The Morane-Saulnier M.S. 223 was the fourth in a series of parasol wing fighters produced in response to a French requirement for a lightweight fighter, and only differed from the M.S. 222 by having a new undercarriage.
The entire series of aircraft was designed in response to an Air Ministry specification for a lightweight fighter, which was to have a good rate of climb, an endurance of 1hr 30mins at full throttle and be armed with two 7.7mm machine guns. It was to act as an interceptor, climbing rapidly to catch enemy bombers as they crossed the French border. Morane-Saulnier responded with the parasol wing M.S. 121, but this lacked engine power and failed to achieve the required rate of climb. The M.S. 221 had a more powerful engine but still lacked speed. The M.S. 222 was given a turbo-supercharged engine. It had an improved rate of climb, but its top speed remained stuck at 166mph.
The M.S. 223 made its maiden flight in 1930. It was almost identical to the M.S. 222, but had a new main undercarriage. The earlier aircraft all had cross-axle landing gear, while the M.S. 223 introduced a divided landing gear with oleo-pneumatic shock absorbers. This was introduced in an attempt to reduce drag and improve performance. Soon after the M.S. 223 made its maiden flight the entire 'Jockey' programme was cancelled, as none of the seven designs submitted by different manufacturers had proven to be satisfactory.
This didn’t end the development of the M.S.121 family. A somewhat larger M.S.224 followed in 1931, and entered service in modified form as the M.S. 225.