Italy, 1943: Macchi C.205 vs. Spitfires

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Jun 16, 2006
Milano, Italy
Macchi C.295 vs. Spitfires

The following two stories come from the book "Un Pilota del Cavallino Rampante", (edition La Galaverna-Flaviana, Battaglia Terme, Padova, 1999) written by Tenente Pilota Paolo Voltan, 4° Stormo Caccia, Regia Aeronautica Italiana. They refer to two different missions, flew by Paolo Voltan on August 14th and September 8th, 1943.

I think the following descriptions may be helpful in order to understand the performances of the Macchi C.205, one of the best fighters of the Regia Aeronautica in WW2. This plane was equipped by a FIAT RA 1050 Tifone (same as DB 605 A-1, build under license by FIAT), developing 1450 HP (the same engine mounted on Me 109 G and H1)
Reading the following stories, it seem the C.205 was more maneuverable than the Me109, being able to outturn the allied Spitfires MkVb and Mk.IX, at that time operational over Italy.

I decided to translate this text in English, so other people of my simulation community (IL-2) can enjoy the description. I hope my English would be passable. I also hope it may interest you too. Have fun, listening the story from Tenete Paolo Voltan own memories.


August 14th, 1943, over Sicily

On 14th of August our flight took off with 8 planes. They were all Macchi C.205, armed with two 20mm. Cannon (finally!) and the usual two m12,7 mm. Machine guns. I was the wingman of Ten. Querci, and we were the third section, flying close to him on his right side, as for the general rule in combat flying (…). Our flight of eight planes climbed up to 3.000 mt. Our orders were to climb up to 6.000 mt., escorting a flight of RE.2002, flying at 5.000 mt. The difference in height of 1.000 mt. should have allowed us diving attack, in case an enemy formation would attempt to intercept the RE.2002 in order to stop their bombing attack (….)
We were flying over Milazzo, when a short burst from our flight leader warned us that an enemy formation was in sight. I rased the head, and high in front of us, a little on the left, I saw a formation of not less than fourty Spitfires, diving toward us.
As soon they were about 300 meters from us, they opened fire all together, and an avalanche of red tracers hit us, while our sections break on the left or on the right, attempting to avoid the enemy fire.
Querci made an hard break on the right, and I followed him carefully, while feeling my sweat running on my head. My hand was firmly keeping the stick, my finger ready on the firing button, in order to open fire as soon as needed.
Closing on maximum turn, Querci was trying to position himself at 6 o clock of some bandit, because after the first merge it was only a matter of ability. In fact the manoeuvrability of our Macchi enabled us to engage the whole enemy formation, until the RE.2002 were on target. The Spitfires, meanwhile, were all around us in the sky, flying in sections of two planes.
I was still flying near Querci, continuously checking around to watch possible treats. Suddenly in front of us we saw two Spitfires turning hard on the left. Querci opened fire, but due to the turning rate, the tracers missed them near their tail. I was ready to engage them, but then I saw two other Spitfires coming from the right, aiming at Querci plane. With an hard bank on the right I turned toward them, hardly missing to hit them both, but making impossible to them to open fire on Querci.
I suddenly realised I was alone, while all around I can see a furball of British and Italian planes, firing and running the ones after the others, in the middle of an hell dogfight. In that moment two Spitfires crossed in front of my plane, flying in very close formation. They should have miss me, because they were turning on the left, following an isolated Italian plane. In a matter of seconds I close on their six, pushing my Macchi on maximum turn without falling in a spin. A few seconds again and I would have been able to put the enemy wingman in my gun sight. I felt the plane trembling and shaking as usual, announcing the beginning of an horizontal spin. Pushing a little forward the stick I succeeded in stabilizing her, while I realised I was slowly gaining advantage on the bandis, that probably did not spot me yet. Shooting at the wingman would give me an advantage. If the leader would not know the wingman was hit, I could lately attack the second target with another burst.
The progresses I was making spiralling totally took my attention, and I forgot to check my six, where suddenly I could find another section of Spitfires. The bandits were finally in my gun sight. I knew that if I wanted to hit them, I should aim ahead of them. On the contray our continuous turn on the left would have pushed my bullets away from the target. When I let the first burst go, I had the confirmation of my thoughts. In fact the tracers showed my burst were missing the bandit, sliding down, away from his tail, leaving the two planes still free to aim to their hunt to the other Macchi. A second burst hit the wingman Spit. The plane banked: initially a dark smoke burst out of his engine, than a sudden fire blow on the whole plane, that went down as a torch. I got him!
The other was not yet aware of having lost his wingman, because was still engaging the other Macchi. This was still turning on the left while climbing, knowing this was the best way to get free from the dog on his tail. Looking around I could see planes flying in all directions, but no one of the British was following the RE.2002, that in the mean time should have accomplished their mission. On my gun sight I still had the other Spit, and I was committed not to leave him for any reason.
The victory I got on his wingman push me to a wider turn, and I had to close again, if I wanted to get the other too. The hard turn was pushing me on my seat, and moving my head in the different directions was an enormous effort. A few seconds again, and I could fire another burst on my target. The shape of the spit was slowly entering in my gun sight, well centred in the external circle. I should just wait a little, to put it right in the central cross of my gun sight. Than I had to go further ahead, in order to aim before the Spit, and balance the turn speed. When I shoot, a burst erupted from the Macchi's guns, shaking the whole plane. My tracers hit the target that, being turning, was totally exposing his full shape in gun sight. I can see my bullets entering his wing, the cockpit, the engine, but the plane was still flying as nothing was happened. I was ready to shoot again, when I saw some red lights passing near my plane. I turned suddenly my head, and what I can see where the turning propeller blades of two Spits, with a spiral painted on the nose, creating a strange visual effect, and together with tem, the flashing machine guns shooting at me.
At that moment I was not really thinking what I was doing. My reaction was pure instinct. With a sudden break I turned my plane on the right, closing the throttles. The two Spits passed over me in overshooting, and I found myself on their six, but unfortunately too far from them.
I opened full throttle, trying to catch them, but they were really too far, and I would have needed too time to do that.. I needed some rest after all that emotions: I had a look around, and I realised I was alone. The remaining Spits were heading toward the Mount Etna. No other Macchi in sight. My altimeter was showing 6.000 meters (…)Watching the clock and the televel, I understood I was flying since 70 minutes, and it was time to return to homebase…
Here comes the second recall of Paolo Voltan. Please note this happened on September 8th, 1943. I believe this was probably last dogfight of Regia Aeronautica against the Allied before the armnistice.


