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HOW NOT TO

CHOOSE A
FIGHTER

Italian aviation historian GREGORY ALEGI
offers fresh insight into how
political infighting and bitter
industrial rivalry derailed the
development of a series of
potentially world-class
Italian World War Two
fighters, despite the
availability of Germany’s
exceptional Daimler-Benz
DB 605 powerplant

Daimler-Benz DB 605 liquid-cooled V12 piston engine made their operational debuts. but the limited manufacture of Italian- THE AVIATION HISTORIAN 21 .205V. The resulting domestic infighting would ultimately crown a foreign winner — the Messerschmitt Bf 109. Between April and July 1943 the Regia Aeronautica (Italian Air Force) put the Fiat G. often based on local or I Issue No 10 company allegiances. It was coined in the 1970s by a journalist inspired by the USA’s “Century Series” nickname. the Alfa Romeo engines were optimised for low altitude and the useless bombardier’s gondola was removed (a field modification pioneered in 1942 by the 132nd Gruppo and only later adopted by SIAI).475 h. From the 101st production aircraft.202 Folgore airframe. which Macchi chief designer Dr Ing Mario Castoldi had derived from his radialengined MC. THE “SERIE 5” SAGA : ITALY’S WARTIME FIGHTER-PROCUREMENT CRISIS N 1943 THREE Italian fighters powered by the German 1. Macchi MC. While few countries managed to introduce all-new designs into widespread service after entering the war. in Italian wartime usage a “serie” was a production batch. it is necessary to look at the common procurement process through which they all came about. the MC.55 Centauro. the “Serie 5” label is as apocryphal as it is widespread. and always handicapped by looking at them separately.50 and CR. as seen here.55 and Reggiane Re.79s. German brawn — based on the proven Macchi MC. the three designs still fire the imaginations of enthusiasts and pilots alike — discussions about their handling.p. Italy claims the dubious prize for the longest aircraftdevelopment times.42 fighters.202.205V Veltro represented the easiest and quickest way to put a Daimler-Benz DB 605-powered fighter into series production. indicated by Roman numerals. The Macchi MC. the three new types promised to rejuvenate a front line that was still largely the same as that with which Italy had entered the war three years earlier.75 and S.PHILIP JARRETT COLLECTION Italian style. none of its third-generation designs became operational on any significant scale.200 and Fiat G. Fiat G. however. as well as the machines’ technology and performance. For example. more than 70 years later. which included SIAI-Marchetti S. furthermore. against each other in a vicious struggle. is that this new generation of state-ofthe-art fighters was three years late owing to a tortuous decision process that pitted the nation’s industrial and political interests. S. 20mm wing cannon were fitted.205V Veltro and Reggiane Re.2005 were all powerful and elegant. and their relative merits are still debated today. What is less well-known. With their high performance. With the notable exception of the MC.2005 Sagittario fighters into service in rapid succession. (Incidentally.) AN INDUSTRY OF PROTOTYPES? This enthusiasm for the Italian DB 605-powered types is understandable. evolution was minimal and production aircraft differed little from their prototypes. during the production of the last batch of S. The Veltro was externally distinguishable from the Folgore by the twin cylindrical oil radiators under the nose.82 transports and the Macchi MC. To obtain better insight into these so-called “Serie 5” fighters.79 torpedo bombers.200 by installing the inline DB 601. construction and performance frequently leading to heated debate. Even now.

