Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Potez 630 and its derivatives were a family of multi-role twin-engined aircraft developed for the Armée de l'Air in the late 1930s. The design was a contemporary of the British Bristol Blenheim and the German Messerschmitt Bf 110.
The original Potez 630 three seat, twin engined heavy fighter was built to meet the requirements of a 1934 specification which also resulted in the successful Breguet 690 series of attack aircraft. The prototype first flew in 1936 and proved to have excellent handling qualities and an order for 80 was placed in 1937. Simultaneously 140 Potez 631 C.3 fighters were ordered, these having Gnome-Rhône 14 M radial engines rather than the unreliable Hispano-Suiza 14 AB 10/11 of the Potez 630. Fifty additional Potez 631s were ordered in 1938 of which 20 were diverted to Finland, although they never reached that country.
Production and variants
Unlike many contemporary French aircraft, production of the Potez aircraft was reasonably prompt and the first deliveries were effected before the end of 1938. As production tempo increased, a number of experimental models were also developed. These included a dive bomber (Potez 632), a light bomber (Potez 633 B2), a night fighter (Potez 635 CN2), two army cooperation types (the interim Potez 637 A3 and definitive Potez 63.11 A3), a two seat attack bomber (Potez 639 AB2) and a dual control trainer (-631 Ins). The Armée de l'Air ordered 125 of the Potez 633 B2 light bomber with similar engines to those of the Potez 631 and 60 of the Potez 637 A3 army cooperations and reconnaissance aircraft. Other variants proposed or built included the Potez 63.12 C3 fighter with Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp Junior radials (1 prototype), Potez 63.13 Bp2 two seat dive bomber (1 prototype) and the Potez 63.16 T3 crew trainer.
The Armée de l'Air was desperate to re-equip its army cooperation and reconnaissance units which had particularly antiquated equipment immediately prior to the war and ordered large numbers of the Potez 63.11 variant, which featured a redesigned front fuselage to provide better visibility. The interim Potez 637 army cooperation model had featured a clumsy arrangement which included a large ventral pod but this reduced performance. Both also had the Gnome-Rhône engine.
The Potez 630's engines proved so troublesome that most units had re-equipped with the Potez 631 before the war began. The latter was an ineffectual interceptor, slower than some German bombers and 130 km/h slower than the Bf 109E, although it continued in service until the Armistice. The Potez 633 saw only brief operational service with the AA in Europe when aircraft from two units undertook a sortie near Arras on May 20 1940; two days later the aircraft was withdrawn from front-line service. Potez 633 exported to Greece and Rumania saw more extensive service, in limited numbers. A small number of Potez 633 originally destined for China were commandeered by the French colonial administration in Indo-China and saw limited action in the brief Franco-Thai war in early 1941.
More than 700 Potez 63.11 were delivered by June 1940, of which more than 220 were destroyed or abandoned, despite the addition of extra machine gun armament; the heaviest losses of any French type. The Potez 63.11 continued in service with the Vichy air force and with the Free French forces in North Africa seeing action with both. Production was resumed under German control and significant numbers appear to have been impressed by the Germans, mostly in liaison and training roles.
All members of the family (possibly except the Potez 637) shared pleasant flying characteristics. They were well designed for easy maintenance and later models had a heavy armament for the time (up to 12 light machine guns for the Potez 63.11). They were also quite attractive aircraft. Although not heavily built they proved capable of absorbing considerable battle damage. Unfortunately the Potez 63 family, like many French aircraft of the time, simply did not have sufficiently powerful engines to endow them with an adequate performance. In the stern test of war they proved easy meat for prowling Messerschmitts, like their British contemporaries the Fairey Battle and Bristol Blenheim. Their similarity to the Bf 110 (twin engines, twin tail, long "glasshouse" canopy) was sufficient that some were apparently lost to "friendly fire".
Specifications (Potez 63.11A.3)
- Crew: three
- Length: 10.93 m (35 ft 11 in)
- Wingspan: 16.00 m (52 ft 6 in)
- Height: 3.08 m (10 ft 1 in)
- Wing area: 32.7 m² (352 ft²)
- Empty: 3,135 kg (6,911 lb)
- Loaded: kg ( lb)
- Maximum takeoff: 4,530 kg (9,987 lb)
- Powerplant: 2x Gnome-Rhône 14 M-4/5 radials, 522 kW (700 hp) each
- Maximum speed: 425 km/h (264 mph)
- Range: 1,500 km (932 miles)
- Service ceiling: 8,500 m (27,885 ft)
- Rate of climb: 500 m/min (1,640 ft/min)
- Wing loading: kg/m² ( lb/ft²)
- Power/Mass: kW/kg ( hp/lb)
- 1x fixed, forward-firing 7.5 mm MAC 1934 machine gun
- 1x fixed, rearward-firing 7.5 mm MAC 1934 machine gun
- 1x flexible, rearward-firing 7.5 mm MAC 1934 machine gun
- 4x 50 kg (110 lb) bombs
War Planes of the Second World War Volumes 1 and 8, by William Green and Air War over France 1939-40, by Robert Jackson.
Designation sequence: 540 - 560 - 580 - 630 - 650
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