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The Fiat G.50 Freccia ("Arrow") was a World War II Italian fighter aircraft. It was the first Italian monoplane fighter with an enclosed cockpit and retractable landing gear to go into production. The Fiat G.50 was also used in small numbers by the Finnish Air Force.

Design and development

The Fiat G.50 was designed by Giuseppe Gabrielli, who started design of a single-engined monoplane fighter in April 1935. Production started in mid-summer 1936. Construction was entrusted to workshops of CMASA (Costruzioni Meccaniche Aeronautiche S.A.) at Marina di Pisamarker. The prototype first flew on 26 February 1937, with Comandante Giuseppe De Briganti at the controls. In his first flight, De Briganti reached a top speed of 472 km/h and managed to climb to 6,000 meters in 6 minutes and 40 seconds.The G.50 was the first front line Italian monoplane fighter with retractable undercarriage, and with these improvements, its maximum speed was 33 km/h (21 mph) faster than its contemporary, the biplane Fiat CR.42. Both types were powered by the 626 kW (840 hp) Fiat A.74 RC38, 14-cylinder, air-cooled radial engine.

In 1937, along with the first pre-series machines, a Gruppo sperimentale was formed. The first versions could have different armament: one or two 12.7 mm (.5 in) Breda-SAFAT machine guns on the nose and two more 7.7 mm (.303 in) Breda-SAFAT in the wings. Later versions were also distinquished by a larger rudder.

In September 1937, Fiat received a first order of 45 aircraft. Before a larger order was placed, the Air Ministry decided to hold a comparative test with the new Macchi MC.200. On 20 October 1937, Comandante Giuseppe De Briganti, the Chief Test Pilot of the Fiat G.50 program, was killed on the sixth evaluation flight of the second prototype (M.M.335) when the aircraft did not recover from a high speed dive. At Guidonia the plane revealed to have the grave defect of easy entry into autorotation - uncommanded spinning - highly dangerous at low level, from where recover was impossible. During a visit of the Italian king, re Vittorio Emanuele III, and of the Chief of Government, Benito Mussolini, another tragedy occurred, in Guidonia. While performing a low fast pass, three G.50s flown by the experienced pilots, Maggiore Mario Bonzano, and Tenenti Beretta and Marasco encountered difficulty. Beretta entered a autorotazione (spin) and crashed into the munitions laboratory, killing the pilot. Despite the crashes, flight tests were satisfactory and the "Freccia" proved to be more maneuverable than the Macchi MC.200, that, anywawy, was faster and on 9 June 1938, was declared the winner of first competition "Caccia I" (Fighter One). On account of the G.50 manoeuverability, anyway, the Regia Aeronautica Commission decided to buy the Fiat monoplane as well, while the third plane in competition, the IMAM Ro. 51, was not taken in consideration.The initial examples were delivered to the Regia Aeronautica in the first months of 1938. Italian pilots did not like the enclosed canopy because it could not be opened quickly and also because it was constructed from plexiglass of very poor quility, prone to cracking which limited visibility. Consequently, in the second batch of 200 machines, an open cockpit was installed. After 1939, the main production was shifted to the CMASA factory, in Marina di Pisa, Tuscany.

In 1938, Regia Aeronautica requested a two-seater trainer G.50 model from Fiat, designated the G.50/B (Bicomando Bc.). The first G.50/B were built in the second half of 1939. The student pilot was in the front seat in a closed cockpit with two roll bars. The first five aircraft were part of the 1a serie (first series). The successive production was entrusted to C.M.A.S.A who completed 106 G.50/Bs. A G.50/B was later transformed into a reconnaissance aircraft, equipped with planimetrica camera. Another G.50/B was adapted with hook to operate as a naval reconnaissance aircraft, from the (never operative) Italian aircraft carrier Aquila. In September 1940, a slightly improved version, the G.50 bis, appeared. Its main advantage was extended combat range due to an additional tank of 104 liters, range increasing from 645 Km to 1,000 km.

