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Morane-Saulnier MS.406

9 Aug
2012

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Despite the fact that the Morane-Saulnier MS.406 was outclassed by more up-to-date potential adversaries even at the time of its introduction, it was this warplane that bore the brunt of the early fighting for the Armee de I’Air in the so-called ‘Phoney War’, and in response to the German invasion in May 1940.

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The outbreak of war in 1939 saw the French aircraft industry rush to re-equip the Armee de I’Air with more modern combat aircraft, of which the MS.406 was numerically the most important.

Outclassed during the Battle of France, the MS.406 was more successful in the hands of Finnish pilots fighting against Soviet forces.

The Armee de I’Air was created in April 1933 and at roughly the same time the French air ministry began to embrace the concepts of the modern monoplane fighter. In 1934 several official specifications were drawn up, one of the principal components being the creation of an advanced fighter to replace the Dewoitine D.500 series. Morane-Saulnier’s submission was a portly, cumbersome-looking monoplane with a braced tailplane, that


The prototype MS.405-01 was purchased on behalf of the French military in late 1936, by which time a second prototype had joined the development programme. This was the MS.405-02, and it first flew on 20 January 1937. Powered by an Hispano-Suiza 12Ycrs engine, this aircraft was used for a number of development trials but lasted only a few months, crashing in July 1937 and killing its pilot. Misfortune also descended upon the first prototype, which crashed in December 1937 while being test-flown by a Lithuanian pilot.

These misfortunes did not distract from the overall project, however, for by then the type had proven capable enough of meeting the original 1934 specification. In reality, the fact that the MS.405 did not have any real rivals resulted in the type emerging as a good but not spectacular contender for the original specification. What was more worrying for the Armee de I’Air was the fact that by 1937 the original specification was, in any case, outdated. Nevertheless, in March 1937 Morane-Saulnier received an official order for 15 pre-production MS.405 aircraft. The first of these pre-production aircraft, MS.405 No. 1, first flew on 3 February 1938. With such a significant loss of time since tl original specification had been issued, it small wonder that a French purchasii commission was in the United States jusi little later in 1938, negotiating for the pi chase of Curtiss Hawk H75 fighters.

received the designation MS.405. This designation covered the subsequent prototype and pre-production aircraft. The designation MS.406 was eventually given to the actual production aircraft.

Design work was essentially completed in early 1935, and construction of the prototype was completed during the summer of that year. Referred to as the MS.405-01, this first aircraft made its maiden flight on 8 August 1935. The design was found to be highly manoeuvrable, this trait eventually turning out to be one of the type’s few virtues when it was committed to combat. The aircraft was powered by a Hispano-Suiza 12Ygrs engine, and the famous 12Y series was duly to propel all subsequent French-built production models of the type.

Following initial testing, the MS.405-01 was passed to the air force’s test establishment in February 1936, where preliminary armament trials were carried out. The 12Y series engine was suitable for installation of a ‘moteur-canon’ – a 20-mm cannon was mounted within the space between the ‘V’ of the engine’s cylinders. The armament fit eventually added a 7.5-mm (0.295-in) machine-gun in each wing, although these proved virtually useless in combat.

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Of the 15 pre-production MS.405 a craft, MS.405 No. 4 was fitted with tl I lispano-Suiza 12Y31 engine of 860 1 (641 kW), this being the intended powe plant for the production MS.406. Tl MS.405 No. 12 featured a wing with a sir plified and lightened structure, which w subsequently adopted for the seri production aircraft. As a result of the initi MS.405 performing satisfactorily in its of cial trials, production orders for tl MS.406C. 1 series model were duly fort coming. This intention was officially stat< during 1936, but it was some time befo an actual contract was forthcomin Unfortunately for the Armee de I’Air particular and for France’s security in ge eral, the French aviation indust underwent considerable upheaval in tl 1930s. Whereas the prototype and pt production MS.405s had been built 1 Morane-Saulnier, the series productic MS.406s were intended to be built by bewildering array of nationalised entitle;

