Biplane Fighters

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Jan 19, 2006
I'll start by saying sorry if this has already been covered.

For pure looks I would go with the Hawker Fury but my personal vote for best biplane fighter would go to the Gloster Gladiator - partly due to it being a British machine plus they did sterling service over many different areas during the early years of the war by various nations plus I think they look kind of cool in Finnish winter colours.

There were othere very good biplanes around at the end of the 30's. What does anyone else think? The Fiat or Avia or perhaps some of the late US types?

Agreed. The biplane fighter had reached its pinnacle of development with the CR.42.

Thanks for the welcomes to the forum. Although some of the discussions can get a bit "colourful" (and entertaining) this does seem a very friendly forum.

Although my personal favourite is the Gladiator I was surprised to see the Fiat come last in the biplane poll - I was expecting it to win.

Promise I'll spend a bit more time checking previous threads before posting. :oops:
gladiator would've creamed the CR.42, not least for the fact the british weren't afraid to fight.......
Clashes between the two biplanes usually ended with great overclaimings from both parts and no real results. It seems that they were too similar in handling to take advantage of their points (speed for CR 42 and armament for Gladiator).
It seems that CR 42 was more effective counter P 40 and Hurricanes; and Gladiator was more effective counter C 200 (but even the losses were far higher) when skilled pilots could use the different characteristics of their aircrafts as an advantage.

According to the test-pilot Captain Eric M. Brown, who flew both:
"the aircraft [CR 42] was an aerobatic gem. It was remarkably fast for a biplane with a top speed of 270 mph at 12,400 ft and a marginal stability, the hallmark of a good fighter. The CR.42 was a superb biplane that gave an outstanding performance for its type, but as a fighter it was under-gunned. Though highly manoeuvrable, like all aircraft with a lot of fabric covering it was very vulnerable to enemy fire."
"combat between the Fiat CR.42 Falco and the Gladiator would bee a fascinating duel between the two best biplane fighters in the world. The CR.42 had a slight speed advantage, the Gladiator a slight armament advantage. In the matter of maneuverability the aircraft were about equal, and each was lightweight in construction. A combat between them would be decided on the skills of the opposing pilots. The outcome could go either way."

The CR.42 was pretty tough though. Just read an account of one that got hit by 3 bursts of fire from a pursuing Spitfire, and the pilot took 3 bullets to the chest, and still managed to fly it home.

If only the armament was better - the Italians just couldnt see that 2x 12.7mm wasnt enough. In fact, some of the CR.42's in the CAI had one of thier 12.7mm's replaced with a 7.7mm to make it lighter and more manoeverable, and the pilots were outraged at the ground crew for reducing the already puny armament.
However, the armament of Gladiators was superior only in very close dogfight between two unarmoured aircrafts, where only the volume of fire counts.
Counter the italian tri-engined bombers (although they were not heavy armoured) it proved to be far uneffective (even if some good results was gained over the slower BR-20), while the 12 mm Breda, equipped with exposive bullets, gained some results over allied heavy bombers too.

Both aircraft as interceptors were pretty poor. I don't see a Cr.42 with any chance, at all, of bringing down a four-engined heavy. And, as stated, the Gladiator was pretty hopeless against the Italian tri-motors and German bomber force. They were strictly fighter vs. fighter, and in that they were out-classed by everything else.

The two, Gladiator and Cr.42, were the ultimate bi-plane fighters though. As stated, only pilot skill would seperate them.
plan_D said:
Both aircraft as interceptors were pretty poor. I don't see a Cr.42 with any chance, at all, of bringing down a four-engined heavy.
Definitely it wasn't a bomber-killer and, in this role, was outclassed by any monoplane fighter. However it was used long as nightfighter and, in this role, gained some success against four engined bombers.

I must apologise. :oops:
I controlled, and it seems that I recall wrong. The several examples I recall of bombers shot down by CR 42 were of twin engined Wellingtons (good shots too). So, I actually don't know of four engined bombers shot down by CR 42.

No problem, we all make mistakes. That's a shame, I was hoping there might have been some heavies brought down. It would certainly be good shooting!
I agree with pD on this. The 2 were the pinicle of Bi Plane fighters however they were outclassed by the monowing fighters of the day. Against each other though it would be quite an interesting fight I might add.
DW, have you got any information on the Italian interceptions of RAF bombers in 1940? I understand that as soon as Italy declared war in June, Bomber Command began sending bombers over the Alps. How did they fare in Italian skies?

I know that Bomber Command suffered terribly during the day over France and Germany. I think I shall start a new thread as I'm reading, with great interest, about Bomber Command in the early years.

May 17th, 1940 ... terrible day.

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