The truth about Regia Aeronautica

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I noticed browsing the thread a few mentions of less than adequate Italian fighter design, particularly the G50 and Macchi C200 and I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned that actually the Castoldi airframe was quite celebrated internationally when it was prototyped as a leading design, but Italian aircraft manufacture was virtually castrated by lack of suitable aero engine production in the calibre of the Daimler and Merlin.

I find a relevant characterisation might be to think of the G50 and C200 a little like a Hurricane and Spitfire fitted with late series Bristol Mercury engines (on 130 grade it has similar performance to the Italian radial).
With Daimler engines the same designs changed markedly in the performance stakes, we all know the respect accorded the M-C202 and 205V or the G55. They'd be like a Merlin Spit (the Castoldis) or making the Hurricane all metal and tossing in the early series Griffon (for the DB-605 equipped G55). These are however the same basic airframe designs as the radial versions used in the early war (more changes made for the torquey DB-605 respectively, the M-C202 however is virtually identical airframe to the M-C200).

I don't think it's really true to say the Italians lacked in airframe design, it was really indigenous aero engine manufacture that hurt them in terms of fighter performance until the Germans chipped in.
Even then it seems the Italian license built Daimlers underwent marked resetting of tolerances and hand finishing and did not perform quite the same as German made Daimlers (with the exception of early series C202's which used imported and not license made Daimlers). Whilst their overall performance is said to have been a little better, their servicability in field conditions was much worse than for a Messerschmitt with the same engine. Walter Boyne gives a cursory mention of this in his series, among others. (before you say this is because of tropical filters, the Macchis used tropical filters, meanwhile a lot of Me-109s in Africa didn't).

It seems then a good example of an MC202 operating from a well serviced base is an excellent fighter type which is in every sense an early war design and an example of Italian aero manufacture on even footing. What is more impressive is that it was considered to remain contemporary with later war designs and was not at all out of place in service during 1943.

On the armament, the Breda 12.7mm was a pretty good gun according to Tony Williams and the Italians pioneered small calibre explosive shells later developed further by the Japanese, who chose this weapon for remanufacture over the Browning for Army fighters (Allies developed only tracer and incendiary types aside from hard core). In the early war Germany had also assured its allies (Italy and Rumania) that the 2cm aero gun would be made available to them but delivery was protracted, so it was only available from the midwar period. I'd say both nations were expecting to have much heavier armament on their fighters during 1941 but it didn't happen until later.
Back in 1938 however most manufacturers still thought one .50" was adequate interceptor armament and two .30" against fighters, look at the Curtiss Hawk or Brewster Buffalo for example. There was quite an elaborate review by the British ministry which resulted in much heavier armament fitted to regular fighters and pilot request in Germany generally resulted in the 2cm guns becoming standard (they were originally intended for ground attack missions).
The Hurricane, Spitfire and Messerschmitt were all originally intended to carry three or four small calibre MGs, a G50 or MC200 (or a Curtiss Hawk) were all heavily armed by comparison. This of course changes once 8-gun and cannon armament became standard fare which happened just leading into the war.

There is an old Navy saying that a Navy fights a war with whatever equipment it started with. This is a little true also about aero design and technology. Most of the deciding conflicts happen fairly early on, whilst the new models introduced during a conflict were often being prototyped at the start, whilst you fight those early deciding conflicts with what you already had in production.
Not strictly true, it's a very generalised statement, but I make it for introducing an important theme when making comparative assessments.

Very interesting observations, expecially about engines and armaments.
Thank you for you contribute !:D

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