Fiat G.50

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G.50 Freccia
Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-425-0338-16A, Flugzeuge Fiat G.50 und Messerschmitt Me 110.jpg
A Regia Aeronautica G.50 flying with a Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 110 over North Africa in 1941
Role Fighter aircraft
Manufacturer FIAT
Designer Giuseppe Gabrielli
First flight 26 February 1937
Introduction 1938
Retired 1946 Finnish Air Force[1]
Primary users Regia Aeronautica
Finnish Air Force
Ejército del Aire
Luftwaffe
Produced 1935–1943
Number built 791
Variants Fiat G.55

The Fiat G.50 Freccia ("Arrow") was a World War II Italian fighter aircraft. First flown in February 1937, the G.50 was Italy’s first single-seat, all-metal monoplane[2] with an enclosed cockpit and retractable Undercarriage to go into production. In early 1938, the Freccias served in the Regia Aeronautica (the Italian Air Force), and with its expeditionary arm, the Aviazione Legionaria, in Spain, where they proved to be fast[3] and, as with most Italian designs, very manoeuvrable.[2] However, it had inadequate weaponry (two Breda-SAFAT 12.7-mm machine guns).[4] The Fiat G.50 was also used in small numbers by the Croatian Air Force and 35 were flown to Finland, where they served with distinction,[4] with an unprecedented kill/loss ratio of 33/1.[5]

Design[edit]

The Fiat G.50 was designed by Giuseppe Gabrielli, who started planning a single-engined monoplane fighter in April 1935.[6][7] Work began on two prototypes in mid-summer 1936, construction was entrusted to the workshops of the CMASA (Costruzioni Meccaniche Aeronautiche S.A.), a subsidiary of Fiat at Marina di Pisa. Comandante Giovanni de Briganti, the chief test pilot of the G.50 program, who flew the first prototype on 26 February 1937 from Caselle airfield, Turin, reaching a top speed of 472 kilometres per hour (255 kn; 293 mph) and climbing to 6,000 metres (19,700 ft) meters in six minutes, 40 seconds.[7][8]

The G.50 was a low-wing monoplane of all-metal construction, with a semi-monocoque fuselage with light alloy skinning, while the wings had a steel tube centre-section structure with duralumin outer wings and alloy skins. Flaps were fitted to the aircraft's wings to improve its take-off and landing performance. The powerplant was a single Fiat A.74 R.C.38 14-cylinder air-cooled radial engine, rated at 870 hp (650 kW) for take-off and 960 hp (720 kW) at 3,000 m (9,800 ft) enclosed in a NACA cowling and driving a three-bladed constant speed propeller. The pilot sat in an enclosed cockpit under a sliding transparent canopy. He was provided with a reflector sight to aim the fighter's armament of two 12.7 mm (.5 in) Breda-SAFAT machine guns with 300 rounds of ammunition per gun[9] fitted ahead of the cockpit, synchronised to fire through the propeller. The aircraft was fitted with a retractable tailwheel undercarriage, with the mainwheels retracting inwards and a castoring tailwheel.[10] It was the first front line Italian monoplane fighter with a retractable undercarriage, an enclosed cockpit and a constant speed propeller;[11] these improvements gave it a maximum speed that was 33 km/h (21 mph) faster than its contemporary, the Fiat CR.42 biplane.[citation needed]

Development[edit]

In 1937, along with the first pre-series machines, a gruppo sperimentale (experimental group) was formed. The first versions could have different weaponry: one or two 12.7-mm (.5 in) Breda-SAFAT machine guns in the nose and two more 7.7-mm (.303 in) Breda-SAFAT in the wings. Later versions were distinguished by a larger rudder.[12]

In September 1937, Fiat received a first order for 45 aircraft. Before placing a larger order, the Air Ministry held a comparative test with the new Macchi MC.200. On 8 November 1937, de Briganti was killed on the sixth evaluation flight of the second prototype (M.M.335), when the fighter failed to pull out of a high-speed dive.[13] Flight tests at Guidonia showed that the aircraft went too readily into an uncontrolled spin, a highly dangerous trait, especially at low level where recovery was impossible.[citation needed]

During a visit by the Italian King Victor Emmanuel III and Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, another tragedy occurred at Guidonia. While performing a low, fast pass, three G.50s flown by experienced pilots, Maggiore (Squadron Leader) Mario Bonzano and Lieutenants[clarification needed] Beretta and Marasco, got into difficulty. Beretta's aircraft spun uncontrollably and crashed into the ammunition laboratory, killing the pilot.[14] Despite the crashes, flight tests were satisfactory and the Freccia proved to be more maneuverable than the faster Macchi MC.200, which was declared the winner of the Caccia I ("Fighter One") competition on 9 June 1938. On account of its maneuverability, the Regia Aeronautica Commission decided to order the G.50 as well, rejecting the third contender, the IMAM Ro.51.[15]