Production contracts were eventual issued for 955 MS.406s to be built by tl Societe Nationale de Constructioi Aeronautiques de I’Ouest (SNCAO), tl Societe Nationale de Constructioi Aeronautiques du Midi (SNCAM), and tl Societe Nationale de Constructioi Aeronautiques du Centre (SNCAC). Tl folly of having the MS.406 built in a nur ber of disparate factories was then realise and in January 1939 a new framework w put in place, with SNCAO to complete г the contracted MS.406s, and the other fa tories providing components. In additio the Morane-Saulnier company itself w contracted to build a batch of 90 fightei An additional eight examples were ah ordered from SNCAO. 

Neatly lined up at Rayak in Syria, the: MS.406s belong to GC 1/7 of the Armee с I’Air. The photograph was taken in tl spring of 1940, the unit having deploye to the Middle East from France during tt previous year. Nearest to the camera MS.406 No. 829. (S. H.A. A.)

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Above: Photographed in the summer of 1940, MS.406 No. 929 of the Armee de I’Air served during the Battle of France period with GC 111/6. It is seen here probably at Montpellier, where it might have subsequently flown with the locally based fighter training school (CIC). No. 929 went to Finland in 1942, and was later converted into a Morko-Morane as MSv-649, with the 1,100-hp (821-kW) Klimov M-105 engine. (S. H.A. A.)

Not surprising] this shambolic production system led manufacture being very slow at first. The first production MS.406 to leave the SNCAO factories initially flew in June 1938. Production of the MS.406 during 1938 as a whole was slow, but quickened during 1939, so that some 932 MS.406s were accepted during that year. It appears likely that all the contracted aircraft had reached the Armee de I’Air or French naval aviation by the time of the armistice in June 1940. However, delivery of many essentially complete MS.406s was seriously delayed due to shortages of certain vital components. The most serious example of this was the comparatively slow production rate of the Hispano-Suiza 12Y31 engine.

By the time that the Armee de l’Air started to receive its first MS.406s in late 1938, its design was obsolescent, and its performance and armament left much to be desired. Unfortunately, the MS.406 also included a curious feature: instead of a conventional fixed radiator installed somewhere within the fuselage contours, Morane-Saulnier elected to have the whole radiator assembly retractable. This was a clever idea in theory, but in practice it was operationally totally bankrupt.

Nevertheless, when it started to enter service with the Armee de l’Air, the MS.406 represented a huge step forward compared to the Dewoitine D.510, Loire 46 and Bleriot-SPAD 510 that were still in frontline service at the time.

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Prior to initial service entry in late 1938 and early 1939, a small number of pre-production MS.405s had performed service evaluation and familiarisation work, with a handful being made available to Groupe de Chasse (GC) 1/7 which partly detached to Reims in July 1938 for service evaluation of the new fighter. The first operational units to receive production MS.406s were GC 1/6 and GC 1/7.

As more MS.406s became available while 1939 wore on, so more units transitioned onto the type. These included GC 11/6 and GC II/7, while units of the 2nd and 3rd Escadres also started to receive MS.406s. Early production aircraft were fitted with an Hispano-Suiza S9 20-mm cannon firing through the spinner, but the more modern HS 404 20-mm cannon was progressively introduced during production from around March 1939 onwards.

By September 1939 it appears that 572

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Balanced on nose and wing at Chartres on 26 September 1939, this Armee de I’Air MS.406 displays the difficulties of landing on grass airfields, despite the MS.406’s commendably wide-track undercarriage. The aircraft is No. 169 (‘Matricule Militaire’ N489) of GC 111/6. (M. V. Lowe Collection)

