The Best Biplane Fighter of WW2

Best Biplane Fighter of WW2?

  • Total voters

Ad: This forum contains affiliate links to products on Amazon and eBay. More information in Terms and rules

cheddar cheese

Major General
Jan 9, 2004
WSM, England
Right, time to reincarnate an old topic...

What do you guys think the best biplane fighter was?

I say Fiat CR.42 Falco...

Discuss :D
Only just :rolleyes:

Heres some info on the Falco:

The birth of the last fighter biplane in service in World War 2 took place during the trial for a new monoplane fighter for the Regia Aeronautica (the so-called "Series 0" aircraft). Waiting for the evaluation and testing of the various monoplanes, the Chief of Staff of the R.A., Gen. Valle, ordered the production of the CR.42 which he identified as a transition fighter with radial engine, conceived to ease the conversion on the new interceptors. This led to the building of the first prototype in early 1938 and on 5/23/38 it flew for the first time. Naturally, with the experience gained by the designer Celestino Rosatelli with excellent biplanes like the CR.30 and the CR.32, also his CR.42 had excellent flying characteristics, so that even before waiting for the results of the official military tests, a first series of 200 CR.42s had been already ordered, a higher number than the Macchi C.200 or the Fiat G.50, but this could be attributed also to the various teething troubles experienced by the new monoplanes. The paradoxical result was that, whereas both the C.200 and the G.50 were out of production by mid-1942, the CR.42 was still in production in 1944, while Germany's new jet fighter Me 262 was already operational!

Engined by the trusty 840 hp Fiat A.74 RC.38, the CR.42 was in service with 53° Stormo by 5/39 and before the entrance of Italy in the war, 300 aircraft had been already delivered to the Regia Aeronautica, constituting about 40% of the strength of the whole R.A. Top speed was 272 mph at 15,000ft, with a service ceiling of 32,970 ft and a range of 481 miles. The CR.42 was armed with 2 12.7mm machine guns. Meanwhile, the plane was also subject to several foreign orders: Hungary (50 examples) Belgium (40 examples) and Sweden (72 examples). Hungary was the first to buy the Italian biplane for its Magyar Királyi Légierö and placed orders for 52 aircraft during the summer of 1938, and equipped four Squadrons (1/1, 1/2, 1/3 and 1/4 of 1st Fighter Regiment) within the late spring of 1940. CR.42s of the Hungarian A.F. flew numerous sorties during the assault on Yugoslavia launched on 4/6/41 in concert by German and Hungarian and, when a special Air Force Brigade was formed less than two months later to accompany the Hungarian Fast Corps that was to participate in the assault on the Soviet Union to be launched on 6/22/41, the principal fighter element was provided by the 12 CR.42s of the 1/3 Squadron. By 12/41, after five months of continuous operations in which the 1/3 Squadron alone had flown some 300 sorties, destroying 17 Soviet aircraft in combat for the loss of two CR. 42s, the serviceability of the Air Force Brigade was deteriorating rapidly and it was therefore recalled to Hungary , the CR.42s being relegated to training role.

In late 9/39 the Belgian government purchased 34 Fiat CR.42s to meet the urgent re-equipment needs of its air arm's IIème Group de Chasse Due to the war, not all the Belgium order was completed instead, but only 26 CR.42s were delivered and, equipping 3e and 4e Escadrilles of 27éme Regiment, fought against the Luftwaffe from 5/10/40, effecting 35 operational missions and claiming 5 aerial victories for the loss of only two Fiats in combat before Belgium's surrender on 6/28.

The first Swedish CR.42s (named J-11) were bought, together with order for 120 fighters of the types Reggiane Re.2000 Falco I. The order for the Fiat fighter was for 72 aircraft and was the third and largest export order for the CR.42. They Italian aircraft got the Swedish designation J20 (Re.2000) respectively J11 (CR.42). The J11s were delivered between 2/40 and 9/41. By 11/41 all the Falcos were in service and they were assigned to F9 (F=Flottilj approx. Wing) at Säve, Gothenburg. Modifications included 20-mm armor plate behind the pilot, radio equipment and skis for winter service. The CR.42 was declared obsolete in 1945 and the remaining aircraft were purchased by AB Svensk Flygtjänst and used in post- war years as target-tug aircraft.

There was also a short-lived experience of the CR.42 in Finland. In fact, 12 CR.42s had been bought through a public subscription and the Suomen Ilmavoimat received the first five in 4/40, but they were turned down (the problems caused by the Fiat G.50s were enough for the Finns.) and sent back to Sweden.

