Post-Summer 1934 French Sanity Options

In political and diplomatic terms, though, one could argue the French side of the planned Allied intervention into Finland quite possibly was the crucial thing that helped Finland in the end survive the war as an independent nation
I hadn't thought about that actually. Thank you for pointing it out.
 
.what were French quartermasters thinking of, when they tried making a field gun into an AT Gun anyway? That kinda seems dumb.
Same thing the Soviets were thinking

This was the 76mm gun on a 57mm carriage to cut down weight, 2500 pounds for a gun slightly more powerful than the French 75mmx350R Cartridge.
They made over 100k of them during the War, a dual purpose field/AT gun. Muzzle Brake was needed for the light carriage. This is what the Germans did with their Pak 97/38, putting the French tube on the Pak 38 carriage

German like them so much, used all the Soviet guns they could capture, and had factories making ammo for it rather than rechambering for 75mm
 
Do you know if there were French military leaders during the Norway campaign that actually commented that sending troops Norway put the defense of metropolitan France in danger? With what limited information I have, it seems that the forces sent north were not very sizable in comparison to France's total defense needs against Germany. As they were also apparently mostly troops that by prewar plans or in the event would not have been sent against the Germans anyway, I can't see keeping them in France making a significant addition into the French ability to fight the German attack in 1940.
That depends: the French for example were concerned about a German invasion of Switzerland, and positioned several divisions near Switzerland to intervene. I could see the troops sent to Scandinavia being used to replace these divisions who are then sent elsewhere on the front - and while certainly not inevitable, sending them to the center is possible.

Same thing the Soviets were thinking
This was the 76mm gun on a 57mm carriage to cut down weight, 2500 pounds for a gun slightly more powerful than the French 75mmx350R Cartridge.
They made over 100k of them during the War, a dual purpose field/AT gun. Muzzle Brake was needed for the light carriage. This is what the Germans did with their Pak 97/38, putting the French tube on the Pak 38 carriage

German like them so much, used all the Soviet guns they could capture, and had factories making ammo for it rather than rechambering for 75mm
The Soviet gun was significantly lighter than the French one, had significantly better muzzle velocity and hence performance characteristics, and Soviet doctrine was different with stressing dual purpose field/AT guns.

Notably the German Pak 97/38 has a whole bunch of different flaws for it and is a desperate stop gap.

On the subject of the 47mm AT gun (I'm assuming it's the APX you're talking about). Could it have been developed earlier, or more resources allocated to building more of them? It seemed that by the time of the Fall of France, only 1200 were made, and the 75mm was...what were French quartermasters thinking of, when they tried making a field gun into an AT Gun anyway? That kinda seems dumb.
The French did spend a long time tinkering with their designs although the 47mm was developed fairly quickly (but its need could have been identified earlier), and they had industrial problems with how they organized production, so you could probably get a lot more production if they were more urgent and better coordinated production. The 75mm wasn't a bad idea - in the early 1930s, for their divisional AT batteries. It just is a bad decision once you get better AT guns like the 47mm around.

The 47mm also seems to have had excessive secrecy about it which prevented training from being done.
 
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In the late Thirties, the AdA, MN and the Army were interested in a 13.2x96 mm machine gun for various tasks. The cannons fired solid bullets and explosive shells. The Browning FN 13.2 and Hotchkiss M/30 in 13.2x96 were tested, along with a third weapon I can't recall. The Browning FN was an improved M2 using belt feed. The Army and MN opted for the slow firing,magazine fed Hotchkiss. The AdA couldn';t decide. The fast firing (@1000) rpm could have replaced the 7.5X54 guns used by the AdA. The Swedes adopted the gun for aircraft and sold many to Finland in 12.7X99. So many missed opportunities.

A dozen 75 mm AT guns and/or 47 mm guns installed in pillboxes at Sedan would have bothered the German attackers. An earlier development of the newer bombers and lightweight fighters could have helped. The Caudron CR 714 was under powered compared to the Bloch MB 700, the Potez 230 and Roussel 30. Replace the projected HS 404 cannons and MAC 7.5 mgs with Browning FN 13.2 mg/cannons. Turn the best of these over to French, Czech and Polish pilots for service on unimproved fields near the front lines
 
The Soviet gun was significantly lighter than the French one, had significantly better muzzle velocity and hence performance characteristics, and Soviet doctrine was different with stressing dual purpose field/AT guns.

Notably the German Pak 97/38 has a whole bunch of different flaws for it and is a desperate stop gap.
The French mle1897/38 gained almost a thousand pounds for the 360 degree traverse, similar to what the Brit 25 pdr had.

The ZiS-3 was 2500 pounds, the Pak97/38 was 2623 pounds.

The French Cannon itself was a 1.2MJ weapon, the Soviet gun 1.38MJ. It was like the difference between the the longer and shorter barrel in the T-34 tank, a slight difference.
For comparison, the 25mm was .13MJ, the 47mm was .67MJ, and 6 pdr 1.14MJ
The German KwK40/L48 was 2.1MJ, and US 3" 2.2MJ

Yes the Soviets were successful with a DP gun

The tactical characteristics of the 76.2-mm guns (M1939 and 1942) are their high rate of fire, good muzzle velocity, and great maneuverability. These guns are employed in close support of infantry ( tanks), and especially for direct fire. Their primary missions are destruction of personnel and neutralization of infantry weapons in the open; antipersonnel barrages; destruction of tanks, vehicles, embrasures, and dragon's teeth by direct fire; and harassing fire. Secondary missions are accompanying barrages and concentrations; neutralization of artillery and mortars; establishment of smoke screens; and destruction of wire. Exceptional missions are fire reconnaissance, destruction of light materiel with indirect fire, and destruction of minefields.
Technical Manual, TM 30-530. Handbook on USSR Military Forces: Chapter V, Tactics. 1 November 1945
page V-50, OCLC: 19989681
[1]

Why do you think the French wouldn't have similar luck?
The US (Marines, mostly)
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but this was also spiked by McNair
 
In the late Thirties, the AdA, MN and the Army were interested in a 13.2x96 mm machine gun for various tasks. The cannons fired solid bullets and explosive shells. The Browning FN 13.2 and Hotchkiss M/30 in 13.2x96 were tested, along with a third weapon I can't recall. The Browning FN was an improved M2 using belt feed. The Army and MN opted for the slow firing,magazine fed Hotchkiss. The AdA couldn';t decide. The fast firing (@1000) rpm could have replaced the 7.5X54 guns used by the AdA. The Swedes adopted the gun for aircraft and sold many to Finland in 12.7X99. So many missed opportunities.

A dozen 75 mm AT guns and/or 47 mm guns installed in pillboxes at Sedan would have bothered the German attackers. An earlier development of the newer bombers and lightweight fighters could have helped. The Caudron CR 714 was under powered compared to the Bloch MB 700, the Potez 230 and Roussel 30. Replace the projected HS 404 cannons and MAC 7.5 mgs with Browning FN 13.2 mg/cannons. Turn the best of these over to French, Czech and Polish pilots for service on unimproved fields near the front lines
The FN 13.2 would certainly have been a great choice if the French informed FN sooner to develop this weapon, and at least a good alternative to French developments.

Development of the new aircrafts could be accelerated (I will post on those later), especially if France obtained tech transfers from the British and Americans to get modern structures and engines changes. However, when it comes to the light fighters, the Bloch, Potez and Roussel were all coming too late to enter service before 1940.

The only two aircrafts that could have entered service in time would be the Caudron C71X series and the A.N.F Les Mureaux 190.
The CR 710 was able to reach 435kph at 4000m with unaerodynamic 20mm HS 9 guns in 1936. With MGs and some refinements as well as the 450HP version of its engine it could reach 460kph and match the MS 406's performance (exceed it in maneuverability and climb rate even).
Had it been ordered in this configuration it could have entered production early enough to build up numbers until the CR 714 and future versions were developped. Modified with two HMGs for extra range, and surpassing the MS 406 in performance, delivered immediately in 1939 so that crews could identify the flaws and propose fixes, it could be made useful for 1940. The Caudrons may not seem all that amazing but those small and maneuverable buggers, available in the hundreds with a lower industrial footprint than the large fighters would be useful for foreign pilots and reserve squadrons, and are not to be underestimated.

