The P.Z.L. P.43 Karas (Crucian-carp) was a more powerful version of the Polish P.23 light bomber and reconnaissance aircraft, developed in response to a Bulgarian order.
Work on the P.43 began in 1936. The P.43A was to be powered by 930hp Gnome-Rhone 14Kfs radial engine, and armed with two forward firing machine guns (up from one on the P.23). The use of a heavier engine meant that the pilot and observer’s cockpits had to be modified and the fuselage length increased.
The first Bulgarian order was for twelve aircraft. No prototype was built, and the first of these twelve aircraft was used as the development aircraft. At first they suffered from serious over-heating problems which caused fires and delayed the delivery of the aircraft until late in 1937. However once these were solved the aircraft proved popular.
As a result Bulgaria ordered another 42 aircraft (one batch of 36 and one of 6), to be powered by the 970hp Gnome-Rhone 14N01 radial engine (P.43B). These aircraft were to be delivered between April and September 1939. The first 21 were delivered in the spring of 1939. Another 12 were sent between May and August, with deliveries continuing right up to the outbreak of war. Nine more aircraft were crated up and ready to go in late August, but were taken over by the Polish air force just before the outbreak of war.
On 3 September No.41 Squadron was ordered to send crews to the P.Z.L. factory at Warsaw-Okecie to collect eight of the nine P.43Bs. They arrived on the morning of 4 September, just as the Luftwaffe raided the factory. Three of the P.43Bs were damaged, leaving five intact aircraft to serve with No.41 Squadron.
After the end of the fighting one captured P.43B was taken to the Luftwaffe’s Erprobungsstelle at Rechlin. It was then sent to the former P.Z.L. factory at Mielec where it was overhauled before being delivered to Bulgaria.
Engine: Gnome-Rhone 14 Nol
Span: 45ft 9.5in
Length: 32ft 7.75in
Height: 10ft 10.25in
Empty Weight: 4,850lb
Recon weight: 6,834-7,275lb
Max loaded weight as bomber: 7,771lb
Maximum Speed: 226.7mph at 13,123ft; 186.4mph at sea level
Climb rate: 12 mins to 13,123ft
Service Ceiling: 27,887ft
Range: 869 miles