lundi 19 février 2018

The Regia Aeronautica: Good planes, good pilots... no leadership, nor clear objectives (Revised the June 28, 2018)

 {Independently from the usual sources  (Wikipedia in Italiano or in English or in Deutsch), an anonymous Italian correspondent gave me this very interesting source.}

The Italian Aviation was, during the 30's, a very strong military force that no one among the European countries might neglect.

Its aircrafts shared excellent flying qualities and the Italian pilots were very well trained and they were able to be efficient in very efficient daring missions.

The high level of the Italian pilot training was demonstrated by the fact that numerous German fighter aces (e.g. Adolf Galland) followed this training.

Technologically speaking, Italy owned the absolute Air Speed Record during 5 years (from 1934 to 1939) with the floatplane Macchi MC 72, which achieved the speed of 709 kph.

Moreover, the August 28, 1940, Italy was the second nation to fly a very jet aircraft, with the great Mario de Bernardi at the controls.

The Campini-Caproni N1 on this site - The shape of this jet foreshadowed those of 50's fighters. The choice of a two-seater configuration explained the heavy weight of this aircraft and the thick wings were responsible of excessive drag.

Nevertheless, the role of the Italian aviation is often neglected: That may be attributed to the war propaganda emitted from a lot of countries

One of the key issues which affected the Regia Aeronautica was the inconsistency of its engine industry. 
Numerous interesting engines were developed, but few were really perfected, because of the overwhelming influence of the FIAT lobby.

During the war in North Africa, Italian aircrafts suffered also greatly from the lack of anti-sand device, this being of paramount importance especially in Sahara... So, the full lifespan of their engine dropped to 30 hours (Giancarlo Garello, Bataille Aérienne n°55, la guerre sur le désert : la Regia Aeronautica au combat, part #1, in French).

The Italian Air Force had created 
very well organized bases in Africa. 

Unfortunately, these bases were very few, inducing an excessive concentration of aircrafts, a fact appealing for Allied aerial bombings. 
But these bases lacked both of AA artillery and ground protections against commandos (so, numerous airmen were killed on the ground).

The fighters

The Fiat CR 32 of 1933-34 mastered completely the Spain skies during the Civil War. 

Easy to handle, with actually excellent performances (except at high altitudes), outstandingly maneuverable, she outclassed the elder
 Nieuport 52 (of 1929), but also their contemporary Russian fighters Polikarpov I 15.

Unfortunately for Italy, in 1940, the Regia Aeronautica was not more so healthy. 
The Spain Civil War was costly from an industrial point of view: Almost 800 aircrafts were supplied to the Aviazione Legionaria, among them 360 Fiat CR 32 fighters, and most of the surviving aircrafts were supplied to Spain after the victory of General Francisco Franco.

After the choice of the Messerschmitt 109 by the Luftwaffe, of the Hurricane and of the Spitfire by the RAF, Italy chosen two modern monoplane fighters, the Fiat G 50 and the Macchi MC 200. 

The best of them, in 1940, was the Macchi MC 200 Folgore. She was an excellent interceptor, with a good armament, outstanding flying qualities and good performances.

Another monoplane was present in the same contest, the FIAT G 50 Freccia, of the engineer Gabrielli. This fighter was not as efficient as the Folgore, but she had a very excellent progeny.

Unwisely, after some accidents experienced by pilots flying the new monoplane fighters, the great success of the biplane CR 32 induced also an order for her direct biplane successor, the Fiat CR 42.

None of these fighters were conceived for a rapid mass production. 

From 1939 to 1943, only 1,850 examples of the two monoplanes - MC 200 + G 50 - were built (to be compared with the French fighters between January 1939 and June 24, 1940: MS 406 + Bloch 151/152 +  Dewoitine 520 = 2,100 exemples!).

Alone, the CR 42 was built in ~1,800 exemples...
||--------- The FIAT CR 42 Falco: An excess of conservatism.||
|--------- The Fiat G 50 Freccia, insufficiently advanced from an aerodynamic point of view, 
|               an too limited range and an inexistant radio equipment .||
|--------- The Macchi MC 200 Saetta: She fought in every Mussolini's Campaigns.|---------------------------

The Italian bombers 

These aircrafts were well designed and allowed all the spectrum of the bombing missions.

The FIAT BR 20 Cicogna was an excellent and tough twin-engined bomberwith two FIAT A 80 RC 41 18-cylinders radial engine delivering 1,000 hp each.

She was 16.68 m long. Her empty weight was 6,500 kg, her take off weight was 10,100 kg.

The wingspan was 21.56 m and the win area was 74.00 m², giving a wing loading of 136 kg/m².

The top speed was 430 kph à 5,000 m and she might be loaded with 1,600 kg of bombs. 

The total range, with a bomb load of 1,000 kg, was 1,800 km at the cruise speed of 325 kph at an altitude of 5,000 m. She consumed 2,400 liters of fuel (1,800 kg) and 150 kg of oil.   

This bomber was reliable but the lack of ergonomic consideration of the Italian industry induced a too long building time, explaining that only 600 examples have been produced at the end of the combats against the Allies.

