Staff Writer (Updated: 6/29/2016):
France in Post-War Europe
At the end of World War 2, France found itself a decimated and occupied country, bereft of its aviation industry since the opening days of the German invasion some years before. While other nations - particularly Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States - all evolved their aviation industries to replace their piston-powered fighters with new-fangled jets, France struggled through a post-war period of staleness, often resorting to outright purchases of new or used (yet proven) foreign equipment to number her front-line inventories.
One of those leading the charge to bring back the forgotten French aviation industry was Marcel Dassault. Dassault began private development of a single-seat, jet-powered fighter aircraft in November of 1947. The jet was highly utilitarian in nature with seemingly little to recommend herself but she proved a viable product nonetheless. The design was submitted to the French government for consideration and further development was encouraged. The product took on the designation of MD.450 (the "MD" portion of the designation attributed to its designer, "Marcel Dassault"). Three prototypes were ordered in late 1947 with construction beginning in the spring of 1948 at Saint-Cloud. The selected powerplant became the Rolls-Royce "Nene" 102 turbojet engine, a centrifugal-flow system used primarily in the British Hawker Sea Hawk and Supermarine Attacker though eventually replaced by Rolls-Royce by the improved "Avon" series turbojet. The first MD.450 prototype (MD.450-01) was made airborne on February 28th, 1949 - though lacking major components such as armament and pressurization - under the designation nickname of "Ouragan". Initial performance proved impressive and development pressed on.
The second prototype, MD.450-02, was later delivered (this time with cockpit pressurization) and proved equally promising. Development completed with the MD.450-03 prototype, this fitted with a Hispano-Suiza Nene 104 (a license-produced Rolls-Royce). The third prototype was additionally used in gun trials to find proper armament for the Ouragan airframe.
In late August of 1949, 15 pre-production systems were ordered for service by the French Air Force. The initial order was later cut to a dozen systems. With the contract in place by 1949, production began and went on to include 150 production-level MD.450s. The initial 12 pre-production models were delivered and utilized by the French Air Force for a series of tests to validate various engine and weapons configurations. Over the years, some 200 more MD.450s would be ordered from Dassault, officially emblazing the jet fighter in post-war French aviation lore. The first production MD.450 went airborne on December 5th, 1951, and the Ouragan officially entered service with the "L'Armee de l'Air" (French Air Force) in 1952, replacing the stable of aged De Havilland "Vampires" of British origin.
In service, the Ouragan found a special place in the heart of French pilots, flying with a certain level of national pride in their indigenous jet-powered designs. The Ouragan was noted as a good flyer and could handle herself adequately against her contemporaries elsewhere when in the hands of a trained airman. If the airframe maintained a disadvantage, it was that the system could jump into a spin when attempting the tightest of turns. As dogfighting with cannons required such turns, this particular "tick" was of note.
The initial Ouragan production model became the MD.450A. These were fitted with the Nene 102 series engine and some 50 examples were ultimately delivered. The A-model series served well but were eventually superseded by the definitive MD.450B.
The MD.450B model series featured some modifications but - greatest of these - was the inclusion of the Hispano-Suiza Nene 104B series turbojet engines, license-produced versions of their British counterparts. These new powerplants proved lighter in overall weight and offered up better thrust output, both key qualities benefitting the Ouragan design. Of note with this mark was also the revision of the forward landing gear door covering the nose leg. The original four-piece system was replaced by a simpler two-piece unit after it was shown that the firing of the cannons could regularly damage the more complicated offering.
The rest of the Ouragan marks were generally contained to a few production examples or prototype/modified "one-offs". This included the MD.450R dedicated reconnaissance variant of which only one was ever produced. Similarly, only a single prototype existed of the MD.450-30L which attempted to field the Ouragan with a SNECMA Atar 101B-series engine. The intakes were also relocated to the sides of the fuselage and original armament was replaced by a pair of 30mm DEFA cannons. In 1954, four Ouragans were also converted to "rough-field" operations (to be used in Algeria) by the addition of a brake parachute, low pressure tires and undercarriage fairings. Two of these Ouragans were reverted back to their original forms after the project was cancelled in 1958.