Welcome everyone, in this suggestion we’ll be having a look at the Martin 187 Baltimore in French service.
The Martin 187 was a further development of the earlier Martin 167, a type that France already operated. With the idea of war in mind, the French Air Force was looking to further improve its capabilities and as such was very interested in the development of the Martin 187. As such, they placed an order for 400 Martin 187s before the first prototype was even built. These aircraft were meant to eventually replace the Martin 167s that were already in service.
Unfortunately, none of these aircraft would find their way into French service before the armistice of 1940. Britain subsequently took over the French order and accepted the aircraft into service under the name “Baltimore”. 1575 Baltimores would be produced for the RAF, who used them extensively in various theaters of the war (A Baltimore suggestion for the British would as such very much make sense).
The British would also provide these aircraft to allied nations. Italy, after the armistice, received a squadron of Baltimores which they mostly used in Yugoslavia. France also would receive a few of these aircraft, hence this suggestion.
France, more specifically, the Free French forces in Syria and Lebanon received 14 Baltimores in 1943. These initial aircraft were Mk. III and Mk. IIIA models, however, in 1944 they were replaced by 14 Mk.V models. These planes would form the “Picardie” squadron of the Free French Air Force.
The missions of these aircraft were to patrol Syrian territory, on the Turkish border and the maritime coast of Lebanon, while also serving in a secondary liaison mission.
In 1946 the aircraft were moved from the aforementioned areas to French North Africa, where they were stationed in Blida, Algeria. That same year, the group was dissolved and the aircraft were moved to Boufarik. Here they served for another 3 years purely as VIP transport aircraft. In 1949 the remaining vehicles were finally fully retired.
The aircraft itself was a monoplane medium bomber, powered by 2 Wright R 2600 -29 “Double Cyclone” engines, each of which having 1700 - 1900 hp. This formidable powerplant gave the vehicle rather impressive flight performance. It had a top speed of 488 km/h and an operational ceiling of 7300m. It was a fair bit heavier than its predecessor, with an empty mass of around 7300 kg. This increased mass coupled with an unchanged wing from the Martin 167F did result in fairly heavy wing loading, which in turn made for a high take-off and landing speed. This seemed to have been an especially large concern for the Italians who lost a good deal of their aircraft in take-off and landing accidents.
The Baltimore’s unique tall and slender design allowed for some extra flexibility when it came to the suspended armament. The nominal bomb-load was said to be 907 kg, but it could be expanded all the way to a maximum load of 1500 kg.
Defensive armament consisted of a single turret mounted in a dorsal position. This turret was armed with 2x 12.7mm Browning machine guns. Additionally (and curiously), the Baltimore was also occasionally outfitted with 4x fixed 7.7mm machine guns that fired towards the rear (see image below).
Offensive armament for the vehicle consisted of 4x 12.7mm Browning machine guns which were mounted in the wings, outwards of the engines.
- Crew: 4
- Wingspan: 18.69 m
- Length: 14.78 m
- Height: 5.41 m
- Wing surface: 50 m²
- Wing loading: 226 kg/m²
- Empty mass: 7,253 kg
- Total mass: 10,900 kg
- Maximum speed: 488 km/h at 3,500 m
- Cruising speed: 360 km/h
- Range: 1,577 km
- Operational ceiling : 7,300 m
- 4x 12.7mm Browning machine guns
- 2x 12.7mm Browning machine guns in dorsal turret
- 4x fixed 7.7mm machine guns firing rearwards
- Up to 907 kg of bombs (some sources say 1500 kg, but this is hard to confirm)
Given its large production number and extensive service record, I feel like the Baltimore is an aircraft that needs to come to the game eventually. The British most definitely need to receive it, but seeing as Both the French and Italians have also used the vehicle, it would only be fair for them to also receive it. The aircraft would be welcome addition to both ground and air battles, where it could surprise its enemies with its potent armament. For France, this aircraft could also be a premium, serving to make up for the French DB-7 that still has not come to the French tree.