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Luftwaffe West: The Battle for France and the Low Countries (May 1940 - June 1940)

Luftwaffe West: The Battle for France and the Low Countries (May 1940 - June 1940)

After the the initial shock of the invasion, the Luftwaffe quickly established air supremacy (as opposed to air superiority) as the French air arm was on the verge of collapse. The French Air Force (Armee de l'Air) had only just begun to make the majority of bomber sorties; between June 5th and 9th, over 1,815 missions, of which 518 were by bombers, were flown. The number of sorties flown declined as losses were now becoming impossible to replace. The British Royal Air Force (RAF) attempted to divert the attention of the Luftwaffe with 660 sorties flown against targets over the Dunkirk area but losses were heavy; on June 21st alone 37 Bristol Blenheims were destroyed. After June 9th, French aerial resistance virtually ceased, some surviving aircraft withdrew to French North Africa. The Luftwaffe now 'ran riot'. Its attacks were focused on the direct and indirect support of the German Army (Wehrmacht). The Luftwaffe subjected lines of resistance to ferocious assault, which then quickly collapsed under armoured attack.

The Luftwaffe virtually destroyed the Armee de l'Air during the campaign and inflicted heavy losses on the RAF contingent that was deployed. It is estimated the French lost 1,274 aircraft during the campaign, the British suffered losses of 959 (477 fighters). The battle for France had cost the Luftwaffe 28% of its front line strength, some 1,428 aircraft destroyed (1,129 to enemy action, 299 in accidents). A further 488 were damaged (225 to enemy action, 263 in accidents), making a total of 36% of the Luftwaffe strength negatively affected. The campaign had been a spectacular success for the German air-arm.

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French Morane-Saulnier M.S.406 Fighter - Arme de l Air, 1re Escadrille de Chasse, Nimes, France, 1941 French Morane-Saulnier M.S.406 Fighter - Arme de l'Air, 1re Escadrille de Chasse, Nimes, France, 1941 (1:72 Scale)

The M.S.406 was a French Armee de l'Air fighter aircraft built by Morane-Saulnier starting in 1938. Numerically it was France's most important fighter during the opening stages of World War II. The type was generally free of problems but was largely under-powered, under-armed, as compared to the next generations of fighters appearing then.

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RAF Hawker Hurricane Fighter - No. 5 Squadron, France, 1940 RAF Hawker Hurricane Fighter - No. 5 Squadron, France, 1940 (1:72 Scale)

The Hawker Hurricane was the first monoplane to join the Royal Air Force as a fighter aircraft, capable of reaching speeds in excess of 300-mph in level flight. Often compared with the sleek-looking Supermarine Spitfire, the Hurricane, in actuality, shouldered the brunt of the fighting during the "Battle of Britain", equipping more than three-fifths of the RAF's Fighter Command squadrons.

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German Junkers Ju-87B Stuka Dive-Bomber - Stab III./Sturzkampfgeschwader 77, Caen, France, 1940 German Junkers Ju-87B Stuka Dive-Bomber - Stab III./Sturzkampfgeschwader 77, Caen, France, 1940 (1:72 Scale)

During the early to mid-stages of the Second World War, the Stuka (short for "sturzkampfflugzeug" or dive-bomber) struck terror in the hearts and minds of soldiers and civilians alike. The Stuka was a rugged machine, designed to swoop down and destroy its target using 500-lb bombs or tear into them using 37mm flak guns mounted underneath the wings.

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RAF Gloster Gladiator Mk. II Fighter - "B" Flight, No. 615 ("County of Surrey") Squadron, France, 1940 RAF Gloster Gladiator Mk. II Fighter - "B" Flight, No. 615 ("County of Surrey") Squadron, France, 1940 (1:72 Scale)

One of the only biplane fighters to have any measurable success in the Second World War, the Gloster Gladiator was the product of a bygone era combining with modernity for one last fling. The Gladiator was obsolete by September 1939, but it still had what it took to make a significant impact on history. Air Ministry specification F.7/30 realized (correctly) that future fighters were going to be faster and better armed.

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French Lior et Olivier LeO 45 Medium Bomber French Lior et Olivier LeO 45 Medium Bomber (1:144 Scale)

The Lior-et-Olivier LeO 45 was a French medium bomber used during World War II. It was a low-wing monoplane, all metal in construction, equipped with a retractable undercarriage and powered by two 1,060 hp Gnome-Rhne 14N engines.

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French Bloch M.B.152 Fighter - 2nd Lt. Maurin, 4th Squadron, Fighter Group GC II/1, Couvron, France, May 1940 French Bloch MB.210 Medium Bomber (1:144 Scale)

The MB.210 and MB.211 were the successors of the French Bloch MB.200 bomber built by Societ des Avions Marcel Bloch in the 1930s and differed primarily in being low wing monoplanes rather than high wing monoplanes.

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French Dewoitine D.520 Fighter - GC II/7, France, May 1940 French Dewoitine D.520 Fighter - GC II/7, France, May 1940 (1:72 Scale)

The Dewoitine D.520 was perhaps the best fighter available to the Armee de l'Air during the German invasion of France in May 1940. It was yet another example of a combat aircraft which flew on both sides during World War II.

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RAF Westland Lysander Mk. II Reconnaissance Aircraft - No. 13 Squadron, 1939 RAF Westland Lysander Mk. II Reconnaissance Aircraft - No. 13 Squadron, 1939 (1:72 Scale)

The Lysander is a two-seat reconnaissance and artillery spotting monoplane defined by Specification A 39/34 in response to Operational Requirement OR. 18. Three squadrons of Mk. Is and three of Mk. Us equipped during 1938/39 moved to France with BEF in 1939; about 50 Westland Lysanders were shot down and 30 destroyed on the ground in May 1940.

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RAF Avro Anson Mk. I Multi-Role Aircraft - No. 500 Squadron, RAF Detling, England, 1940 RAF Avro Anson Mk. I Multi-Role Aircraft - No. 500 Squadron, RAF Detling, England, 1940 (1:72 Scale)

The Avro Anson is a British twin-engine, multi-role aircraft that served with the Royal Air Force, Fleet Air Arm, Royal Canadian Air Force and numerous other air forces before, during, and after the Second World War.

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RAF Avro Anson Mk. I Multi-Role Aircraft - No. 217 Squadron, RAF Coastal Command RAF Avro Anson Mk. I Multi-Role Aircraft - No. 217 Squadron, RAF Coastal Command (1:72 Scale)

The Avro Anson is a British twin-engine, multi-role aircraft that served with the Royal Air Force, Fleet Air Arm, Royal Canadian Air Force and numerous other air forces before, during, and after the Second World War.

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