|Primary Role||Biplane Fighter|
|Maiden Flight||25 May 1933|
Contributor: Alan Chanter
ww2dbaseBy the beginning of the Second World War, the fighter biplane was almost universally considered obsolete, yet a few such aircraft lingered on with the operational elements of several air arms, and one of these was the Avia B-534. A product of the Avia works at Prague-Letnany in Czechoslovakia, a subsidiary of the well known Skoda works, the B-534 stemmed from the B-34 of 1932. The B-34, created by Chief Designer Frantisek Novtný and powered by a 650-h.p. Avia Vr 36 liquid-cooled engine, was placed in production for the Czech army air force and simultaneously Avia initiated work on several variants with alternative power plants. These included the B-134 (800- h.p.Walter Mistral 14Kbs), B-234 (600-h.p. Avia Rr 29 nine-cylinder radial), B-334 (650-h.p. Armstrong-Siddeley Panther), and B-434 (690-h.p. Hispano-Suiza Xbrs).
ww2dbaseIn the summer of 1933, the B-234 was fitted with an 860 h.p. Hispano-Suiza 12Ydrs 12-cylinder Vee with a twin gun armament in the fuselage and a redesigned rudder to serve as the prototype B-534-I. This aircraft would attain 227 m.p.h. during trials, but the improved second prototype B-534-II exceeded this with a recorded 245 m.p.h. in level flight making it one of the best fighter aircraft in the world at that time. The B-534-II differed from its sister in introducing main-wheel fairings, a forward extended radiator bath, redesigned vertical tail surfaces, raised aft fuselage decking, a cockpit canopy and the fuselage mounted guns moved aft for centre of gravity reasons.
ww2dbaseOn 17 July 1933 a production order was placed by the Czechoslovak Army Air Arm for 146 production aircraft (the first 47 based on the B-534-1 prototype with pairs of 7.7-mm machine guns in the fuselage and lower wing, followed by a further 99 based on the B-534-II prototype with four 7.7mm Model 28 or 30 machine guns in the fuselage). These production B-534s omitted the refinement of wheel spats and cockpit canopy, but were otherwise similar to the B-534-11 prototype. Simultaneously a further 54 machines were ordered to Bk-534 standard - These had the provision to replace the two fuselage mounted machine guns with a 20-mm Oerlikon FFS cannon mounted between the engine cylinders banks. Difficulties with the Oerlikon shell feed arrangements however led to the cannon being discarded in favour of a third 7.7-mm 7.7-mm machine gun firing through the propeller shaft. Eventually only 35 Bk-534 aircraft would be completed before the German occupation of Bohemia and Moravia.
ww2dbaseThe B-534-III was an interim model which introduced some refinements including an enclosed cockpit, spatted wheels (as originally designed for the B-534-11 prototype) and enlarged supercharger inlet. Some twenty-six B-534-III aircraft were built within this production batch plus a further six and fourteen similar machines for export to Greece and Yugoslavia respectively. The B-534-IV (272 aircraft built) had four 7.7-mm machine guns in the fuselage and lower wing and was generally similar to its predecessor although featuring several improvements, including a slightly uprated 850 h.p. engine, a metal, rather than a wooden propeller, an aft-sliding cockpit canopy and raised fuselage rear decking. In this form the Avia B-534 closely contested the successes of the German Messerschmitt Bf 109 at the International flying meeting held at Zurich in July 1937.
ww2dbaseBy the time of the Munich crisis in September 1938, the B-534 fighters formed the equivalent of 21 first-line Czechoslovak fighter squadrons, and of some 450 B-534s and Bk.534s on the inventory of the Czechoslovakian Air Arm on 15 March 1939, a number were absorbed into the newly-created Slovak Air Force. Seventy-eight aircraft were sold during the winter of 1939-40 to Bulgaria and the remainder together with substantial supplies of spares were seized and taken into the inventory of the German Luftwaffe. The Luftwaffe employed the type as advanced fighter trainers and glider tugs. Some were fitted with canopies providing all-round vision and others, with arrester hooks, were used to conduct deck landing trials and training for the aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin.
ww2dbaseThe puppet Slovak government used some B-534 fighters in their brief border war with Hungary, and with the formation of the Slovak Air Force under Luftwaffe patronage, three fighter squadrons, the 11th, 12th and 13th were formed and equipped with the type. These squadrons were sent to the Russian front in July 1941, fighting over the Kiev sector. However, the morale of the pilots was low; few being in sympathy with the German-controlled Slovak government, and the squadrons did not distinguish themselves in combat. By mid-1942 all three squadrons had been relegated to a training role.
ww2dbaseOn 1 August 1943, Bulgarian B-534s flew combat sorties against US B-24 Liberator bombers returning from the disastrous raid on the Ploesti oilfields in Romania. Finally three B-534 fighters were used by the insurgents at Tri Duby airfield during the Slovak National Rising in the late summer of 1944. Two were lost on the ground during Luftwaffe raids and the third was burnt to prevent it from being captured by the Germans.
William Green, War Planes of the Second World War-Fighters, Volume One (Macdonald Press, 1961)
World Aircraft Information Files 889/86
Chris Chant, Aircraft of World War II (Dempsey Parr, 1999)
William Green & Gordon Swinborough, The Complete Book of Fighters (Salamander Books, 1994)
|25 May 1933||The B-534 biplane fighter took its maiden flight.|
|17 Jul 1933||A production order was placed by the Czechoslovakian Army for 146 B-534 biplane fighters.|
|Machinery||One Avia (Hispano-Suiza) 12Ydrs twelve-cylinder liquid-cooled Vee engine rated at 850hp|
|Armament||4x7.7mm fixed forward firing machine guns, up to 6x20kg bombs on underwing hardpoints|
|Wing Area||23.50 m²|
|Weight, Empty||1,480 kg|
|Weight, Loaded||1,985 kg|
|Weight, Maximum||2,120 kg|
|Speed, Maximum||394 km/h|
|Service Ceiling||10,600 m|
|Range, Normal||580 km|
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Captain Henry P. Jim Crowe, Guadalcanal, 13 Jan 1943