(* 05/05/25 moved on top of the forum again after picture changes posted *)
The MB 162 is one of my favourites! An extremely fast four-engined, going 550 kph, and, of course, another missed chance for Germany towards warfare of long-range duty.
Its history is complicated. Again, we have to deal with three airplanes. The prototypes MB 160 and 162, and the prototype and after-war airliner MB 161. This is why I put the main section for the MB 161 behind the one of the MB 162. Also, I used two main sources: samoloty.ow.pl (as usual:)) for the MB 162, and an EADS page in Spanish for the MB 161. Here is the latter's URL:
(link dead) http://www.eads.com/.../36/701366.html
For translation from Polish again www.poltran.com was used (either it's really improved or I seriously seem to begin to deal with Polish language). From Spanish, I used the same translator as for Russian, http://www.online-tr...ext.asp?lang=en. The performance is very good, only its English syntax is not too exact. But now enough preliminations, let's start with
The Bloch MB 162
The history of this aircraft reaches back into 1936, when the French airline Air Afrique ordered a new four-engined 12-seated long-distance communication plane from the firm Avions Marcel Bloch. It was supposed to serve on African lines, to connect the major citities within the French colonial possessions. To answer this demand, the project engineers of the firm in 1937 constructed the MB 160, equipped with the 12-cylinder V-type engine Hispano-Suiza 12Xirs, delivering 529 kw (720 hp). It was an entirely metal low-wing cantilever construction with a retractable three-point undercarriage.
Here a very fine picture:
In this form, the aircraft was not accepted, because the cooling characteristics of the engines mentioned before. Those were replaced by 14-cylinder radials of type Gnome-Rhone 14N, delivering 662 kw (900 hp) nominal and 846 kw (1150 hp) maximum force, which were better suitable for the hot African climate. Besides this, the single vertical fin used before was substituted by two plates at the ends of the horizontal one.
The machine modified this way was called MB 161, but testing under the civil registration code F-ARTV did not start before September 1939.
The pre-war MB 161 from cyber.breton.pagesperso-orange.fr:
Picture made bigger and lighter using XnView.
Insertion: The sole wartime MB 161 prototype had a career also in German hands, see the discussion on the Luftwaffe Experten Board:
(link dead) http://p069.ezboard.com/fluftwaffeexperten71774frm58.showMessage?topicID=40.topic
From here, the mentioning of the MB 161 continues after the end of the text for the MB 162. Insertion end.
Simultaneously with this, a version as long-range mailplane was developed, called MB 162 "Raid" ("raid" in French must have a different meaning than in English. If you trail through aviafrance.com, you see that far-distance record planes are called "avions de raid"!, RT). Aerodynamically it nearly completely matched its predecessor, but it received an especially slender fuselage.
The aircraft had to achieve a range of 7000 km. The other design characteristics were so impressing, that the firm Bloch started an initiative of its own to develop a far-distance heavy bomber basing on it.
When the French Ministery of Aviation in 1938 claimed a new heavy daylight bomber under the crypronym A20, in answer to this the plant Bloch suggested the project MB 162B5. When in the nationalisation process of the French aircraft industry the Bloch plant in Paris-Courbevoie was merged into the SNCASO trust, the aircraft received the designation SO-162. The MB 162B5 was a cantilever low-wing construction similar to the MB 161 passenger aircraft. The hull was entirely new, it had space for a bomb bay carrying a maximum of 3600 kg bombs. The glazed cabin of the navigator/bomb aimer was placed in the tip of the fuselage, for frontal defence equipped with a semi-spherically fixed machine gun of type MAC of calibre 7,5 mm. In central positions on back and underneath two more gun positions were placed, equipped with one machine gun of type MAC and two machine cannons of type Hispano HS 405 of caliber 20 mm.
