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Latécoère Late 298

late298

 

In the early 1930s, the Marine nationale (French navy) was looking to replace its aging Levasseur PL15 and Latécoère 290 torpedo seaplanes. The new aircraft had to be stable in flight, drop torpedoes, dive-bomb, and carry out long-range reconnaissance patrols. Late 298 was designed in the Bureau at the Latecoire plant in Toulouse in 1934. It had to meet the requirements of the task for a modern float torpedo carrier, issued by the fleet command a year earlier. It was assumed that this aircraft will replace Late 29.0.
 
The Laté 298 was a monoplane with large floats, metal structure, and a metal skin with some fabric-covered parts, powered by a Hispano-Suiza 12Ycrs inline engine that drove a Ratier variable-pitch propeller. The radiators were retractable and located below the wing roots. One pilot, one rear gunner, and one navigator/radio operator (who was carried only if required) operated the aircraft. Ordnance could be attached under the fuselage, with provision for a type 1926 DA 670 kg torpedo semi-recessed into the underside of the fuselage. The fuselage could not accommodate the desired 20-mm (0.79-in) Hispano-Suiza HS.9 cannon, leaving forward firing armament to consist of only two 7.5-mm (0.295-in) Darne machine guns in the wings. The rear gunner manned a single mobile weapon of the same type. Intended missions included torpedo bombing; horizontal or shallow dive bombing (with two bombs of up to 150 kg each); long-range reconnaissance (with extra 535 litre fuel tank); night reconnaissance; and smokescreen laying. In each of the floats there was a 260 liters fuel tank. The horizontal wing was all-metal, and the vertical fin had metal frames and wooden ribs, fabric covered. The floats were attached to the wings with N-shaped struts and paired struts to the fuselage.
 
The Aéronautique navale (naval aviation) authorities accepted the project for evaluation, and SILAT built the first prototype in Toulouse-Montraudan. The Late 298-01 was collected in the spring of 1936 and transported to Saint-la-Raur-de-la-Salanca, where tests were to be conducted on Lake Locate. Its maiden flight took place May 8, 1936 from St-Laurent-de-la-Salanque.
 
The plane flew 24 hours and 35 minutes on tests. Factory tests ended on September 24, 1936. During the tests a strut was installed between the two floats. It was preserved on all subsequent machines. On September 25, Late 298-01 flew to Saint-Raphael for official tests.
 
On June 22, 1938 Late 298-01 took to the air with a Ratier automatic prop. Equipped with an electrical control step, similar to that of the first production aircraft in Biskarossa. Fuselages and floats for them were manufactured in Montadran, and wings and tail fins in Angle near Bayonne.
 
On March 17, 1937, the French fleet ordered 36 seaplanes, 12 of which were to be distinguished by the folding of the outer sections of the wing for operation at the Commandan Test.
 
Since October 28, 1938, the Late 298-01 began to be used for retraining pilots in Saint-Raphael, where they were temporarily deployed by squadron T2. At the beginning of the next month, the personnel of the T1 squadron joined the retraining process.
 
Accordingly, on August 10, contracts were signed for 24 Late 298A aircraft without folding the wing and 12 Late 298B with folding of the outer sections of the wing.
 
 Late-298-01

 

A cantilever low-wing monoplane with an all-metal oval-section stressed-skin fuselage, production orders were placed for 177 Latecoère 298s in three variants. The first production Late 298A flew in October 29 in Biskarossa.
 
The first examples delivered to operational units, in January 1939, equipped Escadrille (Flight) T2, based in Cherbourg. Escadrille T1, based in Berre, adopted the type shortly thereafter, as did Escadrilles HB1 and HB2, which, while theoretically assigned to the seaplane carrier Commandant-Teste, never flew Latés - which were not designed for catapult launches - from the ship. Early in deployment, two fatal accidents revealed that the crews needed supplementary training to handle these modern highly wing-loaded aircraft. T3 received its seaplanes in September 1939 and T4 was so equipped in early 1940.

In early 1939 squadron HB1 received Late 298A before the appearance of the Late 298B with folding wings. The serial Late 298A was very close to the Late 298-01 except for the cockpit, redesigned to improve visibility. The production Late 298A was powered by a 656kW / 880 hp Hispano-Suiza 12Ycrs engine and had a crew of three accommodated under a new glazed canopy by comparison with the prototype.

 

 The 42 Latecoere 298Bs featured dual controls and folding wings for shipboard stowage. Armament comprised two fixed 7.5mm Darne wing guns and a third Darne machine-gun on a flexible mounting at the rear of the crew canopy.The Late 298B also provided for the deployment of a fourth crew member, an observer. Both modifications were carried by the TGPU / CERA torpedo carrier, on which it was possible to suspend an additional fuel tank with a capacity of 534 liters (for the so-called IIP reconnaissance with a flight range up to 2200 km) or a smoke device (for "task V" - cover for ships ) The armament could be supplemented with two GPU bomb detonators for 150 kg bombs (for "task II" -bombing) or nine holders for lighting missiles (for "task IV" - night reconnaissance).