their total wartime production did not go beyond 392 aircraft — 259 MC. actually happened.AUTHOR’S COLLECTION ABOVE Dr Ing Mario Castoldi.41 THE AVIATION HISTORIAN Issue No 10 .55s and just 32 Re.202 and MC.2005s — far from the grandiose intended production plans and in stark contrast to the German supply of about 320 Messerschmitt Bf 109s (from a total production of more than 23.1007ter.p. Bristol Jupiter radial) and one was equipped with Macchi M. there had been no lack of design competitions and prototypes. poor management and subterranean manœuvres in the corridors of power which conspired to keep the fighter branch in a constant state of inferiority.9 derivative powered by a 420 h.205 production using the same jigs.30 V12 engine). To grasp how these factors translated into 22 practice. instead. and specifically what the Regia Aeronautica had planned to do and what.30 and CR. to the point where the widely-accepted summary of the Regia Aeronautica predicament is of a war fought with too many prototypes. simply a re-engined Z. the father of the Macchi Schneider Trophy racers and “MC” series of fighters. an important factor which would have meant an easy and swift switch to MC. one operated Ansaldo AC.55 may be taken as a symbol of the byzantine procedures.32 biplanes (powered by a 600 h. The tortuous development story of the G. Six of these were equipped with Fiat CR.3 parasol monoplanes (a licence-built Dewoitine D. political and industrial situations usually overlooked in narratives based more on corporate lore than historical analysis.202 prototype at Lonate Pozzolo. THE FIGHTER CRISIS In 1935 the Italian fighter force comprised the equivalent of 11 gruppi. 101 G.p. Some of the broader reasons for the Italian fighter fiasco lie in the structure of the nation’s industry and the delay of the Ministero dell’Aeronautica (Ministry of Aeronautics) in understanding the scope of the war that Italy had joined.p. And yet. The MC.000 during this period alone) to the Regia Aeronautica during 1943–45. it is instructive to look at Italian wartime fighter procurement. each made up of three squadriglie (squadrons) of 12 aircraft each.1007bis). beside the MC. three were equipped with his earlier CR. trainers and many other branches whose hopes were pinned on chimeræ which never materialised.20/20bis biplane (410 h. Enthusiasm for this trio of attractive World War Two fighters tends to obscure the fact that all three saw only limited production and negligible operational use before the Italian armistice of September 1943.205s.200 in production. built DB 601 engines kept the obsolete MC. These figures shift the discussion from theoretical aircraft performance to the actual military. Similar stories could be written about the bomber branch (after four years of development the Cant Z.1018 delivered results comparable to the Cant Z.20 V12 inline engine). Fiat A. Fiat A. Including the post-armistice period.205V shared the vast majority of components. designed by Dr Ing Celestino Rosatelli.

205V seamlessly from the MC. The Germans found Fiat’s G.) Giuseppe Valle. 1. 670kg (1. engine revolutions and fuel mixture.e hover EVOLUTION.p. ensured smooth operation in any flight attitude and precluded the risk of backfiring.475 h.p.p.p. which explains why Mario Castoldi derived his MC. Specifications for a new competition were issued in January 1936. The first engine in this family used by Italy was the DB 601Aa.m.p.CO. The hydraulic control unit automatically adjusted the compressor settings in relation to air pressure. it was too large to be used on most existing airframes. 1.400 r.1050 RC. which spawned the unsuccessful Breda Ba. “1000” the power category. Fiat A. Fiat A.p.030lb). NOT REVOLUTION: THE DAIMLER-BENZ DB 605 THE DB 605 WAS the final evolution of Daimler-Benz’s DB 600 of 1934.800 r.202. as the Ministry had selected Fiat as its leading fighter supplier a decade earlier.58I.050 h. emergency. This was the first sign that the Issue No 10 Rosatelli line was drying up.32 would do well in the Spanish Civil War the following year. Italy’s first attempt at modernisation was made in 1935. Initially designated the Alfa 150 RC. but with 44·52lit displacement.a. the Bosch unit then adjusted automatically based on the pressure and temperature of the air supplied by the compressor. By increasing the bore from 150mm to 154mm.175 h. In December 1936 Generale di squadra aerea (Air Chief Marshal — Gen.1000 RC. maximum continuous power.p. The Macchi MC.41I. continuous) than the DB 601. allowing for risk-free aircraft evolution. the Air Staff foresaw a front line comprising twin-engined multi-crew long-range heavy fighters (caccia combattimento.55 attractive mainly on account of its ability to take the DB 603. 162mm bore. without changing the latter’s external dimensions. This allowed the DB 605 to use the same forged engine-bearers as for the DB 601 and fit the same basic airframe. 180mm stroke and weighing significantly more than the DB 605 at 920kg (2. This simplified engine handling. “41” the 4. the new engine’s dry weight increased by only 30kg (65lb). a worrying trend.m. Fiat immediately proposed the all-metal G. The Regia Aeronautica selected the DB. to 2.88) alongside cheaper single-engined single-seat interceptors with high climbing speed but limited endurance.200 first flew in December 1937.38 radial. The Regia Aeronautica obtained a licence to build the engine in 1939 and entrusted production to Alfa Romeo at its purpose-built Pomigliano d’Arco factory near Naples.250 h.450ft) normal operating altitude of the powerplant and the “I” signified fuel-injection.p.74 RC. usually referred to as the “1938 competition” because of the year in which the comparative flight trials were held. Like other air forces. and the revolutions by 400 r.p.510 h.100m (13. Although the nimble CR. with a design competition for interceptors soon cancelled when it was realised that “no [proposed] design answered all the requirements”. The key features of this inverted-V12 engine family included a shaft-mounted 20mm cannon. remarkably. GA The DB 605 Crankshaft Reduction gear Spark plugs: two per cylinder Cylinders in inverted-vee arrangement For clearer field of view over nose Engine mount GunMagnetos synchronisation gear and distributor Fuel-injection pump unit (between cylinder blocks) Supercharger inlet GRAPHIC: IAN BOTT / WWW.. much as Messerschmitt did with the Bf 109F and G models. the Stato Maggiore Aeronautica (Air Staff) was well aware that the fighter branch was on the verge of obsolescence. 1937. rather than the aircraft’s performance. the Undersecretary for Air and Chief of the Air Staff.IANBOTTILLUSTRATION. selected the G. was capable of 1. emergency rating) at 2.50 to equip a complete Stormo (Wing).. a 33·629lit. (1. and 81 had already been ordered when the prototype flew on February 26. “RC” the use of reduction gear and compressor.p. the DB 603. “RA” indicated the Regia Aeronautica.20.50 monoplane.605A variant and ordered it from Fiat as the RA.475lb) variant.m. a Bosch direct-injection fuel system and a single-stage centrifugal compressor. THE AVIATION HISTORIAN 23 . the DB 605 delivered up to 25 per cent more power (1.UK flying-boats powered by a single 420 h. the licence-built DB 601 later became the RA. designed by Dr Ing Giuseppe Gabrielli and powered by the 840 h.41.s. A more powerful development.

