|First flight||6 July 1938|
|Primary user||French Navy|
||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (June 2010)|
Design and development
Between 1932 and 1936, Loire-Nieuport had been developing a two-seat dive bomber, the Nieuport 140, for the Aéronautique Navale, the aviation arm of the French Navy. It was renamed Loire-Nieuport LN.140 after the Nieuport company was absorbed into Loire-Nieuport, in 1933. In 1936, the development of the LN.140 was abandoned after two fatal accidents.
Development efforts were then concentrated on the LN.40 project, which benefited from experience acquired with the LN.140, but was a new, and aerodynamically much more refined, design. In the second half of 1937 the LN.40 received government backing in the form of an order for a prototype, followed by orders for seven production aircraft destined for the aircraft carrier Béarn and three more for operational evaluation by the air force. The French Air Force had expressed interest in a land-based derivative of the LN.40, called LN.41. Initially it wanted to acquire 184 of these, enough to equip six dive bomber squadrons of 18 aircraft each, plus a reserve.
The prototype made its first flight on 6 July 1938, flown by Pierre Nadot. A second prototype followed in January 1939, and a third in May. Four of the pre-series LN.40 dive bombers were delivered in July, and the aircraft was declared fit for carrier operations following successful tests aboard the Béarn. Nevertheless, the flight tests were not entirely successful. The original dive brake was found ineffective and was removed in favour of extending the landing gear to act as an aerodynamic brake. It was found that the LN.40 could not fly dive bombing missions with full fuel tanks. The chief of staff of the air force, general Joseph Vuillemin, declared that the aircraft was too slow, and requested the development of a fast dive bomber for the air force, which became the Loire-Nieuport LN.42.
In July 1939, Loire-Nieuport had received orders for 36 LN.401 production dive bombers for the Navy, and 36 LN.411 aircraft for the Army. The LN.411 was almost identical to the LN.401, except for the deletion of the arrestor hook, the wing folding mechanism and the emergency floatation devices. The first LN.411s were delivered in September, in which month the air force ordered 270 more. But in October general Vuillemin refused to accept these aircraft, and the small number of LN.411 were sent to the Navy.
Loire-Nieuport also attempted to develop a faster version, by substituting an 860 hp Hispano-Suiza 12Y31 for the 690 hp Hispano-Suiza 12Xcrs engine of the LN.401. This LN.402 made its first flight on 18 November 1939. Further development of the LN.402 was prevented by the French defeat in May 1940 and the following armistice.
Two escadrilles of the Aéronautique Navale, designated as AB2 and AB4, converted to the LN.401/411 between late 1939 and early 1940. AB2 received its first LN.401 dive bombers in November 1939, while AB4 received the LN.411 dive bombers rejected by the air force from February 1940 onwards. The dive bombers rejected by the Army were a welcome reinforcement to the Navy, as production of the LN.401 was very slow.
Both used the type in combat during the Battle of France in ground attacks against German motorized columns and troop concentrations. Losses were heavy. One attack on 19 May resulted in the loss of 10 out of 20 dive bombers committed, while seven of the survivors were sufficiently damaged to be no longer airworthy. The production rate of the LN.401 and LN.411 was insufficient to replace losses, and in about a month of fighting the two squadrons lost two-thirds of their strength.
- Pre-production aircraft. Only seven pre-production examples were built.
- Proposed land based version of the LN.40
- Single-seat naval dive-bomber aircraft. Only 15 production examples were built.
- Land-based variant of the 401, with all naval-specific equipment removed; 45 built.
- Single example fitted with the more powerful Hispano-Suiza 12Y engine.
Data from War Planes of the Second World War: Volume Eight Bombers and Reconnaissance Aircraft
- Crew: 1
- Length: 9.747 m (31 ft 11 3⁄4 in)
- Wingspan: 14.00 m (45 ft 11 in)
- Height: 3.499 m (11 ft 5 3⁄4 in)
- Wing area: 24.75 m2 (266.4 sq ft)
- Empty weight: 2,243 kg (4,945 lb)
- Gross weight: 2,835 kg (6,250 lb)
- Powerplant: 1 × Hispano-Suiza 12Xcrs liquid-cooled V12 engine, 510 kW (690 hp) at 4,000 m (13,100 ft)
- Maximum speed: 380 km/h; 205 kn (236 mph) at 4,000 m (13,100 ft)
- Cruise speed: 299 km/h; 162 kn (186 mph) (economical cruise)
- Range: 1,201 km; 648 nmi (746 mi)
- Service ceiling: 9,500 m (31,168 ft)
- Guns: 1 × Hispano-Suiza HS.404 20 mm cannon and 2 × 7.5 mm Darne machine guns
- Bombs: 1 × 225 kg (500 lb) or 165 kg 330 lb) bomb, or 10 × 10 kg (22 lb) or 15 kg (33 lb) bombs
- Léonard Rosenthal, Alain Marchand, Michel Borget and Michel Bénichou, Nieuport 1909-1950, Editions Lariviere, France 1997.
- Taylor and Alexander 1969, pp. 105-106.
- Smith, Peter C. Dive Bomber!. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1982. ISBN 978-0-87021-930-6.
- Green 1967, p. 47.
- Green, William. War Planes of the Second World War: Volume Eight Bombers and Reconnaissance Aircraft. London: Macdonald, 1967.
- Morareau, Lucien. Les aéronefs de l'aviation maritime (1910-1942). Paris: ARDHAN, 2002. ISBN 2-913344-04-6.
- Taylor, John W. R. and Jean Alexander. Combat Aircraft of the World. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1969. ISBN 0-71810-564-8.
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