The MS.406 was France’s first ‘modern’ monoplane fighter with a cantilever low-set wing, enclosed cockpit and tailwheel landing gear that included inward-retracting main units, but was obsolescent by the outbreak of the War. It resulted from a 1934 requirement issued by the French air ministry for a monoplane fighter, and was first conceived as the MS.405 that first flew in MS.405.01 prototype form in August 1935 with a powerplant of one Hispano-Suiza 12Ygrs Vee piston engine. The trials of this first prototype were quite satisfactory, and revealed a maximum level speed of 298 mph (480 km/h) at 13,125 ft (4.000 m). The MS.405.02 second prototype differed mainly in its revised wing planform and its powerplant of one Hispano-Suiza 12Ycrs engine, and this type completed its official trials in July 1937. A pre-production batch of 15 MS.405 aircraft had been ordered in August 1936 and these aircraft were used mainly for development tasks in a program that saw the introduction of several changes that paved the way for the MS.406 production model of which an initial 1,000 examples were ordered in March 1938.
|Technical data on the Morane-Saulnier MS.406C.1|
|Powerplant||1 × Hispano-Suiza 12Y-31 Vee, rated at 860 hp (641.12 kW)||Role during war|| |
|Length||26 ft 9.33 inch||Height||10 ft 8 inch|
|Empty weight||4127 lb||Operational weight||5634 lb typical, |
6000 lb max
|Wing Span||34 ft 9.5 inch||Wing Aspect ratio||7.05|
|Wing Area||172.22 sq ft||Service ceiling||30850 ft|
|Maximum speed||304 mph at 14765 ft||Cruising speed||248 mph at 16405 ft|
|Initial climb rate||3,543 ft per minute, |
Climb to 16,405 ft in 6 min 30 sec
|Range||466 miles typical, |
932 miles max
|Fuel capacity internal||89 Imp gal (107 US gal)||Fuel capacity external||Up to 64 Imp gal (77 US gal) in two 32 Imp gal (38 US gal) external tanks|
|Machine guns|| ||Cannons|| |
|Crew||1||Naval or ground based||Ground|
|First flight (prototype)||8 August 1935||Operational Service||1938 - early 1950's|
|Manufacturer||Société Anonyme des Avions Morane-Saulnier||Number produced||1.176 total, 1.077 this version|
|Length||8.16 m||Height||3.25 m|
|Empty weight||1872 kg||Operational weight||2556 kg typical, |
2722 kg max
|Wing Span||10.6 m||Wing Aspect ratio||7.05|
|Wing Area||16 m²||Service ceiling||9403 m|
|Maximum speed||489 km/h at 4500 m||Cruising speed||399 km/h at 5000 m|
|Initial climb rate||1.080 m per minute, |
Climb to 5.000 m in 6 min 30 sec
|Range||750 km typical, |
1500 km max
|Fuel capacity internal||406 liters||Fuel capacity external||Up to 290 liters in two 145 liters external tanks|
|Machine guns|| ||Cannons|| |
Here is a quick overview of all different versions, without the full technical specifications:
|Different versions of the Morane-Saulnier MS.406|
|Morane-Saulnier MS.405.01 and MS.405.02||These two aircraft were the prototypes for the MS.405, MS.406 and MS.410. The first of these was powered by 1 × Hispano-Suiza 12Ygrs Vee, rated at 860 hp (641 Kw). Trials of this aircraft were encouraging, and the second prototype differed only in the wing planform, and the powerplant being 1 × Hispano-Suiza 12Ycrs Vee. |
Number built: 2
|Morane-Saulnier MS.405||During the flight trials a pre-production batch of 15 MS.405 aircraft had been ordered in August 1936. These aircraft were used mainly for development tasks in a program that saw the introduction of several changes that paved the way for the MS.406 production model of which an initial 1,000 examples were ordered in March 1938. |
Number built: 15
|Morane-Saulnier MS.406||This version was the main version of the MS.406, for technical details see above. This type was also used in a number of other countries. Before the War france had received a number of export orders, and shipped a number of fighters to China (13), Finland (30), Lithuania (12), Poland (160) and Turkey (45). Before the Polish and Lithuanian orders were fulfilled, the War broke out and of these none were delivered. After France had been defeated in 1940 by the Germans, German troops found a number of abandoned aircraft sitting around. Subsequently, a number of these aircraft were handed over to the Finnish Air Force. |
When the Germans run over Vichy France in 1942 after Allied landings in North-West Africa, they seized another 50 MS.406's of which a few were handed to the Finns, and the rest to the Croatians. There they were used for home-defense.
Number built: 1.077
|Morane-Saulnier MS.406H (D3800)||Two aircraft were delivered to Switzerland to serve as a pattern aircraft for licensed construction. They were not exactly MS.405 or MS.406, but more or less in-between. they had the airframe of the MS.405, coupled with the powerplant of the MS.406 and Swiss specified instrumentation. |
EKW initiated production of the hybrid as the D-3800, the Hispano-Suiza 12Y31 was produced by Adolph Saurer AG. The drum-fed 0.295 inch (7,5 mm) guns were replaced by belt-fed weapons, and the two-pitch Chauvière propeller was replaced by an Esher-Wyss EW-V3 controllable-pitch propeller. The wings stayed like those of the MS.405, and were not replaced by the lighter and simplified wing of the MS.406.
