French AF strength in 1939-40?

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Rich Rostrom

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Feb 4, 2008, 10:22:46 PM2/4/08
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Does anyone have or can anyone point me to
numbers for the operational strength of the
French Air Force in 1939-1940, on a month
by month basis?

Planes and pilots, if possible, broken down
by types if possible.

Also, a/c production by France across this
period, month by month.

I would like to get a handle on how fast
the French AF was gaining strength at the
time of the German attack in 1940, and what
that strength would have been had the attack
been delayed 3 months.

TIA for any data or pointers.
--
| Decapitation is, in most instances, associated |
| with a decline in IQ. |
| |
| -- Professor Raymond Tallis |

Louis C

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Feb 6, 2008, 8:34:33 AM2/6/08
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Rich Rostrom wrote:
> Does anyone have or can anyone point me to
> numbers for the operational strength of the
> French Air Force in 1939-1940, on a month
> by month basis?

Hi Rich, in case no-one else answers, I have this information but
can't post it today due to the Vista vs XP vs Open versions of Office
turning files into "read only" and my not having time to fix the
problem. So please ask again in a few days (or by email) and I'll
provide the necessary data.

The pilots story is the simplest: no new pilots were provided, the
only additions were "old" pilots being retrained, fighter pilots etc.
Everything else was still in the pipeline. The French air force was
headed for a serious shortage of pilots no matter what.

> I would like to get a handle on how fast
> the French AF was gaining strength at the
> time of the German attack in 1940, and what
> that strength would have been had the attack
> been delayed 3 months.

French production stats pick up enormously in May and June 1940,
partly this involves the rushing of aircraft through the acceptance
process on an emergency basis but there was a real increase in
production. The general answer to your question is that the French air
force didn't increase in size significantly during the Phoney War
(shortage of pilots being the main factor), and that wasn't going to
change much with 3 additional months, on the other hand it would be
equipped with more modern aircraft.

The Moranes would be mostly replaced by Dewoitines, Bloch 152's and
the first P-40's. Modern bombers were finally forthcoming, and the
existing LeO 451's would have had most of their teething troubles
solved.

So figure a similar-sized air force, but better-quality. Note that
even without increasing the number of combat units and operational
aircraft, the amount of combat power that could be generated would
increase a lot, simply through higher operational rates, greater
sortie generation totals etc. Also things like shifting Polish pilots
from useless Caudron 731's (almost as dangerous to their pilots as
they were to the enemy, the Finns politely turned them down when
offered) to modern types, etc.

The RAF was increasing, and would be deploying more units in France
(all the British commanders in France were clamoring for a greater RAF
contingent in addition to the French, and Churchill would back them
up).

If you want gory details, please ask again next week.

LC

Michele

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Feb 6, 2008, 11:02:12 AM2/6/08
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"Rich Rostrom" <rrostrom.2...@rcn.com> ha scritto nel messaggio
news:rrostrom.21stcentury-...@news.isp.giganews.com...

> Does anyone have or can anyone point me to
> numbers for the operational strength of the
> French Air Force in 1939-1940, on a month
> by month basis?
>
> Planes and pilots, if possible, broken down
> by types if possible.
>
> Also, a/c production by France across this
> period, month by month.
>
> I would like to get a handle on how fast
> the French AF was gaining strength at the
> time of the German attack in 1940, and what
> that strength would have been had the attack
> been delayed 3 months.
>
> TIA for any data or pointers.
> --

This is just a pointer, nothing more:
http://www.servicehistorique.sga.defense.gouv.fr/02fonds-collections/archivdefense/fondair/central_fondair.htm

But I'd like to add that while studying the month-by-month development is
probably not very easy, you could start by comparing the September 1939 OoB
with the May 1940 OoB; both should be more easily available than, say, the
January 1940 situation.

