Like other European powers of the Interwar period, France attempted to modernize its fighting forces to deal with a rising Germany. The MB.200 was one result of such efforts, a pre-World War 2 French-originated, twin-engined medium/heavy bomber. It was designed, developed, and built by the experts of the Societe des Avions Marcel Bloch (Bloch) and introduced into French Air Force service as soon as 1935. While a capable bomber during the middle part of the 1930s, the MB.200 was largely obsolete by the time of the start of World War 2 (1939-1945). It still managed to see service in the wide-ranging conflict and made an earlier appearance in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).
The aircraft was born back in a 1932 French Air Force requirement calling for an all-new, all-modern day-/night-bombing platform. Bloch engineers elected for a high-winged form with a traditional twin-engined layout for the role and modern features such as metal skinning and enclosed workspaces were incorporated. As with other large aircraft of the time, defensive machine gun positions were set about the aircraft to cover its vulnerable sides - namely the front, top, and rear.
The aircraft's outward appearance was consistent with bomber design of the early-1930s: a slab-sided fuselage was used and this structure was dotted by rectangular window panes for viewing. The cockpit was positioned above the fuselage resulting in a "stepped" nose in which the nose section could be glazed over for the bombardier/navigator/nose gunner and offered unobstructed views. Directly above the nose was a defensive machine gun position and another followed along the dorsal spine aft of the wing mainplanes. A third gunner's position was under the aircraft in an underslung "gondola" - also positioned aft of the wing mainplanes. The mainplanes themselves were straight-edged with rounded tips and a forward-swept trailing edge. Each wing held an underslung engine nacelle. The tail unit comprised a traditional plane arrangement involving a single vertical fin and a pair of low-set horizontal planes. The "tail-dragger" undercarriage was wheeled at all three points but fixed in flight (non-retractable). The operating crew numbered four personnel.
Dimensions of the bomber included a running length of 52.5 feet, a wingspan of 73.7 feet, and a height of 12.9 feet. Empty weight was 9,500lb against an MTOW of 9,500lb.
Finalized installed armament was 3 x 7.5mm MAC 1934 machine guns at the aforementioned defensive gun positions. The internal bomb load could reach up to 2,645lb of conventional drop-ordnance as needed.
Other French-based aero-industry manufactures were also called on to help with production efforts and this resulted in participation from Breguet, Hanriot, Loire, Potez, and SNCASO. Potez alone delivered 111 units followed by Hanriot with 45 units, Breguet and Loire with 19 apiece, and Bloch supplying just four examples (total MB.200 production, including those under license, ended at 332 units).
Spain secured at least two examples of the bomber at the start of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and a further 30 units followed from France thereafter. These aircraft gave a poor showing in the contested airspaces of the war and none were to see the end of it.
The Czech Air Force followed the French lead and committed to the modern bomber design in hopes of strengthening their air attack fleet against a growing neighboring threat. A lack of in-house knowledge of designing, developing, and building modern oversized aircraft led the government to secure a production license for the MB.200 from France and local aero-concerns Aero and Avia were tapped to bring about 124 units in 1937. However, this Czech stock was taken over by the invading Germans and went on to see their last days flying under the German Luftwaffe and Kingdom of Bulgaria flags.
Other marks in the line included the "MB.201" which shifted to Hispano-Suiza 12Ybrs engines while the "MB.202" made use of 4 x Gnome-Rhone 7Kdrs engines. The "MB.203", the last entry of the family line, was powered by 2 x Clerget 14F diesel-fueled engines.
With the German conquest of France proper in 1940, the MB.200 bombers still on hand were requisitioned for use by Vichy French forces. A number was used in the fight over Lebanon and Syria during the North African Campaign during 1941. However, this campaign ended in an Allied victory and the bombers did little to affect its outcome.
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Societe dea Avions Marcel Bloch - France Manufacturer(s)
Bulgaria; Czechoslovakia; France; Nazi Germany; Spain Operators
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