkel He 111 without loss. Four more Groupes de Chasse and three naval Escadrilles rearmed with the type before France's surrender.

In air combat, mostly against Italians, the Dewoitine 520s claimed 114 air victories, plus 39 probables. Eighty five D.520s were lost. By the armistice at the end of June 1940, 437 D.520s had been built with 351 delivered. After the armistice, 165 D.520s were evacuated to North Africa. GC I/3, II/3, III/3, III/6 and II/7 flew their aircraft to Algeria to avoid capture. Three more, from GC III/7, escaped to Britain and were delivered to the Free French. A total of 153 D.520s remained in mainland France. One of the most successful D.520 pilots was Pierre Le Gloan, who shot down 18 aircraft (four Germans, seven Italian and seven British), scoring all of his kills with the D.520, and ranked as the fourth-highest French ace of the war.

A very small number of D.520s were briefly operated by Free French Forces for training purposes. Along with the three examples that had flown to Britain in June 1940, two other D.520s were recovered from retreating Vichy forces in Rayak, Lebanon. These D.520s were flown by pilots of the Normandie-Niemen unit before the unit was sent to the USSR, where they flew the Yakovlev Yak-1 that had many similarities with the D.520.

After the war, the D.520s that remained in France were used as trainers. One example was field-modified as a two-seater in late 1945. In March 1946, after further experiments, the Armée de l'air ordered a further batch of 20 D.520s to be converted; however, only 13 of these D.520 DC conversions were completed. The last flight of an operational D.520 was made on 3 September 1953 with EPAA (Esquadrille de Presentation de l'Armée de l'Air). Initially this unit had flown Yak-3s, formally of the Normandie-Niemen fighter squadron; these were later replaced with seven D.520s, three of them being two-seaters.

General characteristics
  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 8.6 m (28 ft 3 in)
  • Wingspan: 10.2 m (33 ft 5? in)
  • Height: 2.57 m (8 ft 5 in)
  • Wing area: 15.87 m² (171 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 2,123 kg (4,680 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 2,677 kg (5,902 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 2,785 kg (6,140 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Hispano-Suiza 12Y-45 liquid-cooled V12 engine, 690 kW (930 hp)

  • Maximum speed: 560 km/h (302 kn, 347 mph)
  • Range: 1,250 km (675 nmi, 777 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 10,000 m (33,000 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 14.3 m/s (2,820 ft/min)
  • Wing loading: 167 kg/m² (34.2 lb/ft²)
  • Power/mass: 257 W/kg (0.156 hp/lb)

  • 1 × 20 mm Hispano-Suiza HS.404 (60-round drum) cannon
  • 4 × 7.5 mm (0.295 in) MAC 1934 (675 rpg) machine guns

** Dewoitine D.520 - Warbird Fare

Other Warbirds

Facebook Twitter Stumbleupon Delicious Digg More Favorites

Back To Top