 
The serial aircraft of the Late 298A type learned factory numbers from 1 up to 24, and Late 298 B numbers began with 25. On April 2, 1938, and a new order for 15 Late 298B (NN 37-51) and five Late 298D (NN 52-56), the last modification was similar to type B, but the wing did not fold. The designation Late 298C was assigned with modifications that were not implemented.
 
 Late-298-04
 
The next series of 25 Late 298D (NN957-81) was ordered on April 5, 1939, but the lack of Ratier propellers held back production and on August 29 it was decided to temporarily install two-blade wooden Xavier fixed pitch props. The use of this propeller forced to reduce the normal take-off weight from 4600 kg to 4,400 kg, and also to lay a ballast of 55 kg, attached to the second frames of both floats.
 
At the beginning of World War II, the French fleet had four squadrons armed with Late 298. These were the T1 in Berrre, T2 in Cherbourg, HB1 and HB2 aboard the Commandant Test. September 15, 1939 formed a squadron of TZ, which received the same type. By the beginning of the next month, the fleet had 53 seaplanes Late 298, another 28 were waiting for the delivery by the military. November 22, 1939 ordered an additional 65 aircraft.
 
With the declaration of war in 1939, T2 began to patrol the English Channel in an uneventful hunt for German submarines, but the unit would face the more substantial threat of German ground forces the next year. On May 19, the Armée de l’air headquarters of the Zone d’opérations aériennes Nord (Northern France air operations zone; ZOAN), overwhelmed by German pressure, requested help from the Aéronautique navale. The commander-in-chief of the Forces maritimes du Nord (Northern France naval forces) at first committed its naval dive-bombers to the ground battle, and, on May 23, ordered T2 to destroy an enemy armoured column “somewhere between Abbeville and Boulogne”. The headquarters officers of the Aéronautique navale tried to help stem the German invasion but were not necessarily well informed about modern air war and the capabilities of the naval aircraft under their command.
 

Despite the T2 commander’s protests that his aircraft were only equipped with anti-shipping bombs and his crews were not trained to attack ground targets, the order was confirmed – anything that might slow down the Germans was to be attempted. On the first sortie, the crews of the Laté 298s could not locate the target column, but one of the seaplanes was shot down by flak. Another four T2 Latés took off for a second attack on the same poorly defined target, and this time encountered nine Bf 110s of I./JG 27. Only one Laté made it back home. Even more desperate missions of this type were carried out by the crews of T2 and T3.

 

The 106 Latecoere 298Ds had dual controls and a fourth crew member, but fixed wings.
 
One Latecoere 298D was modified as a Latecoere 298E with an underfuselage reconnaissance gondola but was found unsatisfactory.
 
 Late-298-05
Laté 298E Obs. version with belly gondola, Laté 298D conv.

 

110 Late 298 of all versions had been built by 25 June 1940 and after the Armistice of June 1940, 30 single-control Latecoêre 298Fs were built for overseas use by the Vichy forces. The 298F had MAC instead of Darne weapons and two additional 7.7mm machine-guns for ventral 'under-tail' defence.

The first naval escadrilles to equip with the type were T2 at Saint-Raphael and T1 at Berre in February and

March 1939 respectively. Escadrilles HB1 and HB2 on the seaplane carrier Commandant Teste re-equipped with Late 298B in April and July the same year. From then on the type saw widespread service, flying overland in shallow dive-bombing attacks during the May-June 1940 'Blitzkrieg' on France and subsequently continuing to operate - mainly on reconnaissance missions - with both the Vichy and Free French forces. Several captured aircraft were used for liaison duties by the Germans.


Following Italy’s declaration of war on France, the Laté 298-equipped units were redirected towards the Mediterranean. Escadrilles T2 and HB2 engaged a few Italian naval targets, with little result, shortly before the Armistice came into effect. By then, most torpedo seaplanes had been evacuated to North Africa, with the exception of Escadrille T4, which had been training and remained in southern France.

According to Armistice terms, all French aircraft were grounded, but after the Royal Navy attack on the French fleet in Mers el-Kébir, maritime patrol off the North African coast became a regular duty for the crews. In spite of the Royal Navy attack, one Latécoère crew defected to British-held Malta in July 1940. The airmen joined the RAF, and their aircraft, repainted in RAF colours, was used operationally for reconnaissance and leaflet dropping. Most Latés saw little use during the Armistice period as several units were disbanded at German request. Vichy France sent Escadrille 1T (formerly T1) to the Levant States in summer 1941 to help fend off British and Free French forces, but the unit arrived too late and without the equipment to play a significant part in the fratricidal conflict before Syria and Lebanon fell.
The Operation Torch landings in North Africa did not mark the end of the Laté’s career, as it did for many other French aircraft types. The need to secure the new Allied stronghold in the Mediterranean forced the Marine nationale to use the Latés for coastal patrol, as a complement to other Allied types such as the Supermarine Walrus.