Turning back to the Regia Aeronautica, its first operations in World War II took place after 6/10/40 against France and were effected by the CR.42s of 53° Stormo (150° and 151° Gruppi) and of 3° Stormo (18° and 23° Gruppi). A couple of days after also the 13° Gruppo in Libya started operations against British forces. On the French front, the CR.42s claimed ten victories against five losses, but these must be read as optimistic, a 1:1 ratio should be closer to the truth. In Africa, the most intense operations took place in Somalia and Ethiopia and there, the Comando Africa Orientale Italiana had 36 CR.42s available employing them from 3 to 8/19/40 and obtaining air superiority against the RAF. But the losses and the attrition was great and, notwithstanding the further 51 CR.42s delivered by transporting them dismantled inside the S.82s, the isolation of the AOI begun to be a heavy necessity to be overcome and from 1/41 the aircraft available steadily diminished, going down from 26 on 1/10, to only five by mid-April. The two only surviving CR.42s managed to fight up to 10/41, but by 11/27/41 the AOI was lost, and 87 CR.42s with it.

Another operation that took place by late 1940 was the infamous Corpo Aereo Italiano (C.A.I.). The propaganda operation designed to have Italian aircraft operating against the RAF on the Channel was ill conceived and conducted and showed at full the defects and the approximation of the Regia Aeronautica. The FIAT CR. 42s operating with C.A.I. were fifty, belonging to 18° Gruppo. On 10/19/40 they transferred on to the Belgian airfield of Ursel. The first action took place on 10/29, when 39 CR.42s escorted the Br.20s over Ramsgate. On 11/11 the bombers were escorted over Harwich by 40 CR. 42s but were intercepted by Spitfires and Hurricanes causing the loss of three CR.42s, while another nineteen were forced to crash-land in Belgium due to lack of fuel caused by the combat. The last action of November took place on the 29th between Margate and Folkstone with a combat against Spitfires that caused the loss of two more CR.42s (the British losses are still uncertain, if any). On 1/10/41 the CR.42s began to come back to Italy. Lack of heating equipment, open cockpits, primitive radio sets, in addition to an absolute lack of navigational capacities of the Italian pilots (a specific training was undertaken only after 1942) transformed this operation in a real nightmare for those involved!

A front where the CR.42 operated in better conditions from the start was the North African one. The 127 "Falco" available in 13° Gruppo, 10° Gruppo and 9° Gruppo operated against an enemy equipped with the Gloster Gladiator, an equivalent biplane fighter. The first combat on 11/19/40 involved the Italian units and the Australian 3 Sqn. RAAF and this was followed by other combats on 12/10 and 12/26. Notwithstanding further CR.42s sent from Italy (among them those of 18° Gruppo, coming from C.A.I.), the Italian retreat and the loss of Cyrenaica by 2/41 brought to the loss of over 400 aircraft, many of them destroyed on the ground in front of the enemy advance. With the arrival of German troops and the start of the new offensive, the main task for the CR.42 biplane begun to be the close support to the ground units and when, on 4/41, the first CR.42 AS arrived (AS = Africa Settentrionale), equipped with sand filters and attachment points for two bombs, the switch of role was clear. The enemy had Hurricanes by now and the CR.42 surely was more useful in the ground support role. Thus, used more and more exclusively on this role with 160° Gruppo, 158° and 159° Gruppi (constituting 50° Stormo Assalto), 101° Gruppo Assalto and 15° Stormo Assalto, the CR.42s followed all the North African campaign showing on many occasions the bravery of its pilots and by early 1943 the surviving 82 examples were sent back to Italy from Tunisia.

We have to give a look also at three other important theatres of operations: Greece, Crete and Malta. The operations against Greece involved 46 CR.42s of 150° Gruppo at first against Greek aircraft and later against the RAF. Almost twenty Fiats were lost by the end of the campaign. The operations against Crete in late 5/41 were supported by the biplanes of 162a and 163a Squadriglia used as fighter-bombers. The offensive against Malta started since the first day of war and involved the CR.42s of 17° Gruppo, 9° Gruppo (before going to Libya) and 23° Gruppo. After a full year of war the RAF had claimed 16 confirmed destroyed CR.42s over Malta. 7 additional were claimed as probables and 6 were claimed as damaged. Totally RAF made claims for 106 confirmed, 47 probables and 38 damaged over Malta. It was a wearing war and only by 1942 the CR.42s were fully replaced by the Macchi C.202s and the Reggiane Re.2001s.