MS.406s had been accepted, and the type was in action from the first. In fact the Armee de l’Air was placed on alert during August 1939, and several of the front-line units duly moved to advanced operating locations. Ten Groupes de Chasse were equipped with the MS.406 in Metropolitan France at the declaration of war, while a number of Moranes were stationed overseas, including those of GC 1/7 in Syria. Initial exchanges between German and Allied forces in the ‘Phoney War’ from September 1939 to early May 1940 were inconclusive. Many fighters were initially engaged in covering reconnaissance aircraft that penetrated only a short distance into enemy territory. The first combat between the MS.406 and German fighters took place on 10 September, GC 1/3 being the unit involved. The first combat loss was on 20 September, when a Morane of GC 1/3 was brought down by Bf 109s. The next day, a pilot of GC 1/3 was killed while baling out of his MS.406. The Moranes struck back on 22 September, when the first victory for the MS.406 was achieved by GC III/2, the victim being a reconnaissance Dornier Do 17P of 3.(F)/22. The first Bf 109s to be downed by MS.406s were claimed by GC 1/3, when two )Gr 152 Bf 109Ds were shot down on 24 September. These, and many successive encounters, confirmed that the MS.406 enjoyed great manoeuvrability, and could just about hold its own against the Bf 109D. However, when the Bf 109F started to appear in numbers over the Western Front, the MS.406’s inferiorities in speed and armament became very prominent. The Moranes also found it hard to intercept high and fast German reconnaissance aircraft.

The hammer blow finally fell on 10 May 1940, when German forces swept into the Low Countries, and it was not long before the Germans were advancing deep into France as well. At that point, the MS.406 was still of central importance to the Armee de l’Air. The much better Dewoitine D.520 was only just entering front-line service (with the first unit, GC 1/3, only just finishing its working up in the south of France at that time). Thus the MS.406 found itself in the thick of a very brutal major conflict, in which the Luftwaffe was numerically and technically stronger. On 10 May 1940, Armee de l’Air MS.406 units in France were GC III/1 at Norrent-Fontes in the Pas-de-Calais between Saint-Omer and Bethune, GC 1/2 at Toul-Ochey to the west of Nancy, GC II/2 at Laon-Chambry between Amiens and Reims, GC III/2 at Cambrai-Niergnies, GC III/3 at Beauvais-Tille east of Rouen, GC 1/6 at Marignane, GC II/6 at Anglure-Vouarces north-west of Troyes, GC 111/6 at Chissey in the lura, GC II/7 at Luxeuil north-west of Belfort, and GC 111/7 at Vitry-le-Frangois northwest of Saint-Dizier. With the exception of

GC 1/6 at Marignane in southern France, most units were within striking distance of the German drive into France.

The Moranes did not have to wait long to be in action. At just after 4 am on the morning of 10 May, Norrent-Fontes airfield was strafed by a single Junkers Ju 88, which was quickly followed by a force of KG 27’s Heinkel He Ills. To counter the threat, several GC III/1 MS.406s were rapidly airborne. Some of these were able to catch the Heinkels as they turned for home. The ensuing combat was a success for the Moranes, which despatched four of the bombers without loss. One of the victories was shared with a lone Bloch MB. 152 of GC 11/8. To complete a memorable action, the fleeing Ju 88 was caught after a long chase by another of GC Ill/l’s MS.406s, the first time that a Morane had succeeded against the fast German bomber. Unfortunately, GC III/l’s success in this action was not repeated elsewhere. GC 111/2 at Cambrai was caught on the ground at roughly the same time, and lost several Moranes in the ensuing bombing. Although the unit gained three victories later that day, a significant number of its aircraft were destroyed on the ground, or damaged in air combat. This was to be the story of the following few weeks of the air war, and GC III/l’s successful day on 10 May was achieved in part because there was only light fighter cover for the

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Some Armee de I’Air MS.406s came to grief before World War II began. This aircraft is No. 48 of GC 1/7, which had a major accident in April 1939. Visible ahead of the windscreen is the antiquated ring-and-bead sight, which was an auxiliary back-up to the almost as old-fashioned OPL 31 gunsight of the French MS.406. (M. V. Lowe Collection)

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Luftwaffe bombers during the initial actions. When the bombers were escorted more aggressively, particularly by Bf 109Es, the story was often rather different. The Moranes were simply not fast enough, well enough armed, or strong enough to sustain much battle damage without being put out of action. Added to these shortcomings was the redundant idea of the retractable radiator, and other factors such as their unheated guns.