2000.2001. and neither ever flew. the prototype of which had been built at the company’s own expense and risk and which was eventually built mainly for export. Reggiane set to work on adapting the Re.55 and twinengined Macchi MC.200 and G. This astonishing result — Fiat had won 61·16 per cent. but when flown comparatively against the G. developed from the MC. and of which nearly twice as many were built.200. V16 inline engine driving contra-rotating propellers. Macchi had been awarded nothing — forced the Ministry to order the MC.50 respectively.42 would still be in production in September 1943.74powered CR. a 1.AUTHOR’S COLLECTION ABOVE Designed by Dr Ing Giuseppe Gabrielli (INSET BELOW). turning instead in mid-1939 to a new type. 1939.50s. a powerplant derived from the similarly configured AS.50 single-seat fighter was only a limited improvement on the same company’s similarly-powered CR. thus creating the Re.175 h. The company somehow prevailed upon the Regia Aeronautica to adopt it as a transition type between the old CR. of which 1. In March 1940 the Regia Aeronautica thus asked Macchi to adapt an MC. While both were adequate machines for their time.201 airframe to accept the 1. again with mediocre results.201 and Fiat G. DB 601A engine then entering production at Alfa Romeo in Naples as the RA.15 racer. Meanwhile. the Regia Aeronautica ordered three experimental and 12 production A.200 h.301 prototypes.8 created for the proposed CMASA CS.492 (plus 182 exports). he immediately took THE AVIATION HISTORIAN Issue No 10 . the G.1000 RC.176 examples would eventually be built. the only one to enter production was the Reggiane Re.52. intended for the G.128 were ultimately built. which was popular with its pilots on account of its superb manœuvrability. Fiat A. its manufacture having stretched from the 200 initially envisaged to 1.55.38 radial engine.p. which made its first flight in June 1940. Of the seven designs submitted.41I. A third interceptor competition was announced on January 5. Also in March 1940. the result was undermined by Fiat’s decision to offer the A. the all-metal monoplane Fiat G. of which some 1. 1938. of all Italian fighter orders between June 1935 and September 1937.42 biplane. 330 aircraft for Hungary and Sweden and a mere 15 for Italy. designed by Rosatelli and first flown in May 1938. The Regia Aeronautica also learned that Fiat had never actually commenced work on the G.000 h.a.p. The 24 Macchi MC. s.50 at the Guidonia test centre it proved faster and more manœuvrable. which was to be powered by the equally new A. Francesco Pricolo succeeded Valle on November 10.p. Hence the stage was set for the tragedy that would be played out over the next five years. as against 791 G. Although the “adaptation” was purely administrative — amending the contract rather than cutting metal — this would lead to the celebrated MC.76 RC. by value.202 Folgore (Lightning).52. When Gen. were both beset by problems with their designated 1.42 biplane.32 and the new monoplanes.38. While it is true that other countries were still operating biplane fighters — the US Navy had introduced the Grumman F3F in 1936 and the Soviet Union’s Polikarpov I-153 entered service in 1938 — the “transitional” CR.2000 to take the DB 601.38 engines.