Eight aircrfat were built as pre-production series examples, and were followed by 74 more. the last of these were delivered in August 1940. Later, in 1942, two more were assembled from spares.
During 1943 all aircraft were modified in their cooling and hydraulic installations, and were fitted with ejector exhausts. These modifications were the same standard as the D-3801 series.
After first-line service was over the remaining aircraft were used as trainers, until the last one was scrapped in 1954.
Technical details are: Max level speed of 295 Mph (475 km/h), initial climb of 2,683 ft (818 m) per min, endurance of 1 hour 45 min, empty weight of 3,968 lb (1.800 kg), max loaded weight of 5,467 lb (2.480 kg).
Number built: 84
|Morane-Saulnier MS.410||This was the only French variant of the basic MS.406 to reach service. These 79 fighters were conversions from MS.406 standard with a strengthened wing carrying a gun armament revised from two drum-fed 0.295 in (7,5 mm) MAC 1934 machine guns to four belt-fed 0.295 in (7,5 mm) MAC 1934 machine guns. |
Number converted: 79
|Morane-Saulnier MS.411 and MS.412 (D-3801)||Before the defeat by the French by the Germans, another version was under development. The MS.411 was the result of a Swiss requirement, and was powered by 1 × Hispano-Suiza 12Y45 Vee. |
However, the Prototype of the MS.412 was not completed in France, but in Switzerland as the D-3801. This aircraft was powered by 1 × Hispano-Suize 12Y51 Vee, rated at 1,050 hp (783 kW). Although teething problems were encountered on the Saurer built engine, production started nevertheless, and in the end EKW, Dornier-Werke AG and SWS produced another 207 aircraft until 1945. In 1947-1948 another 17 aircraft were assembled from spares from the original production run, totalling the number of MS.412 on 224 aircraft. The last of these airrcaft were scrapped in 1959, after serving years as advanced trainers and target tugs.
Technical details are: max level speed of 332 mph (535 km/h) at 13,780 ft (4.200 m), initial climb of 3,287 ft (1.002 m) per min, typical range of 746 miles (1.200 km), empty weight of 4,682 lb (2.124 kg), loaded weight of 5,996 lb (2.720 kg). Dimensions identical to the MS.405, except height of 10 ft 10.75 inch (3,32 m)
Number converted: 224
|Mörkö Moraani||The Werewolf Morane was a conversion on existing MS.406 aircraft that were in use by the Finnish Air Force. The German Wehrmacht had captured quantities of the Klimov M-105P egine, which were derivate of the Hispano-Suiza 12Y series. It offered a greater output, being 1,100 hp (820 kW), and coupled with the also captured VIsh-61P propellers could fulfil their promise. A German 20 mm MG 151/20 was installed in a moteur-cannon installation between the cylinder banks, a Bf 109G oil cooler was adopted an aerodynamic cowling was introduced and together with some local structure strengthening the first prototype was flown on 4 Februari 1943 as the Mörkö Moraani (Mörkö stands for Ghost or Werewolf, depending on various sources. Any Finns in the audience? ;-) ). It was planned to upgrade all remaining MS.406 and MS.410 aircraft, but by the end of the Continuation War between Finland and the Soviet Union (1941 - 1944) only 2 more were converted. After the armistice between Finland and the Soviet Union the other aircaft were converted as well, totalling the number of Mörkö fighters to 41. All these aircraft retained their original 2 × 0.295 inch (7,5 mm) (MS.406 originals) or 4 × 0.295 inch (7,5 mm) (MS.410 originals) guns in the wings, but shartages of the MG 151/20 cannon necessitated the use of 1 × 0.50 inch (12,7 mm) Berezina UBS guns in stead. |
Some aircraft remained in service until 11 September 1948, being scrapped four years later. Technical detail are: max level speed of 326 mph (525 km/h) at 13,125 ft (4.000 m), initial climb of 4,921 ft (1.500 m) per min, empty weight of 4,643 lb (2.106 kg), loaded weight of 6,280 lb (2.849 kg). Dimensions were the same as the MS.406, except the length which was 27 ft 6 inch (8,38 m).
Number converted: 41
The MS.406 was built on two production lines, and construction of 1.077 aircraft was completed between June 1938 and June 1940. The type entered service as the MS.406C.1, and on the outbreak of World War II (1939-45) in September 1939 the French air force had four escadres de chasse (each comprising three 25-aircraft groupes de chasse) equipped with the MS.406, which was thus the fighter type available to the French air force in the largest numbers for the ‘Phoney War’ with Germany that started in September 1939 but turned into the 'real thing' in May 1940, when Germany launched the offensive that resulted in the effective defeat of the Low Countries by the end of that month and of France by the end of June.
The MS.406 was at best obsolescent by May 1940, and this resulted in the loss of some 400 of its own number in the campaign in which it was able to claim only 175 confirmed kills.
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