On top of that, just a quick glance at the May 1940 situation will tell you
that the Armée de l'Air had, at that date, no less than 6 Groupements (5 de
Bombardement, 1 de Bombardement d'Assaut) undergoing training with new or
newly assigned aircraft (the M.167F of US production, the LeO.451, the
MB.210, and others). In three months, some 160 bombers and 20 attack
aircraft of those units would have been fully operational.

Davide Pastore

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Feb 6, 2008, 1:22:37 PM2/6/08
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"Louis C" loui...@yahoo.com ha scritto

> Hi Rich, in case no-one else answers, I have this
> information but can't post it today

Question: what do you think about what is written here?
http://tinyurl.com/27h5gs

--

Davide

"Solo se la vostra visione va oltre quella del vostro maestro,
siete adatti per ricevere e tramandare la trasmissione."

(Massima Zen)

ken...@cix.compulink.co.uk

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Feb 7, 2008, 2:40:20 AM2/7/08
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In article <47a976ab$0$4793$4faf...@reader4.news.tin.it>,
nospam...@tin.it (Michele) wrote:

> you could start by comparing the September 1939 OoB
> with the May 1940 OoB;

Then their is the problem of French orders in the US, that gets very
complicated with French orders being picked up by Britain after the fall
of France. The RAF also sent significant forces to France.

Ken Young

Louis C

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Feb 7, 2008, 5:17:34 AM2/7/08
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Ken Young wrote:
> Then their is the problem of French orders in the US, that gets very
> complicated with French orders being picked up by Britain after the fall
> of France. The RAF also sent significant forces to France.

It's not that complicated: we have excellent records of what orders
where placed, and when. We also know pretty well what was delivered.

The only open question is exactly how many US planes would have been
delivered had France not fallen, given how actual production figures
didn't always match previous plans, but unless you want to go really
nit-picky about it it's a safe assumption that the Spring 1940 plans
were going to be met more or less on schedule.


LC

Louis C

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Feb 7, 2008, 6:57:14 AM2/7/08
to
Davide Pastore wrote:

> Question: what do you think about what is written here?http://tinyurl.com/27h5gs

Rubbish.

Kirkland wrote a somewhat less outlandish article a few years later in
another journal along the same lines, so he went from the equivalent
of a Usenet troll to being simply wrong. This is one of the main
weaknesses in Frieser's otherwise excellent "The Myth of Blitzkrieg"
that his chapter on the balance of forces in the air draws heavily
from these two articles.

I suppose I should write a detailed rebuttal, just to have it handy on
my hard drive, given the number of times this has cropped up. Until
then, here goes on the author's main points:

> The French aviation industry (with modest assistance--about 15 percent-from American and Dutch producers) had produced enough modern combat aircraft (4360) by May 1940 to defeat the Luftwaffe, which fielded a force of 3270.

This is a patently dishonest claim: production is compared to
operational aircraft in combat units. This is like saying that the
Germans produced more planes in 1944 than there were in the various US
"Air Forces" (8th, 15th, 9th, etc) and similar RAF commands (ADGB,
Bomber Command, 2nd TAF, etc) so how come that with an "inferior"
number of planes the Allies won the air battles of 1944? The Germans
must have been holding back.

The figures themselves are wrong.

Between 1934 and 30 April 1940, 3,471 "modern combat aircraft" were
accepted by the French air force (not all of them declared combat-
worthy and issued to units). These involved the following types [N.B.
given the number of French aircraft types, a X means all the subtypes
are included e.g. Bloch 15X means Bloch 151, Bloch 152 and Bloch
155] :
Morane 40X, Potez 63X, Curtiss H-75, Bloch 15X, Breguet 69X, LeO 45X,
Farman 224, Dewoitine 520, Amiot 35X, Bloch 17X, Koolhoven, Loire-
Nieuport 4XX, Nieuport 161, Glenn-Martin 167F, Douglas DB-7.