Even before the defeat of France several units were in the process of converting from the Morane onto the far more capable D.520. The Moranes had to fight an increasingly hopeless campaign in which they were able to have no influence at all on the ground war that was going badly for the Allies from the very start. The MS.406 units soon had to rapidly retreat from their bases, as the German ground forces swept relentlessly forward. All too often the Moranes had to be used piecemeal, and because they operated without radar early warning, frequently a raid had taken place before a response could be mounted. The command structure within the French armed forces, in which the fighter forces were technically subordinate to the land armies, also caused operational problems. Approximately 400 MS.406s were lost during the Battle of France between 10 May and 25 June 1940. Roughly 150 of these were combat losses, with some 75 pilots killed. Around 100 were destroyed on airfields during Luftwaffe attacks. Some were shot down during hopeless ground-attack missions.

Nevertheless, the Moranes could sometimes fight back, and a number of pilots scored comparatively well on the type. Fifteen Armee de I’Air pilots are officially recognised as aces on the MS.406 (although some of these are shared victories), among them Edouard Le Nigen of GC III/3 and Robert Williame of GC 1/2. In addition to French pilots, some foreign nationals also flew with the Armee de I’Air during the Battle of France. I’hese included Polish and Czechoslovak pilots, and a number of Armee de I’Air MS.406s proudly sported red and white Polish insignia on their fuselage sides. Apart from the frontline Croupes de Chasse, some MS.406s operated as a part of local defence flights for the protection of vulnerable strategic targets such as factories and airfields. In addition, it is often forgotten that the French naval air arm, the Aeronautique Navale, also flew the MS.406 in combat during the Battle of France. The naval MS.406s were of course land based, and were mainly, if not all, ex-Armee de I’Air machines. The first were taken on charge in March 1940, and the type was principally used as a trainer. I Iowever, on 20 June the Escadrille AC5 was formed, initially with four MS.406s although its strength was quickly increased. It was a genuine fighter unit, and it mainly operated from the naval aviation base at Rochefort on the western coast of France. Its pilots attempted a number of interceptions of German bombers but without success, the worn-out Moranes being easily out-run by the faster German aircraft.

Hostilities ceased on 24/25 June to bring the Battle of France to its close with the capitulation of French forces. According to officially recognised figures, 186 victories (possibly 191) were achieved by the MS.406. Added to this was a long list of ‘probables’, which again illustrates the poor armament of the Morane. Nevertheless, the capitulation of French forces was not quite the end of the story for the French-operated Moranes. The Armistice of June 1940 led to the creation of a separate French government in the so-called unoccupied part of France that was away from the scenes of the fighting and rapid German advances in May and June 1940. With its base at Vichy, this potentially neutral but German-leaning regime was allowed by the Germans to have its own air force, the Armee de I’Air de I’Armistice. The principal fighter of this new organisation was the D.520, but for a time a number of MS.406s soldiered on following the German acceptance of flying by French pilots in the Vichy zone. This mainly involved training duties, although in the French overseas territories the Morane did continue to see limited active service. To begin with many of the Moranes in North Africa were stored, but the aircraft of GC 1/7 in Syria found themselves in a shooting war in May 1941 when an Allied campaign against the Vichy regime in that French possession began. Most of the Moranes were very tired by that time and had problems catching any Allied aircraft, although a small number of victories were credited over British aircraft. The Syrian campaign ended with total British victory in July 1941.