(Let me say this: Two "central-ventral" gun positions, one with a machine gun and one with a machine cannon, as mentioned lower in samoloty.ow.pl, are a very unconventional armament configuration. I think this is a mistake. On the other hand, the slender fuselage is still spacy enough for a rear gun position, that obviously wasn't foreseen, RT).
The aircraft had wings of trapezoid form with rounded ends and equipped with flaps and slots. The external parts of the wings were slightly lifting, as was the tailplane. The engine nacelles were fixed in a central wing position.
There are not many pictures of the MB 162 to be found on the web. Here are the best ones:
From the San Diego Air and Space Museum's Flickr account. Picture made bigger and lighter using XnView.
From ww2photo.se. Picture made darker and less contrasting using XnView.
In German hands. Source given. Picture made bigger using XnView.
A nice drawing from ww2.aircraft.net. Made lighter using XnView.
(Remark: You can't see any dorsal or ventral gun position installed. If the 550 kph were ever really flown, they might be derserved to the fact of very limited defensive armament, RT)
A mockup of the bomber MB 162 was shown at the aerial exhibition in Paris in the year 1938. Its competitors in the project A20 were the other four-engined Amiot 380, Breguet Bre-482 and SNCAO CAO-700. Despite of this strong competition, the trust SNCASO, what was in fact Bloch, with its suggested communication plane MB 161 received the greatest priority for development. Thus, the first prototype MB 162-01 was transported from the factory to Villacoublay in 1940. Unlike the MB 161, the aircraft had engines delivering the greatest available power, of type Gnome-Rhône 14N-48/N-49. During the exhibition in Paris, also the use of 14-cylinder Hispano-Suiza 14 Aa radials of 808 kw (1100 hp) was noted, but they had not reached the condition of technical maturity.
The only prototype of the MB 162 made its maiden flight on June 1st, 1940, from the airport of Villacoublay. However, at this time the war with Germany was already lasting, and in spite of favourable test results there was no chance to enter serial production. The bomber prototype was evacuated to the airport of Bordeaux (Merignac, RT), where it soon fell in German hands. The SNCASO trust became subordinated under the German firm Focke-Wulf, which continued tests of the MB 162 until 1942. From the same year the machine flew for Germany, when it was overtaken by the Luftwaffe and has entered on endowment of the so-called Gruppe Gartenfeldt, a unit commanded by a certain major Gartenfeldt and assigned to practice secret actions behind the enemy lines. From February 1944, the aircraft flew in the famous bomber group KG 200, under the registration code BG + IE. Its further fate is unknown.
So far samoloty.ow.pl. From a discussion forum, I learned Gartenfeldt was assigned commander of I. (first wing) of KG 200 in spring 1944. Probably he transferred "his" MB 162 into his new unit. At this time after Feb. '44, it was still in the stock of KG 200, but in an unflyable condition. Shortly after this, it may have fallen victim to an Allied bomb raid. A confusion with the MB 161 prototype, at this time also serving in KG 200, is possible. See more in the Luftwaffe Experten Board:
(link dead) http://p069.ezboard....opicID=52.topic
Now, let's go to the post-war career of the MB 161. From this article, I skipped sections that in content repeat what was mentioned already. I also changed the sequence for the block about military and experimental use.
The Bloch MB 161 rsp. SE-161 Languedoc
The "Languedoc" was the first big four-engined plane of which 100 units were produced in France. Despite some insufficiencies, it was the French passenger airplane impelled by engines of pistons that had major success after the Second World war. In the middle of the decade of the 30s, the French aircraft designer Marcel Bloch began studies to develop modern transport airplanes, of low-wing and built completely of metal. The first project that turned out was the Bloch 220 for 14-16 passengers, that appeared for the first time in December 1935. It was followed in 1936 by the four-engined plane for long distances Bloch 160 for 12 passengers, that, nevertheless, was never used. There was this the precursor of the Bloch MB 161, considerably major, that could get 33 passengers on board.