If the definition of "modern combat aircraft" is extended to cover
such world-beaters as the Bloch 200, Bloch 210, Amiot 143 and Farman
221 & 222 then the total goes to 4,139. Note that if these are "modern
combat aircraft" then the Ju 52 should be counted as a bomber
(Kirkland counts it as a non-combat plane so it's not part of his
figure for the Luftwaffe) and the Ju 86 should be added to the "modern
combat" German total, based on design date.

> The French planes were comparable in combat capability and performance to the German aircraft.

There are plenty of online resources where aircraft specs are
available, a look at which should disabuse anyone of that silly
notion. The most numerous types produced by the French (about 1,000
each) were the Morane-Saulnier 406 and Potez 63-11. This includes US
imports as "French production" for simplicity's sake.

Kirkland rates French fighters as effective based on French air force
kill claims, which creates an interesting double speech: on the one
hand, his thesis is that the French held back, but on the other hand
when you add all the kill claims that he lists as "confirmed kills"
the French shot down almost 1,000 German aircraft, not counting AA
claims. What more could one ask?

> The French had only about one-fourth of their modern combat aircraft in operational formations on the Western Front on 10 May 1940.

Total modern planes (see first list above, for the French definition
of "modern") held by the French air force on 10 May 1940: 3,454 of
which 1,095 operational in combat units, 671 unavailable (mostly
repairs, but includes the odd tactical reserve) in combat units, 1,370
in training and air defense formations (most of these were shifted to
the front in the days following the German attack), 318 overseas (this
includes units training on their new US bombers in French North
Africa). Practically all the combat units were deployed against
Germany, those nominally deployed against Italy were mostly converting
to modern types.

I suppose I could re-read his whole article, pull an OOB out and
compare the two but I'm confident that Kirkland is wrong. There are
online OOB's of the French air force if you want to make sure, this
one is ok:
http://france1940.free.fr/adla/ada_may.html

For a quick and dirty look, the following figures are 1. Kirkland's
"Table II" from the article, 2. French air force total type available
in combat formations, of which modern types in parentheses. French
figures include combat units deployed against Italy, though see above,
Kirkland's figures claim they are all modern types.

Fighters - 583 - 637 (609)
Bombers - 84 - 242 (128)
Recon - 458 - 489 (358)

Totals - 1,125 - 1,368 ( 1,095)

So Kirkland counts only the units deployed in northern France, those
deployed in southern France to convert to newer aircraft types before
flying back are counted as "not deployed against Germany". Kirkland's
definition of modern reconnaissance & observation planes is more
generous than the French one, and finally the number arrived at is
compared to the total produced since 1935 so as to claim that only 25%
of French planes were deployed against Germany.

The 671 modern planes in units but unavailable are counted as not
deployed against Germany, and the aircraft produced to April 30, 1940
and lost aren't deployed against Germany (for obvious reasons) and
therefore must be evidence that the French were holding back, right?

FWIW, French losses in combat to the end of April 1940 were about 90
aircraft. To the end of January 1940, there had been 46 losses in
combat, with twice as many losses to accidents in combat units. There
were even more accidents "in the rear" but the figure includes modern
trainers, not just modern combat planes.

> The Royal Air Force stationed a larger proportion (30 percent) of its fighter force in France than the French committed from their own resources (25 percent).

That one is really good. The source is the following footnote: "The
Royal Air Force sent 12 of its 40 operational fighter squadrons to
France--30 percent. The French committed 580 of their 2200
fighters--26 percent."

The RAF had 6 fighter squadrons deployed in France at the time of the
German offensive, 12 is the number of squadrons that were eventually
sent to France. This includes squadrons only a portion of which were
sent. Comparing apples with apples, the French had 17 fighter
squadrons deployed against Germany on May 10, with an additional 8
deployed farther south (including the units training on their new
aircraft types) and the rest overseas. Over the course of the
campaign, only one squadron wasn't engaged - the one deployed in
Lebanon-Syria.

So based on a percentage of the fighter squadrons deployed against
Germany on 10 May 1940, the French ratio is over 50% and the British
ratio is about 15%. By the end of June, most of the fighter units of
both the armee de l'Air and RAF had been engaged at one time or
another.

