The Italian Fighters: Can we Get A Straightforward Answer?

Air Forces of the World.

The Italian Fighters: Can we Get A Straightforward Answer?

Joined: October 3rd, 2014, 2:39 am

February 10th, 2018, 4:53 pm #1

In the "did the Curtis Hawk 75 get unfairly screwed" thread,  Dannytoro made an observation (last sentence) of the sort that makes you go "hmmm....":

" It was also no slough in dogfights especially below 15,000 feet.  The much over maligned P-40 rendered over 200 Aces with the 7 air forces who flew it. Including 20 double aces. And again, when needed, the P-40 was a dependability rock. And was rarely a hanger queen.

In North Africa the RAF considered the P-40 as superior to the Hawker Hurricane and the Warhawks and Kittyhawks bore the brunt of beating down the German and Italian forces.

 The Italians had some pretty impressive fighters. But they were to far and in between. And rarely seen over North Africa much."

It struck me upon reading that last sentence that I seem to have encountered a good deal of "Revisionist" (if that actually applies) commentary on Italian WWII fighters -- or rather---it seems that a bit more respectful hat tips are made regarding the performance of our favorite Italian fighters almost inevitably closing with some observation regarding their scarcity.     Of course we all know several of those planes were beauties and some have pretty impressive stats (indeed as you know the Fiat G55 impressed the Germans enough that they made tentative plans to produce some themselves).    However, it occurred to me that I really don't have any idea of how the Italian fighters actually performed (numbers wise) in fighter v. fighter combat.    I've seen a lot of praise but it tends to be kind of vague and ends with what sounds like an apologia (there were never very many of them).   I know we have some people who are quite knowledgeable on this topic would anyone care to opine on the top Italian fighters' performance or perhaps even run some numbers by us?

Thanks in advance

TSA
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Joined: October 21st, 2015, 2:58 am

February 13th, 2018, 4:38 am #2

TruculentSargentAdmirer wrote: In the "did the Curtis Hawk 75 get unfairly screwed" thread,  Dannytoro made an observation (last sentence) of the sort that makes you go "hmmm....":

" It was also no slough in dogfights especially below 15,000 feet.  The much over maligned P-40 rendered over 200 Aces with the 7 air forces who flew it. Including 20 double aces. And again, when needed, the P-40 was a dependability rock. And was rarely a hanger queen.

In North Africa the RAF considered the P-40 as superior to the Hawker Hurricane and the Warhawks and Kittyhawks bore the brunt of beating down the German and Italian forces.

 The Italians had some pretty impressive fighters. But they were to far and in between. And rarely seen over North Africa much."

It struck me upon reading that last sentence that I seem to have encountered a good deal of "Revisionist" (if that actually applies) commentary on Italian WWII fighters -- or rather---it seems that a bit more respectful hat tips are made regarding the performance of our favorite Italian fighters almost inevitably closing with some observation regarding their scarcity.     Of course we all know several of those planes were beauties and some have pretty impressive stats (indeed as you know the Fiat G55 impressed the Germans enough that they made tentative plans to produce some themselves).    However, it occurred to me that I really don't have any idea of how the Italian fighters actually performed (numbers wise) in fighter v. fighter combat.    I've seen a lot of praise but it tends to be kind of vague and ends with what sounds like an apologia (there were never very many of them).   I know we have some people who are quite knowledgeable on this topic would anyone care to opine on the top Italian fighters' performance or perhaps even run some numbers by us?

Thanks in advance

TSA
The Italians started the war with the smallest air force of the 3 Axis Powers, and only a small proportion of the Italian Air Force comprised of more modern aircraft types. They were still flying old Fiat CR.32 biplanes throughout most of the war for lack of anything better.

Looking at the production numbers, of the more modern types; the entire production is as follows:

Fiat G.555: introduced in 1943, 275 produced during the war
Macchi C.205: introduced in 1943, 262 produced during the war
Reggiane Re.2005: introduced in 1943, 48 produced during the war

Looking at what was the most numerous Italian fighters:
Fiat CR.42: 1784 produced
Macchi C.202: 1150 produced
Macchi C.200: 1151 produced

Fiat CR.32: 1052 produced

Of these 4 fighters, all but one of them were pre-war designs, with 2 of them being biplanes.
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Joined: May 26th, 2011, 1:26 am

February 13th, 2018, 11:09 pm #3

Neither the C.200 or C.202 were bad designs. Like all Italian fighters, they stressed maneuverability. Even ahead of top speed. Both were relatively tough and easy to maintain. But like the P-40 itself, both were rapidly passed by with better armed, faster allied designs as they streamed into theater.

