- Yes, don’t care how
- Yes, as a researchable vehicle
- Yes, as a premium/event/squadron vehicle
Welcome, in this suggestion we’ll be having a look at a beautiful frontline bomber, the Amiot 351.
The Amiot 351 was one of two members of the Amiot 350 family of aircraft. The story of these aircraft starts in 1933 with the French government’s issuing of a request for a 3 crewed bomber. Amiot would respond to this by coming up with the 340. This aircraft was first shown in 1936 on the 15th Salon de l’Aéronautique in Paris, albeit in its civilian version, the Amiot 341. Unlike any other aircraft Amiot was known for until this point, the 340 featured smooth, rounded shapes in an all-round aerodynamic vehicle. It would first fly in 1937, powered by two Gnôme-Rhône N-0/1 engines, both providing about 920hp. However, the requirement for a three-crew bomber was withdrawn and replaced in favor of a request for a four-crew aircraft. Changes to the aircraft were planned to accommodate a fourth crew member, but before these were made the aircraft was used for a fairly interesting mission. In 1938 the Amiot 340 was used for a propaganda flight to Berlin. Goal of this was to convince Germany that France was using modern bombers and not outdated aircraft, a fact that was of course not entirely true, France at the time was still using many legacy types. After returning, the aircraft received the necessary modifications to fit 4 crew and would be redesignated Amiot 351.01. This aircraft would first take to the skies in January of 1939 and would fly until July 4th of the same year when it was lost in an accident. France had already put an order in for the aircraft in 1938, and finally on November third 1939 the first of the production aircraft would take to the skies. The lead-up and start of world war two had already caused multiple alterations of the order, supposedly the initial ordered number was 40, but that could have eventually skyrocketed as high as 880. Production of the aircraft was disappointingly slow, by January of 1940 only 5 examples (both 351 and 354 versions) had been accepted into service. By April this number had risen to 37, with up to 200 more in the final stages of construction, at that point most of those were already supposed to be finished and in service. Production difficulties were down to several factors, firstly, parts were produced in three separate locations and had to be brought together for assembly, which added a more complicated logistics chain. The aircraft design was also just completely new, resulting in production issues as the process still had to mature. It is estimated that somewhere around 80-90 aircraft were finished and delivered to the Air Force before the fall of France. Most of the aircraft delivered saw immediate service in the battle of France where they were used in various missions, including reconnaissance and close air support. The latter was done more often towards the latter stages of the battle of France, when the aircraft participated in daring attacks on German columns. Low numbers of aircraft and poor pilot training seriously hampered the efficiency of these missions though. 37 Amiot 350s would later also participate in a raid on Italian Sardinia, this attack was started from French North-Africa as the aircraft had already evacuated from the mainland at this point. By the time of the surrender, 13 aircraft had been lost to combat or accidents. The remaining aircraft would either be commandeered by Germany or were converted by the Vichy French for long-range liaison flights.
