The French aero industry suffered more than most due to the German invasion of May 1940. As a result, its climb to respectability was higher than most during the post-war years as the nation struggled to revitalize its military prowess. The Arsenal VG-70 was one of the stepping stones towards respectability and developing France's first frontline jet-powered fighter. The type served solely as a technology demonstrator during its short time aloft but nonetheless influenced other designs still to come.
Arsenal de l'Aeronautique was a French government aircraft maker founded in 1934 and went on to manage a healthy stable of prototype aircraft in the period prior to World War 2 (1939-1945) while it continued its work into the mid-1950s before being absorbed as part of Nord Aviation. The "VG" series of prop-powered fighters was a long-running program that was largely interrupted by the German invasion though some of the concern's programs were allowed to continue under Vichy French rule - none progressed into tangible forms for the most part. After the war in 1945, French engineers were back at work feverishly designing and developing all-new aircraft creations - particularly as the turbojet engine was here to stay and the jet fighter meant the future for French air power.
The VG -70 marked a technology step for the company with the intent to research jet-powered, high-speed flight utilizing swept-back wing mainplanes. To accomplish the task, engineers drew up the most compact form possible around the German Junkers Jumo 004 (004-B2 model version) turbojet engine of 1,980 lb thrust and applied swept-wing research from captured German data. The resulting aircraft was a sleek, metal-bodied aircraft with high-wing mainplanes, a low ground profile and traditional tail configuration and VG-70 was its designator. Performance specifications were promising with speeds estimated over 500 miles per hour.
Metal was used throughout the fuselage of the aircraft but wood was the primary material featured in the tail unit. The wing mainplanes were "wet" as they housed most of the needed fuel stores for the thirsty turbojet powerplant. The engine was aspirated through an intake formed along the ventral side of the fuselage - below and aft of the cockpit floor. The cockpit itself was positioned well-forward in the fuselage with good views through the lightly-framed canopy. A tricycle undercarriage was used with the single-wheeled nose leg at the extreme forward-end of the aircraft, retracting rearwards. The main legs were seated under the wings and retracted inward towards the fuselage centerline.
The VG-70 was put up for public display at the 1946 Paris Air Show and its formal ground testing began the following year which led to a first flight recorded on June 23rd, 1948. The aircraft performed admirably well despite the low output power produced by the Jumo engine and became just the second French-originated, jet-powered aircraft to fly. Despite the promising nature of the VG-70, its flying career was extremely short - limited to just five flights in all - as the project was formally ended during 1949. Attention had turned to an all-new jet-powered design utilizing the lessons learned in the development of the VG-70 for this development became something of an aerodynamic and mechanical dead-end - the airframe held little modification flexibility in terms of taking on newer, larger engine installations that offered increased output power.
It was intended that a related design, the VG-71, carry a Rolls-Royce "Derwent" turbojet engine of 3,500 lb thrust output but this would have forced an entire revision of the VG-70 fuselage - a project not worth the commitment in time and funding. The VG-80 was to carry a Rolls-Royce "Nene" but this initiative also fell to naught - leading to the VG-90, a jet-powered, carrier-based interceptor development.
The VG-70 managed a maximum speed of 497 miles per hour during testing. It featured a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 7,275 lb and sported a length of 9.7 meters, a wingspan of 8.5 meters and a height of 2.3 meters.
Other performance specs listed on this page are estimates.
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