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Thread: The Regia Aeronautica (Italian Air Force)

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    Default The Regia Aeronautica (Italian Air Force)

    A nice overview courtesy of ww2wings.com

    THE ITALIAN AIR FORCE IN WORLD WAR II

    BACKGROUND


    The story of the Italian Air Force in World War II is really three stories. The first is the story of the Regia Aeronautica, the Royal Air Force, from the invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 until the Armistice of September 1943. The second chapter is the story of the Aeronautica Nazionale Republicana (ANR), whose pilots represented the newly formed Republica Sociale Italia (RSI) puppet government and flew with the Luftwaffe after the Armistice. Finally there is the story of the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force (ICBAF), whose pilots flew with the Allies after the Armistice.

    Italy was a reluctant participant in Southern Europe during World War I on the side of the Allies and did not suffer the economic and political hardships that the Treaty of Versailles imposed on Germany. The Regia Aeronautica (RA), was established in 1928 with 1700 planes and a vigorous aviation industry. Italian airplane manufacturers, dominated by industrial giant Fiat, were strongly committed to the air-cooled engine. They believed them to be more reliable and less prone to combat damage than water-cooled engines, notwithstanding the limitations that design imposed on power. Air-cooled engines meant minimal power and minimal power meant minimal defensive weapons, minimal bomb carrying capacity and no protection from armor plating. In the early years, Italian-made airplanes were generally not equipped with any type of radar or radio communications system and thus needed daylight and good weather conditions in which to operate.

    taly invaded their former African colony of Ethiopia on October 3, 1935, and their planes, tanks and troops dominated their nearly defenseless enemy. Following the Ethiopian incursion, Mussolini sent 660 planes and 75,000 soldiers in October of 1936 to aid the Nationalist movement of Francisco France at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. The Regia Aeronautica, outfitted with generally inferior and consistently underpowered airplanes, gave a mediocre performance in Spain.

    ...

    THE ROLE OF THE REGIA AERONAUTICA 1940-1943

    Italy entered World War II on June 10, 1940 with a declaration of war against France. The German Blitzkrieg in Western Europe was well underway and the outcome in France was not in question. The RA was involved in reconnaissance flights in Southern France and a number of attacks on French airfields. The French surrendered on June 24. The two week war wasn't much of a test for the RA.

    Several squadrons of the Regia Aeronautica based in Belgium took part in 150 bombing raids over England during the Battle of Britain beginning in October 1940. The first major operational effort of the Italian Air Force took place in the Balkans (Greece, Yugoslavia) during the period October 1940 until April 1941. The Allies had a distinct advantage since their planes contained the electronic equipment that allowed them to operate in bad weather and at night. The RA's role was primarily one of close ground support.

    July and August of 1941 saw units of the Regia Aeronautica flying in Russia in support of 60,000 Italian ground troops fighting in Operation Barbarossa. Not surprisingly, mediocre airplanes, steady bad weather and the Russian Winter, combined to minimize the impact of the RA on the Eastern Front.

    By far the major role played by the RA was against the RAF and the USAAF in the Mediterranean area. Malta, North Africa, Sicily and Italy were the sites of frequent encounters between the RA and the Allies. The British were required to resupply their forces in the area mainly by sea. This gave the RA a regular inventory of naval targets as late as mid-1943. In fairness, both Italian and German operations in the Mediterranean were often compromised as a result of the Ultra decrypts of Enigma radio traffic. In general, the Regia Aeronautica fared poorly in its encounters with Allied forces and was not a significant factor in the war.

    THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE ARMISTICE

    Sicily was invaded by the American and British armies on July 10, 1943 and evacuated by the German and Italian forces barely 5 weeks later. The handwriting was on the wall for the Italians. Italy was obviously the next target. The fascist government of Benito Mussolini collapsed on July 25, 1943 with his resignation and subsequent arrest. The new government was quick to negotiate an unconditional surrender. The Armistice was signed on September 3, and announced to the public 5 days later as the American 5th Army was wading ashore on the Italian mainland at Salerno just south of Naples. The agreement required the Regia Aeronautica to transfer all airplanes to Allied airfields. This was particularly difficult since most of the Italian peninsula was occupied by heavily fortified German positions and fierce battles were going on in southern part of the country. To make matters more confusing, Mussolini had been rescued by German paratroopers on September 12, 1943, and Hitler had installed him as the head of a puppet government, the Republica Sociale Italiana (RSI) in the Northern part of the country. Not surprisingly, some pilots decided to head North and fly with the Luftwaffe while others headed South and joined the invading Allies. Who decided to go where was not simply a matter of politics or loyalty to a cause. It had as much to do with where the units were located at the time of the Armistice and, more importantly, where the pilot's family was located within the country. Two separate air forces came into existence after the Armistice, each structured along the lines of their respective allies (the Luftwaffe in the North and the USAAF and the RAF in the South). The atmosphere was reminiscent of a civil war.