The last "Freccia" version was the G.50/V (Veloce) equipped with a DB.601 with 1,075 CV. Built in mid-1941 by CMASA, during tests at Fiat Aviazione airfield in Turinmarker, it reached a top speed of 570 km/h, in level flight, and managed to climb to 6,000 meters in 5 minutes 30 seconds. Nonetheless, Ingegner Gabrielli had already designed the Fiat G.55 and Fiat had already obtained the licence to built the Daimler Benz 605 with 1,475 CV so the G.50/V was used for tests with new equipment and then was scrapped.

Total G.50 production was 784 aircraft, 426 built by Fiat Aviazione and 358 coming from C.M.A.S.A. Exports included 58 G.50s: 13 to Spain, 35 to Finland and 10 to Croatia.

Operational history

In 1938, the first operational Fiat G.50 aircraft were delivered to the Regia Aeronautica. During the Spanish Civil War, about a dozen of G.50s were sent to Spain to reinforce Aviazione Legionaria. The type proved extremely maneuverable, it was one of the best fighters, yet by the time World War II began it was considered to be underpowered and underarmed.

World War II

There were 118 G.50s available when Italy entered World War II (97 in front line duty), most assigned to the 51° Stormo based in Ciampino airport, just outside Rome and in Pontedera, with 22° Gruppo of 52° Stormo. On 10 June 1940, when Italy declared war against France, 22° Gruppo G.50s went into action, followed by the 48 aircraft of 20° Gruppo.Appreciated mainly for their strength, G.50s were used primarily for attack roles in the second half of the war.During the opening phase of the Sicilian invasion of 10 July 1943, the G.50 was the most numerous aircraft used by Regia Aeronautica to counter-attack Allied landings. Forty-five "Freccias" of 158° and 159° Gruppo Assalto, from Pistoia, attacked ships, landing craft and troops.

By the time of the Italian Armistice, only a few were left in Italian service; some were used as part of the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force, while four others were used by the Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana as fighter trainer.


The top scoring Italian pilot in a Fiat G.50 was Furio Lauri, who was credited with 11 "kills" before the end of 1941 with a final score of 18.In September 1940, 56° Stormo was formed, to operate during the Battle of Britain as part of the Corpo Aereo Italiano based in Belgiummarker, with 18° Gruppo (Fiat CR.42) and 20° Gruppo (Squadriglie 351/352/353), commanded by Maggiore Mario Bonzano, equipped with Fiat G.50. Their use was hampered by their slow speed, open cockpits and short range. At the beginning of 1941, the C.A.I. came back in Italy, except for two G.50 Squadriglie that stayed in Belgium with Luftflotte 2, until April. While with the C.A.I. the Fiats flew 429 missioni-velivoli (missions), 34 escorts and 26 scrambles but could not manage to engage enemy aircraft. One aircraft was lost and seven more were damaged. While with Luftflotte 2, 20° Gruppo lost four additional fighters and two pilots were killed, while two G.50s were damaged by German fighters and flak.

North Africa

The first 27 Fiat G.50s, belonging to Squadriglie 150a and 152a from 2° Gruppo Autonomo C.T., arrived in Lybiamarker on 27 December 1940, from the airfields of Brindisimarker and Grottagliemarker. They flew their first combat mission on 9 January 1941 when Capitano Pilota Tullio Del Prato, Comandante of 150a Squadriglia encountered a Hawker Hurricane Mk I on the front line that attacked him, forcing the Fiat to crash-land in the desert. On 25 January 1941, a new unit, 20° Gruppo Autonomo C.T., with 351a, 360a and 378a Squadriglie, commanded by Maggiore pilota Pietro Bianchi, arrived in Libya, with 31 brand new Fiat monoplanes. On 27 May, 20° Gruppo was reinforced by 151a Squadriglia, equipped with the new Fiat G.50bis version. Although caught up in the chaotic retreat of Italian army in the winter of 1940–41, the Fiat G.50s saw little action. One of the few first claims by "Freccias" pilots was on 9 April 1941, when Tenente Pilota Carlo Cugnasca, attacked three Hurricanes Mk Is from No. 73 RAF Squadron, claiming one although this air victory was not confirmed. In Africa, Italian pilots flying the G.50 managed to shoot down the faster and better armed Hurricane fighter.