When German forces invaded southern France in November 1942, they captured 54 Laté 298s. The Italians expressed an interest in acquiring the seaplanes but did not receive them before surrendering to the Allies. The Germans, having evaluated two examples captured in 1940, planned to convert the 45 remaining airworthy Latés for use by Luftwaffe units. Machine guns, bomb racks, and radio sets were to be replaced by standard German equipment. A single converted example was tested in May 1944, but the project came to an abrupt end when in August the Allies landed in southern France, where the Latés were stationed.

After the war, the Aéronautique navale found itself in control of a large number and wide variety of seaplane and flying boat types, including Allied aircraft such as Consolidated Catalinas, Short Sunderlands, Supermarine Sea Otters, ex-Luftwaffe Dornier Do 24s, and even Japanese-built aircraft captured in French Indochina. The Latécoère 298 was assigned trainer duties with Escadrille 53.S before being phased out of service in 1951.

 

Variants:
Laté 298 Series - 1934 design, low-wing monoplane torpedo bomber
NB: Laté 298 design was a successor to the Laté 29, not a variant
Laté 298-01: 1936 prototype, 1 x 880 hp HS.12Ycrs1, 1 built
Laté 298-01 tests successful, float spreader bar added
Laté 298A: coastal patrol model, revised canopy, 24* built
* 24 x Laté 298A ordered in 1937, some sources claim 30 built
Laté 298B: folding wing version, crew inc. from 3 to 4, 42 built
Laté 298B for use on floatplane carrier Commandant Teste
Laté 298C: [Project] floatplane (but details unknown)
Laté 298D: as per Laté 298A but with Laté 298B wings, 75 built
Laté 298E: Obs. version with belly gondola, 1 x Laté 298D conv.
Laté 298F: 1942 simplified Laté 298D ordered for Vichy, 30 built
Laté 298D total of 75 built may also incl. Laté 298F production

 

Gallery

 

Spacifications:

 

Late 298 
Engine: 1 x HS 12 Ycrs, 630kW
Wingspan: 15.5 m / 50 ft 10 in
Length: 12.6 m / 41 ft 4 in
Height: 5.2 m / 17 ft 1 in
Wing area: 31.6 sq.m / 340.14 sq ft
Max take-off weight: 4123 kg / 9090 lb
Empty weight: 2360 kg / 5203 lb
Max. speed: 270 km/h / 168 mph
Cruise speed: 243 km/h / 151 mph
Range w/max.payload: 800 km / 497 miles
Armament: 3 machine-guns, 1700kg torpedo
Crew: 3
 
Late 298A 
Engine: l x Hispano-Suiza engine 12Ycrs-1, 880 hp
Wingspan: 15.50 m
Wing area: 31.60 sq.m
Length: 12.56 m
Height: 5.25 m
Gross weight: 4517 kg
Maximum speed: 286 km / h at 2500 m
Ceiling: 5100 m
Range: 1000 km
Armament: Three 7.5 mm machine guns
Bombload: 1 torpedo 670 or 500 kg of bombs
Crew:3

Late 298A Modified
Engine: l x Hispano-Suiza engine 12Ycrs-1, 880 hp
Wingspan: 15.50 m
Wing area: 31.60 sq.m
Length: 12.56 m
Height: 5.25 m
Empty weight: 3060 kg
Take-off weight: 4795 kg
Maximum speed: 290 km / h
Cruising speed: 245 km / h
Range: 2200 km
Rate of climb: 268 m / min 
Ceiling: 6500 m
Crew: 3
Armament: two fixed and one manual 7.5-mm Darne Mle 1933 mg
Bombload: one 670-kg Type 1926 DA torpedo or 500 kg bombs, or three depth charges, or nine flares.

Latecoère 298D  
Engine: l x Hispano-Suiza 12Ycrs-1, 656kW (880hp).
Propeller: 3-bladed variable-pitch
Span: 15.5m (50ft 10.25 in).
Wing area: 31.6 m2 (340 sq ft)
Airfoil: Clark CYH
Length: 12.56m (4lft 2.5in).
Height: 5.25 m (17 ft 1.75 in)
Empty weight: 3,057 kg (6,750 lb)
Max T/O weight: 4600kg (10,141 lb).
Maximum speed: 295 km/h (183 mph, 159 kn) at 2,500 m (8,202 ft)
Service ceiling: 6,397 m (21,325 ft)
Time to altitude: 1,000 m (3,281 ft) in 6 minutes 33 seconds
Range: 1,000 km (620 mi, 540 nmi)
Armament: 3 x 7.5-mm (0.295-in) Darne mg
Bombload: 1 x 670-kg (1,477-lb) torpedo, or 500 kg (1,102 lb) bombs, or 3 x depth bombs. 

Crew: 2 to 4, usually 3
 

 

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