Dassault MD 450 Ouragan

Dassault MD 450 Ouragan, formerly ´UQ´ of the French Air Force (c/n 320), exhibited in the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History in Brussels, Belgium; September 2016.

After the World War II, the French aviation industry has been through a really rough time. The German occupation not only frozen any domestic aircraft development, but also caused that many engineers and aviation workers lost their jobs, escaped the country or were deported to Germany and worked in factories there, or even sent to the prison camps. In May 1940, there were approximately 250,000 people working in the French aviation industry but only 40,000 after the fall of France.

Initially, the Vichy government made a few attempts to relaunch aircraft manufacturing and finally in July 1941 concluded an agreement with Germany on production of military aeroplanes (exclude fighters) for the German armed forces. In return, some aircraft could be made for domestic purposes, in 2:1 proportion – however the lack of raw materials and necessity of replace the previously manufactured aeroplanes with German-designed ones, caused a significant delays in production.

Although the French factories were manufacturing the German aircraft, they were usually pre-war designs, as Ju 52 or Me 108 in their latest variants. For obvious reasons, the Germans did not risk to produce any advance aeroplane in the occupied country, therefore causing the French aviation industry has stagnated at the about-1940 level.

In 1945, the French aviation industry was shortly faced with beginning of the jet era. It became clear that the re-established French Air Force were in need to acquire a modern jet fighter. And, in addition, the French authorities decided that it should be a domestically-designed and manufactured aircraft.

Marcel Bloch, an aviation engineer and industrialist, who just came back from Buchenwald concentration camp, managed to convince the military authorities that he was the right person to be assigned that challenging task. Despite his poor state of health, Bloch almost immediately started with creating a development team and re-establishing the aviation industry. He also changed his name to Bloch-Dassault (then, in 1949, to just Dassault), which was the nom de guerre used by his brother.

The first concept of new French fighter appeared already in October 1947 and two months later Dassault was granted a contract to build three prototypes. The works were launched next year and, to minimize the risk of failure, the design of new jet was created following a simple-light-effective idea.

The maiden flight of MD 450 01 prototype was performed on 28th February 1949, at Melun-Villaroche airfield. In August of the same year, after a successful evaluation flights of prototypes, the French military authorities have ordered a pre-production series of 12 aircraft. The first French jet-powered fighter aircraft, Dassault Ouragan (English: Hurricane) became a reality.

Serial production of Ouragan was launched in 1950, with the order for 150 aircraft placed by the French government. According to initial plan, there had to be approximately 850 fighters manufactured for the French Air Force but this number was then significantly reduced to 370, with appearance of another Dassault jet – Mystère IIC.

Finally, there were more than 560 Ouragans made until 1954, when their production was ceased. Of that number, more than 100 aircraft were exported to India and 75 to Israel. Later, in 1975, eighteen ex-Israeli fighters were sold to El Salvador. Although in France the Ouragans were retired as soon as in 1961, they were being used by the El Salvador Air Force until the mid-1980s and saw extensive combat during the Salvadorian Civil War.

In addition, between 1954 and 1957, the Ouragan was performing as a display aircraft for the French official military aerobatic team, Patrouille de France.

The aircraft was manufactured in two main variants: MD 450A, being powered by Hispano-Suiza Nene 102 engine and MD 450B, with Nene 104B. There was a reconnaissance variant in development, as well as another version modified for a rough-field operation, called Barougan. Due to a short operational life of Ouragan, they remained just at the prototype stage.

Today, the Dassault MD 450 Ouragan became a symbol of re-birth of the French aviation industry after the World War II, being the first jet aircraft entirely designed and manufactured in France.