In the hands of expert pilots, the Fiat G.50 could score multiple kills in a single action. On the evening of 9 July 1941, Sergente Maggiore Aldo Buvoli of 378a Squadriglia, 155° Gruppo Autonomo, took off from Castel Benitomarker airfield to patrol Tripolimarker harbour, and duly intercepted seven Blenheim that were performing a low-level attack on the ships, already pursued by two Fiat CR.42 biplanes from 151° Gruppo. Buvoli attacked the bombers shooting at each of them, in sequence. The Blenheim of Squadron Leader W.C. Searle ditched in the sea while Sgt. W.H. Twist's aircraft was shot down a few miles north of Tripoli. The Blenheims flown by Flt. Lt. M.E. Poitier and Plt. Officer W.H. Lowe and their crews never returned to Luqamarker airfield in Maltamarker and were posted as missing. For these successes Buvoli was awarded with the Medaglia d’argento al Valor Militare and was subsequently credited with four kills, No. 110 Squadron reporting the loss of a similar number of Blenheims IVs on its very first mission since arriving in Malta from UK in early July.

Aegean theater

After the Italian declaration of war against Greece, the Freccia began operations on 28 October 1940 in the Balkans and Aegean Sea theater. The 48 I^ serie G.50s were from 24° Gruppo (Squadriglie 354 and 355, based at Beratmarker) and 54° Gruppo (Squadriglie 361 and 395, based at Devoli). The 2° Gruppo, commanded by Maggiore Giuseppe Baylon (Squadriglie 150 and 152) with a mixed component of 12 Fiat monoplanes and CR.32s was based on Barimarker-Grottagliemarker airfield.

The Fiat monoplanes quickly gained ascendancy over the Gloster Gladiator and on 20 February 1941, seven "Freccias" from 54° Gruppo, scrambled from Devoli, attacked formations of bombers with their escorts, shooting down a bomber and a fighter. In the afternoon of the same day, 15 G.50s engaged a large mixed formation of RAF Gloster Gladiators and Greek PZL P.24s shooting down 10 aircraft for the loss of one Fiat.

In the same month, the arrival of the Hawker Hurricane changed things, until the Macchi C. 200 entered the theater. On 4 March 1941, a Fiat G.50 bis shot down the Hurricane V7288 of Australian DFC ace Flight Lieutenant Richard Nigel "Ape" Cullen RAF no. 39967 (with 15/16 credited air victories), off Valona coast (Albania), while he was flying as wingman for ace Marmaduke "Pat" Pattle. In the Greek campaign, the Fiats losses of 10 fighters included combat losses and others destroyed in accidents and in the bombing of Italian airfields.

In Finnish service

The G.50 saw its longest and most successful operations in the two Finnish wars against the Soviet Union, the Winter War 1939-1940 and the Continuation War 1941-1944. Before the outbreak of hostilities, Finland ordered 35 Fiat G.50s at the end of 1939. The first 10 aircraft were to be delivered before February 1940, consequently a group of Finnish pilots arrived in Rome for a training course of 10 hours at Guidoniamarker airport and later at Fiat Aviazione in Turinmarker. On a training flight, Lieutenant Tapani Harmaja during a dive from 3,500 meters, reached an estimated speed of 840 km/h, considered excessive for the structural integrity of the aircraft.Germany hindered the transit of the aircraft, consequently, the Fiats were disassembled and embarked in La Speziamarker on the Norwegian ship "Braga", that set sail on 20 January, bound for Turkumarker, Finland.Due to this delay the first Fiat fighters did not reach HLevLv 26 at Uttimarker, until February 1940 , too late to affect the course of the winter battles that year.

The Fiat fighters saw little action although on 27 February 1940, Lieutenant Malmivuo was the first Finnish pilot to be killed in a G.50 (FA.12), when his fighter crashed after a combat with Soviet aircraft. At this stage, Finnish pilots preferred the Hurricane, the French Morane-Saulnier M.S.406 and even the Brewster Buffalo (in this order) to the Fiat G.50. The first demonstration of the Finnish Air Force's effectiveness came on 25 June 1941, thanks to the Fiat G.50 fighters from HLeLv 26, downing 13 out of 15 Soviet SB bombers. A total of 13 aerial victories were achieved, with Captain O. Ehrnrooth, Lieutenant Olli Puhakka and Sergeant L. Aaltonen being the most successful Fiat pilots with two victories each.

