Arsenal VG 33


Among the numerous projects for combat aircraft developed in France in the years immediately prior to the conflict, those designed by the Arsenal de I'Aeronautique beginning in 1936, stand out from the rest. The aim was to develop a monoplane fighter of rather modest size and weight, and several prototypes were prepared. Among these, the VG-33 was the only one to go into production, on the basis of an order that foresaw the completion of no fewer than 820. In practice, however, at the time of the German invasion, only 160 were on the assembly line in various stages of completion and only a dozen or so were ready to fly. During official flight testing, the performance of this small, all-wood fighter proved to be admirable, in spite of the rather limited power (860 hp) of its engine, especially in terms of speed, at times reaching 347 mph (558 km/h).

The VG-33 derived directly from the VG-30 model, the first of the series. This project, presented in mock-up form in the summer of 1936, made its maiden flight at Villacoublay on October 1, 1938, and proved to be faster than the Morane Saulnier M.S.405. The development phase continued with the designing of the VG-31 model, characterized by reduced wing surface area, and of the VG-32, with a return to the original wing size and in which it was planned to install an American Allison V-1710-C15 engine, generating 1,054 hp (786 kw) and fitted with a supercharger. These prototypes were followed by the first VG-33, marked by a return to the original Hispano-Suiza 12Y 31 engine. The aircraft was tested in flight in the spring of 1939, and official tests began on August 11. The Arsenal fighter was a low-wing, single-seater aircraft with retractable landing gear. It was quite light and compact, but heavily armed with a 20 mm cannon and four 7.5 mm (0.295 in) machine guns in the wings.

An Arsenal VG-33 of the Armee de l'Air 1940


While production of the VG-33 was launched at the Chantiers Adro-Maritimes de la Seine at Sartrouville, Arsenal went ahead with, the development phase of the project, with the aim of improving its potential still further. In the spring of 1940, a prototype appeared, designated VG-34 and provided with a 910 hp Hispano-Suiza engine: this aircraft reached a maximum speed of 327 n (575 km/h) at an altitude of 20,395 ft (6,200 m). The subsequent VG-35 prototype was characterized by even more powerful engine, while the radiator and landing gear of the VG-36 w modified. The final model was the VG-39, provided with a 1,280 hp (955 kw) Hispano-Suiza 12Z engine and characterized by its redesigned wing, capable of carrying armament consisting of six mach guns. Production programs were also prepared for this variant which was to be powered by a 1,600 hp (1194 kw) engine in the final series. The German invasion put a stop to the project. 

Specifications (Arsenal VG-33)

Type: Single Seat Fighter

Arsenal de I'Aeronautique

Arsenal de I'Aeronautique

One 860 hp (642 kw) Hispano-Suiza 12Y 31 12-cylinder inverted Vee, liquid cooled, piston engine.

Maximum speed 347 mph (558 km/h) at 17,060 ft (5200 m); service ceiling 36,090 ft (11000 m).

745 miles (1200 km) with internal fuel stores.

Empty 4,520 lbs (2050 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 5,856 lbs (2656 kg).

Span 35 ft 5 in (10.80 m); length 28 ft 4 in (8.64 m); height 10 ft 10 in (3.30 m); wing area 150.64 sq ft (14.00 sq m).

One 20 mm Hispano-Suiza cannon firing through the propeller hub, plus four 7.5 mm (0.295 in) MAC machine guns.

VG-30 (prototype), VG-31 (reduced wing size), VG-32 (original wing size and an Allison engine), VG-33 (production). The VG-34, 35 and 36 were prototypes with more powerful engines and the VG-39bis would have been a production model with a 1600 hp (1194 kw) Hispano-Suiza 12Z engine. But these plans never materialized.