Easily the best of the French built fighters at the start of the War, with that country’s rapid collapse in Summer 1940 the D.520 fell into enemy hands in large numbers.
Let’s take a look at one that flew with the Luftwaffe.
Like other air services the French Air Force was looking for a modern fighter in the mid-1930s. They specified a Hispano-Suiza 12Y engine and a Hispano-Suiza HS.404 20 mm cannon firing through the propeller boss. The 12Y engine was smaller and less powerful than many contemporary engines in development which led to a smaller fighter overall. Dewoitine did also work on variations of the D.520 with a Rolls-Royce Merlin and Allison V-1710 although nothing came of this (according to Charles Lindberg they also attempted to purchace a Daimler-Benz DB 601, but no documentation has been found on this). Like so many new designs the D.520 had its share of development issues, not least was the parent company being acquired by the state aircraft company (SNCAM) which led to almost a year lost in administrative chaos (Emile Dewoitine himself finally funded the project with his own money to get the ball rolling again).
When production examples entered service in 1940 they were clearly among the top tier fighters of the day. A little on the small side, but with 950 hp it was capable enough. It was more maneuverable than the Bf 109, but less so than the Hurricane. Armed with one 20 mm cannon and four light machine guns its armament was reasonable. It had pilot armor, self sealing fuel tanks, a fire suppression system and reflector gunsite. Pretty thoroughly “modern” at the time. British test pilot Eric Brown described it as “a nasty little brute”.
Considering the drama of introducing a new combat type during the Battle of France, the D.520 performed well. 114 victories against 85 lost, the top Ace in the type was Pierre Le Gloan with 18 kills (16 in D.520).
After the fall of France the D.520’s history is odd to say the least. Most D.520s remained in service with the Vichy Air Force, some escaped to Britain and later served with Free French forces. The Germans and Italians captured many in flyable or repairable condition. Apart from the usual air intelligence sort of testing, both countries put the type into service with their own air arms; as both a fighter trainer and second rate air defense fighter. Additionally, some were reconditioned and sold to Bulgaria for combat use. In 1941 the Vichy government was allowed to put the type back into production because demand was high. Total built was around 900, 200 of those by the Vichy. After the Germans occupied Vichy at the end of 1942 their remaining D.520 were put into service by Germany and Italy.
Obviously this particular aircraft is in Luftwaffe markings. The date listed for it is 1943, which seems late. But as I’ve mentioned before, the Germans were often short of a whole range of hardware. From the end of the Battle of France through at least 1944, the Germans used the D.520 as a trainer. It was a demanding high performance aircraft that tested new fighter pilots. Over 100 were lost in training accidents in 1943 and 1944. They also equiped home defense fighter squadrons with the aircraft on at least two occasions, but this never lasted long in that role because it was simply too different from German types. Its strengths and weaknesses made it problematic to equip squadrons trained in German tactics; in short, it was an aerobatic and maneuverable fighter that was not ideal for vertical/kinetic type fighting.
This is the Tamiya kit with Aeromaster decals. A simple and fun build.