During the Continuation War, the Fiat fighters were most successful during the Finnish offensive of 1941, after that they became increasingly less effective. The Soviets were able to bring better, newer fighter types into the front lines during 1942 and 1943, while the Fiats were becoming old and run-down, and the lack of spare parts meant that pilots were restricted to only a minimal number of sorties. In 1941, the Fiat squadron, LLv 26, claimed 52 victories against the loss of only two fighters. Nevertheless, between 30 November 1939 and 4 September 1944, HLeLv 26's G.50 shot down 99 enemy aircraft. In the same period, Finnish squadrons lost 41 planes, including Bulldog IIAs, Fokker D.XXIs, Gloster Gladiators and Brewster B-239s. The most successful Fiat G.50 fighter pilots were O. Tuominen (23 victories with G.50s), O. Puhakka (11), N. Trontti (six), O. Paronen (four), U. Nieminen (four) and L. Lautamäki (four). The Finnish Fiats were finally phased out of front line duty in summer 1944.

In Croatian service

In October 1941, the Croatian Air Force Legion requested a certain amount of arms from Italy, among them a number of fighters. Italy agreed to deliver 10 Fiat G.50s (nine single seaters and one two seater) along with parachutes, radios and spare parts including four Fiat A.74/RC.38 engines and a stock of ammunition. On 12 June 1942 the Fiat G.50bis fighters took off from Turinmarker-Fiat Aviazione bound for Croatia, but before crossing the border they were stopped by an order from Capo di Stato Maggiore Ugo Cavallero, who was afraid that Croatian pilots could defect once equipped with the new Fiat aircraft. The G.50s had to wait until 25 June before being delivered to the Croatian Air Force.The aircraft were delivered at the end of June 1942 and were allocated to the 16th Jato at Banja Luka and were intensively used until 1945 against Yugoslav Partisans, at first in Bosniamarker and Herzegovina, then in Serbiamarker, Croatiamarker and Dalmatia.

After the Italian armistice of 8 September 1943, the Luftwaffe supplied the Croatian Air Force Legion with about 20-25 Fiat G.50s captured by German troops on Regia Aeronautica airfields in the Balkans. These Fiat aircraft equipped two Croatian fighter units. In 1944 the G.50s were transferred to the training school in Brezicemarker until 1945, when they were captured by Yugoslav Partisans. In postwar service, the Fiat G.50s were in use for some time in the newly formed Yugoslav Air Force (SFR), the last G.50s in active service.

Variants

G.50
First production version.
G.50 bis
Development of the G.50 version with extended range, 421 built.
G.50ter
More powerful version with a 746 kW (1,000 hp) Fiat A.76 engine, one built.
G.50V
Liquid-cooled V12 variant with a Daimler-Benz DB 601 engine, one built.
G.50bis A/N
Two-seat fighter-bomber prototype, one built.
G.50B
Two-seat trainer version.


Operators

;
Italian Social Republic


Survivors

Currently, the only known G.50 bis still in existence is undergoing restoration in the Museum of Aviationmarker, in Surčinmarker, at Nikola Tesla Airportmarker, Serbiamarker.

Specifications (G.50)