Another task undertaken by the CR.42 was the convoy-escort role and, between 1940 and 1942 lots of mission were conducted from Sardinia and Sicily to protect the convoys headed to and from Libya. Last but not least, a few CR.42s were employed also in anti-shipping role with their two 100Kg bombs, dropping them after a dive. Some successes were obtained and the biplanes based in Sardinia took part to "mid-August battle" on 1942 with eight CR.42s. But there was more: the CR.42 was used also as night-fighter. The first attempt was made in Libya by using normal CR.42s in good visibility and with moonlight and five enemy aircraft were downed during 1941. Thus, several CR.42s were modified with shrouded exhausts, complete navigational instruments and radio equipment. Some operated in Sicily with 171° Gruppo from late 1941 but until the end of 1942 no more than seven of them were operational. By late 1942, two N.F. groups, 59° and 60° were based in Northern Italy, 167° Gruppo in Central Italy and several autonomous units in Southern Italy and the islands. A total of about 80 CR.42 CN (CN = Caccia Notturna) was used. Obviously the results were very scarce, due to the improved performance of the enemy aircraft.

The CR.42s were still used by 9/8/43, when the Armistice was signed. From this moment, most of those survived were either seized by the Germans (for their flying schools but not only) or, in small numbers, used both by the Italian Cobelligerent Air Force and by the ANR, but only as liaison planes and as trainers. The Germans instead didn't consider the operational career of the CR.42 ended: in fact they envisaged for it a role in the Luftwaffe as night attack plane. Several biplanes were thus modified by the Fiat factory and brought up to German standards. They equipped both NSGr.7 and NSGr.9 (Nachtschlachtgruppe = Night Harassment Gruppe), the former operating in the Balkans up to the end of the war and the latter in Italy, namely over the bridgehead of Anzio, until replaced by the more efficient Ju 87 Stuka in 6/44. About forty CR.42s survived to the end of the war and almost twenty of them were used in the late '40s by the Italian Air Force as trainers (at least eleven were modified as a bi-place) and liaison planes. The career of the Falco thus ended, a sort of monument to a great plane, the last of its era, but also a monument to the inability of the Regia Aeronautica to develop in time a replacement for an aging aircraft representing an already obsolete formula. A total of 1,782 CR.42s were built.

Crew 1
Length 8.25m
Wingspan 9.7m
Horsepower 840
Engine Fiat A.74 RC 38
Max Speed 430 Km/h
Max Ceiling 10,200 m
Range 775 Km
Weapons 2x12.7 mm machine guns, 200 kg of bombs

mosquitoman said:
Gladiator- Faith, Hope and Charity kept the Italian bombers at Malta a hard time, modern bombers being shot down by obsolescent biplanes


There was no Sea Gladiators named Faith, Hope and Charity as this was the appelations given to them by a reporter in a Maltese newspaper some months afterwards. Even the one on display as Faith shows no evidence of ever being flown. The plaque says N5520 which was lost on June 26. Faith is said to be N5519 by some sources but this was lost on June 24.

When #80 and #112 went to Greece with their Glads, they were opposed by the 363*, 364* and 365* in Greece and the 150 Gruppo in Albania with CD42s. Nether a/c dominated the other.
In Sweden we had both the CR 42 and the Gladiator in service during before and under the wartime and I remember that there was one former Gladiator-pilot who had a comment of the Gladiator's. He says that the only useful a Gladiator could do was to shot down a CR 42.
my god, ther's only one possible answer THE BEST BIPLANE is the I-15.
Even german Bf-109 pilots in spain looked like this :( :shock: :evil: when another I-15 escaped their cannon because of their tight turning
Tight rolling, you mean. The I-15 wasn't an amazing tight turner, but the roll was amazing as most Bi-planes have good roll rates. The I-15s fell easy prey to 109s.
unlike I-16s..............

and playing PF at CC's place, i was in that gladiator that isn't a gladiator it was produced by annother country or summit, i was shot down (well i ejected) by a CR.42 which then went on to shoot down a ace Bf-109 :lol:
If I'm flying the I-16s, the 109s don't stand a chance. My first two kills were 109E4s on AEP. And it just went up and up from there, until I got injured and after a short stint in a P-40 was injured again and put in a La-5.

Here's some nice pictures of the Cr.42:


  • cr42_1_174.jpg
    33.3 KB · Views: 6,409
  • cr42_2_322.jpg
    25.4 KB · Views: 6,357
  • cr42_3_145.jpg
    31.1 KB · Views: 6,551

Users who are viewing this thread