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BUSINESS ABROAD: France’s Fighter

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At Paris’ Le Bourget airfield last week, a jet interceptor, the Mystère IV, buzzed the field at 650 m.p.h. not more than 15 feet off the ground. A tiny two-seater, the Minijet, scooted up & down at 200 m.p.h. Loafing about the field were the Trident, an experimental, needle-nosed plane that the French hope will reach speeds up to Mach 1.6 (1,156 m.p.h. at sea level), and the triple-purpose Vautour (ground-support fighter, all-weather interceptor, light bomber), with expected speeds of 650-plus m.p.h.

The occasion was the 20th Annual International Aviation Salon, hailed by enthusiastic French journalists as the “French Farnborough.” It was a good show, but it was far from Britain’s Farnborough. In building big, fast planes, the French are admittedly two years behind the U.S. and England. The French aviation industry, hard hit by nationalization by the Front Populaire in 1937 and all but finished by the German occupation, has come back slowly since the war. One reason is that comparatively little government money has been spent on it. During the last five years, total air force expenditures have been under $2.5 billion, and the industry estimates that only a fourth of its present capacity is being used. Only 1,000 planes a year of all types are being manufactured. But the future looks brighter. NATO has ordered $86 million worth of Mystère IV interceptors; the U.S. has placed $30 million in offshore contracts for Republic Thunderjet and Thunderstreak air frames, and the British are trying out the Breguet doubledecker 117-passenger transports.

On their own, the French have developed some special purpose planes:

¶ Small jet trainers such as the 250-m.p.h. Minijet, powered by a French-developed 300-lbs. thrust Turbomeca engine, and Fleuret and Magister, powered by two 880-lbs. thrust Turbomeca engines, with 450-m.p.h. maximum speeds.

¶ The Hurel-Dubois 33, a two-engine, piston plane which, its makers claim, can ,take off in half the distance required for the DC-3, and carry comparable loads at only 41% of the DC-3’s operating cost.

¶ The Potez 75, a weird-looking antitank craft with a podlike body hanging between twin fuselages. It fires four guided missiles which unreel up to 1,968 yds. of wire in flight. By means of electrical impulses sent through the wire, a man in the cockpit, sitting at a stick similar to the pilot’s, guides the missiles.

Many of the new models have been produced by private aircraft companies, which have been gradually denationalizing the industry. Of the 60,000 workers in the aircraft and aircraft equipment industries, more than half are employed by private companies.

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