    THE AERONAUTICA NAZIONALE REPUBLICANA

    Those Italian pilots from the Regia Aeronautia who went North to fly for the Luftwaffe were called the Aeronautica Nazionale Republicana (ANR). While trying to maintain a separate identity from the Luftwaffe, they quickly adopted the German ways of doing things. The ANR was made up primarily of three fighter groups with three squadrons each (approximately 200 pilots). The ANR's primary mission was to repel attacks of medium and heavy bombers of the 12th and 15th Air Forces. Since many industrial targets in Northern Italian cities were being attacked regularly after September 1943 by bombers of the USAAF and the RAF, the bulk of the activities of the ANR were mainly defensive in nature. Gradually the Germans began to equip the ANR with Messerschmitt Bf-109s to replace the inferior Italian-manufactured planes. In August of 1944, the Germans, disappointed over the performance of the ANR, attempted to officially disband the organization and take over their equipment and personnel. Some ANR pilots staged an armed rebellion and set fire to their planes rather than surrender them to the Luftwaffe. Faced with this unexpected reaction, the Germans backed off, reassessed their position, rescinded the order, and sent a new Luftwaffe commander to Italy. The Germans and the Italians didn't get along particularly well before the attempted "coup" and the relationship did not improve afterwards. The Italians never shared the Germans' strong feelings about their cause and their intensity for organizing and managing. On the other hand, the Germans viewed the Italians as not particularly motivated pilots, with marginal skills and inferior equipment, and, from whom minimal results could be expected. Predictably, the ANR was plagued by chronic fuel and spare parts shortages with the bombing of aircraft factories and railways in Northern Italy. The ANR ceased to function at all in early 1945.

    THE ITALIAN CO-BELLIGERENT AIR FORCE (ICBAF)

    Following the Armistice, 203 planes of the Regia Aeronautica made their way to Allied airfields including 39 fighters, 117 bombers and assorted transports, seaplanes & torpedo bombers accompanied by a substantially larger number of crews. The number grew to 281 by the end of the year. Of these, only 165 were in flying condition. Many of these planes were technically obsolete compared to the planes of the USAAF and the RAF. After being re-equipped with Allied planes, the ICBAF engaged in transport, escort, reconnaissance, sea rescue and limited tactical ground support operations in the Mediterranean theater of war. These pilots flew over 11,000 missions in the final 18 months of the war. The ICBAF was later renamed the Aeronautica Militare Italiano (AMI). While deliberately maintaining a low profile in Italy, their contributions to the war effort were primarily in support roles.
    Other links:

    http://www.comandosupremo.com/Air.html

    http://www.ww2wings.com/wings/italy/italymain.shtml

    http://www.ww2aircraft.net/forum/old...utica-163.html



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    The main Italian figher that would have been encountered in the Mederteranian theatre by the Allies:

    The Macchi MC-202 Folgore





    Performance:

    The Folgore was a development of the M.C.200, redesigned to use a copy of the Daimler-Benz DB601A liquid-cooled inverted V-12 engine. The M.C.202 was still underarmed, but it was superior to the Hurricanes and P-40's the allied were using in 1941 in the Mediterranean. It could hold it's own against the Spitfire in combat manouevers, however, it was easily outgunned by the Spitfire. This made a significant difference to the outcome of dog fights. About 1200 were built.

    Technical Details
    The Folgore was first powered by the 1175hp Alfa Romeo RA1000 RC41-I, it proved to be dissappointing and so the Daimler-Benz DB601A liquid-cooled inverted V-12 engine was imported to replace it. The speed with the Alfa Romeo engine was 595km/h, with a ceiling of 11000m and a range of 760km. It was under armed with two 12.7mm machine guns and two 7.7mm machine guns. This at a time when the Allies were putting up to eight 0.50 in. machine guns and 20 mm cannons on their Spitfires and Hurricanes. It had the capability of carrying two 160kg bombs.