Kirkland is wrong.

And since I've already wasted much time on this message ;-) and in the
meantime finally figured how to persuade the various office versions
not to treat mobile hard drive spreadsheets as "read only", I might as
well invest a little extra time and post the data that Rich was
looking for while I'm at it. Apologies for the inevitable presentation
mess. The columns are aircraft type, and number accepted by the air
force per month between 9/39 and 5/40.

Morane 406 - 132 - 103 - 83 - 69 - 41 - 42 - 26 - 7 - 9
Potez 63X - 46 - 52 - 76 - 68 - 65 - 69 - 130 - 96 - 35
Curtiss H-75 - 24 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 6 - 51
Bloch 151 & 152 - 91 - 85 - 66 - 50 - 4 - 1 - 71 - 72 - 55
Breguet 691 & 193 - 6 - 7 - 12 - 13 - 9 - 6 - 23 - 29 - 58
LeO 45 - 6 - 12 - 18 - 19 - 22 - 20 - 47 - 64 - 111
Farman 224 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 7
Dewoitine 520 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 12 - 27 - 12 - 31 - 146
Amiot 351 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 6 - 5 - 9 - 7 - 11 - 19
Bloch 174-175 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 1 - 14 - 16 - 12 - 0 - 0
Glenn-Martin 167F - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 11 - 33 - 69 - 53
Douglas DB-7 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 2 - 7 - 16 - 21


Now, if anyone wants to produce a similar set of figures for the other
WWII air forces, that could be interesting.


LC

Louis C

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Feb 7, 2008, 7:08:10 AM2/7/08
to
Michele wrote:
> But I'd like to add that while studying the month-by-month development is
> probably not very easy, you could start by comparing the September 1939 OoB
> with the May 1940 OoB; both should be more easily available than, say, the
> January 1940 situation.

It's also a formatting mess, given the number of aircraft types in
service with the French air force.

> On top of that, just a quick glance at the May 1940 situation will tell you
> that the Armée de l'Air had, at that date, no less than 6 Groupements (5 de
> Bombardement, 1 de Bombardement d'Assaut) undergoing training with new or
> newly assigned aircraft (the M.167F of US production, the LeO.451, the
> MB.210, and others).

Quick nitpick: the MB 210 was not a new aircraft, it was the type that
these units were converting away from. Due to lack of training with
the new types, as well as unresolved teething problems with the more
modern planes, many bombing sorties were made using these older
aircraft, including the bulk of the bombing raids on Italy.

Bomber production had suffered serious delays. Generally speaking,
French aircraft production was running behind the (very ambitious)
schedules assigned to it, and fighters had priority. Most bomber
groups were still awaiting a sufficient number of modern types - with
spares often lacking. The air force had assigned a sprinkling of
modern bombers to the units so that each would at least have some
modern planes to train on.

The French problem was that they had two modern medium bombers, both
in the same class as the Ju 88: the LeO 45 and Amiot 354. The former
design had been frozen early on so as to go to mass production
immediately. As a result, a reasonable number was produced but most of
the aircraft required extensive modifications to be used in combat.
The French had essentially produced a large number of defective
planes, just as the Germans would do with their 1944 fighter
production surge. The opposite was done with the Amiot design: it only
went into mass production when most of the teething troubles had been
worked out of it. As a result, the crews were generally pleased with
the aircraft that they did receive, though production was much delayed
(see figures in the other post).

US bombers fell in the second category: deliveries had been late,
setting up the assembly chain had been an organizational nightmare, a
lot of equipment was being misplaced on both sides of the Atlantic and
leading to angry exchanges of telegrams. As a result the aircraft
arrived very late in the campaign, on the other hand they were
generally serviceable.


LC

Michele

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Feb 7, 2008, 10:53:36 AM2/7/08
to
"Davide Pastore" <davide....@alice.it> ha scritto nel messaggio
news:foctsv$iok$1...@tdi.cu.mi.it...