2000 selected CR.2001 G.55 (A.uk Macchi Reggiane CR.30 1928 CR.74 M.202 1941 1942 MC. no proposed design met requirements) 1930 1931 Fiat A.41 1929 CR.55 (DB 605 engine) 1944 Issue No 10 MC.20 Fiat A.42 Re.38 engine) MC.co.30 DB 605 Other 1936: Second design competition for interceptor fighters 1932 1933 DB 601 1935: Design competition for interceptor fighters (cancelled.205N (2 built) THE AVIATION HISTORIAN 25 .50 selected MC.ianbottillustration.20/20bis Key to engines 1927 Fiat A.205V 1943 Re.32 1938: Third design competition for interceptor fighters 1934 1935 1936 G.2005 G.Italian fighter timeline Fiat 1926 Graphic: Ian Bott www.200 selected 1937 1938 1939 1940 Re.

RIGHT Gen s. surveys the cockpit of the “motorjet”-powered Campini-Caproni C.475 h. replied that. Reggiane undertook a similar exercise and in October 1941 began building a wooden mock-up THE AVIATION HISTORIAN Issue No 10 . On March 31 that year. a Folgore with the bare minimum of modifications required to fit the DB 605. and in late October informed the Ministry of the performance expected of the new variant.C. stock of the situation he had inherited in terms of current strength and future programmes. The original 22m² (237ft²) wing with a single tubular spar was abandoned for a conventional two-spar 21m² (226ft²) wing.202 (but not. despite a weight increase of 100kg (220lb).p. At a generals’ meeting on June 25.2005 and MC.202bis.205N Orione respectively. the compressor was moved from the rear to the underside and the propeller became a conventional single three-bladed unit. Among his first actions was a review of all types on hand. and enquired about the possibility of equipping the Re.202 Folgore was fast and agile. 1941. The engine underwent radical changes: its configuration went from straight to inverted. it should be noted.2. In March 1941. initially proposed as a one-piece structure but in the event produced as port and starboard wings which were joined at the fuselage. it would be possible to build both an “adapted” Re. as covered in detail by the author in TAH6. the DB 601powered Macchi MC.2001 and an MC.38.202 on August 10. which Fiat would be commencing the manufacture of in the spring of 1942 as the RA.a.38 would have to be “significantly modified” before 26 it could be put to any practical use. giving a first glimpse of what would later become the Re.50) with the 1. During the summer of 1941 Macchi worked up a study of the MC. The Director-General of Constructions and Procurement. Similar uncertainties also prevailed regarding the airframe. DB 605. which had made its first test bench run in June 1940. 1940.1050. the G.202 with “increased wing”. Pricolo informed a meeting of three-star generals that the Regia Aeronautica could not “in any way rely upon series production.2001 and MC. Chief of the Air Staff during 1939–41.55 prototype might be ready for early 1942. Fiat suggested that a G.PHILIP JARRETT COLLECTION AUTHOR’S COLLECTION ABOVE Regarded as the finest of Italy’s World WarTwo fighters to see service in any numbers. Tenente Generale (Lt-Gen) Alfredo Bruno. THE “SERIE 5” IS BORN While Macchi made the maiden flight of the MC. Fiat proved unable to resolve its problems with the A. Francesco Pricolo. followed by an order to withdraw hundreds of obsolete aircraft from use. more than three years into the programme. with series production rather optimistically following towards the end of the year. Pricolo explained that Fiat had told him that the A. because it is far from being realised”.

with its elegant elliptical wingplan and distinctive outward-retracting undercarriage. subject to positive testing of the prototype.a.2002. a position Santoro stuck to in his semi-official 1957 history of the wartime Italian Air Force.55. In a meeting on October 13. some parties wished to optimise Fiat’s workload.XIX-powered Re. Giuseppe Santoro. which made it better suited to further evolution (including the fitting of the more powerful DB 603 engine as the G. The second Reggiane Re. This is the prototype G.2005 prototype. Because Fiat had already been tasked with building the DB 605. 1942. largely because of the latter’s poor relationship with the Capo di Stato Maggiore Generale (Chief of the [Joint] General Staff).55. a position firmly espoused by Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. In his bitter memoirs.2000) — while another equally valid perspective suggested that the shortest lead time was highly desirable. In addition.55 or the MC. or else it [would] build the MC. namely building two examples of the experimental MC. it was decided that Fiat could “build the DB 605-powered G.” Mussolini dismissed Pricolo on November 15. s. Regarding Fiat. this implicitly meant choosing the G. which made its first flight on April 30. but also meant longer development and tooling times. Uncertain as to what to do. a Piaggio P. the Fiat G. the generals leapt at a compromise suggested by Bruno.55.205.205 flying. 1941. Pricolo would claim that he had left the Regia Aeronautica with the MC. of the new Re.205”. improve aircraft performance and increase industrial output by ordering airframe and engine from the same company.2005.205. the generals were forced to acknowledge that the situation was beginning to get out of hand.55 was a cleansheet design.56). From one perspective it appeared desirable to concentrate the limited Italian production of the DB 605 on a single fighter — either the G. PHILIP JARRETT COLLECTION Issue No 10 THE AVIATION HISTORIAN 27 . “taking note of the requirements of the Fiat production line in the fighter area”.202bis “for the purpose of helping and speeding the preparation of the definitive MC. Generale d’Armata (Gen) Ugo Cavallero.AUTHOR’S COLLECTION In contrast to the MC.205N (and compensating Reggiane with an order for the Re.2005 bore only a passing resemblance to the company’s previous fighter designs. Its early service with the 22nd Gruppo in the defence of Naples brought to light problems with flutter in the rear fuselage. The DB 605-powered Re. which was followed by a preliminary report on November 25.