September 8th, 1943 -

My Squadron, 73^ Squadriglia, belonging to the 9th Group of 4° Stormo (Wing), was based at Gioia del Colle since August 28th, 1943. We were flying Macchi C.205, finally armed with 20 mm. Cannons, and a maximum speed of over 650 Km/h.
We scrambled at around 10,30 AM. We got notice of a formation of 65 B-24 Liberator south of Pescara, flying toward south, returning to their bases in Tunisia.
We take off in eight planes (…) we climbed at maximum rate at 6.000 mt. (...) The possibility of attacking a group of 65 bomber was making all of us excited. The first to spot the Americans was Rinaldi, my wingman (….)
The American tactic was always the same: flying in boxes, so they can enforce their offensive power. A formation of 65 Liberators may provide firepower of 650 machine guns, and approaching them as very dangerous. We knew that their guns can fire horizontally for about 300 meters, than the bullet would change their trajectory, loosing a great part of their speed. As a consequence Liberators gunner did not open fire until our planes were very near. Our tactic was flying in the same direction as them, on the side of their formation, at a distance of about 500 meters. Their speed was about 450 Km/h, and therefore we had a speed margin of about 200 Km/h. So we flew straight, over passing them, and then with an hard turn, attacking them frontally. This was the side in which B-24 were more vulnerable, due to dead angles caused by the engines, where the gunners cannot fire.
When we over passed the formation of about 500 meters, a little higher than the bombers, dive toward them and firing. The volume of fire hitting our planes was terrible, but the duration of the attack was only a few seconds. As soon we were approaching the closer, we made a roll, turning our plane upside down, and reverse in a half split-s and fast diving toward the ground. While turning, we were showing all our shape to the bombers gunners, but only for a few seconds. Continuing our dive until being out of sight, we climbed again on the opposite side. Then we flew again on the side of the formation, waiting to be again straight in front of them, in order to start the next passage. This kind of maneuver might be repeated several times, at least until the remaining fuel in our fighters allowed us to attack again.
That day, as soon we spot the bombers, while moving on our attacking position, a formation of eight Spitfires suddenly appeared on our right side. Fortunately they were not higher than us, and so they did not dive on us firing. The four Macchis on the right side of the bombers abandoned the attack route, turning toward the Spits. The other four, including me and Rinaldi, continued in their pursuit of the bombers..
From my cockpit I could see the furball between the others. The altitude was favourable to the Macchis, because until 6.000 meters our planes were practically unbeatable. Mariotti, followed by his comrades, went into the dogfight wit a terrible commitment. In spite of being four against eight, the Italians soon were dominating the situation. The maneuverability of their planes, and the ability of the pilots put them in the condition of being able to fire without being fired. The duel last about ten minutes, while we were flying south, following the bombers.
The intercept happened south of Termoli, and the fight continued toward Puglia, with our series of attacks … At the third pass one of the leading planes banked on his wing, while a long black smoke was erupting from his wing. After firing at him, when I rolled upside down and dived, I could see her well and clearly while climbing on the opposite side. The B-24 was flying without control, in a narrow spiral dive. Was the end: the huge beast was going down smoking, while I could see some parachutes opening over her.
But we need to make another attack, although we already flew over Bari, heading to Jonio see.
In the following pass another B-24 started to smoke heavily and to loose hight, without loosing control. At least other five bombers were heavily damaged.. We were now flying over Santa Maria di Leuca, and our fuel level did not allow us to perform another attack, therefore we headed home, very curious about learning the story of the other section.
They were already arrived at home base before us. One spit shot down and confirmed, maybe a second one. A poor score, but obtained by only four Macchis against eight Spitfires, that at the end decided to disengage (….)
Each fight was always different from the others. After this dogfight our debriefing conclusions were two. The fighters attacking the Spits make a few comments about the ingenuity of the British, being outturned by the Macchis, without succeeding in break, and therefore hit by our fighters, and running home at the end, helped by the fact that our Macchis were out of fuel, and therefore cannot pursue them.
The other section got a good confirmation about their tactics in attacking bombers, able to produce good results. The limited fuel was the main reason why of the limited results. But it is also important to mention that we were only four against 65 of those huge bombers, and the volume of fire shoot at us was really terrible (…)
This story answers some of my questions about the Macchi C.205 thank you. It seems to me that in the right hands the c.205 was more than a match for the famous spitfire. I wonder how it faired against the P-51 Mustang?
DerAdlerIstGelandet posted