> "Louis C" loui...@yahoo.com ha scritto
>
>> Hi Rich, in case no-one else answers, I have this
>> information but can't post it today
>
> Question: what do you think about what is written here?
> http://tinyurl.com/27h5gs
>
>

That article was discussed here a while back, you might try googling old
messages.

Rich Rostrom

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Feb 7, 2008, 12:58:39 PM2/7/08
to
Louis C <loui...@yahoo.com> wrote:

> might as well invest a little extra time and post the data
> that Rich was looking for while I'm at it.

Thanks very much!

This is what pretty much what I
was looking for.

Die Whigphilosophie der Geschichte im Hefeweizen

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Feb 8, 2008, 2:46:02 PM2/8/08
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On Thu, 07 Feb 2008 06:57:14 -0500, Louis C <loui...@yahoo.com>
wrote:

Thanks for the French figures, Louis. Is there any specific
English-language source you can recommend for French re-armament and
air force rearmament in particular? I'm getting some interesting
hysterical assertions by Daladier in the US Diplomatic histories about
the importance of US aircraft in 1939 which I'd like to check up on.

>Now, if anyone wants to produce a similar set of figures for the other
>WWII air forces, that could be interesting.

I have some relevant fighter figures for the RAF derived from MAP
(well, pre-MAP AMDP figures to be honest). These are production
figures, not RAF acceptances, which would be fractionally lower for
various reasons. Nonetheless, the RAF should have been getting
99-100% of these aircraft.

Type/Sep'39-Dec'39/Jan-Mar 40/Apr-June 40

Hurricane; 237/314/708
Spitfire; 171/128/240

Gavin Bailey

--

I have enough of Windows error message which say "Intelligent life
not detected at keyboard." You hear me good Bill! Not mess Eastern
devil warrior. Yeah like Jackie Chan. Worse Bart Kwan-En.
- Bart Kwan En

Louis C

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Feb 11, 2008, 11:50:37 AM2/11/08
to
Gain Bailey wrote:

> Thanks for the French figures, Louis. Is there any specific
> English-language source you can recommend for French re-armament and
> air force rearmament in particular?

Sorry, I can't think of one offhand. I do remember reading good stuff
in English but as they were straight copies of the available French
books, I didn't remember the references given how I have the original,
as well as most of the primary source material.

The best source on French re-armament is Frankenstein's "Le prix du
rearmement francais" which, although slightly dated (1982) is very
good on the financial aspect. Some very good chapters in a more recent
work (still in French) is Cremieux-Brilhac's "Les Francais de l'an 40"
about French society, economy, industrial mobilization and some of the
war issues.

Otherwise, just ask away or feel free to use email.

> I'm getting some interesting
> hysterical assertions by Daladier in the US Diplomatic histories about
> the importance of US aircraft in 1939 which I'd like to check up on.

Daladier had to be hysterical so as to justify the purchase of US
aircraft, which was opposed by both the American and most of the
French establishments on the usual grounds.

The French were also pursuing a conscious policy of dragging the USA
into the war on their sight, which involved painting as black a
picture as they could.

Their not taking an option to buy another batch of H-75's in March
1939 may have hurt that stance a a bit.

Thanks for the RAF figures.


Louis

Geoffrey Sinclair

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Feb 12, 2008, 11:02:31 AM2/12/08
to
"Louis C" <loui...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:dc19b9c2-9623-4e97...@v4g2000hsf.googlegroups.com...