The first aircraft were delivered to the Regia Aeronautica in early 1938. Italian pilots did not like the enclosed canopy because it could not be opened quickly and, being constructed from plexiglass of very poor quality, was prone to cracking or abrasion by sand or dust, limiting visibility. In addition, exhaust fumes tended to accumulate in the cockpit, so pilots usually flew with the canopy locked open.[16][17] Consequently,an open cockpit was installed in the second batch of 200 machines. After 1939, the main production was shifted to the CMASA factory in Marina di Pisa, Tuscany.[18]

Variants, part I[edit]

In 1938, the Regia Aeronautica requested a two-seater trainer which was designated the G.50/B (Bicomando – dual control). The first were built in the second half of 1939. The student pilot sat in the front in a closed cockpit with two roll bars. The first five aircraft were part of the 1a serie ("first series"). Further production was entrusted to CMASA, who completed 106 G.50/Bs. A G.50/B was later transformed into a reconnaissance aircraft equipped with a planimetric camera. Another G.50/B was adapted with a hook to operate as a naval reconnaissance aircraft from the aircraft carrier Aquila, but the ship was never completed.[19] In September 1940 a slightly improved version appeared, the G.50 bis. Its main advantage was the extended combat range provided by an additional tank of 104 litres (27 US gal), increasing range from 645 km to 1,000 km.[19]

The last version was the G.50/V (Veloce – fast) built in mid-1941 by CMASA and equipped with a DB.601 engine of 1,075 CV. During tests at Fiat Aviazione's airfield in Turin, it reached a top speed of 570 km/h (350 mph) in level flight and climbed to 6,000 m (20,000 ft) in five minutes 30 seconds. By this time, however, Gabrielli had already designed the Fiat G.55, and Fiat had obtained the licence to build the 1,475 CV Daimler Benz 605, so the G.50/V was used to test new equipment and then scrapped.[20]

Total G.50 production was 784 aircraft, 426 built by Fiat Aviazione and 358 coming from CMASA. There were 58 exports: 13 to Spain, 35 to Finland and 10 to Croatia.[21] Two of the G.50 aircraft to be delivered were destroyed due to a lack of fuel before arriving in Finland. On 7 March sergeant Aster Wallius forgot to switch the fuel pump to the main tank and the G.50 (FA-8) crashed, injuring the pilot. On 8 March, a Hungarian volunteer pilot, 2nd lieutenant Wilmos Belassy, apparently dived into the Baltic sea, after running out of fuel and failing to cross it from Sweden to Finland. The FA-7 and pilot have not been found. His fellow pilot, 2nd lieutenant Matias Pirity, had turned back and saved both the G.50 and himself.[citation needed]

Operational history[edit]

Mario Bonzano's personal Fiat G.50 "1-1", in Spain, January 1939

The first operational Fiat G.50 aircraft were delivered to the Regia Aeronautica in 1938. During the Spanish Civil War, about a dozen G.50s were sent to Spain to reinforce the Aviazione Legionaria. The type proved extremely maneuverable and one of Italy's best fighters, yet by the time World War II began, it was considered underpowered and underarmed.[18]

World War II[edit]

There were 118 G.50s available when Italy entered World War II. A total of 97 aircraft were available for front line duties. Most were assigned to 51 Stormo (group[N 1]) based at Ciampino Airport (just outside Rome) and at Pontedera, with 22 Gruppo (wing[N 1]) of 52 Stormo. On 10 June 1940, when Italy declared war against France and Great Britain, G.50s of 22 Gruppo went into action, followed by the 48 aircraft of 20 Gruppo.[6]

Battle of Britain and being stationed in Belgium[edit]

In September 1940, 20 Gruppo (351/352/353 Squadrons), commanded by Maggiore Bonzano and equipped with Fiat G.50, was part of 56 Stormo, formed to operate during the Battle of Britain as part of the Corpo Aereo Italiano (Italian Air Corps, CAI) based in Belgium, together with 18 Gruppo flying Fiat CR.42s. The G.50s were hampered by their slow speed, open cockpits and short range. At the beginning of 1941, the CAI came back to Italy, leaving behind two G.50 squadrons that stayed in Belgium with Luftflotte 2 until April. The G.50s flew 429 missions, 34 escorts and 26 scrambles for the CAI, but failed to engage any enemy aircraft. One aeroplane was lost and seven more were damaged. While with Luftflotte 2, 20 Gruppo lost four additional fighters and two pilots were killed. Two G.50s were damaged by German fighters and flak.[22][N 2]

