A nice looking little fighter, that could have been among the world’s best and most important types summer of 1940.
But it was just too late. After the jump, one of the near great stories of World War II.
The D.520 is a contemporary of the Bf109 and Supermarine Spitfire. It is a little smaller and lighter than those other types, and that starts right at the engine. It used a Hispano-Suiza 12Y-45, which delivered 840 hp ( a little less than the Merlin or DB 601) but it was lighter, and had good weight to power balance.
So it falls right in between the Messerschmitt and Spitfire on speed and maneuverability. In 1939 or early 1940 it would have been considered their equal in every way.
But the story of France’s involvement in WWII is tragic on many levels. Among the many “if onlys” we can look at, the D.520 encountered production problems and delays that meant the type was first delivered to combat units in May of 1940. It was very well received by pilots and was easily the best fighter in French service. But too late. With the German invasion on May 10, 1940 it became a mad race to get as many D.520s into combat as possible. Weapons and gun sights were in short supply, the French military situation was collapsing, and chaos reigned. 351 were delivered before the armistice at the end of June, an impressive accomplishment all things considered. And the type still managed a positive kill ratio, 114 kills for 85 losses.
If only… If the French had more D.520s in service in May, if they’d had an adequate radar net like the British, if they’d correctly identified the main axis of the German advance…
This particular subject was flown by Pierre Le Gloan in the Battle of France. His combat record matches his home country’s confused situation. He scored four kills against the Germans in the obsolete MS.406. His unit was withdrawn to Paris to re-equip with the D.520 on June 1. When Italy declared war on France his unit was re-assigned to that front. Pierre Le Gloan shot down seven Italians, including five on one mission, in the aircraft shown here. After the armistice, he flew for the Vichy government and shot down seven British aircraft. His unit was based in Algiers in November 1942 when the US and Britain invaded North Africa. The French forces in North Africa quickly switched sides, and Le Gloan found himself flying patrols against the Germans again in American supplied P-39s. He was killed in a flying accident in September of 1943, and remains the fourth ranking French ace of WWII.
This model is the Tamiya kit.
Up Next: North American A-36 Apache