Bloch MB.210 Bomber Aircraft
The Bloch 210 series represented the first true modern bomber design of the French Air Force leading up to World War 2.
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Societe des Avions Marcel Bloch, a French aviation concern, designed, developed and produced several pre-World War 2 aircraft in both civilian and military guises. Final civilian forms came in 1939, just prior to the Fall of France in the summer of 1940, while military versions persisted into 1947. By the end of World War 2, the concern had officially changed its name to Dassault Aviation, a name which continues in the aviation realm even today (2013). The original Bloch concern was founded by French aircraft engineer Marcel Bloch (1892-1986) who later had his last name legally changed to Dassault in response to the mass persecution of Jews in France under the Nazi-aligned Vichy French government.
Bloch developed a high-winged, twin-engine bomber in the early 1930s which was adopted by several air powers of the day (inluding that of the French). This aircraft was designated as the MB.200 ("Marcel Bloch Model 200") and approximately 332 of the type were constructed from 1933 to 1939. The MB.200 was developed in response to a 1932 French Air Force requirement for a modern day/night-capable bomber. The series was eventually evolved into three other forms, each fitting various engine types.
From this basic design came the improved private venture MB.210 series. One of the major design changes in this form was the relocation of the main wing appendages to a low-mounted position along the fuselage sides. Additionally, the MB.210 incorporated a retractable undercarriage during a period when many new designs still featured fixed undercarriages (sometimes housed in aerodynamic fairings). Power was served through 2 x Gnome-Rhone 14K series radial piston engines of 800 horsepower each. Bloch tested the aircraft in flight for the first time on November 23rd, 1934. Ultimately two prototypes were produced, the second fitted with Hispano-Suiza powerplants of 860 horsepower each. Only the second prototype aircraft featured the retractable undercarriage, the first sported fixed legs. Bloch managed to sell the idea of his improved MB.210 bomber to French aviation authorities which resulted in a procurement contract and formal adoption of the series in November of 1936. Serialmanufacture would be handled by a several French manufactures including Les Mureaux, Breguet, Hanriot, Potez and Renault.
In practice, the MB.210 proved lacking in key areas, primarily centering around its engines which were not only prone to overheating in prolonged use but also in delivering the required power output for military service. The French Air Force, therefore, grounded their MB.210 fleet until these issues could be resolved. Bloch returned with slightly modified mounts that sported Gnome-Rhone 14N series radial engines. These engines proved more reliable than the original offerings and allowed the MB.210 to reenter active service once more.
Serial production eventually netted the Armee de L'Air (French Air Force) some 257 total aircraft. In total, about 300 of the type were actually built by the various concerns including prototypes and proposed one-offs.
It was its availability in numbers that led the MB.210 to still be in use by the time of the German invasion of France in June of 1940. The aircraft were pressed into combat service with both the French air force and navy and the MB.210 stocked some twelve French bomber groups during the fighting. By this time, the bomber was a wholly obsolete design caught up in a major modern war and losses were appropriately expected. When daylight bombing endeavors spelled disaster for French air crews at the hands of well-trained and experienced German fighters, the bomber was switched over to night offensives which proved little more successful. Regardless, due to the desperate French state, it was used in action up until the formal French surrender. Some elements were shifted to North Africa to continue their service careers.
In the aftermath of the French surrender and subsequent German occupation, the MB.210 was used in small numbers and for a short time by the Luftwaffe into 1942. Six captured examples were shipped to German-ally Bulgaria and operated by the Bulgarian Air Force for a time. Romania proved another Axis-aligned operator, receiving some 10 examples out of an initial order for 24 aircraft. By the end of the war, MB.210s were largely a forgotten breed of bomber design and gave way to the glut of American and British offerings that had proven so successful in World War 2.
The MB.210 was granted several designations and variants throughout its service life. MB.201.01 was used to signify the first prototype form. MB.210Bn.4 designated the initial production models using the upgraded Gnome-Rhone 14N series radials. MB.210Bn.5 was a variant produced specifically by the Hanriot concern and featured an additional position for extra crew. MB.210H signified a floatplane variant fitted with pontoons and 2 x Gnome-Rhone 14Kirs series radials. MB.211.01 was a prototype model equipped with 2 x Hispano-Suiza 12Y series inline piston engines of 860 horsepower. MB.212 and MB.218 were known projects that came to naught.
In its base form, the MB.210 was crewed by four personnel and powered by two radial engines. Externally, the airframe was primitive even by 1930s standards and consisted of a long, windowed nose section, stepped cockpit flight deck and long-running slab-sided fuselage. The empennage was of a traditional design incorporating only a single vertical tail fin and low-set tailplanes. The main wing appendages were low-mounted with each managing an engine nacelle and sporting slight dihedral. While the undercarriage was technically retractable, the tail wheel was not and the main leg wheels were exposed under the engine nacelles. There were three machine gun turret emplacements used for defense - on dorsal, one ventral and one at the nose. The aircraft mounted 3 x 7.5mm MAC 1934 machine guns. Using an internal bomb bay, the bomber could field up to 3,500lbs of stores.
General performance specifications included a maximum speed of 200 miles per hour (150mph cruise speed), operational range of 1,050 miles and a service ceiling of 32,500 feet.