Vichy MS.406s also saw combat in Madagascar and French Indochina. The British invasion of the island of Madagascar off the east coast of Africa in May 1942 was mainly undertaken to ensure that the local Vichy administration did not allow Japan to use the strategically important island for its own forces. The air defence of the island was the responsibility of the Vichy Escadrille 565, equipped with 17 MS.406s that had been shipped to the island in late 1941 from North Africa. In fact, most of the Moranes were destroyed on the ground by the initial British attacks, and only one air-to-air combat between fighters involved some of the remaining Moranes. That was on 7 May, when three Moranes were shot down by Martlets of No. 881 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm. The battle for the island was won by Allied forces during November 1942. In French Indochina, the local air defence was again the responsibility of the MS.406. A single unit, Escadrille EC 2/595, was equipped with approximately 12 Moranes, shipped to Indochina in August or September 1939 and firstly based at Bach-Mai near Hanoi. It is possible that several other Moranes, intended for export to China, also found their way to the French. This allowed a second MS.406 unit, EC 2/596, to be created in October 1940. Franco-Japanese rela
tions broke down in September 1940, the Moranes of EC 2/595 subsequently having several combats with Japanese aircraft, an MS.406 shooting down a Japanese bomber during the so-called ‘Lang Son Incident’. A major conflict broke out between the Vichy French and Thailand (Siam) after this incident, the MS.406s being in the thick of this conflict as well, possibly scoring a handful of victories. Eventually the Japanese brokered a peace settlement between the Siamese and Vichy authorities, but this phase of the MS.406’s career terminated tragically when three examples from 2/595 were accidentally shot down by Japanese fighters on 27 January 1942.

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Following the fall of France, MS.406s also operated, albeit briefly, for Free French forces alongside the Allies. In fact the French presence with British forces began just before the Armistice. Faced with a shortage of fighters to protect the Suez Canal zone, the local British commander, General Wavell, asked for French assistance. This was provided by three MS.406s that were detached from GC 1/7 in Syria. When the Armistice of June 1940 came into effect, the three French pilots elected to remain with the British, and they formed the nucleus of a French fighter flight, eventually absorbed as ‘C’ Flight of No. 274 Squadron, RAF. The Moranes were are-painted with RAF insignia, and allocated British serials. After covering Royal Navy ships off Alexandria, the Moranes were moved to Palestine, where they protected petroleum interests from their base at Haifa. They were joined by an additional MS.406 in December 1940 when its GC 1/7 pilot defected to the Allied side. Following the campaign against the Vichy French in Syria already referred to, a number of GC I/7’s Moranes were discovered at Rayak by the victorious Allies in July 1941. These subsequently formed the nucleus of the air elements in Syria of GC 1 ‘Alsace’ of the Free French FAFL (Forces Aeriennes Franqaises Libres), but their service was short-lived because most were in a very poor condition.

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Despite its weaknesses, the MS.406 enjoyed considerable success in export markets, with several countries viewing the type as an affordable and straightforward ‘modern’ fighter. Both Lithuania and China placed orders, but the Lithuanian machines were not delivered because they were requisitioned for service with the Armee de l’Air. As previously explained, some at least of the MS.406s intended for China were eventually used by the Vichy French in French Indochina. However, it appears possible that China (or some other country) ordered another batch of 12 Moranes; the first of these is believed to have served with the French, and this last batch remains a considerable mystery. The number of MS.405s and production MS.406s that served with the French is theoretically at least 1,083. 

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Right: Some 21 mph (33 km/h) faster than the French machines, the D-3801 was a greatly improved development of the MS.406. This D-3801 displays several of the Swiss improvements, including the fixed underfuselage radiator, tailwheel, improved exhaust layout for its Saurer-built engine, armoured glass windscreen, and modified wing gun installation. These changes made the D-3801 into the best of the MS.406 variants, and typified some of the intended changes in the MS.410 modification programme. (M. V. Lowe Collection)

Below, left and right: The Musee de I’Air is the owner of this former Swiss D-3801, which is painted in spurious French markings. It is seen here during the 1960s or early 1970s, at the former Chalais-Meudon facility of the museum before the move was made to the Musee de I’Air’s current site at Le Bourget airfield. The machine betrays its Swiss origins with its prominent row of exhausts, typical of Swiss-built machines, (both John Batchelor)

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However, among these 1,083 aircraft are 30 that were allocated to another export customer, this being Poland – therefore it is possible that the French actually took on charge only surround the Polish order too. It appears that as many as 150 or 160 aircraft were requested for delivery to Poland from September 1939 onwards. LInfortunately, by that time Poland was at war with Germany and the USSR, but some examples might have been despatched by sea from France prior to Poland’s capitulation. The 30 machines originally intended for Poland were instead delivered to Turkey.

