Dassault MD.450 Ouragan (Hurricane) Fighter / Fighter-Bomber Aircraft
The Dassault MD.450 Ouragan jet-powered fighter helped to re-establish the once-powerful aviation industry of France in post-World War 2 Europe.
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The Dassault MD.450 "Ouragan" (meaning "Hurricane") became France's first home-grown operational, jet-powered, military combat fighter, eventually being produced in several hundred examples during her active tenure. While not a wholly exceptional "fighter" when compared to her contemporaries, the type served particularly well in the fighter-bomber role and saw extensive combat actions with India, El Salvador and Israel. Though she was eventually superseded by improved platforms, her impact on the re-established French aviation industry was permanent and gave rise to the respected Dassault name.
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.
Design of the Ouragan was fairly straight-forward. She fitted low-mounted, slightly swept wings along a cylindrical fuselage. The engine, buried within the fuselage, was aspirated by a split, single-opening, circular nose-mounted intake. The cockpit was held just aft of the intake under a blister-style canopy with light framing and a raised rear section. Wings were fitted amidships and sported greater sweep along the leading edges with lesser sweep along the trailing edges. There was slightly noticeable dihedral across both wing assemblies. WIngtip fuel tanks helped to increase range from the thirsty turbojet engine - a common fixture among 1950s-era fighter aircraft. The empennage tapered off smoothly and mounted a vertical tail fin with mid-mounted stabilizers. The engine exhausted at the extreme rear through a circular ring just under the vertical tail fin. Airbrakes were located along the lower sides of the empennage. The undercarriage was of a powered tricycle variety, featuring two main single-wheeled landing gear legs and a single-wheeled nose landing gear leg. All were gully retractable with the nose leg retracting forwards ahead of the cockpit floor and the main legs retracting inwards under each wing towards the fuselage centerline.
Power (for the MD.450B model) was derived from a single Hispano-Suiza "Nene" 104B series turbojet engine (a license-built Rolls-Royce powerplant) delivering upwards of 5,070lbs of thrust. Performance specifications included a maximum speed of 584 miles per hour with a service ceiling of about 49,210 feet and a rate-of-climb equal to 7,480 feet per minute. Range was limited to 620 miles.
Standard armament centered around 4 x 20mm Hispano-Suiza HS.404 series cannons. The battery was held underneath the forward fuselage and each gun managed approximately 125 rounds each. The four-gun assembly was arranged in a staggered formation with the internal set of cannons held slightly forward of the out pair.
Key to the success of the Ouragan lay in its multi-role capability - predominantly as that of a fighter-bomber. As such, the type could field rockets and conventional drop bombs (including napalm) as needed. Standard fixtures included individually-mounted 16 x 105mm (4.1-inch) Brandt T-10 air-to-surface unguided rockets. These could be replaced by 2 x Matra rocket-launching pods, each fielding 18 x SNEB 68mm explosive rockets. Conventional drop bombs ran the gamut of 500lbs to 1,000lb bombs (the latter mounted one to a wing) and deadly napalm types - up to 5,000lbs of external stores could be managed across four hardpoints. Additionally, ordnance could be replaced by external drop tanks for increased range, suitable for combat air patrols or reconnaissance sorties where bombs were of little use and cannons reigned.
It is of note that French pilots regarded the Ouragan as a stable platform for both cannon and rockets, owing well to her strong history of use as a fighter-bomber.
India flew their Ouragans as the Toofani ("Hurricane") and used them in anger in a variety of limited actions. In 1961, Toofanis were used in the fighter-bomber role against Diu, a Portuguese-held colony, until ultimately occupied by the Indian military in December of that year. Similarly, Toofanis were used in the ground strike role against anti-government forces within her national borders. The type proved useful in the reconnaissance role and was sued as such during the Sino-Indian War with China in 1962. Toofanis operated with the burgeoning Indian Air Force as front-line systems until being replaced by the newer French Dassault Mystere IVA beginning in 1957. All active Toofanis were then retired by 1965.
El Salvador obtained Ouragans from Israel from 1973 to 1978 in an attempt to modernize its outdated air force. These Ouragans featured heavily in the Salvadorian Civil War spanning from 1980 to 1992, primarily as fighter-bombers against communist forces (known as FMLN). Ouragans were eventually dropped from heavy use by the end of the conflict, replaced by the excellent Cessna A-37 "Dragonfly" from America.
The Israelis perhaps got the most from their Ouragans in terms of combat action and success. Beginning in 1956, IAF Ouragans were engaged against Egyptian forces and claimed several Egyptian De Havilland Vampire to their name. While Egypt also fielded the excellent Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 "Fagot" jet-powered fighters, Egyptian pilots rarely understood the power inherent in their Soviet systems. Performance of MiG-15s generally outclassed that of the French rival but Israeli pilot prowess enabled their Ouragans to outshine their adversaries in most respects. Israel was also keen in the fighter-bomber qualities of the Ouragan and did not shy away from bombing strikes or rocket attacks - the latter leading to the capture of the Egyptian destroyer, Ibrahim-el-Awal. More combat followed in the 1967 Six Day War until the type was relagted to advanced jet training for future generation of Israeli fighter pilots.
Patrouille de France
The Ouragan became the standard mount of the "Patrouille de France" - France's aerobatic team - from 1954 to 1957. This made her the first French-made equipment in such service.
The Ouragan was replaced in French Air Force service by the Dassault Mystere IV by 1961.