The Mureaux 190 was a very impressive light fighter, the lightest of all proposals, a very small target so hard to hit, even better than the later CR 714 with a 500kph top speed and greater climb and turn rates, faster by 60kph than the MS 406 on the deck. Being so small it can rely on very simple and reliable Bowden cables as gun controls, unlike the other fighters that got the slow pneumatic systems. The engine wasn't even yet at full potential so 520kph could be achieved. The engine could house a 20mm cannon too, however limited it was.
Sadly, the Mureaux company was integrated into Potez during the nationalizations and the state stopped all development of the engine and airframe. Granted Potez used the skills of the Mureaux engineers to design the excellent Potez 230 but ITTL, leaving ANF Les Mureaux alone and helping them finish the plane could get us a very capable light fighter in 1937 or 1938. Letting Potez and ANF merge peacefully as part of the giant Potez-Bloch alliance would help and then a viable successor can still be developped.
 
The French mle1897/38 gained almost a thousand pounds for the 360 degree traverse, similar to what the Brit 25 pdr had.
360 degrees. and markedly superior AT capacity.

The ZiS-3 was 2500 pounds, the Pak97/38 was 2623 pounds.
And the Zis-3 a massively better weapon for the weight.

Yes the Soviets were successful with a DP gun
A much later design and much better.

Why do you think the French wouldn't have similar luck?
Because even your American proposals indicate that it was intended as a short term expedient project, and the two key elements of why the Soviet guns - good muzzle velocity, and great maneuverability - are entirely missing from the French 75mm gun. These were field guns WITH an anti-tank role, not anti-tank guns with a field role: you're fundamentally misapplying Soviet doctrine and the French 47mm gun much better matches French AT doctrines and needs.
 
Of tanks and turrets New
The Somua S35 with an AMC35 2 man turret (there is room enough to fit a ball race large enough to fit it.) would have been a FORMIDABLE cavalry tank.
Indeed, FCM designed two and three-man turrets with a turret ring diameter of 1435mm in 1942 for Somua S35s, and it doesn't seem that the hull was enlarged so it could easily take the APX 2 with 1395mm turret ring. (but the cavalry only asked for 30kph minimum top speed which the Somua far exceeded already). I estimated the weight of the 25mm version as under 2 tonnes (1300kg heavier than the Berliet turret Renault FT, while the better armored APX R is at 750kg while being roughly as large as the Berliet). Given that increasing armor by 16mm on the APX 4 increased weight by 540kg over the APX 1, and the surfaces to armor of the APX 1 and APX 2, the APX 2 should remain at under 3 tonnes with 40mm of armor, so the increase in weight on the S35 would be under a tonne.
However this turret had no ready ammo so ROF won't be increased much. Now that I think about it, adapting it for heavier armor might warrant so many changes that an entirely new turret could be developped anyway.
The APX 2 would also reduce height by 22.4cm at the cost of the commander's cupola (but the APX 1's wasn't amazing in any case).

That aside, I have some additionnal dates:
- Development of the SOMUA CAM 1 (SAu 40 predecessor) for the infantry happened in 1935 and stopped somewhere the same year. The order for the CAM 2 (SAu 40) by the cavalry was only sent in June of 1936, so at least several months may have been lost not working on what was fundamentaly the same SPG (same requirements), possibly even more so as the SAu was quite a significant redesign from the CAM 1. Add in the 6 months or so not having a gun and a turret (the latter could have been frankly omitted) due to priority for the ARL V 39 and further delays caused by SOMUA working on the G1 contender from 1936 to about 1938 and having to to try the ARL and SAu simultaneously, and possibly over a year may have been lost.
Given that SAu 40 production started in the Spring of 1940, having it or the CAM 1 in production in the Spring of 1939 or earlier is reasonably plausible.

- The S35 was pretty much fully developped by the Spring of 1936. However, the cavalry only started seriously setting the requirements for the replacement in late 1938, and work on the S40 began in earnest in April 1939. The G1 contender possibly already started some of the changes put into the S40 (probably the new engine), but given that the S40 involved fairly limited changes in overall layout, it could really have been developped starting in 1937 based on crew experience of the S35, which would allow production to take place somewhere in late 1938/early 39.

- APX cast turrets were a serious bottleneck in tank production, further amplified by the nationalization of APX's tank production facilities as ARL. Development of the welded ARL 2C only started in January 1939. Development of new (especially welded turrets) is IMO where significant ITTL changes could be made, as the APX 1 and APX 2 were ready by 1935 and no new turret was seriously designed between 1935 and 1939! Reducing FCM involvement into naval production to focus on turret development and/or modernizing APX sooner would help (and the latter change would reduce the anti tank gun bottleneck too).
 
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- good muzzle velocity, and great maneuverability
The difference in towing a 2500 pound gun, the 1942 ZiS-2, the 3400 pound mle1897/38 is minuscule

But this is during 1942 for the new ZiS gun. What was around before the War started?

In 1936, the Soviets were using the F-22 Divisional Gun, 3570 pounds with a cartridge very similar to to the French gun, 76mmx385R that dated back to 1902
as there were plenty of ammunition stocks still extant for the M1902/30, of which, 2411 were still around in 1941
These converted guns weighed 2976 pounds, but were not capable of high towing speeds, unlike the later models

almost 3000 F-22 M1936 were built until the later M1939 F-22USV production started and ended in 1942, for 9812
This updated gun still used the76x385R cartridge and weighed 3240 pounds

Depending on barrel length of these different guns, the MV was slightly higher than the French/US 75x350R Cartridge by roughly 300 feet per second.
Not a huge difference.

The mle.1897 cartridge was just as capable as the Russian M1902 of the Russo-Japanese war vintage


years of modification resulted in lighter carriages and tubes, then split trails that had greater elevation and traverse limits, with higher towing speeds from pneumatic tires and sprung suspension, for a DP gun that served the Soviets, and then Germans and their minor Allies, very well for the duration of the War.
That could still fire 40 year old shells made before the Great War, should a cache be found, or modern APCR, like the Soviets used after 1942

The French missed the boat on this. The mle.1897 last modified in 1938. didn't need to be the end.
They didn't have to.
 
Indeed, FCM designed two and three-man turrets with a turret ring diameter of 1435mm in 1942 for Somua S35s, and it doesn't seem that the hull was enlarged so it could easily take the APX 2 with 1395mm turret ring, although it would be heavier (but the cavalry only asked for 30kph minimum top speed which the Somua far exceeded already). However this turret had no ready ammo so ROF won't be increased much. Now that I think about it, adapting it for heavier armor might warrant so many changes that an entirely new turret could be developped anyway.

That aside, I have some additionnal dates:
- Development of the SOMUA CAM 1 (SAu 40 predecessor) for the infantry happened in 1935 and stopped somewhere the same year. The order for the CAM 2 (SAu 40) by the cavalry was only sent in June of 1936, so at least several months may have been lost not working on what was fundamentaly the same SPG (same requirements), possibly even more so as the SAu was quite a significant redesign from the CAM 1. Add in the 6 months or so not having a gun and a turret (the latter could have been frankly omitted) due to priority for the ARL V 39 and further delays caused by SOMUA working on the G1 contender from 1936 to about 1938 and having to to try the ARL and SAu simultaneously, and possibly over a year may have been lost.
Given that SAu 40 production started in the Spring of 1940, having it or the CAM 1 in production in the Spring of 1939 or earlier is reasonably plausible.

- The S35 was pretty much fully developped by the Spring of 1936. However, the cavalry only started seriously setting the requirements for the replacement in late 1938, and work on the S40 began in earnest in April 1939. The G1 contender possibly already started some of the changes put into the S40 (probably the new engine), but given that the S40 involved fairly limited changes in overall layout, it could really have been developped starting in 1937 based on crew experience of the S35, which would allow production to take place somewhere in late 1938/early 39.

- APX cast turrets were a serious bottleneck in tank production, further amplified by the nationalization of APX's tank production facilities as ARL. Development of the welded ARL 2C only started in January 1939. Development of new (especially welded turrets) is IMO where significant ITTL changes could be made, as the APX 1 and APX 2 were ready by 1935 and no new turret was seriously designed between 1935 and 1939! Reducing FCM involvement into naval production to focus on turret development and/or modernizing APX sooner would help (and the latter change would reduce the anti tank gun bottleneck too).
Curious.


I provide this video, just to show what the French thinking at the time is for their Chars (tanks). The tank design and requirements committee was fixated on three identifiable limitations when they considered a tank project.
a.--specific mission (infantry support, fortification assault, "cavalry" combat)
b.--manpower shortage
c.--interchangeable turret designs

Summary: The natural result of such limitations and identified requirements explains the results: a plurality of missions and roles, small crews, and a bewildering array of projects undertaken with the end result of at least six separate chars (tanks), developed for infantry, cavalry, and fortress assault purposes. It is to be expected that there would be too much hindsight invoked to try to suggest lesson learned prior to WWII to attempt rationalizations.