205 Re.PHILIP JARRETT COLLECTION ABOVE The same graceful family lines disguise the fact that the Macchi MC. would be ready during April—May 1942 (as against June 1942 for the G.205V prototype and the possibility of immediate series production were something to “keep well in mind”. Fougier decided therefore to order 100 MC. replacing the DB 601 with the 605 and without making changes to the airframe. respectively.55 G. Re.55 Re.55 stalemate was broken.202bis. May 9 and November 1. G. Pricolo’s successor. 1942. It may be expected that this aircraft will have a higher speed than that currently offered by the MC.55 & Re. with Gen. On January 15. the early availability of the MC.2005 Ease of construction G. albeit armed only with machine-guns.a. although there can be no doubt that it was on his initiative that the G. s.2005 Combat aptitude G.202.2005 was deemed 8 per cent and the MC. While heavier armament would have been desirable.205N sub-variants.205V on THE AVIATION HISTORIAN Issue No 10 . Neither of the MC.205 Armament Equipment Strength & structure G.2005 — All equivalent MC. Mario Bernasconi describing it as an “aircraft which will be derived directly from the MC.205 & G. FIRST FLIGHTS Informed that the MC.205V production in Turin was held on January 8.205N. Gen. s.205V”. The meeting marked the first occasion in which the former MC.2005 and MC. The first joint Macchi-Fiat meeting for planned MC.202. Fougier found this “most interesting”. reconvened the generals’ board to re-examine the decisions made in October.205 G.55 and August 1942 for the MC. now faced a production crisis. The Macchi company has already begun the study and its construction will allow a more rapid development of the prototype of the MC.202.205N Orione was in reality an all-new design.205V prototype. still unable to create a worthwhile fighter. 1941.55 & Re.55 as the baseline (100 per cent) and measured the other types against it.205V production.205Vs from Macchi and 300 from Fiat which.205 13 per cent more complex. and on December 2 Bruno invited Macchi to “proceed with alacrity” with construction of the MC.205 (113) * The board took the G. Rino Corso Fougier. Fougier ordered Fiat to tool up for both 28 THE “SERIE 5” COMPETITION 1st 2nd 3rd Performance Handling MC. the generals considered placing “further orders of MC.205N with increased wing area and 20mm cannon in the nose). the Re. with little in common with the existing MC. 1942. 1942.202bis was referred to as the “MC.2005 — MC.205 (DB 605)”. In other words. he noted.55 (100)* Re. a World War One ace and popular fighter wing commander.2005 (108) MC.55 & Re.205 MC. On November 24. The three new fighters would make their first flights on April 30.205V aircraft” until trials could provide the basis for a choice between the G.55.202 [and] MC. this is an exaggeration.a. all preceded by the MC.55 and MC. the N-1 and N-2 (with wing-mounted cannon). Reinforcing the impression that this would be a temporary decision. the Orione had a larger wing and an improved fuselage. would be put into production.2005 MC.