Now let’s look at some specifications of the vehicle. The Amiot 351 was a twin-engine frontline bomber powered by two Gnome-Rhône 14N-48 / Gnome-Rhône 14N-49 engines, providing 1060hp each. These engines were capable of propelling the vehicle to impressive speeds of up to 480km/h The vehicle aerodynamics were in fact so good that a special version was built for the Paris-New York race(designated Amiot 370), though this vehicle was never tested as the race was canceled. It had a long, high-mounted wing with the engines suspended in nacelles. The tail was one of the main differences between the 351 and 354, the 351 featured a tail with two oval vertical stabilizers mounted to the ends of the horizontal tailplane. The 354 on the other hand had a more traditional tail setup with a single vertical stabilizer. There is often a misconception that the 354 had improved engines over the 351, but this is actually untrue. Designation of the aircraft changed somewhere along its production and while at first the 354 was indeed intended to be an upengined version, the 354 designation was eventually just used for the traditional tail version of the 351, with both having the better N-48/49 engines. Being a bomber, the vehicle obviously also had an internal bomb bay. In the Amiot 350s this was divided into a forward and read bomb bay, both of which together could carry as much as 1200kg of bombs. As mentioned before, the crew of the aircraft consisted of 4 people: 1 pilot, 1 navigator/bomber, and 2 gunners. These 2 dedicated gunners manned 2 rear-facing guns, one at the back of the cockpit (dorsal position) and one at the bottom of the plane (ventral position). The gunner in the dorsal position was supposed to be equipped with a 20mm Hispano 404 cannon, but the setup of that cannon turned out to be particularly poor. The sights were so far back that the gunner was almost incapable of reloading the gun. A later contraption with 3x 7.5mm guns was also tested, but that offered even worse visibility than the 20mm setup. An elevated canopy was trialed in an attempt to improve visibility, but that had a rather negative impact on the flight characteristics of the aircraft. Eventually, a lot of aircraft just received a single 7.5mm machine gun in the dorsal position. The gunner in the ventral position always had a 7.5mm machine gun. The nose of the aircraft was at first intended to have a 7.5mm gun that could be operated by the bomber/navigator. This gun only ever appeared in the early 354s (and a single 351), as the navigators complained it restricted visibility from the nose too much. The gun was removed and a new nose made entirely out of plexiglass was used instead. The ability to fire forward was not entirely lost, as 2 machine guns were mounted in the wings, outside the engine nacelles. A proposal to up the amount of wing-mounted machine guns to 4 was later made and accepted, we have photo evidence of a maquette showing it, but it is unclear if any plane was produced like that.
Evolution of the nose on the Amiot 350s
Engines: 2x Gnome-Rhône 14N-48 / Gnome-Rhône 14N-49 engines (1060hp each - 2120hp combined)
Wingspan: 22.83 m
Length: 14.5 m
Height, 4 m
Empty weight: 4,735 kg
Gross weight: 11,324 kg
Maximum speed: 480 km/h
Range: 3500 km
Service ceiling: 10 000 m
Offensive machine guns:
- 2x 7.5mm machine guns, one in each wing. (later models only), possibly upgraded to 4x 7.5mm machine guns.
Defensive machine guns:
- Nose position: 1x 7.5mm machine gun (only mounted on 1 351)
- Ventral positon: 1x 7.5mm machine gun
- Dorsal position: 1x 20mm cannon OR 1x 7.5mm machine gun OR 3x 7.5mm machine gun OR 4x 7.5mm machine gun. (see spoilered tab below for images)
- Up to 1250kg of bombs in internal bomb bays in the following arrangements:
- 2x 500kg boms
- 6x 200kg bombs
- 10x 100kg bombs
- 20x 50kg bombs
- 80x 10kg bombs
The Amiot 351 is one of only a handful of modern pre-war French bomber designs. It is also a vehicle that actively participated in the battle of France and was somewhat mass-produced. As such I consider this to be a significant aircraft for France and one that should preferably go in the research tree. In a similar fashion to the LeO 451, the Amiot 350 series aircraft could also be divided into its two main production variants: the 351 and 354 (a suggestion for which will follow). A number of one-off prototypes is also available should a premium or event vehicle be desired (suggestions may also follow). In-game, this vehicle would behave like a typical fast frontline bomber, being able to quickly reach its targets, drop its bombs and return to base. The presence of a dedicated bomber will also give the vehicle access to a bomb sight which will allow players to place highly accurate bomb drops. It should be similarly useful in both air and ground modes where it can be used to destroy a variety of ground targets. It seems logical that this aircraft would precede the LeO 451s as it is somewhat less capable due to the lower maximum bomb load. All-in-all it is a good-looking, capable, and historically significant French frontline bomber, there are plenty of reasons to add it to the game, and I’m sure many French enthusiasts will rejoice when this vehicle becomes available.
Dorsal armament options:
4x 7.5mm Darne Mle 1933 mount
3x 7.5mm Darne mount:
3x 7.5mm MAC mount:
2x 7.5mm MAC mount:
1x 20mm Hispano HS.404 mount:
Evolution of the dorsal guns (1. early production models, 2. setup of 1940 Cazaux tests, 3. Amiot 351 production models of June 1940, 4. study of 1940):