|BOMBER||Virtual Aircraft Museum / France / Bloch|
When, in 1932, the French air ministry circulated its specification for a five-seat night bomber, there was so little demand for new military aircraft that no fewer than eight proposals were received from five companies. This was indicative of the anxiety to acquire manufacturing contracts, and both Bloch and Farman were successful on this occasion, although the resulting production aircraft were completed in differing bomber categories.
That of Bloch was finalised as a four-seat bomber, very similar in appearance and configuration to the contemporary Bristol Bombay and Handley Page Harrow built in the UK. A cantilever high-wing monoplane of all-metal construction, and with non-retractable tail-wheel type landing gear, the prototype Bloch M.B.200.01 had a powerplant comprising two 567kW Gnome-Rhone 14Krsd radial engines, and was first flown in July 1933. Subsequent flight testing resulted in an initial order for 25 aircraft, placed on 1 January 1934, despite the fact that the maximum speed of the prototype was some 18 per cent below estimate.
When the production M.B.200 began to enter service towards the end of the year, it was found to be both reliable and viceless. The fact that it was slow, even though production aircraft had more powerful Gnome-Rhone engines, was not then terribly important, and 208 were eventually supplied to the Armee de I'Air, built by Bloch (4), Breguet (19), Hanriot (45), Loire (19), Potez (111) and SNCASO(10).
At the beginning of World War II seven front-line bomber groupes were still equipped with these obsolete aircraft, but at the time of the German offensive all had been relegated to a training role. The type had also been built under licence in Czechoslovakia by Aero and Avia, and these were seized by the Germans, serving as crew trainers and for general duties, as were those which had been captured in France. Many were passed on to German satellites.