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France's Bloch 131 bomber, reconnaissance bomber

Design

The Bloch 131 was designed to meet a a 1933 specification for a multi seat, multipurpose aircraft that could perform reconnaissance, bomber, and escort duties. The design work started in 1935.

The Bloch 131 was clean aerodynamically. The undercarriage retracted. The Bloch 131 was of all metal construction.

Prototype

The first Bloch 131 prototype flew on August 12, 1936 / August 16, 1936. There was a second prototype that had a crew of five.

Production

  • Prototypes: 2
  • Bloch 131 R4: 13
  • Bloch 131 Ins: 5
  • Bloch 131 RB4: 119
  • Total: 121, 139
    • Manufacturer: SNCASO
    • Production: June 1938 - ?

Variants

  • Prototypes: Had Gnome-Rhône 14K radial engines (900 HP) initially. Replaced by Gnome-Rhône 14N radial engine (950 HP).
  • Bloch 131 R4: First production aircraft. First flew in May 1938. Used only for reconnaissance.
  • Bloch 131 Ins: Trainer with dual controls.
  • Bloch 131 RB4: Had internal bomb bay. Main wheels were larger than the R4. Armament was also increased.
  • Bloch 133: Prototype with Hispano-Suiza engines. The tail had twin fins and rudders. Only one produced.

Usage

Armée de l'Air started to receive the Bloch 131s in September 1938. The Bloch 131s performed so poorly that they were sent to reconnaissance squadrons.

Start of World War II

There was one reconnaissance group in North Africa and six groups in France.

The Bloch 131s were used in daytime reconnaissance missions over Germany, but due to heavy casualties they were switched to night missions.

Replaced

The Potez 63 replaced the Bloch 131s in all the units located in France by May 1940.

Vichy France

The Vichy French used the remaining Bloch 131s as target tugs.

Specifications

  Bloch 131
Type Bomber, Reconnaissance bomber
Crew 4
Engine (Type) 2: Gnome-Rhône 14N
Cylinders Radial 14
Cooling Air
Net HP 870 each, 950 each
Propeller blades 3 each
Dimensions  
Span 66' 6"
20.27 m
Length 58' 6", 58' 7"
17.85 m
Height 13' 5"
4.09 m
Wing area  
Weight  
Empty  
Normal load  
Loaded 18,960 lb
Performance  
Speed @ 12,300' /
3,750 m
217 mph
Cruising speed  
Climb  
Service ceiling 23,785'
Range 808 miles
Armament 3: MG
Nose 1: 7.5 mm MG
Dorsal turret 1: 7.5 mm MG
Ventral gondola 1: 7.5 mm MG
Bombs 1,760 lb, 1,764 lb
800 kg
  Bloch 131 RB4
Type  
Crew  
Engine (Type)  
Cylinders  
Cooling  
Net HP  
Propeller blades  
Dimensions  
Span  
Length  
Height  
Wing area  
Weight  
Empty 10,340 lb
4,690 kg
Normal load 17,438 lb
7,910 kg
Loaded 18,960 lb
8,600 kg
Performance  
Speed at sea level 188 mph
302 kph
Speed @ 12,300' /
3,750 m
217 mph
350 kph
Cruising speed 168 mph
270 kph
Climb to 13,120' /
4,000 m
13 minutes
Service ceiling 23,785'
7,250 m
Range 620 miles
998 kg
Range - maximum 808 miles
1,300 km
Armament  

Sources:

  1. Aircraft of WWII, Stewart Wilson, 1998
  2. World War II Airplanes Volume 1, Enzo Angelucci, Paolo Matricardi, 1976
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site