At the declaration
of war, the reconnaissance aviation is in an alarming state ...
The bulk of its endowment consists of outdated aircraft such as
117 , Potez
39 , Breguet
27 and Potez
25 for Observation or Bloch
MB131 and Potez
540 for the Reconnaissance.
The Potez 540 or Bloch MB131 quickly showed their limits, and faced with the first casualtys, they were forbidden to fly over the enemy lines before being completely removed from service.
637 were more modern, although sub-motorized, since
they were delivered from May 1939. In September 1939, they equipped
4 Reconnaissance groups. They were gradually replaced by the Potez
63-11 from November 1939. This aircraft, derived from
the Potez 637, was distinguished from the latter by a nose completely
glazed to receive an observer. Nearly 300 examplarys were in the
unit on 10 May 1940.
In March 1940, the
MB174 were delivered in units. These aircraft were particularly
successful with a maximum speed of 530km / h, which allowed them
to escape enemy fighters. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry realized
one of the first missions in command of this machines, on March
29, 1940. At the armisitice, only about 50 machines were delivered.
The crews of the reconnaissance groups suffered heavy casualtys during the campaign of France with nearly 240 killed. The missions were carried out far from friendly lines and often without the support of the fighter aviation. They were an easy prey for German fighters aircrafts