See also

References

Notes
  1. Avions Militaires 1919-1939 - Profils et Histoire 1979, p. 118.
  2. Air International May 1988, pp. 251—252.
  3. Malizia 2004, p. 17.
  4. Bignozzi, Giorgio. Aerei d'Italia (in Italian). Milan: Edizioni E.C.A., 2000.
  5. Malizia 2004, pp. 17–19.
  6. Malizia 2004, p. 19.
  7. De Marchi, Italo. Macchi MC.200 "Saetta" (In Italian). Modena, Italy: Editore Stem-Mucchi, 1994.
  8. Malizia 2004, p. 21.
  9. Gunston 1984, p. 222.
  10. Arena 1996, p. 455.
  11. Arena 1996, p. 455.
  12. Arena 1996, p. 456.
  13. Arena 1996, p. 459.
  14. Massimello and Apostolo 2000, p. 25.
  15. Spick 1999
  16. Arena 1996, pp. 489-491.
  17. Malizia 2004, pp. 82–83.
  18. Malizia 2004, pp. 82–84, 85–88.
  19. Massimello and Apostolo 2000, p. 92.
  20. Malizia 2004, pp. 107–109.
  21. Arena 1996, pp. 491-492.
  22. Arena 1996, p. 492.
  23. Arena 1996, p. 477.
  24. Arena 1996, p. 478.
  25. Neulen 2000, p. 201.
  26. Arena 1996, p. 479.
  27. Neulen 2000, p. 217.
  28. Keskinen 1977, p. inside back cover.
  29. Finnish Fiat G.50
  30. Arena 1996, pp. 485–488.
  31. Neulen 2000, p. 177.


Bibliography


  • Arena, Nino. I caccia a motore radiale Fiat G.50 (in Italian). Modena: Mucchi editore, 1996. NO ISBN
  • Avions Militaires 1919-1939 - Profils et Histoire (in French). Paris: Hachette, Connaissance de l'histoire, 1979.
  • Cattaneo, Gianni. "The Fiat G.50." Aircraft in Profile Number 188. Leatherhead, Surrey, UK: Profile Publications Ltd. , 1967.
  • Dunning, Chris. Solo Coraggio! La storia completa della Regia Aeronautica dal 1940 al 1943 (in Italian). Parma, Italy: Delta Editrice, 2000. NO ISBN.
  • Gunston, Bill. Gli Aerei della Seconda Guerra Mondiale (in Italian). Alberto Peruzzo Editore, .
  • Keskinen, Kalevi, Kari Stenman and Klaus Niska. Fiat G.50, Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 8 (in Finnish). Espoo, Finland: Tietoteos, 1977. ISBN 951-9035-26-5.
  • Malizia, Nicola. Fiat G-50 (Aviolibri Records No. 2) (in Italian/English). Roma-Nomentano, Italy: Istituto Bibliografico Napoleone, 2005. ISBN 88-7565-002-0.
  • Massimello, Giovanni. Furio Nicolot Doglio Un pilota eccezionale(in Italian). Milano: Giorgio Apostolo editore, 1998.
  • Massimello, Giovanni and Giorgio Apostolo. Italian Aces of World War Two. Oxford/New York, Osprey Publishing, 2000. ISBN 978-1-84176-078-0.
  • Mondey, David. The Concise Guide to Axis Aircraft of World War II. New York: Bounty Books, 1996. ISBN 1-85152-966-7.
  • Neulen, Hans Werner. In the Skies of Europe: Air Forces Allied to the Luftwaffe 1939-1945. Ramsbury, Marlborough, UK: The Crowood Press, 1998. ISBN 1-86126-799-1.
  • "A Second String Arrow" Part 1. Air International, May 1988, Vol. 34, No 5, pp. 251–258. Bromley, UK: Fine Scroll. ISSN 0306-5634.
  • "A Second String Arrow" Part Two. Air International, June 1988, Vol. 34, No 6, pp. 295–298, 308–311. Bromley, UK:Fine Scroll. ISSN 0306-5634.
  • Spick, Mike. The Complete Fighter Ace: All the World's Fighter Aces, 1914-2000. London: Greenhill Books, 1999. ISBN 1-85367-374-9.
  • Taylor, John W. R. "Fiat G.50 Freccia (Arrow)". Combat Aircraft of the World from 1909 to the Present. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1969. ISBN 0-425-03633-2.
  • Tonizzo, Pietro. Fiat G.50 Freccia (Le Macchine e la Storia 9) (in Italian). Modena, Italy: Editore Stem-Mucchi. No ISBN.
  • Waldis, Paolo. Fiat G 50, Ali e Colori 3 (in Italian/English). Torino, Italy: La Bancarella Aeronautica, 2000.


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