IOW, if one is time committed to both a series of three lines of development by 1936 based on the identified limitations under a,b, and c. and has the ongoing nationalization rationalization of the industry to support the agreed upon programs, it becomes an ASB situation to expect 1942 lessons learned to be applied in 1936.

So... realistically what can be done with the existent 1936 programs to make the equipment choices a better balance as the French army acquires experience with what it has?

Among the 3 (actually 6, but FMC36, Hotchkiss H35 and Renault R35 are the most relevant.) infantry tank programs?

1. The basic requirement of a two man tank provided in large numbers to duplicate the FT17 is, as I wrote, understandable. I do not see much changing here. The three machines (Hotchkiss H35, in my opinion, may have been the most ergonomically terrible and mechanically unworkable.), are so similar that it would be a 3 sided coin flip to pick one. However, end-user lessons learned to be expected by 1940, shows that a dual purpose gun to knock out infantry and light armor and soft skinned vehicles might be the best expected out of those platforms.

2. Given 1.: another lesson learned would be that as much help as practical should have been developed to ease the workload on the tank commander, gunner. I am starting to think a drum fed autocannon (HS 404 candidate?) might have been easier on the tank commander gunner. A demand switch control radio/intercom setup would also be indicated. Most important however is the provision and supply of all round vision cupolas and roof hatched turret mounts for entry and bailout purposes and situational awareness for the guy manning the gun and radio.

3. Based on 1936-1938 to be expected lessons learned... applied to existent equipment.
3a. cut a hole in the existent turret roofs and put in a hatch cuppola with vision blocks.
3b. install a 3 channel radio/intercom IN ALL OF the infantry tanks, driver/platoon/company-selects.
3c. Figure out a chair back-fit for the guy in the turret. The sling seat is a disaster.
3d. replace the LV 35mm gun with a 20-25 mm aircraft type autocannon and 7.5 mm machine gun combo.

The fortress assault tank program is a disaster, but it is there at least in the Char B1 series, so what lessons learned?

4. The platform is a functionality mess. The 75 mm gun is awkwardly placed and is so placed, as it is, so as not to be a nose plow as the tank climbs and descends across trenches and hilly terrain, but the result is that even as an assault gun, the traverse is not too good. Same problems in the tank commander's gun turret is present as in the infantry tank line. Ergonomics, based on tasks expected, is deplorable and not acceptable. The same immediate situation awareness solutions are indicated; such as vision blocks in a cupola, and hatch hole in the roof. I am not sure what I think about the 47mm gun at this stage. Antitank capability is a must, but on a shoot-me target that big? i am thinking the following lessons learned to existent infantry tank equipment might actually be the same result for the Char B1 series as we saw for the infantry support tanks. An autocannon of 20-25 mm and a MAC machine gun of 7.5 mm so as to free up the tank commander to at least have some time to look around and see what happens around him Is indicated. Since the Char B1 is more of a support tank for the fortress assault role, maybe an autocannon, machine gun combo to fight infantry makes more sense? Same radio solution for the improved communications lesson learned and again the chair so he, the TC, is not knocked around by the tank jolting him into steel.

I wish there was some way to get the 75 mm howitzer an improved aiming system and a family of shells to deal with enemy tanks in the lessons learned department, but I'll settle for direct fire assault artillery capability in the form of smoke, HE, grenades and concrete and steel pillbox busters. (which is what is done as I understand it.)

That leaves the cavalry tanks. It is in this area that a true tank park for France "might" be possible to fight the panzers based on 1936 -1938 lessons learned.

There are FIVE candidates in the 1936-1940 time period.
Of these types, the most promising were the SOMUA S35 and the tank line that leads to the AMC 35. The problem with the AMC 35 is the oddball 2 man turret. This would be a lesson learned ergonomically as to task sharing between tank commander and assistant (loader) that of course would be of enormous benefit to the French army, but as the AMC 35 is not really used in time for that lesson to be end-user learned. one has to settle for what can be done in the existent situation.

That is the Somua S35. It is a GOOD tank if it can be lesson learned to improve communications and task management for the poor guy in his one man turret. It is the same solution all over again. Put in a roof hatch, with a vision cupola, try to make the 47mm S35 more of an auto-loader or drum fed cannon; if possible. In the production series if practical, start back-fitting the 2 man turret used on the AMC 35.

Turrets.

From the above commentary (My opinion only.), there runs a common theme. From 1936 onward the French armaments committee had committed to the one man commander's turret for most French tank designs. Whatever variant slapped on a French tank, this was the choice that was going to be the single most critical function factor in ANY French tank force deployed in 1940. Practically, then, in the time they had and the resources and equipment present, any improvement to the French tank park has to deal with the 1 man turret limitation. There is no other practical PoD possible in time for May 1940.

I think the most important thing the French army could have done is insist on a vision block equipped cupola and a roof hatch back-fit for their entire tank park's 1 man turrets. The ability to stick one's head UP as the tank commander to look around instead of sitting fully exposed out the back of the commander's turret might have been the single most important thing that could be done quickly to help French tank crews fight their machines more easily and efficiently. Auto-loader cannons given the problems of overwork for tank commanders would help, but I do not know if the French had the time or resources to do more than what I suggested for their infantry tanks? The 47mm S35 really does not lend itself to a full auto-load drum feed, and where would the ROOM for such an autocannon come in those small 1 man turrets? Semi-auto slam feed is the best I suspect that could be expected. Don't forget the chairs, feet rests and SEAT BELTS. If you have been (museum exhibit) inside a Renault tank of the period, with the harness sling seat in the commander's position, you will know EXACTLY what I mean about being jolted and knocked about as the tank tosses you about as it moves.

The French will have to outsource their radios. I suggest RCA 3 channel (1936). Best in the world. They have NO TIME to fiddle with the ERBs.
 
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I think I have to say, I have always maintained that the AdA fought much harder in 1940 than popular Anglo-American histories alleged for so long.

But that is a bit outside the scope of 1936-1938 possible lessons learned for the French air force. Let us try a crack at that one?

First another balanced presentation of the RTL situation. As they would show against the Japanese in 1942 in Indonesia, the DUTCH were not caught by surprise and they chopped the LW up rather good for as long as they lasted. The Belgians were caught on the ground and were half smashed. What was left of the Belgian air force flew some close air support and interception missions. Over the brief time they fought, the Belgians had a parity in air to air kills against the Germans and lost many surviving planes to ground fire as they flew CAS for the allies.

Yeah... Close air support, about that problem.

Nor were the British and French idle. On May 10 the RAF lost thirty-four aircraft, only three of them destroyed on the ground by German bombers. The rest were shot down as they made bombing attacks on the advancing Germans, and an inspection of the locations and recorded causes—insofar as they are known—makes clear that many of these planes were in fact shot down trying to stop the advance through Luxembourg and the Belgian Ardennes, and that a surprising number of the losses came not from air-to-air attacks but from ground fire. On the next day, Saturday, the RAF lost twenty-three bombers—and this time, an appreciable number (eight) were lost to enemy bombing attacks—but the same pattern continued. On Sunday the RAF lost another thirty-four bombers, most of them again to ground fire as they tried to stop the German advance.

Given the number of tactical bombers available in France to the Allies, losses at this level—thirty aircraft a day—were intolerable. At this rate the Allied tactical bomber force would be wiped out in a few days, which is essentially what happened (the initial RAF deployment in France only amounted to some 400 aircraft, most of which were fighter planes). Nor did this happen because the Luftwaffe enjoyed command of the skies. British and French fighters were inflicting considerable damage on the Luftwaffe.

The problem was that neither the French nor the British air command had given any serious attention to the basic problems of tactical bombing. They both subscribed to the idea that level-flight bombing could destroy targets on the ground, and had neglected the impact of antiaircraft fire on such attacks, when, by definition, the bombers flying at low altitudes would be most vulnerable.

The Germans, for whom airpower was tactical, had taken care to provide their ground troops with the means of air defense. Göring, Hitler’s designated successor and commander of the Luftwaffe, had assumed control over everything military that was remotely connected with the air: Thus in the German system the air force had control both over airborne units and the air defense system. So the antiaircraft weapons mentioned earlier that accompanied German units into battle were manned by Luftwaffe personnel.