Like many other countries, Turkey found itself in possession of outdated fighters as the descent into war began in the late 1930s. Attempting to remain neutral, Turkey concluded agreements with Germany, Britain and France. Turkish rearmament eventually included the MS.406. Thirty examples (seemingly those originally intended for Poland) were shipped by sea from Marseille to Istanbul in November 1939, together with a pilot and several groundcrew. They were delivered without the engine-mounted cannon, and some of the aircraft seem to have been in better condition than others. I’en further MS.406s, plus a supply of cannon, were sent in March 1940. The 40 Turkish MS.406s operated with fighter companies (including the 43rd and 58th) within the 4th Fighter Regiment for much of their service. The type served effectively if unspectacularly in guaranteeing Turkish neutrality, alongside Turkish-operated Focke-Wulf Fw 190As and Spitfires. The MS.406s were retired from front-line use in mid-1943, but the survivors continued as trainers into 1945.

One export customer that eventually played an important part in the MS.406 story was Switzerland, which became a significant licence-producer and improver of the basic Morane. The Swiss originally ordered two MS.406s for evaluation. Built by Morane-Saulnier, the first arrived at Thun for evaluation on 11 September 1938. It was referred to as an MS.406H – H standing for helvetique (Swiss). The second example was delivered in April 1939. The Swiss testing found the MS.406 to be satisfactory, and the Swiss therefore applied for licences to build the type. Initially, a pre-production series of eight examples was ordered under the local designation D-3800, and these were built at Thun by A + С (Ateliers Federaux de Construction). A large Swiss production run ensued, 72 examples being subsequently built by FFA (Fabrique Federale d’Avions, later F+W) at Emmen. The D-3800 differed little in outward appearance to the French-built MS.406C. 1 variant and was powered by the Hispano-Suiza 12Y77 inline engine. Construction was completed in August 1940, but in late 1942 two more were built from spare parts. Some of these aircraft survived until 1954 when remaining examples were scrapped.

The Swiss-built D-3801 version incorporated various improvements, and was powered by a Saurer-built Hispano-Suiza 12Y51 engine, three factories built the D-3801: FFA, the Dornier-related Doflug at Altenrhein, and SWS at Schlieren. The first deliveries were apparently made in

December 1940. A total of 190 D-3801s was built and, alongside Swiss-operated Bf 109s, these Swiss-built Moranes were the backbone of Switzerland’s air defence during World War II. There were many incursions over Swiss airspace during the war, and several Luftwaffe aircraft were brought down by Swiss-built Moranes, including a Ju 52/3m on 6 June 1944.

The Swiss mobilisation was concluded in August 1945, but the Moranes continued in service and latterly operated mainly in ground-attack and training roles. Rather oddly, a further batch of D-3801s was built in 1947-48, to keep the FFA/F+W production lines open. Seventeen new-build D-3801 s were constructed, the final example being delivered in July 1948. The Swiss Moranes were finally retired from front-line units in 1954, although some soldiered on as trainers until 1959.

The MS.406 also had a career on the Axis side during World War II. After November 1942 when Vichy France was taken over by the Germans, many airworthy MS.406s fell into German hands. An unknown number was duly refurbished and used by the Luftwaffe as trainers, the two units most associated with these aircraft being JG 103 and JG 105. In addition, Italy also obtained a considerable quantity of ex-French aircraft as ‘war booty’, and among these were various MS.406s, a very small number being assimilated by combat units including the Regia Aeronautica’s 60th Gruppo at Lonate Pozzolo, but there is no record of their flvini; in combat.

One Axis state that did use the MS.406 in anger was Croatia. In total it appears that 46 MS.406s were delivered to the Croats after refurbishment in France, the first being received in July 1943. From late 1943 or early 1944 the first operational Jato of 12 aircraft was formed on the type, but the Croats considered the MS.406 to only be suitable for ground-attack missions. Nevertheless the MS.406, alongside some Fiat G.50bis, formed the home-based fighter force before receipt of the Bf 109G allowed the MS.406 to be relegated to training duties. At least three fell into the hands of the Yugoslav partisans, these aircraft then being used against Croat forces, scoring at least one victory.

