Fiat CR.42; Gloster Gladiator: Pedigree, or not?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Sagittario64, Dec 1, 2011.

  1. Sagittario64

    Sagittario64 Member

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    #1 Sagittario64, Dec 1, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2011
    Hey everyone. I keep hearing that the CR.42 was the penultimate development of the Italian biplane fighter. Something about it being the result of 20 years of fighter development. And to me, it looks like more things could have been done. Perhaps a closed or even semi-closed cockpit? Radio as standard maybe? Might have more than just 2 heavy machine guns as standard armament? Maybe add just a tad bit of armour around the fuel tanks and cockpit? why is it that the italians didnt add any of these features into the fighter that is supposedly the culmination of all the biplane fighter development in Italy since the early twenties? for example if they simply put a radio in each plane, like everyone else was doing, then the Fiat CR.42s might not have had such humiliating losses against the Gladiators, which i guess was its counterpart. And as for the gladiator, didnt they have any more powerful engines to put in the plane? it was around for quite a while and i didnt see such drastic improvement in the Gladiator Mk.II from the Mk.I as i would liked to have seen, mainly in engine and armament. And the lack of heavy machine guns bothered me. Italy had heavy machine guns as standard on all its planes, except maybe early bombers. I guess im not quite sure what the english fighter development style was during the late 1930's. Italy had lightly armed and maneuverable fighters as their concept, yet their guns were harder hitting than the british, which i somewhat assume was going towards the heavily armed dive and zoom fighter. Clearly the biplane fighter's time was gone, but if youre going to keep these biplanes in service, cant you at least spend a little more to get the most out of them? forgive me if i sound obnoxious, but im not a aeronautical designer, and i see these things and hear that none of the designers of these planes did much about them(or as much as i think they could have done) when they were working on them.
     
  2. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    #2 fastmongrel, Dec 1, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2011
    It was pointless adding more powerful engines to Bi planes the increase in power didnt bring much of an increase in performance. You could stick a Merlin in a Gladiator and what do you get a slower 4 gun aircraft than the 8 gun Hurricane. Fiat stuck a DB601 in a CR42 and only got 323mph out of a stripped version carrying no armament.

    As for guns both aircraft were probably pretty similar in firepower the CR 42 may have had 2 x Breda 12.7mm(0.5inch) guns but they were slow firing approx 500 rpm when firing through the prop and firing a much lighter round than the M2 Browning at 300 feet per sec slower. The Gladiator had 2 x .303 Brownings under the wings firing 1200 rpm and 2 x .303 firing through the prop at 800 rpm.
     
  3. Vincenzo

    Vincenzo Active Member

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    the C.R. 42 get bad result vs Gladiator (around 73 loss for 23 win) in 40/41 but on paper there were little difference (near all the advantage in gladiator side)
     
  4. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    #4 FLYBOYJ, Dec 1, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2011
    British ace "Pat" Pattle is credited with 15 victories in the Gladiator, the highest scoring ace in that aircraft and possibly the highest scoring biplane ace of WW2, someone correct me if I'm wrong!

    This site is about Pattle but it gives great information about both aircraft in combat.

    http://surfcity.kund.dalnet.se/commonwealth_pattle.htm
     
  5. Vincenzo

    Vincenzo Active Member

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    there is a italian pilot with 17 claims on biplane, too he is in the Hakans page
     
  6. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    I have read of Soviet aces on I-153 Bi-planes but never seen the numbers. If they had started there operations against the Japanese they could have racked up good numbers by the time they converted to monoplanes.
     
  7. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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    At the time of his death, Visintini had 17 victories, all of them claimed while flying biplane fighters.

    Please note that all Visintini’s claims were and are unofficial, as up to date there isn’t any official confirmed listing of Italian aces. His claims in Spain have been especially difficult to verify with various sources and most of them only credit him with one victory there. However most sources agree that he claimed 16 or 17 victories during the operations in the A.O.I.

    hard to know whether 17 is true or not.

    Nevertheless, the CR42 and Gladiator where the pinnacle of Biplane designs and both scored victories against the odds in WW2.
    John
     
  8. Sagittario64

    Sagittario64 Member

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    What was Pattle's opinion of the CR.42?
     
