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PZL P.23 Karas Reconnaissance / Light Bomber Aircraft

In 1939, Poland could field just under 100 of the outclassed PZL P.23 systems against the German Luftwaffe.

 Updated: 5/1/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©

The PZL P.23 "Karas" (meaning "the crucian carp") series of aircraft was a conventional - yet outdated - monoplane light bomber / reconnaissance platform of Polish design in World War 2. The system was wholly inadequate in speed, firepower and performance against the fighters of the German Luftwaffe and fell in number. Many were lost on the ground while those that did fly in anger, were limited not by their crew's will but moreso in the technological limitations of a by-gone age of military aviation.

Classified as light bomber, the P.23 also undertook reconnaissance sorties as required. Hardly a fighter with very little in the way to defend itself as a light bomber, the aircraft was better reserved to the non-combat reconnaissance role. With Poland clamoring to stem the tide of German invasion, it was a necessity for the P.23 to fight regardless. Armament was purely defensive in nature and numbered three machine guns. A single 7.92mm wz.33 type machine gun was held in a fixed nose position. Two other 7.92mm PWU wz.37 series (or sometimes Vickers F types) were in somewhat trainable gun positioned at rear - on in an underside gun position and the other in a World War 1 style open cockpit dorsal rear gun position. The pilot sat forward on the design with a glazed canopy. The undercarriage was fixed and the overall design was quite traditional in nature. Power from the single engine was derived from a British-designed Polish-produced Bristol Pegasus IIM2 9-cylinder radial piston engine of 670 horsepower (this was uprated to 720 horsepower in the P.23B models which sported the Bristol Pegasus VII).

In service, the P.23 took to the skies in defense of Poland. Though air superiority was far out of the question, the P.23 nonetheless took to the skies to reconnoiter and assess the perilous situation. It was also used to bomb targets in German held territories when possible, though losses most times were horrendous. Despite the limitations of the system, Polish air crews and pilots delivered ordnance and notched a few Luftwaffe kills themselves.

The P.23 was produced in limited numbers - numbering some 253 total examples - and did little to aid the efforts of a falling nation. About 20 or so fled to Romania before the inevitable fall of Poland to fight another day, this time against the might of Soviet aggression from the East.

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PZL P.23A Karas Technical Specifications

Service Year: 1936
Type: Reconnaissance / Light Bomber Aircraft
National Origin: Poland
Manufacturer(s): Panstwowe Zaklady Lotnicze - Poland
Production Total: 253

Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 3
Overall Length: 31.76 feet (9.68 meters)
Overall Width: 45.77 feet (13.95 meters)
Overall Height: 10.83 feet (3.30 meters)

Weight (Empty): 4,365 lb (1,980 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 7,773 lb (3,526 kg)

Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

Propulsion: 1 x PZL Bristol Pegasus IIM2 9-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine developing 670 horsepower.

Maximum Speed: 189 mph (304 kph; 164 knots)
Maximum Range: 783 miles (1,260 km)
Service Ceiling: 23,950 feet (7,300 meters; 4.54 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 1,280 feet-per-minute (390 m/min)

Armament / Mission Payload

1 x 7.92mm PWU wz.33 machine gun in fixed nose position
1 x 7.92mm PWU wz.37 / Vickers F in rear dorsal gun position
1 x 7.92mm PWU wz.37 / Vickers F machine gun in rear ventral gun position

Up to 1,543lb of external drop ordnance.

Global Operators / Customers

Bulgaria; Poland; Romania

Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

P.23/I - Initial Prototype
P.23/II - Second Prototype
P.23/III - Third Prototype; improved pilot vision from cockpit by repositioning engine and pilot's seat; became basis of production model line as the PZL.23A.
P.23A - Initial Production Model; fitted with Bristol Pegasus IIM2 radial piston engine of 670 horsepower (Poland production under license); 40 examples produced.
PZL.23B - Fitted with Bristol Pegasus VII of 720 horsepower; main production model with 210 examples produced.
P.42 - Single Example Experimental Model; retractable bombardier gondola fuselage position; double tail fins for improved stability.