    http://www.constable.ca/mc202.htm
    General characteristics

    * Crew: One
    * Length: 8.85 m (29 ft 0.5 in)
    * Wingspan: 10.58 m (34 ft 8.5 in)
    * Height: 3.49 m (11 ft 5 in)
    * Wing area: 16.82 m² (181.04 ft&#178
    * Empty weight: 2,491 kg (5,492 lb)
    * Max takeoff weight: 2,930 kg (6,460 lb)
    * Powerplant: 1× Alfa Romeo R.A.1000 RC.41 liquid-cooled supercharged inverted V-12, 1,075 hp (802 kW) at 2,500 rpm for takeoff

    Performance

    * Maximum speed: 600 km/h (324 knots, 372 mph) at 5,600 m (18,370 ft)
    * Range: 765 km (413 nm, 475 mi)
    * Service ceiling: 11,500 m (37,730 ft)
    * Rate of climb: 18.1 m/s (3,563 ft/min)

    Armament

    * 2x 12.7 mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns in the engine cowling, 360 rounds/gun
    * 2x 7.7 mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns in the wings, 500 rounds/gun
    * 2x 50, 100, or 160 kg (110, 220, or 350 lb) bombs
    * 2x 100 liter (26.4 US gallon) drop tanks

    Combat

    Combat

    Macchis equipped all the premier fighter wings (Stormo): 1, 4 and 51. Although deployed in mid-1941, the C.202 didn't see action until later that fall, when several Macchis fought against British Hurricanes over Malta.

    In the afternoon, 30 September 1941, three Macchis of 4° Stormo intercepted one of the frequent incursions made by Hurricanes, over Comiso airfield in Sicily. Lt. Lintern from Sottotenente Frigerio, was downed and bailed out. [6]

    On 26 November 1941, in Operation Crusader, 19 Macchis of 9° Gruppo, 4° Stormo were sent to Africa, in response to the British offensive. Guided by Capt. Larsimont (97ma Squadriglia) and Viglione Borghese (96ma), ten of these Italian fighters flew at 5,000 m and defeated a force of Hurricane Mk IIs of 229 and 238 Sqdns. Both the Italian leaders were hit by the Hurricanes, but returned to base in Martuba. Three British fighters were shot down and another crashed while landing. One pilot was killed, and two returned to their base at Tobruk, one of them riding an Italian tank found in the desert. The Italians claimed eight victories, and the British two (which matched Italian fighters losses). Congratulations were sent by Marshall Bastico to the Macchi pilots.

    During 1942, Bf-109s and Macchi C.202s fought Allied air forces in the skies of North Africa. At the time of Rommel's offensive on Tobruk, 5 'Squadra aerea' ("aviation corps"), based in North Africa, had 3 wings of Macchi: 1° had 47 C.202s (40 serviceable), 2° had 63 C.200s (52) while 4° had 57(47). This, coupled with the 32 Cant Z.1007s, was one of the most powerful fighter forces that the Italians fielded in the war, and comprised almost a tenth of the overall Folgore production.[2] In the meanwhile, some Macchi fighters were sent to the USSR to supplement the obsolete C.200s. Many were also employed in attacks on Malta, gaining an initial advantage (together with Bf-109s) over the Hurricanes stationed there. In spring 1942, the carrier USS Wasp delivered the first Spitfires to Malta, and the Axis' air-superiority started to shift in favour of the Allies. C.202s were also involved in Operation Harpoon, encountering Sea Hurricanes. At the end of the year, the growing strength of the Allied forces was irresistible, and after the defeat in the skies over Malta as well as El-Alamein, the last operational Axis units lost their air superiority in the Mediterranean.

    The Macchis continued fighting while retreating to Tunisia, and then, in the defense of Sicily, Sardinia and Italy, against an increasingly stronger foe. One notable action was experienced by the Macchis of two groups which landed at Korba airfield from Italy. Forced to concentrate 40 C.202s (both 7imo and 16imo, 54° Stormo) on a Tunisian airfield, on 8 May 1943, almost all the C.202s were destroyed on the ground by marauding Spitfires. A contemporary photo showed over a dozen Macchi C.202s (1% of the total built in 1940-44) in an abandoned airfield, damaged beyond repair by air attacks or dismantled to support the last few operating fighters.[7] Because no transport aircraft were available, every surviving fighter taking off the day after, had two men inside, a pilot and a mechanic. Only a few aircraft (five of 7mo and six of 16mo) were repaired by 10 May 1943 and escaped to Italy. At least one, manned by Lt. Lombardo, was destroyed and the two men inside were wounded after crash-landing on a beach near Reggio Calabria.

