Farman F.222

The Farman F.222 was the only four-engined bomber to be in front line service with any Allied air force at the start of the German invasion of the west in May 1940. It was a modified version of the earlier F.221, differing mainly by having a retractable undercarriage, although later versions also had a modified nose.

In August 1935 the prototype F.221 was returned to Farman, where it was given retractable landing gear, with the main wheels folding forwards into the engine nacelles. After this it was redesignated as the F.222.01. The aircraft was otherwise very similar to the F.221, with the same high wing, stepped nose and four engines in two low-mounted nacelles, each of which carried a pusher and a puller engine.

The prototype made its maiden flight towards the end of 1935. It was followed by eleven production F.222.1s. These had more powerful 870hp Gnome & Rhone 14Kirs/ Kjrs engines, and extra fuel storage.

The F.222.1 was followed by the main production version, the F.222.2. This was built in two batches - the first of eight aircraft and the second of sixteen, for a total of 24 F.222.2s. The entire production run of the F.220 family thus ran to less than fifty aircraft, with 10 F.221s and 35 F.222s. The most obvious change on the F.222 was its modified nose. The bomb aimer's position was moved down, eliminating the 'step' under the nose. This allowed the nose turret to also be moved down, greatly improving the pilot's forward view.

All versions of the F.222 carried the same defensive armament as the F.221, three .303in machine guns - one in the manually operated nose turret, one in the manually operated dorsal turret and one in the semi-retractable ventral turret.

The F.222 was followed into service by a small number of Farman NC.223s, which retained the overall configuration, although with a modified tail.

The F.222 began to enter service with GB I/15 in April 1937, and with GB II/15 in December 1937. By the end of 1938 GB 15 had 42 F.222s on strength, and other aircraft had been deployed to Indo-China and to North Africa.

At the start of the Second World War the French were opposed to any attempt to bomb Germany, concerned that this would merely provoke the much more powerful Luftwaffe to begin bombing France. In December 1939 the F.221s and F.222s of GB 15 began to carry out leaflet dropping operations over Germany, but after the German invasion of the west in May 1940 the unit switched to night bombing. A total of 63 sorties were flown against targets in Germany and the increasingly large area of occupied Europe between 10 May and the French armistice, with impressively low losses. Only one aircraft was lost after suffering damage on a raid over Germany, crashing on its way back from an attack on the BMW engine plant at Munich on 4 June. Two more aircraft were lost in accidents caused by bad weather and three either shot down or written off after crash landings after being hit by flak over France. 

The F.222 was also used in small numbers by the Aéronavale (Naval Aviation) after three aircraft were transferred to Escadrille 10E, a reconnaissance unit, in November 1939.

On 15 June the surviving F.222s were ordered to fly to North Africa before the French armistice could come into effect. They were then used to equip Groupes de Transport GT I/15, which was formed from GB 15. This units operated its aircraft in North Africa, as well as taking part in the defence of Vichy occupied Syria in the summer of 1941. Most of the remaining aircraft were destroyed during the Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (5 May 2011), Farman F.222 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_farman_F222.html

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