The Morane-Saulnier M.S. 225 was an interim fighter design that saw front line service between 1933 and 1936, while the Armée de l'Air waited for more modern aircraft to enter production. In 1926 the French Air Ministry, concerned about the rising price of fighter aircraft, had issued a specification for a lightweight fighter. Seven different designs were produced in response to this specification, which became known as the 'Jockey' programme. The new fighter was to serve as an interceptor, using a fast rate of climb to catch enemy bombers as they crossed the French border, but it was also to use a moderately powerful engine and only carry two 7.7mm machine guns.
Morane-Saulnier responded with a series of parasol wing fighters, starting with the M.S. 121 of 1927. This was the first fighter aircraft designed by Morane-Saulnier after the First World War, and set the basic pattern for the entire series. It had a swept back wing with rounded tips. The fuselage was built around a metal framework, faired out to give it an oval cross section when covered in fabric. The wings had wooden ribs and metal spars.
The M.S. 121 lacked power and failed to achieve the required rate of climb. It was followed by the M.S. 221 of 1928, which had a more powerful engine and a better climb rate, but still lacked speed. The M.S. 222 was given a turbo-supercharged engine. Its top speed remained the same, but was achieved at a higher altitude. Finally, the M.S. 223 of 1930 introduced a divided undercarriage with oleo pneumatic shock absorbers. Soon after this aircraft made its maiden flight, the 'Jockey' programme was cancelled, having failed to produce any suitable aircraft.
After abandoning the 'Jockey' programme the French air ministry issued a new specification, for a C1 fighter (monoplace de chasse, or single seat fighter). This was modified on 26 January 1931, and was very productive, with ten different prototypes being ordered. However it was clear that none of these aircraft could enter service quickly, and so an interim design was needed. Morane-Saulnier already had a candidate - the M.S. 224. This was a larger version of the M.S. 222, powered by a Gnome-Rhône 9Asb. Despite an increase in loaded weight of some 200lb, the M.S. 224 reached a top speed of 188mph, well up on the 166mph of the M.S. 222.
This was followed by the M.S. 225. This aircraft had the same basic configuration and construction methods as the entire family based on the M.S. 121, and was a parasol wing fighter, with a swept back wing with rounded tips. The wing had wooden ribs and metal spars and the fuselage was built around a metal framework, faired out to produce an almost circular cross section. The main wheels were carried on separate oleo-pneumatic shock absorbers. The wing was slightly larger than on the M.S. 224, and power was now provided by a supercharged Gnôme-Rhone 9Kbrs engine, providing 500hp. Top speed rose to 207mph at 13,125ft.
The M.S. 225 was displayed in mock-up form at the 1932 Paris Salon de l'Aéronautique. The prototype was quickly completed, and after successful trials the aircraft was ordered into production. It was always seen as an interim design, and only 75 were produced in 1933-34. Of these 55 went to the Armée de l'Air (formed in 1934, replacing the Aviation Militaire). Sixteen went to the Aéronautique Maritime. Three went to China and the last was used by Detroyat, a famous display pilot.
The Armée de l'Air used the M.S. 225 to equip two escadrilles of the 7th Escadre at Dijon and two escadrilles of the 42nd Escadre at Reims. The Aeronautique used it to equip Escadrille 3C1 at Marignane. This unit became the 1st Escadrille of the Armée de l'Air's Groupe de Chasse II/8 early in 1936. The four older Armée de l'Air escadrilles kept their M.S. 225s until 1936-7, while the 1st Escadrille, Groupe de Chasse II/8 kept them until July 1938.
The M.S. 225 was also used by two display teams. The 'Patrouille Acrobatique' at Etamples used five from 1934-1938, while the Patrouille of the Ecole de l'Air at Salon de Provence used fifteen aircraft modified for aerobatics. This display team was still using the M.S.225 in 1939, but all surviving aircraft had been scrapped by the summer of 1940.
Several variants of the M.S. 225 were produced. The M.S. 226 was a carrier version. The M.S. 227 used a Hispano-Suize engine and the M.S 278 used a diesel engine. The M.S. 275, one of Morane-Saulnier's two designs submitted in response to the 1930/31 fighter specification was a very similar parasol fighter, although was largely redesigned.
Engine: Gnôme-Rhone 9Kbrs engine
Wing span: 34ft 7 3/4in
Length: 23 ft 9in
Height: 10ft 9 ½ in
Empty Weight: 2,683lb
Maximum Take-off Weight: 3,483lb
Max Speed: 207mph at 13,125ft
Service Ceiling: 31,170ft
Range: 435 miles
Armament: Two fixed synchronised 7.7mm Vickers machine guns