    The rest of the C.202s fought to defend Sicily, Sardinia and Naples. Results were poor, and the C.202s were replaced as soon as possible by Bf-109s, C.205s and G.55s. Several C.202s had also served with the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force, and some were transformed into C.205s. Other served as trainers in the RSI and Luftwaffe. C.202s had been ordered by Switzerland, but none were delivered although several examples were delivered to the Croatia Legion. [2]

    After the bombing of Macchi Industries (1944), the combat career of the C.202 and C.205 was nearly over. After the war, however, some aircraft that had survived along with newly manufactured C.205s or as C.202 transformations were sent to Egypt. In total, 42 C.205s were sent, but the 31 made from C.202s were armed with only two Breda machine guns. Some of these aircraft fought against Israel, and were in service until 1951.

    The Italian aircraft industry produced around 1,200 C.202s, in 11 series between 1941 and 1943. Of these, Macchi produced 392, the rest being supplied by production lines at Breda and SAI Ambrosini.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macchi_C.202
    Last edited by Nickdfresh; 10-10-2007 at 10:54 AM.



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    All this time with nothing about Italians and then a Busload of stuff comes along. Good stuff though.

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    Nice fighters the Macchis Mc-202 but most of them poorly armed until late 1943.

    That mauled his efficience in air combat. I mean try to shoot down an attacking B-24 with two machineguns and you ll see.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Panzerknacker View Post
    Nice fighters the Macchis Mc-202 but most of them poorly armed until late 1943.

    That mauled his efficience in air combat. I mean try to shoot down an attacking B-24 with two machineguns and you ll see.
    Yeah, the final related variant, the MC205 was upgunned though with the addition of two 20mm cannons to the 12.7mm and was more powerful.

    But the numbers produced were only around 750, too few to affect any real change in Fascist Italy's increasingly dire military situation (over 1000 MC-202s were produced)...
    Last edited by Nickdfresh; 10-11-2007 at 01:59 PM.



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    My dear Gentlemen,

    What can I say? I am really delighted with your unrestrained devotion toward those beautiful, streamlined shapes of flying art and designing glory! Indeed, people with the cognizant touch do know the difference between flying as a mean of human activity, and flying as an art. For the latter, special aerial vehicles, airplanes with character are always necessary. And one amongst those Flying Beauties is our special guest star – Macchi MC 202 Folgore!



    Macchi MC 202 Folgore – unknown unit

    Generally speaking, you can always characterize airplanes as flying machines with their own, always independent, specific character, but when real paramours of flying meet they always speak about immortal examples of flying beauty. Unfortunately, like as with women, beauty alone - especially in combat flying - is simply insufficient as an expression of perfection. Perhaps that balanced elegance of the streamlines, connected with impending invocation of sturdiness is the best description of this airplane. Therefore, honorable ladies and gentlemen, enjoy in these unrestrained manifestations of sorrowfully unexploited engineering ingenuity of the late Reggia Aeronautica!

    Yes, I know: they lost the war – but… que belle machine!



    Macchi MC 202 Folgore - Gambut, 1941

    Nice fighters the Macchis Mc-202 but most of them poorly armed until late 1943.
    Indeed, my dear Mr. Panzerknacker. But as far as I know that Alfa-Romeo AR 1000 RC 41-1 Monsone was a licensed copy of the famous Daimler-Benz DB 601 A-1. As we all know, these machines could have been equipped with engine-mounted cannon that fired through the propeller axis. I really do not understand why aforementioned solution remained unexploited?

    What is your opinion, honorable ladies and gentlemen?
    Ire Fortiter Quo Nemo Ante Iit!

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    The MC202-205 series of fighter aircraft are some of the most beautiful and agile of WWII. They certainly were more difficult to manufacture than the equivalent models, but they were excellent quality fighters that could hold their own against any adversary...



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    Well, my dear Mr. Nickdfresh, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

    Therefore – here is my present for you:




    Macchi MC 202 Folgore – pre-flight preparations, Gambut, 1941




    Macchi MC 202 Folgore - runway-start

    And allow me, please another tiny question: If you had to choose between a Caproni-Reggiane Re 2001 Falco II and the Macchi MC 202 Folgore, what would you pick?

    As always – all the best!
    Ire Fortiter Quo Nemo Ante Iit!

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    Nice pictures Lib, Ill pick the Re-2001 with underwing cannons.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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    I completely do agree with you, my dear Mr. Panzerknacker – Reggiane Re 2001 Falco 2 would be my airplane of choice too, mainly due to its immanent ability to carry out whole set of different combat roles, mostly payable to its more flexible design, adaptable even to the highly demanding role of a fighter-bomber, and capable to carry and deliver a 100 or 250 kg bomb under the fuselage.