The German military, like most militaries, prepared for a war against the force it knew best—its own. As we have seen, the German air force was primarily tactical, and thus centered around ground attack. That was why the Germans had developed the dive-bomber—it was the only reasonably accurate system of bomb delivery. Tactical bombers were terribly vulnerable to enemy fighter planes, whether they were dive-bombers or level-flight bombers. To be successful in any shape or form, they needed to operate in skies cleared of enemy aircraft, which demanded air supremacy. Not unreasonably, therefore, when the Luftwaffe assumed the role of providing air defense for the army, it thought in terms of its own airpower doctrines.

The German military, like most militaries, prepared for a war against the force it knew best—its own. As we have seen, the German air force was primarily tactical, and thus centered around ground attack. That was why the Germans had developed the dive-bomber—it was the only reasonably accurate system of bomb delivery. Tactical bombers were terribly vulnerable to enemy fighter planes, whether they were dive-bombers or level-flight bombers. To be successful in any shape or form, they needed to operate in skies cleared of enemy aircraft, which demanded air supremacy. Not unreasonably, therefore, when the Luftwaffe assumed the role of providing air defense for the army, it thought in terms of its own airpower doctrines.

Since these were tactical, it therefore developed a first-class ground to air system, built around a simple principle: The best way to shoot down tactical bombers was to saturate the air space they had to fly through to drop their bombs. Unlike the German army, which went to war rather badly equipped when it came to artillery and antitank guns, the flak units that accompanied them had three excellent weapons capable of a high volume of fire, and these weapons existed in huge numbers: about 6,700 rapid-firing special-purpose guns, one of 20 millimeters and the other of 37 millimeters, supplemented by 2,600 heavier weapons, mostly the famous 88-millimeter gun.

The Dutch and the Belgians were nearly as well equipped with antiaircraft guns, proportionally speaking, as the Germans. But the British and the French were sadly deficient in ground-to-air systems. The only truly automatic weapon available in quantity was the Hotchkiss 8-millimeter machine gun used by the French, a weapon totally inadequate for the purpose. Allied bombers were massacred when they tried to attack the advancing German ground forces, while the Luftwaffe was able to attack Allied ground forces almost at will.

The Allies had no real equivalent to the German Stuka, the JU 87 dive-bomber: Allied level-flight bombers were rarely able to hit anything they aimed at, while the JU 87 was a reasonably accurate delivery system. The Allied failure, then, was deeply entwined with airpower doctrines, and these had led the RAF, which in reality was the largest and most powerful air force in the world, down a series of blind alleys.

Thus the basic military reason for the Allied disaster had nothing to do with tanks or tank tactics; it was a function of the 586 Allied planes the two German flak units claimed to have shot down in the fighting. To leap ahead forty-eight hours in our narrative, and bring this matter to its logical conclusion: when, on Tuesday, May 14, the Allied high command saw the dangers of the German breakthrough above Sedan, they mounted intensive bombing raids. Bomber Command lost no less than forty-seven of its medium bombers on that one day in a futile attempt to stop the German advance. As one sympathetic and knowledgeable British aviation authority has noted, “It was one of the blackest days in RAF bomber operations.” In that one engagement Bomber Command lost more than half of the aircraft deployed.
I suppose there is no way that the allied air men, air marshal or French AdA general, could know this outcome pre-battle.

It would take a lessons learned from a foreign air force in combat to even begin to comprehend these lessons to be learned before 1936. But who was paying attention to the Japanese or the Chinese? Who was paying attention to the Americans in their Banana Wars? Who was paying attention to even the Spanish Civil War?

Here. (How Hitler's Stuka Bomber Became The Luftwaffe's Perfect Propaganda Piece)

In the early 1930s, German World War I ace and stuntmen Ernst Udet was impressed by American F11C Goshawk fighters he saw perform steep dive-bombing attacks. Upon joining the Nazi Party in 1933 he imported two Goshawks for test-flying and insisted the fledgling Luftwaffe develop a specialized dive bomber—an aircraft that could withstand the strain of pulling out of steep dives without smashing into the ground or ripping its wings off.
Between those flak batteries and the stukas, the air campaign was predestined to be a tac-air disaster for the allies. Again, how could anyone know? You have to know what to try, before you can PoD for the AdA. Any discussion of the plane park available to France has to start with that fundamental understanding. Therefore what can France do in 1939 with her plane park after the Polish campaign lessons learned roll in?

What can the AdA do in 8 months?

I do not know. I really do not know from a hardware point of view.

I think this may give a glimmer of thought on the subject.

Most accounts of the air war in 1940 have focused on the fighter-to-fighter conflicts. In general both the French air force and the RAF Fighter Command gave a good accounting of themselves in these battles. Frequently the only Allied fighter planes mentioned are the British Spitfire and Hurricane, which formed the core of Fighter Command. Less well known are the exploits of their French counterparts. French squadrons equipped with the Curtiss 75A fighter shot down 33 German fighters and lost only three of their own; units equipped with the Morane-Saulnier 406 fighter plane shot down 31 German planes and suffered only six losses—this despite the fact that the MS 406 was thought to be obsolescent. Units equipped with the Bloch 152 shot down 156 German planes and lost 59. French pilots flying Dewoitine 520 fighter planes lost forty-four of their own and accounted for 175 Germans.

The surprisingly competent performance of the French and British (and Dutch and Belgian) fighter pilots has to a large extent obscured the massacre of their ground-attack craft, which has in turn led to a series of misconceptions, first about the air war itself, and second about the extent to which the Allies were “tricked” or “surprised” by “new” German tactics and technology. The one major cause of the defeat was clearly the Allied airpower failure—specifically the failure to have the right kinds of airplanes for tactical bombing, as well as a doctrine requiring the coordination with the ground forces. As with tanks, the Allies had plenty of planes, and in air-to-air combat, they clearly knew how to use them. Where they signally failed was in a fundamental misunderstanding of tactical airpower and the defenses against it.
I think if I were to make suggestions... IF the lessons there were to be learned? After all, Ernst Udet missed the fact that the F11 Goshawk was an American navy FIGHTER-bomber.

a, Do not underestimate the Morane Saulnier M.S. 406. Neither underestimate the Bloch 151. I wonder if someone looking at the Spanish Civil War or the USAAF would understand that fighters can carry bombs and DIVE bomb? The Spanish were doing that thing, you know? Right next door to France. Anyway I could suggest bomb racks. I'm not as concerned about fighter armament air to air armament. It appears that French fighters could down German fighters and bombers with the outfits they had.
b. French pilots were excellent. It was the air staff who needed to relearn the lessons of the French WWI air corps, where front line airfields had to be defended against raids, sortie rates and ground establishment was critical and close air support and air reconnaissance was a national matter of life and death. WWI even provided lessons about ground fire as the major danger to CAS aircraft.
c. Speaking of b., the air staff from 1938 on should have trained on how to shift resources from air front to air front (Learn from the Republic of China air force, DAMNIT! They were fighting this exact kind of air war and they were doing a fair to good job of it, with vastly inferior resources against the Japanese.). It is often suggested that Claire Chennault taught the Chinese how to fight an air campaign. That is backwards. Chennault paid attention to the Sino-Japanese war and he learned from the ROCAF fighting as reported back by foreign observers.

Ground to air.

There is a cure for dive bombers... Where were those AAA quad HS404s on portees for example? That is something you can do in 8 months. Makes a dandy ground support weapon to oppose a river crossing, too.

Air to air combat.

For interceptors the Dewotine 5xx is a very good start. Standardize on it to handle air to air early and do the ground attack with the Moranes and the Blochs. But remember, fighters can only shoot down enemy planes. Something has got to be able to battlefield interdict.

The dive bomber is a start, even if it is a Curtiss Helldiver I. But for deep battle, the Amiot 351/354 was a contender provided the proper parachute drag bombs (US Army air force 1935) and I suggest the Bloch MB 170, a fast light bomber was a missed opportunity to get something going in 1937. it COULD dive bomb at range.

This is simple stuff as pre-1940 lessons learned. I think others can pick up the ball from here and add comments of their own.
 
This is simple stuff as pre-1940 lessons learned. I think others can pick up the ball from here and add comments of their own.
Thank you for your answer. I agree that I didn't always make truly plausible prewar changes.

Between those flak batteries and the stukas, the air campaign was predestined to be a tac-air disaster for the allies. Again, how could anyone know? You have to know what to try, before you can PoD for the AdA. Any discussion of the plane park available to France has to start with that fundamental understanding. Therefore what can France do in 1939 with her plane park after the Polish campaign lessons learned roll in?

What can the AdA do in 8 months?

I do not know. I really do not know from a hardware point of view.

I think this may give a glimmer of thought on the subject.
Wouldn't proper AA exercises be a good way to determine more appropriate altitudes for attacking bombers (which OTL flew too low) and a more adequate number of attacking bombers per group?
Ground to air.

