The Martin 167 A-3 was a light bomber designed for a US Army bomber contest of 1937-38, but that entered combat with the French Armée de l’Air, before becoming the basis of the RAF’s Maryland and Baltimore bombers.
Glenn L. Martin was one of five companies that designed aircraft to satisfy the army’s 1937 request for a bomber capable of carrying 1,200lb of bombs with a range of 1,200 miles and a speed over 200 mph. Three of those companies were awarded contracts to built prototypes, and all three designs would result in production aircraft. At first the USAAF preferred the North American NA-40, but eventually decided to order the Douglas DB-7, which entered production as the A-20 Havoc. The North American design soon evolved into the NA-62, and entered production as the B-25 Mitchell.
This only left the Martin Model 167W. Although the French Purchasing Commission had already placed an order for the DB-7, they urgently needed new aircraft to counter the threat posed by Germany. In January 1939 the French placed an order for 115 Model 167Ws, one month before the prototype’s first flight in February 1939, and two before it’s first Army Air Corps test flight of 14 March 1939.
The prototype Model 167W was powered by Pratt & Whitney R-1830-37 “Twin Wasp” engines, which were replaced in French production aircraft by Wright “Cyclone 9” engines (the Twin Wasps were then restored for the British Maryland). All versions of the Model 167 were armed with six machine guns, four fixed guns in the wings (mainly for ground attack), one dorsal gun and one ventral gun. In the prototype these guns were all 0.30in Browning machine guns. The dorsal gun was mounted in a fully retractable turret. The French aircraft used license built Belgian Fabrique Nationale FN-Brownings, and used a lighter semi-retractable dorsal turret. The weight saved helped to increase the top speed to 288mph.
The Model 167 was a fairly typical twin engined bomber. The crew of three were carried in two isolated compartments – pilot and bombardier in the nose and the gunner in a separate rear compartment, isolated by a bulkhead. The most unusual feature of the Model 167 was the very narrow width of the fuselage.
Glenn L. Martin doubled the size of their Baltimore factory, and built all 115 aircraft in six months, but they were then prevented from delivering them by a US arms embargo. Despite this the French placed an order for another 100 aircraft. The embargo was finally lifted in October 1939, and the 115 aircraft from the first order were delivered by the end of November 1939. After this impressively speedy start, things slowed down, and only 25 of the second batch of aircraft had reached France before the Armistice of June 1940.
The Model 167 was given the French designation Martin 167 A-3 (Army support, three-place), and was known as the “Glenn” (when the aircraft first reached the RAF it was often known simply as the Glenn Martin bomber).
French bomber aircraft were organised into wings (Escadre), which were divided into Groupe de Bombardement (Bomber Groups). Thus GB I/62 was Groupe de Bombardement I of Escadre 62. The “Glenn” was used to equip GB I and II/62 and GB I and II/63, each with 12-18 aircraft, for a total of 48-72 aircraft. By 10 May 1940 GB I/62 and I/63 had completed their training, and were stationed in the south west of France, while GB II/62 and II/63 were training in North Africa. Although the “Glenn” had been designed as a ground attack aircraft, the French had decided to use them as level bombers,
The “Glenns” did not fly their first sorties in the battle of France until 22 May, by which time the battle had already been lost. Between then and 14 June the four groups flew 363 sorties. Operating at between 300 and 3,000 feet the “Glenns” suffered 17 losses (most of them to German flak), accounting for at least a quarter of their original strength. More aircraft were lost on the ground.
On 10 June Italy declared war on France, and on 15 June the surviving “Glenns” were moved south. Between 15 and 24 June 55 sorties were flown, this time for only a single lose. The Italians made no progress against determined French resistance, but the main battle was being lost in the north, and on 25 June the Armistice was signed, ending the fighting.
By this date the surviving “Glenns” had escaped to Mali and Senegal. The Vichy French government was allowed to retain a limited air force in North Africa, and the “Glenn” would see as much combat against the Allies as against the Germans. They took part in the defence of Dakar in September 1940, attacked Gibraltar on 24-25 September, took part in the bitter fighting in Syria in June-July 1941, and finally came up against the American forces invading Morocco at the start of Operation Torch. Very few Martin 167 A-3s survived the fighting in Syria and Morocco.
Engines: Wright R-1820 “Cyclone 9”
Power: 950hp (early), 1,100hp (late)
Length: 46ft 8in
Width: 61ft 4in
Max Speed: 288mph
Bomb load: 1,200lb internally, 1,760lb with external bomb carriers
Armament: Six 7.5mm (0.50) Belgian Fabrique Nationale FN-Brownings, four fixed in the wings, one in semi-retractable dorsal turret, one in ventral position.