The Breguet 693 AB2 two-seat attack bomber was one of the newer aircraft designs to be in service with the French Armée de l'Air during the Battle of France of 1940, and was a re-engined version of the Br 691, which had been developed from the Br 690 heavy fighter. After tests on the prototype Br 690 it had been ordered into production as the Br 691 AB2 (Assaut Bombardement - Biplace: Two-Seat Attack Bomber), powered by two Hispano-Suiza 14AB engines.
It soon became clear that these engines were unreliable, and Breguet decided to replace them with the Gnôme & Rhône 14M, a similar powered but more reliable engine. The 19th production Br 691 was equipped with the new engines and tested to prove that performance wouldn't suffer, making its maiden flight on 2 March 1940. Production then moved onto the newly redesignated Br 693.
The Breguet 693 was armed with three guns in the nose (one 20mm cannon and two 7.5mm machine guns), each angled down by 15 degrees to aid strafing. A small bomb bay replaced the navigator's position of the Br 690.
The Breguet 693 entered service with GBA I/54 and I/54 (GBA: Groupe de Bombardement d'Assaut), replacing the earlier Br 691. GBA I/51 and II/51 also received the Br 693 (operating them alongside the Potez 633), and by 10 May 1941 the Armée de l'Air had 19 Br 691s and 38 Br 693s in front line service.
The units flying the Breguet 693 suffered very heavy losses during the Battle of France. As ground attack aircraft they were exposed to heavy German anti-aircraft fire, and also suffered heavily at the hands of the Bf 109. The Breguet 693 made its combat debut on 12 May when twelve aircraft from GBA I/54 were sent to attack a German mechanized column near Tongeren. Eight were shot down by German flak over the column (some sources say six), two more aircraft were lost while attempting to return to base, and of the two that did make it back one was written off (most of the twenty four crewmen survived - three died during the attack and some of the survivors were badly wounded). GBA I/51 and II/51 made their combat debut on 20 May, after moving from Etampes. The last Breguet 693 missions were flown on 22 June, the same day as the Franco-German Armistice was signed.
As the fighting drew to a close the French attempted to fly as many aircraft as possible to North Africa, but only three Br 693s made the flight, and none were used by the Vichy Air Force in North Africa. In contrast GBA I/51 and I/54 in Metropolitan France continued to exist, replacing their Br 691s with Br 695s and retaining their Br 693s. In November 1942 the Germans occupied Vichy France, and the remaining Breguets were seized. Some had their engines removed for use in German aircraft, while others were passed on to the Italians, who used them as training aircraft.
Sources disagree on the number of Breguet 693s lost in combat during the course of around 500 sorties. Of the 224 produced 106 were delivered to the Armée de l'Air, and either 79 or 47 were lost before the Armistice (it is possible that the lower figure represents aircraft lost to enemy action, the higher figure total losses including accidental damage, or that the figure of 79 represents the total loses of the Br 691, 693 and 695).
Engine: Two Gnôme & Rhône 14M6/7 14-cylinder air-cooled radials
Power: 700hp each
Wing span: 50ft 6in (15.4m)
Length: 31ft 10in (9.7m)
Height: 10ft 6in (3.2m)
Empty Weight: 6,627lb (3,006kg)
Maximum Weight: 10,785lb (4,892kg)
Max Speed: 304mph (490km/h) at 16,404ft (5,000m)
Service Ceiling: 31,168ft (9,500m)
Range: 939 miles (1,350km)
Armament: Three fixed forward firing guns - one 20mm cannons and two 7.5mm machine guns, one rear-firing 7.5mm machine gun
Bomb-load: 882lb (400kg) in internal bomb bay