  9. Sagittario64

    Sagittario64 Member

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    or rather....what were the italian flyers' opinion of the gladiator, and the british flyer's opinion of the CR.42?
     
  10. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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    I cannot find any information (yet).
    I'll have to dig out 'Ace of Aces' by E.C.R.Baker

    John
     
  11. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    I haven't seen any text ever quoting Pattle about aerial combat or his experience, probably because he was serving during a very difficult time. Keep in mind that Belgium operated both types at the start of WW2.
     
  12. Sagittario64

    Sagittario64 Member

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    Yes, as did Sweden. But its hard for me to dig up opinions about the two from those countries. i rarely see the CR.42 and the gladiator mentioned in the same texts about belgiums combat service
     
  13. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    FAA pilots made unofficial mock combats a war booty CR 42 vs a Sea Gladiator at Yeovilton in 41, IIRC concensus was that CR 42 was slightly better.

    Juha
     
  14. al49

    al49 Well-Known Member

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  15. vanir

    vanir Banned

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    #15 vanir, Dec 1, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2011
    Well your cockpit is open for most of the time in the Med for a start. So there's that. Italians wanted open cockpits, given that due to known engine development restrictions their emphasis was manoeuvre over speed. They knew these things and given those points, an open cockpit is just fine for the CR42 or any Italian fighter using what they had to work with. They're not giving 450mph dive speed requirements like the Americans and French over there, they much preferred comfortable patrols and reliable aerobatics.

    The CR42 is a bit cleaner than the Gladiator, which is just a hotrod Gauntlet with new Browning guns rather than old vickers/lewis combination (even uses a later version of the same engine). The Brownings have a better rate of fire and jam less, so the 4x .303 armament was considered appreciable for a point defence interceptor, which the Gladiator was. It has a great climb but a lot of drag and very poor energy retention in manoeuvres. The CR42 will do better in sustained aerobatics which is surprising considering the Gladiator has a weight advantage. But that superior climb puts the Gladiator well and truly back in the game.
    The twin fifties used weren't a bad gun, copied by the Japanese and both based on the Browning action IIRC, they were worth 2-3 rifle calibre MG (depending on type) per gun. It had adequate armament for its time, it just didn't keep up very well as other nations continued stepping up fighter armament, but started off on equal footing.

    Given its time, the fact it is a cleaner and used newer construction techniques than the Gladiator, which again is just a hotrod Gauntlet (ca.1935 service entry, 230mph top speed, the Gladiator took this to 255mph and gave a better RoF on the guns). The Fiat was designed from the beginning as not just an update or rebuilt CR32 which itself dominates the Gladiator in the performance stakes, but as a whole new aircraft working on the successful design as a basis. An example between them is the newer style of streamlined closed cowling, the Gladiator still uses the old NACA "aerodynamic oil shroud" from the 20s. That had to be worth 10mph right there. There's 150-200kg between their combat weights so the Gladiator has much lower wing loading, but the CR42 is a stronger structure and most importantly has far fewer bracing wires either necessary or exposed.

    It's clearly the newer type of aircraft. As the absence of this "overlooked equipment" the OP notes is really from a mid to late war Allied perspective. At the beginning of 1940 Spits and Hurricanes had none of this armouring either. The only thing RAF fighters had over the Italians in terms of fit, was the radios and that wasn't at all unusual in Europe. Radios were unreliable, nothing like today, they were jammed up easily just by local civilian radio networks, in fact a lot of Europe around mid-century still used telegraphs for communications in rural or mountainous areas. Radio signals don't like getting around europe all that much so easily. Entire air forces, like the Czech, the Polish, parts of the French, Beligian, etc. all gave preference to hand signalling and considered radios an unreliable, futuristic luxury that was unnecessary. They did things old school, it worked, they were happy.

    Italian aircraft designers and manufacturers were in no way retarded about this. It was just mainstream. Like the way you might think someone is retarded if they don't use 5th gen stealth warbirds today. It is actually the premise which is being challenged, why do that when the military just needs well armoured close support types, not fragile plastic-coated flying PCs too expensive to use in combat.
    Now the new idea might be better, but pragmatism is entirely rational.