200km (745 miles) CR.2005 32 SAFAT 12·7mm (x2) Mauser 20mm (x3) Length 8·73m (28ft 8in) Fiat CR.42 SAFAT 12·7mm (x2) 1.674 Length 8·26m (27ft 3in) Supermarine Spitfire IX Browning 0.co.205V G.2005 8 CR. while each of the “Serie 5” fighters was a promising design. Data for Fiat CR.42 and Spitfire IX is shown for comparative purposes Wartime production Relative sizes Armament Key Fiat G.205V 259 SAFAT 12·7mm (x2) Mauser 20mm (x2) Length 8·85m (29ft 0in) Reggiane Re.205V 950km (590 miles) 350 Issue No 10 400 450 500 550 Speed (km/h) 600 650 THE AVIATION HISTORIAN Spitfire IX 740km (460 miles) 29 .55 1.5in (12·7mm) (x2) 5.42 775km (480 miles) 4 2 MC.42 Spitfire IX MC.ianbottillustration.uk The “Serie 5” fighters compared From the data below it may be seen that.55 101 Machine-gun Cannon SAFAT 12·7mm (x2) Mauser 20mm (x3) Length 9·37m (30ft 9in) Macchi MC.Graphic: Ian Bott www.675 Hispano 20mm (x2) Length 9·47m (31ft 1in) Speed Range Altitude (000m) Re.55 6 Re. it was a wasteful error to spread development across three very similar machines.2005 980km (610 miles) G.

propeller. The time wasted reflected the apparent lack of understanding that Italy was involved in a global conflict rather than the limited summer campaign Mussolini believed he was joining in June 1940.2005 reaching the Guidonia test centre after 14 flights and the MC. and delayed its MC. with the committee concluding its examination on December 28. THE FIAT REACTION If the performance data showed the types to be very similar — unsurprising. this is what the Fiat-Macchi meeting minutes suggest.2001. which during June 1940– December 1942 dropped to 36·15 per cent while Macchi’s rose to 18·94 per cent (46·58 per cent including its Breda and SAI licencees). The airfield also served the SAI Ambrosini factory on the opposite shore of Lake Trasimeno.205V production commitments as much as it possibly could. Fiat continued to press for production of its G. if not total superiority. given they shared the same engine. providing the Regia Aeronautica with the best possible fighter came a poor second to defending its share of the fighter market. Pre-evaluation flight tests were typically short. AUTHOR’S COLLECTION BELOW A 353rd Squadriglia Fiat G. As far as Fiat was concerned. but because of a suspicious similarity with the contents of a generals’ meeting AUTHOR’S COLLECTION 30 THE AVIATION HISTORIAN Issue No 10 . with the Re. Ministerial decisions were typically slow in coming.55 and its derivatives might alter the type’s poor ranking during the comparative trials. instrument fit and radio equipment — the results confirmed without doubt that Macchi enjoyed. the Macchi always sported a Piaggio P. Fiat was keen to adopt its licence-built Hamilton unit for the G. Because securing orders for its new fighter was vital to its business.205V after just seven.2005 and G.LEFT The MC.205V prototype at the Guidonia test centre. armament.55. The Turin giant apparently hoped that its repeated promises of ever-greater performance from the G. While the Re. the first production machines would reach the front in the second half of 1943. not just because the company stalled on questions of configuration (limited to a few engine installation details) and related administrative issues. at least the clear preference of the pilots (see table on page 28).55 pays a flying visit to the Castiglione del Lago fighter school in the summer of 1943.55 even after the Ministry had made its decision. If all went well. At least.55 initially flew with German VDM propellers. but the Regia Aeronautica was adamant that the P. during the brief evaluation trials. near Rome.2001 would become standardised. April 19. where SAI lightweight fighters and licence-built Macchi fighters were produced. more than two years after Pricolo had originally sounded his alarm.