Even the last three "Best" fighters were not top speed demons. The best C.2005 was actually the slowest at 391mph. I doubt loaded up, others variants of all three rarely broke 420mph in level flight.

But all three were superb in rolling, weaving and turning combat. And all had much better armament. For all intents they were functionally not un-like the A6M Zero in handling, yet had armor and better tougher build standards.

 I recall one of my tomes here contained Allied Assessments of post war testing and the G.55 and G.59 variants beat both the P-51 and Spitfire in pitch and roll rates. And it also could accelerate faster out of a diving attack faster then either could respond too. It was pretty much the same with the Re.2005 and Mc.2005. Though the Re.2005 had the tail weakness dive restrictions.
"That's Mr. Esquimaux Savage to you"
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Joined: October 21st, 2015, 2:58 am

February 14th, 2018, 3:04 am #4

Dannytoro wrote: Neither the C.200 or C.202 were bad designs. Like all Italian fighters, they stressed maneuverability. Even ahead of top speed. Both were relatively tough and easy to maintain. But like the P-40 itself, both were rapidly passed by with better armed, faster allied designs as they streamed into theater.

Even the last three "Best" fighters were not top speed demons. The best C.2005 was actually the slowest at 391mph. I doubt loaded up, others variants of all three rarely broke 420mph in level flight.

But all three were superb in rolling, weaving and turning combat. And all had much better armament. For all intents they were functionally not un-like the A6M Zero in handling, yet had armor and better tougher build standards.

 I recall one of my tomes here contained Allied Assessments of post war testing and the G.55 and G.59 variants beat both the P-51 and Spitfire in pitch and roll rates. And it also could accelerate faster out of a diving attack faster then either could respond too. It was pretty much the same with the Re.2005 and Mc.2005. Though the Re.2005 had the tail weakness dive restrictions.
Both the C.200 and the C.202 were woefully underarmed, being typically armed with a pair of 12.7mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns. While the C.202 was supposed to also have a pair of 7.7mm machine guns for later production models, these were often deleted in the field as they were inadequate against the mid to late war aircraft, and added weight. While both were a match for the older Hurricanes, the newer Spitfire V's that started appearing in the Mediterranean theatre changed the balance.
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Joined: May 26th, 2011, 1:26 am

February 14th, 2018, 11:23 am #5

Which is only why I referred to the G.55,Mc.2005 and Re.2005 as being heavier armed. Mind you many thought 8 .303 gun aircraft were truly under armed for the job too.
"That's Mr. Esquimaux Savage to you"
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Joined: May 27th, 2009, 10:43 am

February 14th, 2018, 4:14 pm #6

The Italians were also held back by the lack of a sufficiently powerful engine. When they eventually got German DB 601s high performance fighters like the C.202 became possible.

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Joined: December 29th, 2008, 2:22 pm

February 14th, 2018, 9:49 pm #7

Did the Italians equip all their aircraft with radios?
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Joined: October 21st, 2015, 2:58 am

February 15th, 2018, 8:40 am #8

HMS Troutbridge wrote: Did the Italians equip all their aircraft with radios?
Nope, and even if they did, the radio's weren't all that reliable.
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Joined: December 29th, 2008, 2:22 pm

February 15th, 2018, 9:35 pm #9

ThePointblank wrote:
HMS Troutbridge wrote: Did the Italians equip all their aircraft with radios?
Nope, and even if they did, the radio's weren't all that reliable.
That's a problem, because even with semi-good aircraft and veteran pilots the lack of radios will make co-ordinating aircraft difficult while the opposition are better organised and issuing orders faster and more reliably?
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ADP
Joined: July 13th, 2012, 3:42 pm

February 15th, 2018, 9:41 pm #10

ThePointblank wrote:
HMS Troutbridge wrote: Did the Italians equip all their aircraft with radios?
Nope, and even if they did, the radio's weren't all that reliable.
After all, what the heck did Italians know about radio...  😛

(Seriously however - yes, the Italian electronics industry was not very well developed at the time.)
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