Amiot 354 Fast Reconnaissance / Medium Bomber Aircraft
The Amiot 354 proved itself a capable French design but it was not available in the numbers required during the Battle of France in 1940.
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The Amiot 354 (Model 354) had its origins in the Model 341 fast mail carrier transport. The bomber form appeared in the twin-tailed Model 351 which flew first in early 1940. Delays forced the French Air Force to order the related Model 354 offshoot as an interim measure and this form differed mainly in its use of a single vertical tail fin. The aircraft was taken on to fulfill bombing and fast reconnaissance roles just prior to the German invasion of France in World War 2 (1939-1945).
Its overall design was quite conventional for its time - though modern nonetheless. The crew of four (pilot, copilot, navigator and bombardier) all sat in the fuselage which lay at center, straddled by the engine installations fitted to each wing mainplane. The wings were near-elliptical in their general shape when viewed from above or below and the engine nacelles installed at their leading edges, each powerplant driving three-bladed propellers. The crew sections were held under a long-running greenhouse-style canopy featuring heavy framing. The nose was fully glazed for excellent vision over the upcoming terrain. A tail-dragger undercarriage was utilized which sat the main legs under each engine nacelle. The empennage made use of a single tail fin and low-mounted horizontal planes.
Power was served through 2 x Gnome Rhone 14N series 14-cylinder radial piston engines outputting 1,060 horsepower each. This provided the airframe with a maximum speed of 300 miles per hour, a cruising speed of 220 miles per hour, a range out to 1,900 miles and a service ceiling up to 32,800 feet. Rate-of-climb was 1,550 feet-per-minute.
Internally, the Model 354 could carry up to 2,650 lb of conventional drop ordnance for bomber sorties. It was defended through 1 x 20mm cannon and 2 x 7.5mm MAC 1934 machine guns. An alternative gun load out was 3 x 7.5mm MAC 1934 machine guns (the 20mm cannon being replaced).
Dimensions included a length of 37.6 feet, a height of 13.4 feet and a wingspan of 74.10 feet.
The Model 354 was formed from the existing Model 351, essentially a re-engined platform carrying either the Gnome-Rhone 14N-48 or 14N-49 radial. Over 40 of this model were eventually produced.
By the time of the German invasion of France in May of 1940, the Model 354 was available but only in limited numbers (at least three French factories were committed to the series' production). Nevertheless, it fought on as best it could, undertaking general bombing sorties as well as fast armed reconnaissance of German positions in the Netherlands. Additional deliveries came in June but this proved too late. Some of the stock was flown to Africa lest they fell in German hands (which some did, these reconstituted as fast transports). Others managed a meager existence through their original non-combat roles of mail delivery. This ended the airborne tenure of the Model 354 and her kind.