The most important combat use of the MS.406 by an export operator was that of Finland, the first example arriving in the country in early February 1940. France initially promised 50 MS.406s, but 30 were actually supplied, the first unit to operate them being Lentolaivue 28 (LLv 28, later LeLv 28). The Moranes were in combat almost immediately, and a number of Soviet bombers were shot down in February 1940. The Winter War ended in

March 1940, by which time the Moranes had 14 aerial victories without loss.

In October 1940 Germany signed an agreement to supply Finland with materiel from the occupied countries, including 25 MS.406s. These arrived in several batches between late 1940/early 1941 and November 1941. By that time, Finland was involved in the Continuation War. LLv 28 was in action almost at once, with a Tupolev SB shot down on 25 June 1941. The Finns made further appeals for arms, and this time the Vichy authorities were forthcoming, delivering a further 32 MS.406s between July and October 1942. Finland thus received a total of 87 MS.406s, some being modified to MS.410 pattern with altered wing armament.

From August 1942 a second MS.406 group, LeLv 14, was equipped. This unit was essentially a reconnaissance organisation, but was involved in a considerable amount of combat. On 5 November LeLv 14 MS.406s scored their first victories, when two LaGG-3s were shot down. Several Finnish pilots scored well while flying the Morane, the top scorer being llrho Lehtovaara of LeLv 28 with 15 victories – making him the top MS.406 ace from any operator. LeLv 28 achieved 118 aerial victories in the two conflicts, but lost 17 pilots killed, and LeLv 14 scored 17 victories for the loss of two pilots killed. The Moranes were involved in combat against the Germans during the Lapland War between September 1944 and April 1945, but from December 1944 HLeLv 28 and TLeLv 14 (by which they were then flown) were amalgamated into a new group, HLeLv 21.

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The left-hand cockpit side wall of the Musee de I’Air’s D-3801 contains the throttle quadrant and other controls such as the radiator flap/shutter lever. Betraying its Swiss origins, this part of the aircraft has some wording in both French and German. (John Batchelor)

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The instrument panel of the MS.406 and its export models was unusually divided into three distinct sections. This is the left-hand part (above, left) of the instrumentation of the Musee de I’Air’s D-3801. The upper dial labelled ‘Essence’ is the fuel gauge, while the dials that carry the word ‘Huile’ refer to oil. The central part of the instrument panel of the Musee de I’Air’s D-3801 is shown

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The control column of the Musee de I’Air’s preserved D-3801. Also visible in this view is the corrugated sheet metal floor of the cockpit. (John Batchelor)

The Moranes themselves were also undergoing a transformation, resulting in the Morko-Morane. This involved the installation of a Soviet Klimov M-105 in place of the 12Y series engine. The first conversion flew on 4 February 1943 and some 41 Moranes were converted to Morko-Morane standard up to March 1945. The first conversions served during the final stages of the Continuation War, while the type also flew in the Lapland War with HLeLv 21. One Finnish pilot, Lars Llattinen, scored three victories while flying the Morko-Morane – the only aerial victories of the type. Morkd-Moranes subsequently soldiered on until finally withdrawn from service in 1948.

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Special thanks to the Ailes Anciennes Le Bourget restoration group, and to Christian Durand. Grateful thanks also to )ohn Batchelor for his assistance. A very special ‘thank you’ to Paul Tuckey of the 1PMS-L1K French Air Force Special Interest Group, for his advice and assistance.

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above, centre. The airspeed indicator dial is top left, and missing from the centre is the clock. The right-hand section (above, right) of the three-part instrument panel of the same aircraft, shows the armament controls and the round-counters (which carry the lettering ‘M’, ‘K’, and ‘M’), for the wing machine-guns and the engine-mounted cannon, (all John Batchelor)

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