but that until that point it should be “clearly stated to Fiat that whatever the results of the G.55 were subordinated to test results. held on March 25. in February 1943. The Fiat share of the fighter market for January— May 1943 had climbed back to 40·72 per cent.205V pattern aircraft in another attack on December 8. but that. By late 1942 the DB 605-powered fighters were no longer deemed to be “next generation” types. At the generals’ meetings of March 3 and April 12. is probably just a myth. With the appearance of the MC. 1942. 1943. it will have to build the MC.55 orders would not be postponed.55s been issued to Fiat on November 16. This is borne out by the minutes of a meeting of September 23–24.205V. which never flew.206. 1942. claiming that damage analysis showed that the bombs had exploded from within the factory rather than outside it. in contrast with ministerial standardisation directives.205V. Fougier replied that should the competitors be unreasonably delayed. Meanwhile. and G. with Macchi dropping to a cumulative 34·66 per cent.55 as the main type.205Vs ordered [in November 1941]”.42 and MC.205N. Chief of the Planning Office of the Luftwaffe. the company would also have liked to use its own (licence-built Hamilton) hydromatic propeller. Bernasconi asked whether. the German occupying forces allowed Italian industry to fulfil production of aircraft already at an advanced stage of completion. (A rumour. The Orione eventually metamorphosed into the DB 603-powered MC.55s. decisions had been made anyway. On this occasion. taking them into combat on April 7.205Vs and prepare the G. The first production G. Generalmajor Heinrich-Sigismund von der Heyde. that “for fighters we were oriented towards the G. named Veltro (Greyhound).55 armed with THE AVIATION HISTORIAN 31 . the Ministry continued to receive proposals from Fiat for “ghost” aircraft. INTO SERVICE The 17th Gruppo of the 1st Stormo received its first examples of the MC. The Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana of Mussolini’s puppet Italian Social Republic thus received a number of MC. in the event that the G.205N Orione was set aside. Not only had a first order for 600 G.205Vs. the first making its maiden flight on November 1.2005 and MC.55”.55 prototype” and that “possible orders” for the G. which record that Fiat intended to continue using its own propellers “contrary to instructions already issued and confirmed” by the Regia Aeronautica to equip the G. development of the MC. At this point. still circulating at Macchi some 40 years later. its adoption would be postponed until after comparative tests with the Re. as seen here.) By the time of the raid on Turin.2001 units fitted to the Macchi fighters. assigned respectively to the 1st and 2nd Gruppi. but rather an interim group to bridge the gap until new DB 603-powered types could be delivered. G. followed by the loss of the MC. for. but its very persistence illustrates the bitterness of the competition between the Turin industrial giant and the sophisticated Varese artisans at Macchi. in addition to employing its own (albeit licence-built) engine.55 with the Piaggio P. but on February 22 the following year Bruno explicitly told his German colleague. Even this did not seem to make Fiat happy. a transitional period based on further Macchi production had been considered Issue No 10 indispensable until it was possible to switch to the G. 1942. 1942. it was stated that studies were already under way for a proposed G.PHILIP JARRETT COLLECTION Following the September 1943 armistice. Two Orione prototypes were built. in consideration of the fact that some companies were already building Macchis. however. Fiat was saved from potential embarrassment by a providential British raid which in November 1942 damaged the CR. it was restated that “Fiat must complete the already issued order for 300 MC.55 took off from Turin on April 10.55 [trials].55 should perform well.205V assembly areas.

h.959lb) 620km/h (385 m.24-52 radial engine. from training to fuel. the Luftwaffe never received anything and seized its three G. according to a Fiat table dated April 1943.000ft) Climb to 6.205V & REGGIANE Re.FIAT G.p.010kg (2.900ft) — 5min 3sec 11. suffice to say that while by the end of the year Macchi had met its limited target of 250 MC. Fiat A.800 from the Fiat group (with two manufacturing “rings” in Piedmont and Tuscany) and 600 each from Macchi and Piaggio. These Fiat figures were always hopelessly optimistic.55 programme would only have exacerbated and extended into every related field. In terms of overall industrial efficiency.h. This is a clear indication of the lack of a system-wide approach.55.408kg (7. while Ambrosini would build its all-wood SAI 207 light fighter or SAI 403 derivative.000m (39.700kg (5. 1943. similar to that of the Spitfire Mks V and IX.55s.042lb) 3. But the grandiose renewal scheme dreamed up by the Ministry called for Breda to produce the BZ. it would have brought the two competitors under de facto Fiat control. which the huge G. which.000m (23. both of which had built the MC.953lb) 1. MACCHI MC.205N Macchi MC.) 2.56). Fiat had stopped at about 30 of the 275 planned G. by 1945 fighter production would be concentrated on the G. would have yielded a monthly output of 220 fighters from November 1944. MC.p.p. (6·01lb/h.a.250ft) — 5min 30sec 12.147lb) 3.621kg (7.55s — “even if without engines” — for testing in Germany.55. To add to the absurdity of the situation.205Vs. including 1.300 family of Cant Z.205V production. remained on paper.83 RC.200km (745 miles) 6min 7sec 11.610kg (7.700m (41. this evolutionary approach would have allowed existing tooling to be re-used. Eraldo Ilari was forced to reply that he would do “everything possible to supply at least one airframe and that the shipment could be made in all likelihood at the earliest date”.200 and MC.823lb) 3.) 7min 12sec 12.) 2·89kg/h.400ft) 1. indeed. More importantly.) — 2·73kg/h. This could have been a simple solution given the significant commonality of parts across the Macchi family. Gen.2005 11·85m (38ft 10in) 9·37m (30ft 9in) 3·77m (12ft 4in) 21·11m² (227ft²) 11·25m (36ft 11in) 9·55m (31ft 4in) 3·25m (10ft 8in) 19m² (204ft²) 10·85m (35ft 7in) 8·85m (29ft 0in) 3·04m (9ft 11in) 16·8m² (181ft²) 11m (36ft 1in) 8·91m (24ft 3in) 3·15m (10ft 4in) 20·4m² (220ft²) 1·78m (5ft 10in) — 1·59m (5ft 3in) 175·5kg/m² (35·95lb/ft²) — 194·5kg/m² (39·84lb/ft²) 175kg/m² (35·84lb/ft²) 2·97kg/h.205N. but the production switch implemented the inevitable loss of production during the transition and tool-up period.56 with the fighter-bomber role to be filled by the G. bearing in mind that its aero-engine division was barely able to supply 75 DB 605s a month.800m (19.700ft) Service ceiling Range Fiat G.179lb) 2.p.205V Reggiane Re.205V was estimated to have over the G. Not only did both designs come to naught. (6·37lb/h.p.1018 derivatives.p. These ambitious goals called for orders for 3.513lb) 2.600kg (5.230 h.250m (36.p. more than offsetting the 13 per cent “complexity handicap” which the MC.732lb) 974kg (2. To return to 1943.) 628km/h (390 m.650ft) 1.55s directly at the factory after the armistice. THE AVIATION HISTORIAN Issue No 10 .000m (19.030ft) Weights Empty Payload Max take-off Performance Max speed at 7.690lb) 827kg (1. (6·55lb/h.p.202 under licence. on February 23. THE REAL WINNER Apparently no consideration was given to converting Breda and SAI Ambrosini to MC.942lb) 926kg (2.250km (775 miles) 30mm cannon and powered by a DB 603 engine (the type would later be redesignated G.) 628·5km/h (390·5 m.581kg (5.h. von der Heyde asked for three 32 — G.55s and never completed any of the planned 185 MC.55 Macchi MC.227lb) 3.000 additional G.2005 DATA Dimensions Span Length Height Wing area Mean wing chord Loading Wings Power at 5.205Vs.695kg (5.p. s. In reality.983lb) 2.p.350m (37. The programme.p.57 with a 1.) 626km/h (388 m.710kg (8.h.