The Italian crew generally preferred the wooden tri-engined bombers.

The most famous of them were the Savoïa-Marchetti SM 79 Sparviero torpedo-bomber.

She was 15.60 m long, her empty weight was 6,800 kg and her take off weight was 10,500 kg.
Her wingspan was 21.20 m and the wing area was 61.70 m², giving a wing loading of 170 kg/m².

She was powered by 3 Alfa-Romeo 126 RC 34 delivering 750 hp each at 3,400 m.

The climb time for 4,000 m was 13.15 minutes.

The total range, with a bomb load of 1,000 kg, was 1,850 km at a cruise speed of 360 kph at an altitude of 5,000 m. 

That task was consuming 2,400 gaz liters (1,800 kg) and 150 kg of oil. 

Savoïa-Marchetti SM 79 - The scourge of the British Navy in the Mediterranean Sea

As a torpedo-bomber, she played a very important role against the Royal Navy, sinking or damaging heavily, among other ships, 4 destroyers, 6 cruisers, the battleship Nelson and the aircraft carrier Indomitable (the Nelson needed seven months for repairs, most of the other damaged ships needed one full year!). 

This bomber was built in 1370 examples.

The CANT Z 1007 bis, designed by engineer Zapatta, was a larger airplane. 

She was 18.35 m long.

Her wing span was 24.80 m and the total wing area was 75 m².

The empty weight was 9,400 kg and the take off weight was 13,600 kg: Her wing loading was 180 kg/m².

She could fly at 460 kph and could carry a bomb load of 2,200 kg . 

The total range was 1,800 km.

She can carry a bomb load of 900 kg at a cruise speed of 370 kph (at an altitude of 5,000 m), consuming 3,000 fuel liters (2,230 kg) and 240 kg of oil.

Unfortunately for their crews, the wooden structure was unsuitable for the extremely cold winter conditions in USSR, likely because using some inadequate gluing materials.

She was built at ~ 600 examples.

The Regia Aeronautica also used a true ground attack aircraft, the Breda 65 single engined by a FIAT A 80 delivering 1,000 hp.

This little aircraft was 9.30 m long. 

She had an empty weight of 2,400 kg and her take off weight as single seater was 2,950 kg (3,500 kg  when used with a rear gunner).

The wingspan was 12.10 m and the wing area totaled 23.5 m².
 So, the wing loading was 125 kg/m² as single seater and 150 kg/m² with the gunner.

The top speed was 430 kph.

Breda  65 with the rear gunner cupola

The forward firing armament was two 0.5 cal machines guns and 2 riffle caliber. The rear gunner had a 12.7mm machine gun.

The max bomb load was 1,000 kg, but only the bombs attached beneath the wings were releasable in dive (with an excellent accuracy).

218 examples of the Breda 65 were built, with only 150 examples entered in Italian service. 

In the North African desert war, they were really efficient when they were correctly used. Nevertheless,  since mid 1941, the Allied fighter (P 40 D, Spitfire or Hurricane) were too fast for the escorting biplane fighters.

Italian engineers developed also an excellent strategic bomber, the Piaggio 108 B which proved to have excellent qualities.  

Piaggio P 108 B - on this site - A real flying forteress. 

She went into service at May 1941. She was a four-engined all-metal bomber.

She was 22.92 m long with an empty weight of 17,325 kg and a take off weight of 39,900 kg.
Her wingspan was 32.00 m and the wing area was 135.54 m². The wing loading was 220 kg /m².

The engines delivered 1,350 Cv at an altitude of 3,500 m .

The service ceiling varied from 6,000 to 8,500 m, according to the actual weight. 

The top speed was 430 km/h at altitude. 
The cruising speed was 370 kph, above the top speed of the Armstrong-Whitworth Whitley!

The total range, with 10,000 kg of fuel, was 3,500 km at 320 kph at an altitude of 4,000 m when carrying a bomb load of 1,000 kg

The defensive armament was extremely powerful for the times, with six 0.5 cal. machine-guns and 2 riffle caliber machines guns housed in remote controlled turrets, (a very innovative layout). 

The heaviest bomb load was 3,500 kg.

Only 35 Piaggio P 108 were built but an improved bomber, the P 133 was scheduled to replace her.
Using more powerful engines (1,450 hp each), she was faster (450 kph) and her total range was 4,300 km at 370 kph.  

Knowing the qualities of the Piaggio P 108 and P 133, one may wonder about the lack of interest of the German Luftwaffe about these bombers which constituted excellent substitutives for any Ural bombing mission... 


In the so-called Italian failure, neither the aircrafts nor their pilots can be really questioned. 

So, the problems regarded:
  • The high command, which appeared always as "asleep";
  • The lack of early warning systems as also of radio-communications;
  • The AA artillery appeared also too insufficiently trained (this fact being illustrated the June 28, 1940, when it downed the SM 79 of the Marshal Balbo, killing their own commander in chief in North Africa, a point related to the problem of the high command…).

Aucun commentaire:

Enregistrer un commentaire