    To offer another modern correlation, one of the reasons Luftwaffe pilots liked the MiG Fulcrum (there were many reasons to dislike it), was because it was old school design wrapped in a modern composite type airframe. So you can do things like switch off the flight computer. No kidding. Then you can exceed the Alpha-limiter and press 75deg AoA. Meanwhile a Block 50 Viper automatically cuts in to prevent you doing more than spiking past 60deg. Means you can do snapshots with Archers by power slides in CWC where the Viper has to do Yo-Yos to get a shot and think about his energy more. You can be brutal in a MiG because it lacks that technological update, but the trade off is a much higher pilot workload at the upper envelope.

    Still you can translate that into simple equivalence. What's the good points of a pilot force trained to use hand signalling by default? Well when radio communications breaks down as it often does near the battlezone, you have an air force that doesn't start crying for mommy. Not saying which is the better idea, but just the approach was about pragmatism and budget expenditure, and conflicting ideas on doctrinal approaches in pace with technology.
     
  16. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Conversely, hand signals are useless (with a capital 'F') if you're using ground-based radar to vector a fighter squadron to intercept an incoming raid. Hmmm, let's see now...who didn't have an operational radar warning system in WWII? Oh yes, the Italians (not to mention the Czechs, the Poles, the Belgians and the French). I don't know of any air force in WWII that didn't practice hand-signals - pretty useful for maintaining radio silence when trying to sneak up on those poor unsuspecting souls who don't have radar.

    Just sayin'....

    That said, I agree that the CR-42 was a better airframe than the Gladiator but I don't think the performance benefit was that huge compared to the impact of pilot training. The kill/loss stats of combats between the 2 aircraft seem to support this idea.

    Cheers,
    Mark
     
  17. vanir

    vanir Banned

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    Yes obviously but in order to make the contention you have to factor in the fact Britain is surrounded by water and Italy by mountains. Radio waves skip nice over water, they don't like mountains.
     
  18. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Germany has plenty of mountains, too, and isn't surrounded by water. They had an excellent radar warning system. Also, radar works very nicely along valleys - it's the skipping over ridges it doesn't like.
     
  19. Elmas

    Elmas Active Member

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    From ”They gave me a Seafire” Cap. 7 – Cmdr R. “Mike” Crosley, pag. 42

    “There were still two Gladiators at Yeovilton. There was also a captured Italian CR 42. Wiggy and our CO, Rodney Carver, had a doghfight over the airfield and the CR won. That was rather glossed over later, and no one would admit it; but it was true.”
     
  20. vanir

    vanir Banned

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    #20 vanir, Dec 2, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2011
    Buffnut, the Italians were looking at Serbia and Greece, Northern Africa, Ethiopia, Egypt and Jordan. Germany had its radar warning system, Freya or whatevs pointed towards the Channel and England, it was flood plains and cliffs giving way to water and it wasn't up and running until the mid war. Over the Balkans side nobody's radios worked, in 44 the Germans didn't even fit radio navigation equipment to LftSüdÖst fighters. There wasn't enough beacon transmitters to make a reliable network due to cost and terrain. That's true all the way through the Aegean to the Med. So that covers most Italian interests through to 43 and North Africa and the Middle East they'd have to have something worked out with the Germans with fighter/doctrinal commonality by then, assuming that much went well.

    I'm not saying you're not right, you kind of are. Just that from their point of view, at the time, it was costly and superfluous. It remained superfluous, the Belgians used Emils with hand signals. No radio network, half the airfields didn't have them, they had telegraphs, set up in 1892 or some such. It was still new to them, and reliable over the dozen or so mountain ranges between central and western europe. Radios, not so much. Radar, forget it. Best coverage you'll get is within eyeshot of the air base.

    Hey over in the Italian territorial interest was where that F-117 stealth fighter got shot down remember, point targeted by hand as it came over a ridge mind you. Modern NATO AWACS and force coordination in full scale projection didn't do crap for that. Multiply the complications by 10-thousand for mid-thirties era valve and guesswork technology.



    On the topic of performance comparison, Elmas post there nails it for me. That was my assessment exactly. I'd rather have an RAF pilot protecting my airbase, but I'd rather he were flying a CR42 than a Gladiator doing it.
     
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