Amongst the many Polish planes that found refuge in Romania
in September 1939 there were also a number of PZL P.37 Los bombers.
These aircraft were arguably some of the very finest creations of
Poland's pre-war aeronautical industry, and their qualities did not
go unnoticed with the ARR.
The PZL P.37 was born in 1934, when the Polish airforce
issued a specification for a new medium, twin-engined bomber, capable of carrying
a total bombload of 2000 kg (including 300 kg bombs). Top speed was to be "
in excess of 350 km/h" while the plane's combat range had to be of at least 1200 km.
Work begun immediately
and by Octomber 1934 the initial project was ready. It was a highly
advanced design for that time, since it combined good maneuvrability
and handling characteristics with a very large bomb carrying possibility
( a full 2580 kg = 5676 lbs ). Production began in March 1938, with
the PZL P.37A and the P.37A bis versions, whilst the prototype of
another version, the P.37C, was re-equipped with Gnome-Rhone engines,
and sent to perform test flights in various countries, because the
C version was intended to be the export one. One of the P.37C's was fitted with
Gnome-Rhone 14N-01 engines, rated at 1020 HP, and managed to achieve a top speed of 453 km/h with a full bomb load. Its German counterpart, the Heinkel He-111 was about 50 km/h slower and could carry only 2000 kg of bombs.
The P.37C attracted a lot of attention, but priority was
given to the needs of the Polish airforce. Deliveries began in August
1938, but production was slowed down by a number of problems, such
as a serie of inexplicable crashes so by the
1st of September 1939, only 90 planes had been delivered.
To make matters worse, just 36 P.37's were actually battle-ready, on the 1st of September 1939. Engaged in hopeless attacks on German armored columns ( hardly their typical task ), the P.37's took heavy losses and the number of operational airplanes dwindled fast.
On the 17th of September 1939, an unclear number of P.37's ( 22 according to Romanian archives - 27 according to the Polish ones ) fled to Romania to escape the advancing German forces. As it happened with most Polish planes, the P.37's were taken over by the ARR as part
of an agreement reached between the Romanian state and the Polish government
in exile. It seems that the ARR had ordered some 30 P.37D's in May 1938,
after having seen the aircraft at the Belgrade air show. The planes were
supposed to be delivered by the spring of 1940, but when war broke out
all contracts were cancelled, although they were paid for. Eventually,
19 P.37 Los's were taken into service and two bomber squadrons ( the 76th
and the 77th ) were equipped with these bombers. They served well during
the Bassarabian campaign, during which the
P.37's shot down four Soviet fighters and claimed to have destroyed other
45 various planes on the ground. After the end of the campaign they were
retracted from frontline service mainly because spare parts were almost
non-existant which turned maintenance into real nightmare and few planes
were serviceable any more. In 1944, a squadron ( the 76th one ) was hastily
re-equipped with P.37B's and sent to the east front as part of an all-out
effort to stop the Soviets, but the plane's second combat period was to
be short, since after the 23rd of August 1944, Romania left the Axis,
and the P.37's were taken out of service.
A PZL P-37B with Romanian markings undergoes maintenance
on Brasov airfield, in Romania.
The PZL P.37 Los was a twin engine aircraft, with an all-metal
structure. As with most PZL designs, special attention was given to building
a very aerodinamically "clean" aircraft, which they did, with
excellent results. The fuselage was elliptical in shape, with a small
cross-section in order to reduce drag and enhance maneuverability. Early
versions were powered by 860 hp Bristol Pegasus XIIB radial engines, but
in the end the French Gnome-Rhône 14N series engines were chosen
for mass-production, although the plane was designed to accept any 1200
HP radial engine available. The PZL P.37 was one of the finest twin-engined
bombers in the world in 1940, but since only a small number was available,
it was never regarded as an important aircraft by the ARR.