|BOMBER||Virtual Aircraft Museum / France / Amiot|
Developed from the Amiot 140, the Amiot 143 M5 was preferred by the French Air Ministry to the Amiot 142 (with its liquid-cooled engines) to meet a requirement for a Multiplace de Combat (Multi-seat combat aircraft).
The first flight of a 143 was made in August 1934. It was an all-metal cantilever high-wing monoplane with an enclosed pilot's cockpit, manually operated nose and dorsal gun turrets and a large glazed ventral 'balcony' housing the bomb-aimer's position forward and the ventral gunner's position at the rear. The large fixed divided-type undercarriage had wheel spats. The first batch of 50 aircraft was delivered in the winter of 1935-6 to Escadres GB 1/22 and GB 11/22 at Chartres; from aircraft number 31 the fuselage was slightly lengthened. Total production amounted to 138 aircraft. Normal bomb load was 900kg, with 1,600kg as the overload weight, of which the internal capacity was 800kg and the rest carried underwing. Defensive armament comprised a nose turret with a single 7.7mm Lewis gun, a dorsal turret with twin 7.7 mm Lewis guns and a further twin Lewis mounting in the ventral location. From 1941 onwards these were replaced by single MAC 7.5mm machine-guns in each position.
In August 1939 91 Amiot 143s were still in service with first-line Escadres, 29 with training units and six in storage. The 34å Escadre carried out a number of daylight reconnaissance sorties between the Vosges and the left bank of the Rhine during September 1939. The Amiots also carried out a number of night reconnaissance and leaflet-dropping missions up to the end of the year, reaching into Germany as far as Neustadt. In March 1940 Escadres 1/63 and 11/63 were withdrawn to North Africa to re-equip with Martin 167F bombers and their Amiot 143s were passed over to the GIB (training unit) at Marrakesh. Interestingly, ten wooden mockups of the Amiot 143 were deployed on French aerodromes at the beginning of the May 'Blitzkrieg' to deceive German bombers, while 30 more were under construction. Up to 10 May French night raiders had been carrying only leaflets, but from then on until the French surrender Amiot 143s dropped a total of 528 tonnes of bombs in night raids. However, Amiot 143s are best remembered for their heroic mission of 14 May 1940 when, with fighter escort, they attacked the heavily defended bridges at Sedan during daylight hours. The aircraft of the 34å and 38å Escadres bombed from an altitude of 800m. Four aircraft were lost in action and all the rest seriously damaged. Amiot 143s were subsequently used for transport and training duties by the Vichy French, except for a few impressed by the Germans.