There is a cure for dive bombers... Where were those AAA quad HS404s on portees for example? That is something you can do in 8 months. Makes a dandy ground support weapon to oppose a river crossing, too.
The problem is that the HS 404s were required by the Air Force to equip everything. An alternative could be in a crash program to get 13.2 Hotchkiss HMGs, which were refused by the Army on the assumption that the heavy bullets would harm people when falling (!).

Air to air combat.

For interceptors the Dewotine 5xx is a very good start. Standardize on it to handle air to air early and do the ground attack with the Moranes and the Blochs. But remember, fighters can only shoot down enemy planes. Something has got to be able to battlefield interdict.

The dive bomber is a start, even if it is a Curtiss Helldiver I. But for deep battle, the Amiot 351/354 was a contender provided the proper parachute drag bombs (US Army air force 1935) and I suggest the Bloch MB 170, a fast light bomber was a missed opportunity to get something going in 1937. it COULD dive bomb at range.
Only 351 Dewoitines were received by the Armistice. France really needs every fighter doing fighter duty. The MB 170 unfortunately first flew in 1938, a bit late to enter service in great numbers. You would need to have Bloch learn way quicker than OTL as they tended to make aircrafts too heavy and not aerodynamic enough.

I don't think that France could only make changes based on "lessons learned", at least not those based on analysing ongoing conflicts.

An excellent POD to have a more energic Air Ministry (which blends in well with this thread's political changes) is in the 1937 Istres-Damas-Paris air race won by Italians, which caused an outrage in France because of how poorly their aircrafts did. This could have been an opportunity to fire the existing Air Minister Pierre Cot, and through influence of aviation critics like Senator Amaury de La Grange, to get more competent people in charge. This TL was done on a French blog and involved the Air Ministry being attributed to General Paul Armengaud, a serious proponent of the air force.
 
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Wouldn't proper AA exercises be a good way to determine more appropriate altitudes for attacking bombers (which OTL flew too low) and a more adequate number of attacking bombers per group?
This is the problem. Few people realize that air warfare is still so new, that the lessons in 2020 are still there to be learned as to how to map out an integrated air defense system (IADS), so as to seek out the technical and geographic alley ways (called exploits or corridors, depending on which nation and service you are.) through which an air force can squeeze its way through and bomb targets. Conversely the IADS is subject to the same exact systemic analysis for the defender so that one can correct or at least mitigate the exploits or corridors found. WWII was sort of a bludgeoning process in the strategic sphere, though Schweinfurt/Regensburg was the first stab at the IADS analysis game. One sees how that 'exercise' turned out? Conversely going the other way, there is the Kahnhuber Line as an example of an analyzed IADS that the RAF was way too long trying to figure out.

So, it can not be handwavium. (as I was guilty of doing earlier in the thread). I can only point at the ground fire that brought down so many planes in WWI and strongly suggest that it 'might' be remembered as a lesson learned. I know for certain that of all the worlds militaries and air services, only two seem to have tried energetically and scientifically considered a combined arms air attack and how to defend against it. One was the IJN which settled on the Hotchkiss AAA 25mmL70 for low altitude air defense and developed an EXCELLENT AAA gun of 100mm/L60 for high altitude and gave up on the mid bands, and the other was the USN which paid attention to all three bands and bungled the 28mm/L70 and lucked out with the 127mm/L38 which could cover the altitude bands from 3000-7,500 meters rather well. Both navies guessed that the attacker corridor sweet band was 2,500 meters to 5,000 meters, too high for hit to kill and too low for timed shell bursts to be statistically and economically effective, but those were guesses.

But... I could suggest that the French 25mm Hotchkiss in a quad or triple mount is a viable French army AAA answer at least to low level enemy CAS. It needs a better director than the French system the IJN used, BUT it was effective enough to give the Americans worry at low altitude. The French could learn this from their sale to the Japanese of a license for both the gun and the fire control in 1933 and note the end-user feedback. (The Japanese bought French hydrophone and ASW gear at about the same time, so there is a French NAVY lesson learned for you two ways.)

RADAR.

The French were playing with it, but that is the problem... playing. This goes to having an air staff and doing an analysis of implications. The British were, being British, trying to invent a 'death ray', and thought about microwaves as a way to do it, but once one of their scientists was approached about building a killer radio beam, he (Robert Watson Watt), realized that the radio opacity of metal, which made a killer death ray nonsensical and the echo return of it as LIGHT, meant that ships and planes could be search-lighted and 'seen' by reflected radio waves picked up by the right kind of (recently developed by the Japanese... Yagi) antenna and a receiver circuit setup specifically designed to display the signal result as signal time of return and direction information. I should point out that Germans, Americans, Dutch, Japanese and Russians were all thinking the same exact thing about radio waves as a searchlight apparatus at about the same time. So were the French. Seems the British were the ones who were first to consider it for air defense and raid warning and management and the Germans or the Americans (take your pick) for naval gunfire directors. In any case, the French were not out of the game at all. They just did not push it hard enough. They could have lesson learned here internally from about 1938 if the AdA staff had listened to the MN and to their own technical people.

The problem is that the HS 404s were required by the Air Force to equip everything. An alternative could be in a crash program to get 13.2 Hotchkiss HMGs, which were refused by the Army on the assumption that the heavy bullets would harm people when falling (!).
Try the Hotchkiss or the FN HMGs (prefer an autocannon)? I note that falling AAA shell fragments (killed a dozen American civilians in Pearl City on 7 December 1941.) should be proportionally factored into the military calculus as being unimportant to the greater need for an air defense. This might be a French lesson learned that I had not considered, but since it is your observation, you deserve the credit for pointing it out.

Only 351 Dewoitines were received by the Armistice. France really needs every fighter doing fighter duty. The MB 170 unfortunately first flew in 1938, a bit late to enter service in great numbers. You would need to have Bloch learn way quicker than OTL as they tended to make aircrafts too heavy and not aerodynamic enough.
Reviewing the MB 151, I actually noticed that. I wondered why it was not a dive bomber with air brakes. It is sad that the Dewoitines (I misspelled it, above, did I not?) were not delivered in a more end-user acceptable state, then I* remembered how the British had shipped two full convoys of Crusader tanks to Egypt during the North African campaign. The tanks arrived with missing parts and repair manuals so that they had to be depot repaired by blind luck to bring them up to acceptable service conditions. And don't get me started on the American torpedo crisis. Production shortfall, quality control and technical faults, were all due to pure POLITICAL malfeasance. The French had their problems but nothing I can see as decidedly criminal in intent and outcome like the USN's Bu-Ord or certain members of the USA Congress during peace or war. Bastards.

I don't think that France could only make changes based on "lessons learned", at least not those based on analysing ongoing conflicts.
See my comments about the USN torpedo crisis. In WWI, the Germans initially had trouble with their magnetic mines. The Americans knew it and did not do due diligence when they designed a magnetic influenced exploder for their own mines and torpedoes. Seems to apply to a lot of WWI lessons learned at sea and in the air for a lot of nations, so I define it as a general human problem. (^^^)

An excellent POD to have a more energic Air Ministry (which blends in well with this thread's political changes) is in the 1937 Istres-Damas-Paris air race won by Italians, which caused an outrage in France because of how poorly their aircrafts did. This could have been an opportunity to fire the existing Air Minister Pierre Cot, and through influence of aviation critics like Senator Amaury de La Grange, to get more competent people in charge. This TL was done on a French blog and involved the Air Ministry being attributed to General Paul Armengaud, a serious proponent of the air force.
I see improved engines and air frames as a result. How does Armengaud stack up on:

a. an observer corps for air raid warning and raid tracking pending radar?
b. radar?
c. cluster and retarded fall bombs for level bombers?
d. dive bombers?
e. frontier basing of the fighter force? (Français force de chasse)
f. Battlefield interdiction as in bridge dropping over the Rhine?
g. strafing German soldiers caught in a traffic jam?
h. airfield defense?
i. combat vectored and standing air patrols?
 
