version française

[home]  [general synopsis]  [preceding synopsis]  [forums]  [modelstories]  [library]  [links]

by Philippe Ballarini
translation Mike Leveillard

June 1940: were is the French Air Force ?

3. Facing the Luftwaffe and the flak.

In terms of quality and quantity, the Luftwaffe was more powerful. On May 10th 1940 they had 4500 airplanes against the French Air Force's 2176, which however did not include the 400 RAF airplanes based in France. More importantly than comparing the number of airplanes, two other factors must be kept in mind: the Luftwaffe had learned much from Douhet's lessons regarding the use of a large quantity of bombers. The Luftwaffe had been conceived for attack purposes, but the French Air Force could only wait for the onslaught without the possibilities on considering an efficient counter-attack since the 1938 plan had totally sacrifice the bombers. Less than ten modern bombers such as the LeO 451, would be available.

The experience gained by the German during the Spanish war would permit them to "fine tune" their doctrine in aerial warfare, whereas this doctrine was badly missing with the French Air Force. The French fighter pilots had received a formation described by some as ridiculous and dating back from the big war.
For the Reich, the decisive element was the use of the Luftwaffe in combined action with the ground troops. The principle was simple and formidable: the Luftwaffe opened the way for the tanks, followed by the troops. A dense and powerful anti-aircraft defense; the Flak, mounted on mobile vehicles in return protected the infantry and the tanks.

Faced with such innovative type of warfare, the chance of success by the Franco-Britannic high command was very slim, relying instead on the previous Great War principles. Adding to their "living in the past" mentality, was their traditional distrust of the French Air Force. On May 12 1940, the crew of a reconnaissance Potez 63 had spotted the vanguard force of the "Panzer" in the Ardennes. Their report, accurate and precise was ignored: no one believed it!

© aerostories, 2001

[ next page ]

88 mm Flak behind SdKfz 7 in a French village.

The Flak (Flugzeug Abwehr Kanone), anti-aircraft defense was mobile and omni present in all areas. It was one of the Wehrmacht principal assets during the French campaign. All units were equipped with anti-aircraft guns of miscellaneous caliber.

SdKfz 10/4 during the French campaign.