Gourdou-Leseurre GL.30

The Gourdou-Leseurre GL.30 was a racing aircraft built in France in 1920 which formed the basis for a highly successful family of fighter aircraft based on the same design. The GL-30 was a parasol-wing monoplane with retractable undercarriage and a Bristol Jupiter engine. In 1922, this was used to develop a fighter under the designation GL.31. Generally similar to its predecessor, the GL.31 had a greater wingspan, fixed undercarriage, a Gnome-Rhône 9A engine, and was armed with four machine guns; two in the forward fuselage and two in the wings. While this remained a development aircraft, it paved the way for the company's entry in a forthcoming Aéronautique Militaire competition to select a new fighter, announced in 1923.

By the time the prototype flew, the Gourdou-Leseurre had been acquired by Loire, and therefore the new aircraft was entered as the LGL.32. Placed second in the trials, the type's performance was impressive enough to still result in an order in January 1927 for a small batch of aircraft - five evaluation aircraft and 20 pre-production machines. Eventually, 475 of this basic version, dubbed LGL.32C.1 in service, would be ordered by the Aéronautique Militaire and 15 more by the Aéronautique Maritime. Romania ordered a further 50 aircraft of the same design as the examples in French service, Turkey ordered 12 (these designated LGL.32-T) and another one may have been purchased by Japan.

In French service, development turned from fighters to adapting the aircraft as a carrier-borne dive bomber. These featured general strengthening of the airframe, divided main undercarriage units, and a "fork" under the fuselage able to release a 50 kg (110 lb) bomb from under the fuselage while avoiding hitting the propeller.

While prolific, the GL.32 was not long-lasting, and attrition took a heavy toll on them. By 1934, all remaining examples were relegated to training and as instructional airframes; at the start of 1936, only 135 remained of the original 380 purchased. A number of these were sold to the government of the Second Spanish Republic and to the Basque Nationalist Party. Another aircraft was supplied to the Basques in 1937, modified as a dive-bomber along the lines of the previous French experiments. Designated the GL.633, this aircraft was used by Miguel Zambudio to attack the Nationalist battleship España, scoring decisive hits that contributed substantially to her subsequent sinking.

Read more about Gourdou-Leseurre GL.30:  Operators, Specifications (LGL-32C.1)