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I see improved engines and air frames as a result. How does Armengaud stack up on:

a. an observer corps for air raid warning and raid tracking pending radar?
b. radar?
c. cluster and retarded fall bombs for level bombers?
d. dive bombers?
e. frontier basing of the fighter force? (Français force de chasse)
f. Battlefield interdiction as in bridge dropping over the Rhine?
g. strafing German soldiers caught in a traffic jam?
h. airfield defense?
i. combat vectored and standing air patrols?
I don't have specifics on most of that but Armengaud's experience and what he wrote indicate he would have been good in the job.
Armengaud first started as a liaison officer with the USAAC in WW1 under Gen. Billy Mitchell when he received the Distinguished Service Cross. Good relations with the Americans would prove useful once he gets the Air Ministry ITTL. More interesting, he was the commander of the entire French air forces in Morocco during the Rif War, where he eventually cooperated with Pétain (in charge of ground forces) to defeat the rebels. Many lessons were learnt here. Armengaud's thoughts, which he considered could be useful in a european war were the following:

- the command of air forces should be centralized to coordinate the entire effort, with the ability to decentralize forces on a tactical level.
- STRONG coordination with ground troops is ESSENTIAL. During the Rif War, he first put aviators in ground units as forward observers. By the end of the conflict ground and air units were regularly exchanging men to create an effective communication chain between ground and air units. Command chain was simplified so that communication could be as fast and smooth as possible. Interarm fighting was heavily emphasized. ITTL by the late 30s this could also be an incentive to push for better radio comms between ground and air units.
- per the above, CAS is deemed VERY IMPORTANT, in particular because it directly contributes to better morale of ground troops.
- interdiction and autonomous air attack missions are also important, but not as useful for troop morale.
- during the war he also dispersed units on bases very close to the front (against the existing doctrine) to intervene as fast as possible. Some bombers were converted into transports or medical transports.

After the war, he published some other books and had additionnal thoughts on airborne warfare:
- he published a book on air recon, showing his focus on this area
- contrary to other officers who thought that AAA was the main means of defense against aircraft, he was in favor of fighters.
- he wanted the aviation to be developped parallel to tanks, although the former should maybe have the priority because of its more general use.
- he wanted to strengthen the airforce in general. Based on current assessments of german capabilities in 1936, he published an anonymous letter advocating for an AdA that had at least 2/3 of German numbers, with 850 bombers, a minimum of 500 fighters and 400 recon aircrafts (note that in 1937, France only had about 200 of the latter). Due to the obsolescence of the existing aircrafts and the acceleration of aircraft development, he wanted to reduce the replacement rate to two years.

In the TL about him becoming Air Minister in late 1937, the following measures are taken:
- a symbolic additionnal billion francs for the aviation, including 300 million francs for industrial modernization, knowing that the industry needs to be modernized before higher aircraft production can be contemplated.
- three projects involving the US industry were being discussed at the time. ITTL, Armengaud accelerates those:
- France gets a license in October 1937 for the PW R1830 Twin Wasp
- contact is made to get the Guérin-Douglas process
- Eugène Houdry is called back to France a year sooner than OTL to get a license for catalytic cracking units to increase production of high octane fuel. 2 units are ready by July and August 1939, 2 additionnal ones in 1940.
- the pipe-line from Donges to Amilly (which was an OTL project) is built, with additionnal fuel tanks along the way. Finished for May 1940, this frees fuel trucks and cars that can be used to supply military units.
- pressure is made on MAC sooner to develop the belt-fed MAC 34 (and by proxy the belt-fed HS 404)
- the FN 13.2 Browning is licensed sooner to equip Bloch fighters and eventually replace HS 404s as bomber defense weapons. This frees HS 404s that can be used on inline engine fighters.
- thanks to the license for the PW R1830, the Bloch MB 153 fighterwith this engine is prioritized. In the context of purchasing US P-36 fighters, France gets a license for the P-36's entire powertrain (engine, radiators, cowling, propeller) as well as electric gun controls (which can be useful on other fighters). This allows the engineers to immediately have reliable cooling, so that they can concentrate on other aspects of the MB 153, such as better dive performance. Said MB 153 eventually settles with 4 13.2 HMGs.
- cooperation with the US industry opens the possibility of getting help from US engineers to redesign the structure of French aircraft projects, making them more suitable to mass prodution.
- Armengaud trusts Dewoitine with the D520 and orders the prototypes 6 months earlier, allowing production to start in Summer 1939 instead of late 1939. A much greater number of D520s can thus be built, and they are more mature by 1940.

The blog stopped there for now, but other assumptions I could make:
- Armengaud's focus on recon could lead him to accelerate the existing recon aircraft programs, in particular those made for cooperation with the Army.
- knowing the flaws of the MS 406 fighter, well-known by 1937 already, he could start what amounts to the MS 410 modernization program much sooner. In particular, getting propelling exhausts and a proper fixed radiator which would increase top speed by about 30kph, and new wings with 4 MGs.
- Alternatively, he would be in a good position to order LN 161 fighters, which are WAY superior to the MS 406 in climb rate and speed, and are much easier to mass produce, and much faster to refuel (the MS 406 had a stupid small fuel tank on top of a larger one which had to be refueled first, so refueling was very slow).
- OTL, Armengaud's predecessor was about to sign an order for the Amiot 340 which is a single tail fast bomber like the Leo 451, but WAY safer and easier to produce ( 24,000 man hours vs 45,000). The 340 could get in service in 1938, be made even easier to produce like the Amiot 351, and be replaced by the latter if necessary (it just added an extra gunner). OTL the 340 was not ordered and had to be redesigned for that 4-man crew and twin-tail, which wasted at least a year.

If you can read French or don't mind google translating, here is the blog:
And something on Armengaud and the Rif War: https://journals.openedition.org/rha/7510
 
I don't have specifics on most of that but Armengaud's experience and what he wrote indicate he would have been good in the job.
Armengaud first started as a liaison officer with the USAAC in WW1 under Gen. Billy Mitchell when he received the Distinguished Service Cross. Good relations with the Americans would prove useful once he gets the Air Ministry ITTL. More interesting, he was the commander of the entire French air forces in Morocco during the Rif War, where he eventually cooperated with Pétain (in charge of ground forces) to defeat the rebels. Many lessons were learnt here. Armengaud's thoughts, which he considered could be useful in a european war were the following:
You know something? I had completely forgotten the 3rd Rif War. Close air support doctrine in that terrain would still have been applicable to France 1940. I will not discuss matters except technical and doctrinal issues to be lesson learned as I am not familiar enough with the Spanish side of the war with the Moroccans or how they initially got into that mess in the first place. The French participation has multiple lessons learned for air power application.

I will take these elements in order.

- the command of air forces should be centralized to coordinate the entire effort, with the ability to decentralize forces on a tactical level.
This was a problem of administering air force in an air campaign that was first seen in WWI and seems to have been misunderstood as a lesson learned as ground commanders of various national armies insisted on treating air power as demand call fires under their personal local control, instead of as a planned resource that must be applied across a front. The Russians and the Chinese will lesson learn this in WWII. It still remains to be a lesson learned by many states and armies today.

- STRONG coordination with ground troops is ESSENTIAL. During the Rif War, he first put aviators in ground units as forward observers. By the end of the conflict ground and air units were regularly exchanging men to create an effective communication chain between ground and air units. Command chain was simplified so that communication could be as fast and smooth as possible. Interarm fighting was heavily emphasized. ITTL by the late 30s this could also be an incentive to push for better radio comms between ground and air units.
Another WWI lesson learned, I might mention, is positive ground control. This does not just include pilots attached to company HQ sections with ground to air radios, but implies standardized training for platoon and section leaders in talk procedures or to show through visual means to pilots aloft, direction and distance from a reference aid to point them at geographic features and VECTOR them onto a specific target set to be bombed and strafed. Something as simple as colored cloth arrow shaped panels, color coded that point in the direction and give the distance from the panel by that color code to the target are means that can be employed in the absence of ground to air radios to guide the fliers onto their target sets. Obviously there is a downside in that these panels will draw fire, but remember the era and the state of equipment that probably will be available.
- per the above, CAS is deemed VERY IMPORTANT, in particular because it directly contributes to better morale of ground troops.
This is another WWI lesson learned, forgotten by many armies. Just the sight of your own planes forcing the enemy to keep their heads down and hide is contributive as a giant visual arrow that screams, "we are winning"; and it is safer for us to move than it is for them.
- interdiction and autonomous air attack missions are also important, but not as useful for troop morale.
The troops do not see the disruption of enemy transportation and infrastructure behind the front. Nevertheless, every train and every truck and every horse drawn vehicle that does not deliver supply or troops forward is just as important as bombing a hill that contains an artillery observer post or strafing and bombing attack that suppresses artillery. I include enemy air fields as part of the battlefield interdiction mission, because enemy planes destroyed and enemy airfields rendered even temporarily unusable means that enemy reconnaissance and air support for his ground forces are lacking. Another WWI lesson learned and forgotten is that the side who can see the battlefield top down and plan from it has 2 moves in advantage to the side which cannot. This is the OODA Loop cycle. It took until the Korean War to be formalized as a doctrine of the military art, but it was understood as far back as the invention of the airplane before WWI that the side which can fly and can look down behind the front and see, while the side which could not was blind and lacked a full set of planning options. To coin a phrase...

