Despite being France’s most successful military seaplane of the Second World War, the Latécoère 298 is often overlooked.
Known for being consistent, fairly maneuverable, and reliable, the multi-purpose twin float Latécoère 298 was initially designed to serve as a torpedo bomber. However, it was frequently pushed to be used as both a dive bomber and a reconnaissance aircraft during its brief career.
Because of the unpopularity of its predecessor, the late 290, and the increasing obsolesce of the aging Levasseur PL.15, a competent and modern torpedo bomber was requested by the French Navy.
The plane, then designated as the 298.01, completed trials in the spring of 1936, and it made its maiden flight on May 8th. It first entered service in late 1938 with the T2 Squadron who used it for training purposes, with the T1 squadron following suit the next month.
One of the Best
Despite its short life, the 298 quickly established a reputation for excellence and was one of the best planes of its class ever built.
It had gone through a number of design changes throughout its lifespan and had four main variants.
The 198 underwent its combat debut during the Battle of France in May 1940. Although it wasn’t built for this role, the 298s were flown frequently during the German offensive, serving as ground attack and close air support and engaging in shallow dive bombing as the Third Reich’s troops gained ground on French territory.
Despite this makeshift situation, the versatility of the 298 did shine in its secondary role, suffering significantly fewer losses than many other aircraft deployed alongside it despite never being designed or intended for such types of combat.
298s were later used by the German puppet Vichy France in the South after the Fall of France as a reconnaissance aircraft.
298s saw significant action against the Germans in the hands of the Allies and was used for naval attacks on German ships at the French Atlantic coast. The plane was then retired from service shortly after the war in 1946.
In 1951, it ceased to be used by the French Navy even for training purposes.
Although it never ended up doing its main function as a torpedo bomber, the 298 was revered and respected by pilots of multiple nations that flew it before, during, and after WWII.