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The Dewoitine D.520 was French fighter aircraft that entered service in early 1940, shortly after the beginning of World War II. Unlike theMorane-Saulnier M.S.406, which was at that time the most numerous fighter in the French Air Force, the Dewoitine D.520 came close to being a match for the latest German types, such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109. It was slower than the Bf 109E but superior in manoeuvrability.Because of a delayed production cycle, only a small number were available for combat with the Luftwaffe.
The D.520 was designed in response to a 1936 requirement from the French Air Force for a fast, modern fighter with a good climbing speed and an armament centred on a 20 mm cannon. At the time the most powerful V 12 liquid cooled engine available in France was the Hispano-Suiza 12Y, which was less powerful, but lighter, than contemporary engines such as the Rolls-Royce Merlin and Daimler-Benz DB 601. Other fighters were designed to meet the specifications but none of them entered service, or entered service in small numbers and too late to play a significant role during the Battle of France.In response to a specification for a new fighter promulgated by the French Air Ministry on 15 June 1936, work on the D.520 started in September of that year, at the private design firm led by Émile Dewoitine. The specifications called for a maximum speed of 500 km/h (310 mph) at 4,000 m (13,000 ft), the ability to climb to 8,000 m (26,000 ft) in less than fifteen minutes, with take-off and landing runs not exceeding 400 m (1,300 ft). The armament was to be two 7.5 mm (.295 in) machine gunsand one 20 mm Hispano-Suiza HS.9 cannon, or two HS.9 cannon.Dewoitine had been disappointed with the performance of his last design, the Dewoitine D.513, which was rejected by the French Air Force in favour of the Morane-Saulnier M.S.406, and decided to respond to the specifications with a design using the latest construction techniques and the most powerful available engine, the new 660 kW (890 hp) Hispano-Suiza 12Y-21 liquid-cooled engine. The first design was rejected by the French Air Ministry, which, after being impressed by the British Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire, then uprated the specifications to include a maximum speed requirement of 500 km/h (310 mph). In response, Dewoitine renamed the further development, the "D.520".In March 1937 the firm became part of a number of design-and-manufacturing pools, in this case SNCAM. Because of this and continued changes in the French Air Force's manufacturing programmes, work on the design of the D.520 was suspended throughout much of 1937, and it was not until January 1938 that a small number of draughtsmen started work on the first detailed drawings for the prototype.This trial model, D.520-01, powered by a Hispano-Suiza 12Y-21 temporarily driving a fixed-pitch, two-bladed wooden propeller, first flew on 2 October 1938, but only managed to reach 480 km/h (300 mph) in flight tests, and suffered from dangerously high engine temperatures. Most of the problem was judged to come from greater than expected drag from the underwing radiators, which exhausted across the upper wing surface, and these were replaced with a single radiator unit housed under the fuselage in a streamlined fairing.After minor damage in a landing accident, further modifications included changing the engine to a newer -29 model and incorporating exhaust ejectors for added thrust, along with a three-blade variable pitch propeller. These changes were enough to allow the aircraft to reach its design speed, achieving 530 km/h (330 mph). The maximum diving speed was 825 km/h (513 mph).
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