Prendre les collines et les hauts lieux ou ils vous tuer dans les vallées et les endroits bas.
Roughly that means: "Take the high ground or they will murder you in the valley."
- during the war he also dispersed units on bases very close to the front (against the existing doctrine) to intervene as fast as possible. Some bombers were converted into transports or medical transports.
That goes to three critical elements in the efficient use of time.
a. --standing air patrols over own troops is a moral booster as the troops visually see their air force guarding them from enemy eyes aloft.
b.--from panels laid to strafers giving the enemy the works is crucial. There is a morale factor involved that translates into troops waiting for help to arrive. In the Rif War example, a French plane that shows up to strafe the Berbers 2-5 minutes after the call for help is sent is a lot more of a morale booster than waiting for an hour or for the help that never comes.
c.--short distance equals fast response time and more sorties per day. It means tired pilots and weary ground crews but if 1 plane flies four sorties and air missions per day at 30 minutes time aloft to the targets serviced, that is 4x as efficient as 1 pilot and plane who is 2 hours away. It means also, that the enemy can be swamped if your tempo of sorties is faster than his. In the numbers game, it means a smaller air force can work more to do more, saving money, fuel, lives of pilots, and TIME; which is the most precious commodity in war. This is a WWI lesson, which some air forces learned and remembered. The Germans did. The British did. The French? I do not understand why the AdA did not stand on the frontiers. I just do not understand it. This is especially the case, now that we have the French Rif War example.

I will take these items below in order.
After the war, he published some other books and had additional thoughts on airborne warfare:
- he published a book on air recon, showing his focus on this area
- contrary to other officers who thought that AAA was the main means of defense against aircraft, he was in favor of fighters.
- he wanted the aviation to be developped parallel to tanks, although the former should maybe have the priority because of its more general use.
- he wanted to strengthen the airforce in general. Based on current assessments of German capabilities in 1936, he published an anonymous letter advocating for an AdA that had at least 2/3 of German numbers, with 850 bombers, a minimum of 500 fighters and 400 recon aircrafts (note that in 1937, France only had about 200 of the latter). Due to the obsolescence of the existing aircrafts and the acceleration of aircraft development, he wanted to reduce the replacement rate to two years.
-- Reconnaissance is why air forces were born. Use of the air is fundamentally like use of the sea. There must be purpose and that purpose is the advantage of use. You cannot "hold" the air at all, but you can deny its use, but there must be a reason to deny it in the first place. The OODA cycle is the military reason and looking down is the usage. Again this is a WWI lesson.
--I think AAA is important, not because it is as efficient as air to air combat, but because the troops must have some chance and they need it for morale. Here there is a mistake to at least not give the illusion of defense. The soldiers should have the means to shoot back so as not to feel helpless. Besides, as WWI lessons learned taught, AAA IS dangerous and effective, even if it is not as effective as some might have hoped. I have a remark in a Pearl Harbor thread somewhere about the demoralizing effect American AAA had at Pearl Harbor on the IJN command (not the pilots) and how it was a factor in the Japanese leadership deciding not to go for a third strike since they knew 1/4 of their aircraft had been so damaged as to be rendered unusable. (26 of 29 shot down by AAA and 35 additional write offs pushed into the sea after return=26 % of the starting force.). AAA can be a force multiplier for the air force that uses it to its advantage. This is another WWI lesson that the French air corps of the era actually used. Postwar, it was set aside. I can see why AAA would not be a RIF War lesson learned because the enemy did not have it in any quantity to harass the French air force.
--Air to ground cooperation between tanks and planes is kind of German. Not even the British got that one right pre-war (EMF 1927.). it is a WWII lesson learned the hard way in Poland and France and I cannot justify it as anything but ASB to suggest that unless it is war-gamed in Krieg-spiel or worked as a Fleet Problem, that anyone can see it. One has to notice that tanks with radios and guys perched in them will be "observers" who can talk to planes above and steer the pilots aloft to a target holding up the tank column. Not even WWI is a lessons learned source. The Germans kind of suspected this aspect of CAS entirely by accident in Russia in the early 1930s. Even the Russians, right there with them in that secret training facility, missed it. They, the Germans, tried it out in Poland.
--The numbers game is a hard one to quantify. Contrary to popular opinion, there is as much aerial geography as there naval geography that determines the shape of what is in modern parlance known as "battle space". In its simplest fundamentals this is the area of bases and infrastructure behind a front that supports a land based air force.



The above is just an example of aerial battlespace geography at work during France 1944. The example is US 9th Air Force as it moves fighters forward to support 21st and 12th Army groups. The idea was to base forward to maximize sortie turnaround rates and minimize CAS response times in support of the allied armies. The "air front" was weighted to follow 1st US Army and aimed along an axis that was oriented north of Metz, much to Patton's displeasure. I think it was a mistake as Quesada's pilots did their best work with Patton's tank columns; but that is me with 2020 hindsight.

The next example is France 1940 with hypothetical French AdA possible operation dispositions and target boxes..

1593531356591.png


Notice that the way air geography is laid out is the radius of time aloft for an aircraft? In the above example the airpower circle is measured as 170 minutes flyout aloft at a cruise speed of 320 km/h or 90 m/s. The string of air complexes is force de chasse (fighters) and close air support and battlefield interdiction coverage on a air "front" that encompasses the expected Franco German area of operations and it is sort of modeled on WWI aerial lessons learned and the existent French Army Dyle plans.

A couple of things:
--The air op plan layout practically drives desired plane characteristics. You want aircraft that can operate at a minimum at cruise about 150 minutes in the air with a pad of 15 minutes to climb from and 15 minutes to descend to their bases and have 20 minutes combat time over target. That means French aircraft need a minimum of that characteristics in the battlespace in which they operate, so they have to be CLOSE to the front to effectively operate with the army.
--Needless to say, the air complexes are numerous and the distribution is three lines in case the AdA has to fall back with the army. The coverage is favored to WW I lessons learned. Notice the suggested French AdA presence in the UK? This is a concept called "Threat Axis". Air forces can be flanked. Did not know this? It is a WWI lesson learned that if you can raid from different directions, you can swamp an enemy air defense that is linear thinking and minded. The LW for all its supposed tactical prowess did not understand this concept at all.
--Finally the ground establishment needs not only aircraft maintainers, but engineers (sappers or pioneers) who can turn a farm field into an improvised air strip. This is seen in the first example of the USAAF 9th Air Force which created almost 100 impromptu air strips to follow the allied armies. The AdA may have to dodge and weave just as much in the same battlespace.

Notice that this will contradict one of Armengaud's tenets about reducing fuel bowsers and trucks for the French air force? If the improvised air fields are critical to a successful aerial battlespace management (WWI lesson learned); then crews, maintainers, road building equipment, fuel, bombs and ammunition, fuel, mechanics' work areas and tool sets aviation supplies and parts, almost everything an air base needs including AAA and air traffic control has to be put on wheels and lorried to where they are needed.

--Murphy's gift to an air force is DIRT. Berm everything; hardstands, bomb dumps, fuel parks, barracks, PLANES, the traffic control post and admin sections, the hospital, the AAA gun positions, the raid shelters, even the tennis courts if the improvised base has one. This one WWI lesson alone could have saved so many air forces caught on the ground and surprised. Bombs miss and strafing is less effective against targets protected by walls of earth.

