Italian WW2 air arm

CANT Z506B

Italy (1923-1943)

In the absence of aircraft carriers (the expression “Italy aircraft carrier” of the Duce reflected this little case the high command granted to this type of ship still in 1941), Regia Marina did not have a real naval aviation branch. On the other hand, the Regia Aeronautica had a number of seaplanes capable of carrying out very well missions of torpedoing, observation, reconnaissance and rescue. There were also those aboard the cruisers and other line units of the fleet. Italy has an important maritime facade, it naturally turned to the design of seaplanes, some of which had real qualities in terms of autonomy, as the family of original double-boomers Savoia-Marchetti, who distinguished themselves during raids sports media, like that of De Pinedo and Balbo around the world.

CANT Z501 Gabbiano
CANT Z501 Gabbiano

Missed opportunities

On the other hand, it is remarkable that Macchi did not developed a naval fighter entirely from the excellent seaplanes from the Schneider Cup, the last of which reached the 700 kph without difficulty. To make it a military version from which the legendary Spitfire derives, Macchi has produced only mediocre star-powered engines before turning to Daimler-Benz online engines. The Italian naval aviation reflected the general condition of the Regia aeronautica in 1940. A modest force numerically, counting devices sometimes behind a generation, often under-motorized. This is one of the reasons for the fact that Italian bomber aircraft are typically powered by three engines instead of two. A technical delay that was much more worrying for the hunt.

IMAM Ro-43
IMAM Ro-43

Other experiments

For a time, when the catapult was operational, the Regia Marina used various aircraft that were land models with floats, the Macchi M18, Piaggio P6 and Cant 25 among others. With the Macchi M41b, derived from a racing machine, it put into service its main embedded fighter, until 1940. But the latter, slow and poorly armed, was totally outclassed at the time of the entry into the war of the Italy. The standard fighter in 1940 was the Ro44, single-seat derivative of the observation Ro43 (1934). Biplane heavy and unwieldy, it lented itself pretty badly to this role but was nevertheless maintained in this role until 1943. In parallel, the Navy tried to adopt the Caproni Reggiane Re-2000 as an onboard fighter, but without floats, which made it a non-reusable gear. Caproni-Reggiane also supplied the navalized Re2001, which tested with a landing gear, intended for use on Aquila and Sparviero. Eventually, the Fiat G55s centauro was a sub-version of the torpedo fighter, of which ten were produced in 1943.

CANT Z506 SAR
CANT Z506 SAR

The bulk of the number of non-carried seaplanes (but whose aircraft could be used with the Giuseppe Miraglia) consisted of the single-engine Cant z501, and the latter having fallen into disuse, the excellent Airone z506b. On the other hand, shore-based aircraft capable of carrying out anti-ship operations, and large enough to carry one or two standard 457 mm aviation torpedoes, will save Savoia-marchetti Sm79 II bombers and Cant z1007b Alcione bombers. The battle of Matapan and the disaster that showed that lack of radar, aviation could be decisive, caused the decision to convert cruise ships into aircraft carriers. As we know, neither was completed in time. During the two battles of Greater Sirte, and in general, the combined German-Italian against Maltese operations and the British convoys of North Africa demonstrated serious shortcomings in the coordination of Regia Marina with the fleet. The “aircraft carrier Italy” was actually never operational…

Savoia Marchetti SM-79 Sparviero
Savoia Marchetti SM-79 Sparviero

The Savoia-Marchetti SM55b of the Pinedo-Italo Balbo Raid, 1932.
The Savoia-Marchetti SM55b of the Pinedo-Italo Balbo Raid, 1932.

Macchi M41
Macchi M41b
Fighters used on the cruisers Trento and Bolzano in 1936. These planes participated in the campaign of Ethiopia, and again the first operations of the fleet in 1940, in second line. The last ones were used for schooling.

CANT z501 Gabbiano
CANT z501 Gabbiano
This multi-purpose hydroplane was the standard unregistered aircraft of the fleet in 1940. It was developed in 1933 and made its maiden flight in 1934. Constructed entirely of wood, 202 units were built. In 1940, it was exceeded, because of a speed of only 275 km / h. They were able to embark 640 kgs. bombs in the hold and counted three defensive turrets, but suffered heavy casualties in the open sea against the RAF. In 1943, many survivors were reused by the free Italian forces.

CANT z506 Airone
CANT z506 Airone
The “Heron”, developed in 1937, was a torpedo bomber and a rescue aircraft highly appreciated because manageable, fast and solid. The Germans also used it from 1943 in Mediterranean, especially the Z506s soccorsio version. The talien specimens had a very visible livery, with variegated wings of red and white bands. These aircraft were operational as early as 1939, and 324 copies were released. Its qualities made it remained in service until the 50’s. Defended by three light machine guns, these devices embarked a torpedo of 457 mm or 120 kgs. bombs. Powered by three Alfa Romeo 126 RC34 star engines of 750 hp, they could fly at 365 Km / h, and had 2000 km range. During their patrols on the Greek islands, they sank at least one British submarine.

Caproni-Reggiane Re2000
Caproni-Reggiane Re2000
Reggiane Re2000 in her livery of North Africa at the beginning of the conflict. the 10 copies made for the navy were more generally dark gray. Without floats, they were not recoverable and constituted a one-time defense; like the Hurricanes embedded on British CAM-ships. Two served on the Roma, one on the Litorrio. Speed: 530 Km / h, engine: Piaggio PXI bis 1000 hp, armament 2 mitt. 12.7 mm.

Caproni-Reggiane Re2002 Ariete
Reggiane Re 2002 Ariete
Clearly more efficient, the Re2002 existed in version in motor in line and in star. Some copies were used instead of the Re2000 in 1943 on the Italian cruisers .. Speed: 590 Km / h, engine: Piaggio PXI bis of 1050 hp, armament 2 guns of 20 mm, 2 mitt. 7.7 mm. Re 2001 was anticipated to be navalized and used on Aquila.

Medidionali IMAM Ro-43/44
IMAM Ro 43
IMAM Ro 43
IMAM Ro 44
IMAM Ro 44

These aircraft, developed in 1936 on the basis of the Ro37 terrestrial observation aircraft, will be the standard observation and fighter aircraft of the fleet until 1943. They were maneuverable and solid but slow. The Ro44 version of 1939 was a single-seat version of hunting, under-powered and poorly armed. 106 were in service in 1940, and 194 will be produced in all. Speed: 300 Km / h, engine: Piaggio PXR 700 hp, armament 2 mitt. 7.7 mm.

Savoia-Marchetti SM79 II Sparviero
Savoia-Machetti Sm 79a
Savoia-Machetti Sm 79b Sparviero
Savoia-Machetti Sm 79 Sparviero
These famous Italian bombers, among the most prolific of the Regia Aeronautica, were originally from civil aircraft, remotorized for service from 1934. In version I succeded the much faster and more powerful version II, intended especially for the Naval Aviation. These aircraft embarked two torpedoes of 457 mm. Speed ​​460 Km / h, 3 engines Fiat 1030hp.