French aviation's road to respectability in the period immediately following World War 2 (1939-1945) was a long and arduous one. However, progress was being made as soon as the war in Europe concluded in May of 1945. Arsenal de l'Aeronautique, a government military aircraft maker founded in 1934, produced several jet-powered prototypes appearing in the late 1940s and these would serve to help French aero industry as a whole - beginning with the VG-70. The VG-70 served as a technology demonstrator showcasing swept-back wings and a turbojet engine. While its flying career was short, it offered the needed data to assist in subsequent programs by the company.
While a promising endeavor, the VG-70 was limited in its adaptability to bigger, more powerful engine installations and became something of a technological dead end. The related VG-71 was to fit a Rolls-Royce Derwent engine of more power and the VG-80 was to follow suit with the Rolls-Royce Nene but neither of these proposals was furthered. When the French Navy came calling for a new carrier-based, jet-powered strike fighter, the company developed its VG-90 platform based on its findings with the VG-70. The VG-70 competed with the Aerocentre / SNCAC NC 1080 and Nord 2200 offerings being put forth.
As with the VG-70, the VG-90 was given a metal, streamlined fuselage fitting the single-seat cockpit ahead of midships. Wings were, again, shoulder-mounted along the fuselage sides and showcased greater sweepback along its leading edges when compared to the trailing edges. The tail unit remained conventional - a sole vertical fin sat above a pair of low-mounted horizontal planes. A low-profile, fully-retractable undercarriage was also retained. With metal featured heavily in the fuselage's construction, the tail section relied on a metal understructure with plywood skin.
The chief difference between the VG-70 and the newer VG-90 was the relocation of the latter's intake, now made into a pair of slim openings contoured to the form of the fuselage sides. This was a departure from the VG-70s ventrally-located intake which, at first, was seen as a promising design quality but ultimately grew into a limiting feature. The VG-90 carried a Hispano-Suiza (Rolls-Royce) Nene turbojet engine of 5,000 lb thrust output - considerably greater than the VG-70's German wartime Junkers Jumo 004 series turbojet of 1,980 lb thrust.
Proposed fixed armament for the fighter was 3 x 30mm Hispano-Suiza cannons which would have given it a good "punch" against targets of the day. Provision was made to equip the aircraft for hauling 2 x 1,100 conventional drop bombs for the strike role. Additionally, thought was also given to supporting air-launched rockets on wing rails as well through an internal bay.
Arsenal constructed two prototypes of the VG-90 and a first flight was recorded on September 27th, 1949. The second prototype differed in its armament fit - 2 x 20mm cannons, 2 x 7.7mm machine guns, an internal 36-shot rocket pack (RAC 50 rockets) and underwing launch rails for additional rockets (either 16 x T10 rockets or 80 x RAC 50 rockets). This model made its maiden flight during June of 1951.
Flight testing of the VG-90 was fraught with issues and both models were eventually lost in separate crashes - each claiming the life of its respective test pilot. On May 25th, 1950, one of the undercarriage panels became loose and hit the tail causing a loss of control and an inevitable crash. On February 21st, 1952, violent flutter was blamed for the tail section ripping off and sending the crippled aircraft spiraling to earth. Despite the aircraft carrying an ejection seat for its pilot, this system failed which ensured a loss of life. A third prototype had been planned that would have carried a SNECMA Atar 01F series turbojet engine of 8,818 lb thrust but due to the issues encountered with the flight testing of the earlier prototypes, this variant was not pursued into a physical form.
The program was eventually terminated and none of the three offered designs from the three competing companies were adopted for service in the French Navy.
As completed, the VG-90 sported a length of 13.4 meters, a wingspan of 12.6 meters and a height of 3.5 meters. Empty weight was 11,250 lb against a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 17,840 lb. Performance specifications included a maximum speed of 570 miles per hour, a range out to 960 miles, and a service ceiling up to 42,640 feet. Rate-of-climb reached 4,500 feet per minute.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Air-to-Air Combat, Fighter
General ability to actively engage other aircraft of similar form and function, typically through guns, missiles, and/or aerial rockets.
✓Close-Air Support (CAS)
Developed to operate in close proximity to active ground elements by way of a broad array of air-to-ground ordnance and munitions options.
✓Maritime / Navy
Land-based or shipborne capability for operating over-water in various maritime-related roles while supported by allied naval surface elements.
✓X-Plane (Developmental, Prototype, Technology Demonstrator)
Aircraft developed for the role of prototyping, technology demonstration, or research / data collection.
44.0 ft (13.40 m)
41.3 ft (12.60 m)
11.6 ft (3.55 m)
11,244 lb (5,100 kg)
17,857 lb (8,100 kg)
+6,614 lb (+3,000 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base Arsenal VG-90 production variant)
1 x Hispano-Suiza (Rolls-Royce) Nene turbojet engine developing 5,000lb of thrust.
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