Well since a Spitfire was actually more than a match for a P-51, I think it is quite obvious.

A broad statement like you put forth is obivously not a correct answer all the time.

If you fly an aircraft to your enemys strengths you will lose. You must fly to your
aircrafts strenghts and your targets weakness to win.

Although the pilots stories above are a great read and I appreciate the translation; the
bottom line is there are also pilot stories available that read the same, but the aircraft
are different.

Says nothing that is set in stone.
I notice the constant referring to tracers. Which guns carried these? And with which interval were they fired?

As to the question of the C.205 vs Spitfire (IX?), I think they're closely matched at low speed with a clear advantage higher up. But the most important thing is that the Spitfire IX was around in significant numbers when the Macchi was only available in a few preproduction numbers (and armed without cannons).

In the game, a Macchi 205 makes a very tough opponent to the P-51. It's obviously an energy fighter, like the Mustang. Yeah, it's just a game I guess.

It seems to me that in the right hands the c.205 was more than a match for the famous spitfire.

It doesn't sound like in this account the 205 was as dangerous to the Spitfire as the Fw 190 was. The Spitfire was excellent at turning, and since the 205 was an energy fighter, it probably had more trouble at it, at least at slow speeds.
I am impressed with the MC 205. I always thought it was a great crate. If you are speaking of IL-2 the combat sim, it is excellent for BnZ tactics.
After reading these stories, it sounds like the mc 205 is a heck of a fighter capable of tackling on the famous spit ix. I did a bit of research turns out that the mc 205v had excellent performance: maximum speed being 399 mph at 23,620ft, 310mph cruising speed, and a maximum climb rate of 3713ft/min at 3,280ft. When comparing it to the spitfire ix, both where very close in speed and maneuverability; both had very good armaments: mc 205 having 2 x 12.7mm and 2 x 20mm to the spitfire's 4 x 7.62mm and 2 x 20mm; and lastly the spitfire having an edge in a climb while the mc 205 had and edge in a dive.

Having all of this puts the mc 205 as one of the best fighters in my book capable of competing with some of the best fighters such as the yak-3, p-51, p-47, f4u, ki-84, spitfire ix, tempest and possible even the spitfire xiv. On top of this the mc 205 turned out to have excellent handling characteristics, wide landing gear like the fw 190, very good cockpit visibility, and very good fighter-bomber capabilities.

As to conclude, the mc 205 is, in my opinion, the best axis fighter of the war for several reasons: extensively having experience pilots (unlike the Fw 190D), not having unreliable and expensive engines (me 262), not having poor quality in manufacture (ki-84), not having a decrease in performance and handling (Bf 109G), and capable of attaining performance at above 21,000ft (fw 190A). If Italy was able to produce the mc 205 in large enough numbers, it would have change the course of the Mediterranean.
Macchi MC 205 was a splendid aeroplane, but probably wasn't the best of the fighters of the "Serie 5" (Macchi MC 205, Fiat G 55 and Re 2005) as it was directly derived from his predecessor MC 202: a more powerful and armed aeroplane,but also heavier.

