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OGMA Dragão - OK Flight, Aeronautica Militar, 1942

At the outbreak of World War Two in September 1939 the Portuguese 'Estado Novo' Government (led by Prime Minister António de Oliveira Salazar) immediately announced that whilst the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance of 1373 remained intact, Salazar considered that Portugal was free to remain neutral in the war as the UK Government had not sought Portuguese assistance. On September 5th, 1939 the British Government confirmed their understanding of Salazar's announcement but regretfully explained to Salazar that they were no longer able to supply the 15 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I fighter aircraft recently ordered by Portugal. With most of their Gloster Gladiators having been transferred to the Azores the Aeronáutica Militar had literally a handful of obsolete fighter aircraft with which to defend the Portuguese mainland.

In a speech to the Portuguese parliament on September 11th 1939, Salazar boldly announced that Portugal would design, manufacture and deploy it's own indigenous fighter aircraft before the end of 1940 further announcing that Oficinas Gerais de Material Aeronáutico (OGMA) already had a design on the drawing board at their Alverca do Ribatejo factory that would be urgently expanded to accommodate the production of the new fighter - soon to named as the OGMA Dragão.

OGMA's design was a fairly conventional low-wing monoplane featuring all-metal construction but with fabric-covered control surfaces typical of the era. The planned powerplant was the Bristol Taurus III radial engine but as OGMA were nervous about getting these engines from the UK they made an early decision to switch to the Pratt & Whitney R-1830-17 Twin Wasp 14-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine. Whilst lacking cockpit armour and self-sealing fuel tanks the Dragão was well armed with four Browning .50 caliber machine guns all firing through the propeller arc. Development moved swiftly and by March 1940 the Dragão prototype was taking shape at the OGMA factory but the first flight was delayed due to persistent hydraulic problems with the undercarriage retraction. Finally, on August 15th 1940, Paulo Coluna (OGMA's chief test pilot) took off from Alverca do Ribatejo for a successful 40-minute maiden flight.

Entering service in February 1941 the Dragão remained in low-rate production until 1944 and it's low wing loading of 26.9 lb/ft2 gave it outstanding turning performance with relatively light controls even at close to maximum speed but the low power was a serious handicap at all altitudes with poor acceleration and a low top speed of 329mph.















Edited by Spinners
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