Arsenal VG-33: Wikis


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Role Fighter
Manufacturer Arsenal de l'Aéronautique
Designed by Jean Gaultier
First flight October 1938
Introduction 1940
Primary users Armée de l'Air
Number built <50

The Arsenal VG-33 was a fast French light fighter aircraft which arrived too late to see service in the Armée de l'Air during the Battle of France.



The original specification that led to the VG series was offered in 1936 in order to quickly raise the number of modern aircraft in French service, by supplying a "light fighter" of wooden construction that could be built rapidly in large numbers. The contract resulted in three designs, the VG-30, the Caudron C.714 and the Bloch MB-700. Prototypes of all three were ordered.

Named for engineer Vernisse (V) and designer Jean Gaultier (G), the VG-30 was all wooden in construction, using plywood over stringers in a semi-monocoque construction. The layout was conventional, a low-wing monoplane that bore a striking resemblance to the later Italian Macchi C.202. Armament consisted of a 20 mm Hispano-Suiza HS.404 cannon firing through the propeller hub, and four 7.5 mm MAC 1934 M39 drum-fed machine guns, two in each wing. The design was supposed to be powered by the Potez 12Dc flat-12 air-cooled inline engine, but this ran into development problems. The prototype was then fitted with a Hispano-Suiza 12Xcrs instead, and flew in this form in October 1938.

In order to find some solution to the engine problem, the VG-31 was to use the 632 kW (860 hp) Hispano-Suiza 12Y-31 and the VG-32 the Allison V-1710C-15. The VG-31 flew in 1939 and proved to have excellent performance. The prototype VG-32 was completed in 1940 and awaiting its test flight when it was captured by the advancing German forces at Villacoublay.

The VG-33 was a modified version of the VG-31 using the same 12Y-31, and first flew on April 25, 1939. It had surprisingly good performance of 560 km/h, and was ordered into production with a contract for 220 aircraft in September, later raised to 1,000. Production didn't take long to start, but most of the airframes never received engines and sat at the factory when it fell to the Germans.

Further developments continued while the VG-33 production started. The VG-34 mounted the newer 688 kW (935 hp) 12Y-45, the VG-36 used the 735 kW (1,000 hp) 12Y-51 originally intended for the VG-35, and introduced a new streamlined radiator bath that looked similar to the one on the P-51 Mustang. Single prototypes of all three were built and flown in early 1940. The VG-37 was an extended-range version of the -36, while the VG-38 was to have used the 12Y-77, but neither was built.

The last in the series was the VG-39, originally powered by the new 882 kW (1,200 hp) 12Y-89 using an extension shaft on the propeller to streamline the nose profile, giving the plane an excellent speed of 625 km/h (388 mph) even when loaded down with two more machine guns. The actual production version was to have been the VG-39bis, powered by the new 1177 kW (1,600 hp) Hispano-Suiza 12Z-17, using the streamlined radiator intake design from the VG-36.

Two more designs were projected, both based on the VG-39bis airframe. The VG-40 mounted the Rolls-Royce Merlin III and the VG-50 the newer Allison V-1710-39. Neither was built.

Operational history

Somewhat underarmed compared to the Messerschmitt Bf 109, the VG-33 matched it in speed and manoeuvrability and was somewhat faster than the Dewoitine D.520. In larger quantities, this plane could have shown the Luftwaffe a rough time, but as was the case for most French planes, production problems plagued the VG-33 such that only 160 aircraft were close to completion before the Armistice, with just 19 of 40 produced (?) actually taken on by the Armée de l'Air. Just two machines ever flew in an active group, the piecemeal GC 1/55 which began life on June 18 and conducted missions for just a week. After the fall of France twelve VG-33s were confiscated by the Luftwaffe, perhaps for fighter training.


  • VG-30 - The original powerplant was the Potez#Engines|Potez 12Dc flat-12 air-cooled inline engine, but the prototype was fitted with a Hispano-Suiza 12Xcrs, and flew in this form in October 1938
  • VG-31 - Hispano-Suiza 12Y-31 powered prototype
  • VG-32 - Allison V-1710C-15 powered prototype
  • VG-33 - First production model with Hispano-Suiza 12Y-31 engine (160 near completion at Fall of France. Unknown number completed.)
  • VG-34 - 697 kW (935 hp) Hispano-Suiza 12Y-45 engine. 360 mph (600 km/h) Prototype only.
  • VG-36 - 746 kW (1,000 hp) Hispano-Suiza 12Y-51 engine. Prototype only.
  • VG-37 - Extended-range version of the VG-36, not built.
  • VG-38 - projected for Hispano-Suiza 12Y-77 engine, not built.
  • VG-39 - 954 kW (1,280 hp) Hispano-Suiza 89ter engine. 393 mph (655 km/h). 6 7.5 mm MAC 1934 machine guns. Prototype only.
  • VG-39bis - proposed production version powered by a Hispano-Suiza 12Z-17.
  • VG-40 - projected variant powered by a Rolls Royce Merlin III.
  • VG-50 - projected variant powered by a Allison V-1710-39.



Specifications (VG-33)

Data from {name of first source}

General characteristics

  • Crew: one, pilot
  • Length: 8.55 m (28 ft 0 in)
  • Wingspan: 10.8 m (35 ft 3 in)
  • Height: 3.31 m (10 ft 10 in)
  • Wing area: 150.7 m² (14 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 2,050 kg (4,519 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 2,655 kg (5,853 lb)
  • Powerplant:Hispano-Suiza 12Y31 supercharged liquid-cooled 60° V12 engine, 641 kW (860 hp)






  • Breffort, Dominique & Jouineau, André. French Aircraft from 1939 to 1942, Volume 1: from Amiot to Curtiss. Paris, France: Histoire & Collections, 2004. ISBN 2-915239-23-1.
  • Brindley, John F. French Fighters of World War II, Volume One. Windsor, Berkshire, UK: Hylton Lacy Publishers Ltd., 1971. ISBN 0-85064-015-6.
  • Green, William. War Planes of the Second World War, Fighters, Volume One. London: Macdonald & Co.(Publishers) Ltd., 1960. ISBN 0-356-01445-2.
  • Pelletier, Alain. French Fighters of World War II in Action (Aircraft Number 180). Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 2002. ISBN 0-89747-440-6.
  • Weal, Elke C., Weal, John A., Barker, Richard F. Combat Aircraft of World War Two.

See also

Comparable aircraft

Related lists

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