Breguet 693

Breguet 693

infobox Aircraft
name =Breguet 693
type =Ground attack
manufacturer =Breguet, SNCAC


caption =
designer = Georges Ricard
first flight = 1938
introduced = 1939
retired = 1942
status =
primary user =French Air Force
more users =
produced = 1939-1940
number built = approx. 230
unit cost =
variants with their own articles =

The Breguet 690 and its derivatives were a series of light twin-engined ground-attack aircraft that were used by the French Air Force in World War II.

The aircraft was well designed, easy to maintain, pleasant to fly and could fly at 480 km/h at 4,000 metres (13,000 feet). The type's sturdy construction was frequently demonstrated and the armament was effective. Like the Bloch 175 light bomber and the LeO 451 and Amiot 351 medium bombers, the Breguet 693 showed that French designers were as good as any in the world.Fact|date=August 2008 Unfortunately, French rearmament began two full years later than that in Britain and all of these fine aircraft were simply not available in sufficient numbers to make a difference in 1940.

Development

The 690 had begun life in 1934 as Breguet's response to the same, quite far sighted strategic fighter aircraft specification that resulted in the eventual winner, the Potez 630. Both were attractive twin-engined monoplanes with twin tailplanes, powered by Hispano-Suiza 14AB radial engines of modern design and, for the time, good performance. Breguet considered the weight limits of the specification, that required a twin-engined, three-man aircraft to be lighter than 3,000 kg (later 3,500 kg) to be overly restrictive and ignored them. Instead, the design was advertised as particularly versatile, with reconnaissance, ground attack and level bombing derivatives proposed that required no structural changes. Unsurprisingly, Breguet lost out in the competition to Potez, but confident in the 690's potential, nevertheless began building a prototype on its own funds.

After considerable debate and delay the French Air Staff decided to acquire modern ground attack aircraft. Engineless for nearly a year, the 690-01 prototype displayed such promise that 100 two-seat attack bomber versions known as the Breguet 691 AB2 were ordered in mid 1938, an order soon doubled. For the ground attack role, the 691's equipment included a 20 mm cannon and a pair of light machine guns firing forward, as well as an internal bomb rack that could be used in a shallow dive attack and was typically loaded with eight 50 kg-class (110 lb) bombs. Rear defense was provided by one flexible light machine gun, while a fixed, rearwards firing weapon of the same type was fitted under the fuselage to discourage low-flying attacking fighters or ground fire from behind. A set of armour plates protected the crew, and fuel tanks had rudimentary self-sealing capability, but in spite of this the Breguet 690's protection proved insufficient in combat.

Breguet established an assembly line with remarkable speed: the first production aircraft flew less than a year after being ordered and was in service before the end of 1939.

As with the Potez 630, the Bre 691 was beset with engine difficulties. Hispano-Suiza had decided to concentrate on its V12 liquid-cooled engines and the 14AB engine was unreliable. The French authorities decided to order a new version, the Bre 693 powered by Gnome-Rhône 14M radials. Apart from the changed engines, which were of slightly smaller diameter, the two types were virtually identical. Orders for the Bre 691 were switched to the new type and more than 200 of the latter had been completed by the time of France's defeat.

Late production versions of the Bre 693 introduced propulsive exhaust pipes that improved top speed by a small margin as well as, according to some sources, a pair of additional light machine guns in the tail of each engine nacelle. Belgium ordered 32 licence-built copies but none were completed before the Belgian collapse. In the haste to get the Bre 693 into production the opportunity was lost to specify a low-level version of the Gnome-Rhône 14M, but in time no doubt this would have been remedied.Fact|date=August 2008

Variants

* A number of experimental versions were planned, including a two-seat light bomber (Bre 696.01) prototype, which was first ordered and then cancelled in favour of the Bre 693.
* The Bre 697, was intended as a pre-prototype for the Breguet 700 C2 heavy fighter. Powered by Gnome-Rhône 14N 48/49 engines which offered 50% more power than the 14M, the Bre 697 prototype displayed a sensational rate of climb, and was as fast as a Bf 109E. The Bre 700 was expected to offer even higher speed and would have been very heavily armed.

French engine makers had even greater difficulties than airframe manufacturers in keeping up with the frantic demands from 1938, and in 1939 the French government decided that all combat aircraft had to be adapted for British and US engines.

* Bre 690.01 : Breguet 690 prototype.
* Bre 691.01 : Breguet 691 prototype.
* Bre 691 : Two-seat twin-engined ground-attack aircraft.
* Bre 693.01 : Breguet 693 prototype.
* Bre 693 : Two-seat twin-engined ground-attack aircraft.
* The Bre 694.01 prototype was intended to be two or three-seat tactical reconnaissance aircraft.
* The conversion of the Bre 693, known as the Bre 695 was not particularly successful, the larger, heavier and higher-drag Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp Junior reducing visibility and providing only a minor performance improvement at lower altitudes. Only a few 695s were operationally used before the armistice.
* Bre 695.01 : Bre 695 prototype.

Fewer than 250 Breguet 690 series aircraft were completed. The "Armée de l'air" received only 211 examples: 75 Bre.691s, 128 Bre.693s, and 8 Bre.695s, but the Germans captured a few dozen complete or near-complete aircraft at the factories.