- Armengaud's focus on recon could lead him to accelerate the existing recon aircraft programs, in particular those made for cooperation with the Army.
- knowing the flaws of the MS 406 fighter, well-known by 1937 already, he could start what amounts to the MS 410 modernization program much sooner. In particular, getting propelling exhausts and a proper fixed radiator which would increase top speed by about 30kph, and new wings with 4 MGs.
- Alternatively, he would be in a good position to order LN 161 fighters, which are WAY superior to the MS 406 in climb rate and speed, and are much easier to mass produce, and much faster to refuel (the MS 406 had a stupid small fuel tank on top of a larger one which had to be refueled first, so refueling was very slow).
- OTL, Armengaud's predecessor was about to sign an order for the Amiot 340 which is a single tail fast bomber like the Leo 451, but WAY safer and easier to produce ( 24,000 man hours vs 45,000). The 340 could get in service in 1938, be made even easier to produce like the Amiot 351, and be replaced by the latter if necessary (it just added an extra gunner). OTL the 340 was not ordered and had to be redesigned for that 4-man crew and twin-tail, which wasted at least a year.
--This is one area where obsolete French fighters can be turned into camera planes and used as over-fliers to map the front. Intruders can be dedicated for deep flights to see where enemy concentrations are and what infrastructure and transport back there has to be bombed and strafed in what order. This is why the air staff and not the army generals have to control the air battle behind the front. Generals locally on the ground think about what is in front of them, not what threat develops away from them 100 km distant. One of the things air generals do think about is where the enemy air force operates the most. That usually means something BAD on the ground underneath is developing and must be addressed by reconnaissance and battlefield interdiction missions immediately.
-- The M.S. 406 is solvable several ways. Finnish war lessons learned but in pre-war operations the AdA can do the same.
a. redesign the fuel tankage and back-fit.
b. aspirate the existent engine better. This means a better intake circuit and would have to be back-fit. Difficult.
c. change the wing cord. This is major and might not be possible to solve the lift problem.
d. GIVE IT A BETTER PROPELLER. This one is easy.
e, Otherwise it is the M.S. 410 program.
--The LN 161 seems to have had tail control issues. If those were solved it could be a good aircraft though its 13 m/s climb rate to best cruise at mid-band altitude (~4000 meters) still worries me a lot. The BF 109 has a 2 m/s climb advantage and its bounce from altitude was at least 2,000 meters higher. So that is a vertical and corner turn advantage for the German.
--Now that I think about it, the De 520 is even more critical. One of the WWI lessons learned is that bombers may make history, but FIGHTERS determine whose bombers make that history.
--The Amiot 340 is a doctrine issue. Do you want that tail gunner? I will suggest that it is not just the AdA that struggled with the morale booster question in this regard. Personally, I look to USN lessons learned. The GIB *(guy in back) if he is the radio-man bombardier, has a dedicated mission. Give him a gun to cover the tail as it will give the attack plane at least a chance if it is chased. If he has no other air mission purpose anjd is just a gunner, then he is excess weight that can be omitted or used for other reasons. Speed and maneuver is a BETTER defense. The quandary is deciding if the tail-gun is worth it as added weight.

In the TL about him becoming Air Minister in late 1937, the following measures are taken:
- a symbolic additional billion francs for the aviation, including 300 million francs for industrial modernization, knowing that the industry needs to be modernized before higher aircraft production can be contemplated.
- three projects involving the US industry were being discussed at the time. ITTL, Armengaud accelerates those:
- France gets a license in October 1937 for the PW R1830 Twin Wasp
- contact is made to get the Guérin-Douglas process
- Eugène Houdry is called back to France a year sooner than OTL to get a license for catalytic cracking units to increase production of high octane fuel. 2 units are ready by July and August 1939, 2 additionnal ones in 1940.
- the pipe-line from Donges to Amilly (which was an OTL project) is built, with additionnal fuel tanks along the way. Finished for May 1940, this frees fuel trucks and cars that can be used to supply military units.
- pressure is made on MAC sooner to develop the belt-fed MAC 34 (and by proxy the belt-fed HS 404)
- the FN 13.2 Browning is licensed sooner to equip Bloch fighters and eventually replace HS 404s as bomber defense weapons. This frees HS 404s that can be used on inline engine fighters.
- thanks to the license for the PW R1830, the Bloch MB 153 fighterwith this engine is prioritized. In the context of purchasing US P-36 fighters, France gets a license for the P-36's entire powertrain (engine, radiators, cowling, propeller) as well as electric gun controls (which can be useful on other fighters). This allows the engineers to immediately have reliable cooling, so that they can concentrate on other aspects of the MB 153, such as better dive performance. Said MB 153 eventually settles with 4 13.2 HMGs.
- cooperation with the US industry opens the possibility of getting help from US engineers to redesign the structure of French aircraft projects, making them more suitable to mass prodution.
- Armengaud trusts Dewoitine with the D520 and orders the prototypes 6 months earlier, allowing production to start in Summer 1939 instead of late 1939. A much greater number of D520s can thus be built, and they are more mature by 1940.
Take those in order. (^^^)
--Agreed. No politics, but sorting aircraft manufacturer "personality issues" will help as much as the money.
--The 3 Franco-American projects...
a. You cannot go wrong with Pratt.
b. I suppose this is rubber pad formatted aluminum sheet metal shape stamping? It is not an easy tech to master. Douglas had a lot of trouble perfecting it. Don't forget the rivet presses that have to go with it for the panel joinings.
c. Av-gas fractionation is like b. It is possible to boost octane ratings, but the process is corrosive in the stills. Needs care.
d. Pipelines are important. Fuel bowsers and transfer pumps from bowsers to planes are just as important.
e. Good enough is better than perfect never. HS 404s in quantity sufficient for everybody who can use them is better than belt feed delays. (AAA remember?) I think the Belgians should be "encouraged" to supply "Brownings" as well just for good relations.
f. Ugh. I would like to sit Marcel Bloch down and educate him about pilot visibility (WWI lesson learned.) but aside from that little problem, I agree.
g. What I suggested for Mssr. Bloch as friendly advice especially applies to Don Berlin as off the wall bounce counseling for the P-36 on a host of issues. 2x4 to the head for him. Not only is pilot visibility lousy and cockpit (head down to manage instruments) workload unacceptable, but the plane is draggy. That air frame needs a lot of clean up work. But that is Curtiss for you.
h. Kahn factory will carry you far. Look to PACKARD.
I. Never enough De 520s. Missed opportunity.
If you can read French or don't mind google translating, here is the blog:
And something on Armengaud and the Rif War: https://journals.openedition.org/rha/7510
Thank you. I will read for what I missed here. (^^^)
 

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Murphy! Dewoitine has a convoluted and twisted chicane aviation history in France as bizarre as Jack Northrop in the United States! Mitsubishi?

Yikes.
 
Murphy! Dewoitine has a convoluted and twisted chicane aviation history in France as bizarre as Jack Northrop in the United States! Mitsubishi?

Yikes.
IIRC he was also involved in rather shady strikes at Latécoère (beyond the 1936 general strikes) which destroyed the company and contributed to delaying the capable Laté 570 bomber by 23 months. In fact sam40's blog article on the D520 talks about this.

As for Bloch, there are stories about him having quite bad relations with the technical service over at the Air Ministry, usually badly applying proposed modifications. One major problem up till 1936 was that the lead engineer Roussel tended to make very sturdy but overweight aircrafts. The Bloch 15X series clearly shows the remaining lack of experience of Bloch and it took a complete structural redesign by Servanty to turn the Bloch 150 into something viable. Tremendous improvements were made by 1939 with the excellent MB 174 high altitude recon bomber, but it was too late.
Sadly, France picked the wrong horses when it came to aircraft manufacturers. Dewoitine, Bloch and Morane all had serious work to do in terms of modern structures and aerodynamics. Loire and Nieuport proved to be somewhat ahead of the curve in 1935 in that regard (Loire having designed with the Loire 250 a Bloch 152 that works years earlier).


I'm pretty sure I heard about tail issues for the LN 161 too, although they do not seem to have been particularly bad. A more serious problem seems to have been the radiators which were responsible for one unfortunate accident. Not bad enough to pick the MS 406 over it, but some work would have had to be done. Fortunately (or unfortunately), the French industry was in no position to seriously build anything until late 1937 at least.
 
Rather than adopt a foreign design, which has economic and political issues, why not push for a faster development of the GR 14R? Utilize NACA data on cowling, cylinder baffles, head cooling and fan cooling for improvements.

I really like the P-36/H-75 series. But, I never understood the move away from the enclosed cockpit canopy style of the XP-31 Swift.
 
Rather than adopt a foreign design, which has economic and political issues, why not push for a faster development of the GR 14R? Utilize NACA data on cowling, cylinder baffles, head cooling and fan cooling for improvements.
Time and maturity. I think the SNECMA 14R (postwar name) was still in 1940 bench-test status.

I really like the P-36/H-75 series. But, I never understood the move away from the enclosed cockpit canopy style of the XP-31 Swift.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bf/Curtiss_XP-31_in_flight_060907-F-1234P-012.jpg is the spurce.

Our friends at Curtiss would have to develop retractable landing gear, improve the propeller, figure out that a monoplane can be sparred to eliminate the struts and wheel cowls and mud spats and convince braindead Maj. Gen. James E. Fechet, 14 December 1927 – 19 December 1931 air power Douhet enthusiast and ex-cavalryman that ground looping and head injuries were a pilot occupational hazard even with the strongback.
 
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