    Reggiane Re 2001 Falco II – Cacciabombardiere, unknown unit

    Although slightly more expensive in serial production than MC 202, Reggiane Re 2001 have had the very same Alfa Romeo RA 1000 - RC 41 Monsone engine, and a better basic wing loading characteristics (160 kg/m2) pursued closely by Macchi (170 kg/m2), which had smaller wings, thus being to some extent lighter and faster and capable to gain a maneuverability advantage at high altitude. However, Re 2001’s slight inferiority in speed was counterpoised by its greater range, multifunctionality and potentially better firepower.

    Much has been written about insufficient armament capacity of both previously mentioned airplanes, but to my great astonishment one completely possible but unwrought opportunity for armament enhancement remained undiscovered by numerous historians – application of a highly sophisticated and completely available Hungarian made Gebauer GKM (Gebauer Kenyszermeghajtasu Motorgeppuska = Gebauer Coercively-Driven Motor-Powered Machine Gun) M-1940 heavy machine guns, initially designed to use much criticized 12.7mm Italian Breda-Safat ammunition.



    Gebauer Ferenc GKM Motor-Powered Machine Gun

    This gun represented an adaptation of a previous, GKM M 26/31 design, adapted for lighter Mauser 7,92X57 ammunition. The GKM was driven by the engine's crankshaft, capable to automatically remove the misfiring cartridges, and load the next. In case of a jam the drive had an automatic safety disengage manifold that allowed the jammed barrel to stop firing without forcing any further structural damage, while keeping the other in full operation.

    Although aforesaid device was used on the older Hungarian Fiat CR-42fighters, which were shipped to Hungary in 1941-42, and despite the fact that Italy actually purchased the license to manufacture Gebauer machine guns in 1943, serialized production of this highly sophisticated armament, capable to significantly improve the firepower of Italian fighters, was never accomplished – another, truly exceedingly instructive example of non-cooperation between the Axis powers.

    By my personal opinion, an engine-mounted MG FF cannon, an GKM M-1940 twin-barrel 12,7 HMG installation, and no wing guns would have been the right combination for this plane.



    Reggiane Re 2001 Falco II – Cacciabombardiere, unknown unit




    MC 202 of the 97 Sqadrone, IX Gruppo, 4° Stormo "Francesco Baracca" – Martuba, Libya



    Fortunately, this time that famous Il Cavallino Rampante (a prancing horse) amblem of the squadron is clearly visible on the lateral part of the fuselage

    The Reggiane Re 2001 – Falco II actually was a successful design, well-suited to the roles of fighter bomber, dogfighter and escort fighter, thanks to its low wingload, increased range and durable airframe.
    Last edited by Librarian; 11-15-2007 at 10:56 AM.
    Ire Fortiter Quo Nemo Ante Iit!

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    It's no surprise that the Germans attempted to disband the ANR. Their performance in the Mediterranean was abysmal. They were just as likely to bomb their own ships as they were to bomb the Royal Navy. Fortunately for the Italian Navy (and the Brits) the ANR rarely ever hit anything.

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    Default Re: The Regia Aeronautica (Italian Air Force)

    Gebauer Ferenc GKM Motor-Powered Machine Gun

    This gun represented an adaptation of a previous, GKM M 26/31 design, adapted for lighter Mauser 7,92X57 ammunition. The GKM was driven by the engine's crankshaft, capable to automatically remove the misfiring cartridges, and load the next. In case of a jam the drive had an automatic safety disengage manifold that allowed the jammed barrel to stop firing without forcing any further structural damage, while keeping the other in full operation
    Very nice, it looks like an primitive "Chain gun"

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    Default Re: The Regia Aeronautica (Italian Air Force)

    An interesting newsreel showing the 4th Stormo in action in Afrika. Strafing ground targets.

    http://es.youtube.com/watch?v=ZiFgHdqo4wk

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    Default Re: The Regia Aeronautica (Italian Air Force)

    Images of the recce seaplane Fiat RS 14, beautiful bird.


    Prototype






    Series aircraft in 1941. The underfuselage pod was used to transport 3x 160 kg bombs or 400 kg in deep charges.







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    Default Re: The Regia Aeronautica (Italian Air Force)

    Knew this was a "clean" plane, but I´ve had to wait until now to see good pictures, and it was the worth the wait ;-) Beautiful bird indeed. Thank PzK.

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