Operational Service

A small experimental unit had been experimenting with ground attack tactics since 1937, initially in outdated biplanes such as the Potez 25, then in ANF Les Mureaux 115 monoplanes. Eventually, the "Armée de l’Air" concluded that low-altitude level-bombing was more suitable than dive-bombing for engaging enemy vehicles and artillery over the battlefield. The chosen tactic consisted in a nap-of-the-earth approach at maximum speed, followed by a strafing run or the delivery of time-delayed bombs directly over the target. French commanders widely considered this tactic as safe for the attackers, as anti-aircraft weapons then in service would be inefficient. The French army were not using anti-aircraft autocannons at the time (the 25 mm Hotchkiss and 20 mm Oerlikon guns were only issued later), but only rifle-calibre machine guns and slow-firing 75 mm cannons.

In late 1939, two squadrons staffed with volunteers from level bomber units were gathered in the small airfield near Vinon-sur-Verdon, where they began their operational training. As Breguet 691s were not available yet, the crews flew the Potez 633 light level bomber. When they were eventually delivered, the little Breguets were popular with their crews, although the unreliable engines in the Bre 691 caused headaches, and undercarriage failures proved especially troublesome. Only in March 1940 were the first combat-worthy Bre. 693s delivered, and there were now five squadrons to equip: GBA I/51, GBA II/51, GBA I/54, GBA II/54, and GBA II/35 (GBA stands for "Groupe de bombardement d'assaut" - assault bomber squadron), with a theoretical complement of 13 aircraft each.

Because of this late delivery, crews were still working up their new machines and developing tactics when the Germans attacked. On May 12, GBAs I/54 and II/54 performed the Breguet's first operational sorties, against German motorized columns in the Maastricht-Tongeren-Bilsen area. German anti-aircraft fire was so devastating that only eight of the 18 Bre.693s returned.

The disastrous results of this first engagement forced the French commanders to reconsider their tactics. Until May 15 GBA crews performed shallow dive attacks from higher altitude, which resulted in reduced losses, but the attacks had clearly been inaccurate, as the Breguets lacked a bombsight, and they increased vulnerability to enemy fighters. On the following missions the GBAs re-introduced low-level attacks, but with smaller formations. As the battle quickly evolved towards the collapse of the French armies, the assault groups were engaged daily, still enduring losses to the AAA, but also to enemy fighters.

In late June, the "Armée de l'Air" tried to evacuate its modern aircraft to North Africa, out of German reach, from where many hoped to continue the fight. Unfortunately the short-ranged Breguets were not able to cross the Mediterranean. Unlike other French modern types, the Breguet 690 family saw its combat career end with the Armistice.

At this point in time, 119 aircraft had been lost, including 68 to direct enemy action, and a further 14 were written off as too heavily damaged. The five GBAs had therefore endured a matériel loss rate of 63%, while crew casualties accounted for nearly 50%.

After the Armistice, the Vichy authorities were allowed to maintain a small air force in mainland France, and its assault bomber pilots flew rare training flights in the Bre.693 and Bre.695. After the Germans occupied all of France in late 1942 some of the survivors were transferred to Italy for use as operational trainer aircraft.

Operators

;FRA;flag|Italy|1861

pecifications (Bre.693 AB2)

aircraft specifications
plane or copter?=plane
jet or prop?=prop
ref=Fact|date=August 2008
crew=two, pilot and rear gunner
capacity=
payload main=
payload alt=
length main= 9.67 m
length alt= 31 ft 9 in
span main= 15.37 m
span alt= 50 ft 5 in
height main= 3.19 m
height alt= 10 ft 6 in
area main= 29.2 m²
area alt= 314 ft²
airfoil=
empty weight main= 3,675 kg
empty weight alt= 8,101 lb
loaded weight main=
loaded weight alt=
useful load main= 5,420 kg
useful load alt= 11,949 lb
max takeoff weight main= 5,500 kg
max takeoff weight alt= 12,125 lb
more general=
engine (prop)= Gnome-Rhône 14M-6/7
type of prop=
number of props=2
power main= 522 kW
power alt= 700 hp
power original=
max speed main=490 km/h
max speed alt= 304 mph
cruise speed main=
cruise speed alt=
stall speed main=
stall speed alt=
never exceed speed main=
never exceed speed alt=
range main= 1,350 km
range alt=839 miles
ceiling main= 8,500 m
ceiling alt= 27,885 ft
climb rate main= 555 m/min
climb rate alt= 1,822 ft/min
loading main=
loading alt=
thrust/weight=
power/mass main=
power/mass alt=
more performance=
guns=
** 1x fixed forward-firing 20 mm Hispano-Suiza cannon
** 2x fixed forward-firing 7.5 mm MAC 1934 machine guns
** 1x flexible, rearward-firing 7.5 mm MAC 1934 machine gun in rear cockpit
** 1x fixed, rearward-firing 7.5 mm MAC 1934 machine gun in ventral position
bombs= 460 kg (1,014 lb) of bombs
avionics=

Related content

Related development:
Breguet 700

Comparable aircraft:
Breda Lince -
Bristol Blenheim -
Potez 630

Notes

References

* "War Planes of the Second World War" Vol 7 by William Green
* "Air War Over France 1939-40" by Robert Jackson
* "Notice descriptive et d'utilisation de l'avion Breguet 691 AB2 à moteurs Hispano-Suiza", Ministère de l'Air, 1939
* Ledermann, O. and Mérolle, J-F. "Le Sacrifice: Les Breguet 693 de l'aviation d'assaut dans la Bataille de France", IPMS France, Paris, 1994
* Ehrengardt, C.-J. "Voyage au bout de l'enfer: les Breguet au combat" Aéro-Journal, no. 28, 2002


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