Here the opinion about the Reggiane Re 2005, probably the best of the three Italian fighters of a Pilot whose opinon is certaily worth of confidence: Group Captain W.G.G. Duncan Smth, D.S.O., D.F.C., in "Spitfire into battle", John Murray (Publishers), Paperback edition 2002, pag. 173-4:

"I returned to Lecce, as this airfield was only slightly damaged and I tought it would do very well as a second string, in case Grottaglie became overcrowded. After a pleasant meal of spaghetti with the Italian pilots, I took the opportunity of inspecting the Macchi 205s and a couple of Re 2001/5s (sic) I found parked near the flight offices. The Re 2001/5 s were fairly new to the Italian Air Force, and only a handful had been built. They had a wing shape very similar to the Spitfire, a powerful engine and were armed with four cannons (sic. they were three, in effects). Having had a dog-fight with one of them, I am convinced we would have been hard pressed to cope in our Spitfires operationally, if the Italians or Germans had had a few Squadrons equipped with these aircraft at the beginning of the Sicily campaign ot in operations from Malta. Fast, and with an excellent manoeuvrability, the Re 2001/5 was althogeter a superb aeroplane. Tough I didn't get a chance to fly one, I did manage to fly the Macchi 205 and the Me 109G. Neither of these aircraft measured up to the capabilities of the Re 2001/5 series in manoeuvrability or rate of climb. (omissis) It is a pity, however, that no Re 2001/5 survive to this day, because they were fine examples of the Italian engineering craftmanship."
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nice looking ac. dont remember seeing it before but did find a clip on it...


Nice, but that is not Reggiane 2005 - 3×20mm MG151 and 2×12,7mm Breda...

Here the opinion about the Reggiane Re 2005, probably the best of the three Italian fighters of a Pilot whose opinon is certaily worth of confidence: Group Captain W.G.G. Duncan Smth, D.S.O., D.F.C., in "Spitfire into battle", John Murray (Publishers), Paperback edition 2002, pag. 173-4:

" couple of Re 2001/5s (sic) I found parked near the flight offices. The Re 2001/5 s were fairly new to the Italian Air Force, and only a handful had been built. They had a wing shape very similar to the Spitfire, a powerful engine and were armed with four cannons (sic. they were three, in effects).''

...,yust plain old Re.2001 - good plane, but little bit a slow 542kmh(337mph) when it appear in 1941.(actually, first action was in may 1942.)
C.205 was just a C.202 enhanced with a better engine and a powerful armament. That's is, performances slighty better at altidute, esp 3-7,000 meters.

Spitfire was improved further. The Mk.V was still a medium level fighter, but Mk.IX was an altitude fighter, a thing that MC.205 cannot be, not even the Orione was on par.

And the Spitfire evolved further with the Mk.XIV-24 series, almost all (except, perhaps, the 24) made in the WWII times.

So, at the neat of balooing:

MC.202 => MC.205 = Spit Mk.V => Spit Mk.IX.

MC.202 = Spit V

MC.205 = Spit IX.

With the plus of heavier armament (but the performances decayed, the full weight increased from 3,250 to 3,400 kgs) for the '205 (not in the Sr I ,except perhaps few examples), and the plus for the Spitfire to increasing the power at altidue 2x.

The times to reach 6,000 meters: Macchi 205: depending of the source, it is stated 5'51'' (or 5'53''??), while the Spitfire Mk.IX could do it even in 4'45''-4'50''. To 8,000 meters: Macchi 205 in 7'45'' or over 8', depending on the sources; the Spitfire V did it in less than 7'.

This account for atleast 1' less for 8,000 meters, and perhaps the same about the 6,000 meters limit.

As speed, the MC.205 was rated at about 530 kmh/1 km, 550 km/2 km, while over 7,000 was about 620-650 kmh (depending of the sources or the version).

The Spitfire Mk.IX coul do roughly the same or slighty better, 530-540 kmh slm, and almost 600 kmh around 2,400 mt.

At very high altitude it had still 1,000 hp (30,000 ft), i would be curious to know what kind of power DB-605 had at such altitudes, but i bet it was just slighty better than Merlin 45 (500 hp).
Anyway, i don't understand how the Macchi's were so good in climbing and turning, as they had a very high wingloading (even the C.200 had 120-140 kg/sqm, a lot for a 1937 fighter).

The Spitfire had both lower wingload and higher P/W ratio, and not by a slight margin. Just compare Spitfire Mk.V with C.202.

C.202 was as well, worse in wingloading and P/W vs Bf-109E, but still it reached 6,000 m in 6 minuts or less. Too strange, i'd bet the Bf-109E should have 1' advantage being around 15% lighter, not the reverse.

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