Thanks to the merger of the firms Blériot and Bloch, in the year 1939 the arose national consortium SNCASE (Societé Nationale of Constructions Aéronautiques du Sud-Est), which continued the project Bloch 161. The testing of flights passed successfully at the end of 1939, and since turned out the company of aviation Air France did an order for 40 devices. Nevertheless, seven years around the Second World war had to pass, so that the serial production did not begin until 1946. This gap was propitiated principally by a successful tactics of delaying of the French manufacturers, who were trying to prevent 20 airplanes requested by Germany to be delivered in the year 1942. The airplane, developed originally in Bordeaux, was transported in 1942 to Cannes, in the Free Zone of France that had not been occupied by German troops. Under the guidance of a German engineer of the Lufthansa, the tests of the device were finished by the beginning of 1943. Marc Hurel, the technical director of SNCASE, fruitlessly tried to move the plane to North Africa, to put it out of danger.
That's why the following version, improved, only could be tested after the liberation of France, from September 17th, 1945. From 1946 began the serial manufacturing. In May of this year, the model was incorporated into the service of line in Air France, with the name of 161 " Languedoc ". It turned immediately into the spinal column of the fleet of this airline.
Military version, picture from fr.academic.ru:
In May 1946, it was covering the route Paris-Algiers-Casablanca and the routes that were joining most of the European capitals, including Berlin. After the Second World war, France was administering a sector of the ancient capital of the Reich. In 1948 the state Polish line LOT, the only initial foreign one buying, acquired five completely new "Languedocs" for its European network of routes.
However, this airplane type was enduring some teething trobles. Shortcomings in the undercarriage, the lack of facilities of defrosting and of heating in the cabins, as well as the insufficient visibility of the pilots in landings under climatically unfavorable conditions, gave place from which already in October 1946 Air France was withdrawing transitorily the model from the service, to correct its problems. At the same time, the Gnome-Rhone engines were replaced, whose maintenance was turning out to be costly, for four American radial engines in Pratt & Whitney-R-1830, each of 1200 hp (882 kW). This way the mass of takeoff increased to 23500 kg. In March, 1949, the improved "Languedocs" joined again into the line service of Air France.
Additionally to the use by Air France as airliner for long distances, in France it served also in the air force and the navy as bomber of long scope (not true, only reconnoisating service. I may clear this in a reply, here it gets too complicated, RT.) and plane of transport. Finally, approximately until 1970 several SE 161s served as flying testbeds for engines and guided weapons.
Here, you see the Languedoc as carrier for the Leduc 010 ramjet experimental:
From the following website:
The production of the 161 was stopped in 1949. From 1952, Air France began to withdraw the model of the passengers' service, and about 1954 it was using it only as cargo transporter with a payload of up to 5500 kilograms. A part of the produced samples was sold to the Spanish company Aviaco, to Tunis Air and to Egyptian Misrais, where the "Languedoc" was still kept on using until 1959 in the passengers' service.
(Other sites also mention Iberia and Air Liban as users, RT)
The standard provision of seats for 33 passengers used by Air France was increased up to 44 seats by the following buyers, who used the airship for short distances. In addition to four crew members, a stewardess was foreseen also. In 1947 the heating of the cabins was improved and defrosting facilities were added. The undercarriage was modified in several occasions, since it turned out to be little resistable. The system of tanks in the wing of support had capacity for 2400 liters. In some machines from 1950 there were fuel tanks mounted with a capacity of up to 7800 liters. In 1948, the "Languedoc" was costing about 360 000 dollars.
Sources given by samoloty.ow.pl:
1. Letectvi + Kosmonautika nr ?/83
2. Václav Němeček "Vojenska letadla", d.2, Nase Vojsko, Praha, 1990
3. Václav Němeček: ,,Atlas letadel" (Čtyřmotorová a větší dopravní letadla), Nadas, Praha, 1980
Sources given by "EADS": None! Maybe they think, if they now include all Western European aircraft industry, they themselves are the proper source!