> And since I've already wasted much time on this message ;-) and in the
> meantime finally figured how to persuade the various office versions
> not to treat mobile hard drive spreadsheets as "read only", I might as
> well invest a little extra time and post the data that Rich was
> looking for while I'm at it. Apologies for the inevitable presentation
> mess. The columns are aircraft type, and number accepted by the air
> force per month between 9/39 and 5/40.
>
> Morane 406 - 132 - 103 - 83 - 69 - 41 - 42 - 26 - 7 - 9
> Potez 63X - 46 - 52 - 76 - 68 - 65 - 69 - 130 - 96 - 35
> Curtiss H-75 - 24 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 6 - 51
> Bloch 151 & 152 - 91 - 85 - 66 - 50 - 4 - 1 - 71 - 72 - 55
> Breguet 691 & 193 - 6 - 7 - 12 - 13 - 9 - 6 - 23 - 29 - 58
> LeO 45 - 6 - 12 - 18 - 19 - 22 - 20 - 47 - 64 - 111
> Farman 224 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 7
> Dewoitine 520 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 12 - 27 - 12 - 31 - 146
> Amiot 351 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 6 - 5 - 9 - 7 - 11 - 19
> Bloch 174-175 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 1 - 14 - 16 - 12 - 0 - 0
> Glenn-Martin 167F - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 11 - 33 - 69 - 53
> Douglas DB-7 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 2 - 7 - 16 - 21
>
>
> Now, if anyone wants to produce a similar set of figures for the other
> WWII air forces, that could be interesting.

The USAAF statistical digest gives monthly production figures from
January 1940 onwards. One table is total US production by major
categories, one is USAAF total production by major categories e.g
fighters, and another is USAAF production by main types.

USN = US total - USAAF total. Then you have to go digging
through other references like a book on Douglas aircraft production
to flesh out the USN figures.

The US produced 160 Buffalos and 106 Wildcats in 1940,
with Wildcat production starting in July 1940. All the 1940
USN light bombers were dive bombers, a mixture of Northrop
8A, Douglas SBD and Curtiss SBC.

The USAAF Statistical Digest is online. Try this link:

http://www.au.af.mil/au/afhra/wwwroot/aafsd/aafsd_index_table.html

The British aircraft production figures supplied in the histories are yearly
from 1935 to 1937 and then monthly to December 1944, again by main
categories. The various histories on the manufacturers can give yearly
totals by type, but not monthly figures. And of course the various totals
are rarely in complete agreement.

There is a breakdown of RAF fighter production by month by type
for the July to October 1940 period in The Narrow Margin by
Wood and Dempster. These agree with the official totals for
the given months.

RAF fighter production actually fell in the period June to August 1939
and did not regain the May peak until January 1940. My best fit to
the data I have indicates in 1939 there were some 48 Defiants, 276
Gladiators 569 Hurricanes and 431 Spitfires, total 1,324. Note there
were an additional 44 Sea Gladiators which I believe were counted
under naval types.

In 1940 it was something like 111 Beaufighters, 378 Defiants, 2,521
Hurricanes, 1,249 Spitfires, 24 Whirlwinds plus any Naval fighters.
Oh yes it appears the 13 Spitfire PR types built as such in 1940
are counted as fighters in the official statistics.

As for the Battle of Britain, table is month, total fighter production,
Beaufighters, Defiants, Hurricanes, Spitfires and Whirlwinds

Jun-40 / 446 / 2 / 30 / 309 /103 / 2
Jul-40 / 496 / 5 / 56 / 272 / 160 / 3
Aug-40 / 476 / 23 / 38 / 251 / 163 / 1
Sep-40 / 467 / 15 / 41 / 252 / 156 / 3
Oct-40 / 469 / 21 / 48 / 250 / 149 / 1

Medium bomber production in 1939 was something like 758 all up,
mainly comprised of 269 Wellingtons, 157 Whitleys and 307
Hampdens. In 1940 the total was 1,926 with the bulk being 997
Wellingtons, 387 Whitleys and 475 Hampdens. Something like
22 Manchesters 6 Halifaxes and 13 Stirlings were built in 1940,
the first of the heavy bombers.

I have yet to reconcile the light bomber figures. Since many
Battles at least appear to have been classified as trainers or
at least not light bombers in the 1939/40 period.

Geoffrey Sinclair
Remove the nb for email.

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