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PZL 23 and 43 Karaś (Carp)

Type: Reconnaissance bomber
Origin: PZL (National Aero Factory)
Crew: Three
First Flight (23/I): August 1934
First Flight (43A): 1937
Service Delivery: June 1936
Final Delivery: N/A
Number Produced: N/A

PZL (Bristol) Pegasus II 9-Cyl. Radial
Horsepower: 580 hp

PZL (Bristol) Pegasus VIII 9-Cyl. Radial
Horsepower: 680 hp

Gnome Rhône 14 Kfs 14-Cyl. Radial
Horsepower: 930 hp

Gnome Rhône 14N1 14-Cyl. Radial
Horsepower: 980 hp

Wing span: 45 ft. 9 in. (13.95m)
Length (P.23): 31 ft. 9 in. (9.68m)
Length (P.43): 32 ft. 10 in.
Height: 11 ft. 6 in. (3.5m)
Wing Surface Area: N/A
Weights: (23)
Empty: 4,250 lbs. (1928 kg)
Loaded: 6,918 lbs. (3138 kg)
Max. Overload: 7,774 lbs. (3526 kg)

Maximum Speed (P.23A): 198 mph (320 km/h)
Maximum Speed (P.23B): 217 mph (350 km/h)
Maximum Speed (P.43B): 227 mph (365 km/h)
Initial climb (Typical): 985 ft./min (300 m/min)
Service Ceiling (Typical): 24,600 ft. (7500m)
Range (With Bomb Load): 410 Miles (660 km)
Range (Overloaded): 932 Miles (1500 km)

One 7.7mm (.303 in.) Browning or KM Wz 33 Firing Forward
One 7.7mm (.303 in.) Browning or KM Wz 33 mounted on PZL hydraulically assisted mount in rear cockpit
One 7.7mm (.303 in.) Browning or KM Wz 33 mounted in rear ventral position

Two 7.7mm (.303 in.) Browning or KM Wz 33 Firing Forward
One 7.7mm (.303 in.) Browning or KM Wz 33 mounted on PZL hydraulically assisted mount in rear cockpit
One 7.7mm (.303 in.) Browning or KM Wz 33 mounted in rear ventral position

Bomb Load:
Up to 1,543 lb. (700 kg.) on external racks


Design and development - Source: Wikipedia
The plane was developed to replace Breguet 19 and Potez 25 aircraft in the Polish Air Force. Main designer was Stanisław Prauss of PZL works. The works started in 1931 and were based on a passenger plane project PZL.13, that remained in sketches. The plane was of modern all-metal construction, wings were built around light closed profiles instead of spars (introduced first in PZL.19). The first prototype flew on 1 April 1934, followed by the second prototype.

In the third prototype of 1935, a pilot's seat was raised and the engine was lowered to obtain better view. This prototype was accepted for a production, with a name Karas' (in Polish - the crucian carp). The first series, PZL.23A was fitted with a Bristol Pegasus IIM2 radial engine of 670 hp (500 kW) produced in Poland under licence. Since this engine proved to be unreliable, the final variant PZL.23B was fitted with a newer Pegasus VIII of 720 hp (537 kW).

In 1936, 40 PZL.23A were produced. Between late 1936 and February 1938, 210 PZL.23B were produced with the newer engines. They were also known as Karas' A and B or Karas' I and II. All PZL.23s had military numbers from 44.1 to 44.250.

The Bristol engines were licensed for use in Poland only, so for export purposes the Gnome-Rhône 14K was used in a variety of PZL designs. In this case the 14K-powered PZL.23, with some changes to the airframe, became the PZL.43 Karas'. Final export variant was PZL.23A, with 1020 hp Gnome-Rhone 14N-01 engine. 52 PZL.43s were made in total, all for Bulgaria only. The new engine improved the plane's performance considerably, maximum speed increased to 365 km/h.

At that time, Poland developed a new light bomber, partly basing on PZL.23 design, the PZL.46 Sum, but only two prototypes were completed before the war, in 1938. There was also a single experimental variant of the Karas', PZL.42, with double tail fins and a modified bombardier gondola, retractable into the fuselage.

Sometimes the aircraft is called the "PZL P.23", but despite an abbreviation P.23 painted on a tail fin, the letter "P" was generally reserved for fighters of Pulawski's design (like PZL P.11).


Operational history - Source: Wikipedia
40 PZL.23A were delivered to the Polish Air Force in late 1936. Due to engine faults their service ceiling was limited and they were used only in the training role, being fitted with double controls. In November 1936 one aircraft was shown on the Paris Air Show, where it met with an interest. 210 PZL.23B were delivered to the Air Force from 1937. They became a main armament of Polish bomber and reconnaissance squadrons, in the 1930s called "line squadrons", replacing Breguet 19, Potez 25 and Potez 27 biplanes. By August 1939, there were 23 crashes, what was an average safety result.

In 1939, the aircraft was not a modern one. Its main deficiency was its low speed but a lack of manoeuvrability was also a problem (it was noted, that a maximum speed of PZL.23B was 365 km/h, but it was forbiden to exceed 319 km/h due to dangerous flight characteristics). At the outbreak of the World War II, on 1 September 1939, Poland had 114 PZL.23B in combat units (a further 75 PZL.23B and 35 PZL.23A were in reserve, air schools or under repairs). PZL.23B were used in five bomber squadrons (Eskadra Bombowa) of the Bomber Brigade and seven Army reconnaissance squadrons, each with ten aircraft (other squadrons of the Bomber Brigade were equipped with PZL.37 ?os'). They actively took part in repelling of the invasion of Poland. Some aircraft were also used in wartime improvised units.

On 2 September 1939, one PZL.23B of the 21st Squadron bombed a factory in Ohlau as the first bomb attack on the German territory. The bomber squadrons attacked German armoured columns, especially on 3 September 1939, while the main mission of Army squadrons was reconnaissance. All PZL.23s suffered high losses due to low speed, lack of armour and fighter protection. Many were shot down by the German fighter planes, but they also shot down a few in return. Despite lack of armour, crews often attacked German columns from low level, making aircraft vulnerable for AA fire. Some 20 aircraft crashed on rough field airfields. The five squadrons of the Bomber Brigade delivered about 52-60 tons of bombs during the campaign, the Army squadrons added about a dozen tons of bombs as well. About 120 PZL.23s (86%) were destroyed in 1939, but only 67 due to direct enemey's actions. Only a small number were destroyed on airfields - the only successful Luftwaffe attack on Polish combat unit on an airfie ld during the campaign was on 14 September, at Hutniki, against PZL.23B of Bomber Brigade. In addition two PZL.43A from the Bulgarian order were impressed into the Polish service in the 41st Squadron.

At least 21 PZL.23s were withdrawn in 1939 to Romania. Then, 19 of them were used by the Romanian air force against the USSR . 50 PZL.43s and PZL.43As (two were delivered by the Germans) were used in Bulgaria for training until 1946, known as the "Chaika". No PZL.23s were left in Poland after the war.