|FIGHTER||Virtual Aircraft Museum / France / Loire|
In order to rectify the inadequate visibility from the cockpit suffered by the Loire 45, a major redesign was undertaken and yet another prototype was built as the Loire 46. This retained little more than a conceptual similarity to its predecessor. The wing centre section was more deeply "gulled", and the untapered wing leading and trailing edges gave place to tapered outboard leading edges and semi-elliptical trailing edges. The engine thrust line was lowered, the cockpit was moved farther aft, the rear fuselage was deepened and all tail surfaces were enlarged. Powered by an 880hp Gnome-Rhone 14Kcs engine, the Loire 46 flew on 1 September 1934. Re-engined with a 930hp Gnome-Rhone 14Kfs in February 1935, the Loire 46 demonstrated excellent handling characteristics, and a contract for five pre-series aircraft was followed by orders for 60 production aircraft. Armament comprised a quartet of wing-mounted 7.5mm MAC 1934 guns. The first production Loire 46 C1 was flown in February 1936, deliveries commencing in the following August to the 6e Escadre of the Armee de l'Air. The five pre-production examples were relinquished by the French Service and supplied to the Spanish Republican government between 5 and 7 September 1936. The last Loire 46 was delivered in July 1937, by which time its gull-winged configuration was manifestly obsolescent. Only three remained on the effective first line strength of the Armee de l'Air at the beginning of World War II.