Loire-Nieuport L.N.40 / L.N.401 / L.N.411
|DIVE-BOMBER||Virtual Aircraft Museum / France / Loire-Nieuport|
The single-seat Loire-Nieuport 40 prototype dive-bomber made its first flight in June 1938. An inverted gull-wing monoplane developed from the Nieuport 140, it was intended for shipboard use and had folding wings. The main landing gear units retracted into underwing nacelles, and the lower half of the rudder divided vertically so that it opened in two sections which acted as dive brakes. The 225kg bomb was carried beneath the fuselage on a crutch which swung forward to ensure the weapon cleared the propeller when released in a dive. Official tests brought tail unit modifications, and elimination of the tail dive-brakes in favour of using the extended landing gear as a braking device. Six more L.N.40s were ordered, but by the time of delivery a further 36 had been requested by the French navy and the production version been rede-signated L.N.401. In the same year, 1939, the Arrmee de I'Air ordered 40-L.N.411 aircraft, which differed only by deletion of the wing folding and other specialised naval equipment.
Four pre-production L.N.401s flew with Escadrille AC.1 of the Aeronavale for training in mid-1939, and production aircraft entered service with Escadrilles AB.2 and'ABA The Armee de I'Air relinquished its L.N.411s in favour of the navy, and aircraft of this type re-equipped Escadrille AB.4 in April 1940. Between 10 May and 4 June virtually all available dive-bombers of this type were expended in attacks on the advancing German armies in northern France. The remnants were transferred to Hyeres in the south where, issued with some replacement aircraft from reserves, they carried out reconnaissance and naval escort duties against the Italians, making a night attack on 18 June on naval vessels in Imperia harbour. Surviving aircraft were flown to North Africa on 25 June, where they were subsequently put into store.
A total of 24 LN.401s and 411s was assembled from components by SNCASO at Chateauroux by March 1942. The aircraft were then flown to Hyeres, where 12 were seized by Axis forces in November 1942. The remainder had been taken to Bizerta-Karouba, where they were subsequently lost, along with earlier stored machines, in Allied air raids. Total production of both versions is believed to have slightly exceeded 100.
The L.N.402 was a one-off variant with a more powerful Hispano-Suiza 12Y-31 engine, and the L.N.42 had a new wing of snorter span and a 820kW Hispano-Suiza 12Y-51 engine. It had not made a proper test flight before being hidden from the occupying German forces, and finally flew at Toussus-le-Noble on 24 August 1945, only to be scrapped in 1947.