AUTHOR’S COLLECTION “IN 1939 GERMANY HAD SUGGESTED THAT ITALY ADOPT THE JUNKERS Ju 88. it was decreed that all three “Serie 5” types would be built. Italy’s fighter TAH line had finally reached a full stop. selfinflicted production problems forcing Italy to turn to Germany for assistance. the solution found was purely nominal: it would build not fighters but “fighter-bombers”. Macchi would feature as the epitome of seamless evolution and Reggiane would be cast as “the outsider”. ITALY ASKED GERMANY TO PROVIDE THE MOST RECENT VARIANTS OF . Ju 87 and Bf 109. Italy had to turn to its ally for immediate help. NEEDING TO FILL THE HUGE GAPS IN ITS ORDER OF BATTLE. IN 1943. .55 in his 1982 memoir).2001 for “fighter defence”. Reggiane. Fougier noted sadly that his front line consisted of barely four Stormi of MC. In the event. Ju 87 dive-bomber and Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter. Valdonio. the Junkers Ju 88 bomber.2002s. The situation had come full-circle. to the tune of 634 Re. Baldassare Catalanotto. Giovanni Massimello and the late Giorgio Bignozzi for their invaluable help with the preparation of this feature THE AVIATION HISTORIAN 33 .200. unable to overcome its shortcomings and needing somehow to fill the huge gaps in its order of battle. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The author would like to thank Giulio C.202s. Maurizio Longoni.Although the Macchis in the background look considerably more modern than the Messerschmitt Bf 109G seen here being prepared for flight. After four years of dreams and promises. Ju 87 AND MESSERSCHMITT Bf 109.520 and the now-archaic MC. 1943. despite all the talk of standardisation and the timeconsuming evaluation process. Italy asked Germany to provide . THE OFFER WAS TURNED DOWN. one way or another. Essentially. and possibly manufacture under licence. in 1939 Germany had suggested that Italy adopt. The offer was turned down. . All parties. each of which offered a better combination of flying and military qualities than those of Italy’s indigenous designs. Gianni Cattaneo. Issue No 10 After the war Fiat would trumpet the myth of “the best Italian fighter of the war” (as Gabrielli referred to his G. Ju 87 AND Bf 109” As to the final entrant. On March 5. But even this would never come to pass. The generals had decided to use the inadequate Re. together with captured examples of the French Dewoitine D. tend to brush aside the fact that the situation at the front had become tragic. In 1943. . the most recent variants of the Ju 88. it was the latter type that became the most numerous DB 605-powered fighter in Italian service. however.2005s and 750 Re. Giancarlo Garello. THE Ju 88. a sorry symbol of the failure of Italy’s wartime domestic fighter programme. .