The experiences of the early G.50s over Britain showed their inadequacies. Their operations were almost useless in the campaign, because they were too short-ranged and stationed too far from enemy territory. The G.50s had limited endurance, and missions rarely exceeded one hour. The G.50 bis with its larger fuel tanks was already in production, but it was not sent to 20 Gruppo in time. Performance was also lacking: when 22 Fiat G.50s intercepted several Hawker Hurricanes on 5 November 1940, the RAF fighters easily escaped. On 21 November, when a Bristol Blenheim attacked the Maldeghem airfield, two G.50s scrambled, but they lost the bomber in the clouds. On 23 November, G.50s followed four Hurricanes, but could not close on them. Another fruitless intercept took place on 31 January 1941, when G.50s lost a Blenheim that escaped into the clouds. The last sighting of enemy aircraft (fighters) occurred on 8 April 1941, when the targets eluded them yet again.[citation needed]

The latter part of Italy's war[edit]

The G.50s were early models with an open canopy, useful in a Mediterranean climate, but the pilots suffered heavily in the bad weather of northern Europe. The aircraft was also under-equipped, with a mediocre radio set (powered by batteries, they were prone to freeze at altitude) and lacking any armour protection. [N 3] In Belgium, 20 Gruppo had the opportunity to see the German Messerschmidt Bf 109 in action; several G.50 pilots were trained to fly it, and two Bf 109Es were sent to the Gruppo in mid-January 1941.[24]

The G.50s returned to Italy, and 20 Gruppo later got the G.50bis, which had the endurance required for operational missions, due to an extra fuel tank in the internal fuselage section (originally configured as a bomb bay). But this series was used mostly over Africa. In the second half of the war, the G.50 operated as a multi-role fighter and ground attack aircraft, with external bombs only.[25] During the opening phase of the Allied invasion of Sicily, the G.50 was the most numerous aircraft used by the Regia Aeronautica to counterattack the Allied landings.[26] Just before the invasion, the Regia Aeronautica moved to Southern Italy. A specialized ground attack unit, 50 Stormo Assalto, was equipped with Fiat G.50 bis fighter-bombers. As soon the invasion started, on 10 July 1943, further units were rushed to the area.[27] With other Italian and German ground attack units, 45 Fiat G.50 bis of 158 and 159 Gruppi Assalto from Pistoia[26] were committed to attack ships, landing craft and troops. Ten of them were in action on 11 July with Re.2002s, escorted by five Re.2005s of 362a Squadron, when they were intercepted by an overwhelming fighter "umbrella". Three G.50s were shot down, including Tenente Colonnello (Wing Commander) Guido Nobili, commander of 5 Stormo Assalto.[28] The remainder landed but were destroyed by an incoming air attack.

By the time of the Italian Armistice with the Allies, only a few G.50s were left in service in Italy. Some were used as part of the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force, and four others were used by the Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana as fighter trainers.[citation needed]

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.[29]

The North African campaign[edit]

The first 27 Fiat G.50s, belonging to 150a and 152a Squadrons, 2 Gruppo Autonomo C.T., arrived in Libya on 27 December 1940, operating from Brindisi and Grottaglie airfields. They flew their first combat mission on 9 January 1941, when Capitano Pilota (Flight Lieutenant) Tullio De Prato, commander of 150a Squadron, was attacked by a Hurricane Mk I on the front line, forcing him to crash-land in the desert.[30] On 31 January 1941, a new G.50 equipped unit, 155 Gruppo Autonomo C.T., consisting of 351a, 360a and 378a Squadrons, commanded by Maggiore Luigi Bianchi, arrived in Libya. Caught up in the chaotic retreat of the Italian army in the winter of 1940–41, the Fiat G.50s saw little action.[31] On 27 May, 20 Gruppo was reinforced by 151a Squadron, equipped with the new Fiat G.50 bis.[citation needed]

In North Africa, although the G.50s were mainly outperformed, their pilots sometimes managed to shoot down the faster and better-armed Hurricanes and P-40s. G.50s had been shown in 1939 air exercises to be faster than biplanes, so they could be useful against British bombers, even if their weapons was relatively weak and often insufficient to shoot down their targets. By that time, the G.50s in North Africa were the better bis version which, although heavier, had almost two hours of flight time as a result of the extra fuel carried. The G.50s did not carry bombs, but used high explosive (HE) and incendiary bullets. The normal tactic with the G.50 was to dive from 1,500 m (4,900 ft), but they never flew very high over North Africa, usually not exceeding 4,500 m (14,800 ft). The aircraft still lacked radios, and despite their air filter, the desert sand could reduce the engine's lifespan to only 70–80 hours.[32]

In the hands of expert pilots, the Fiat G.50 could score multiple kills in a single sortie. On the evening of 9 July 1941, Sergente Maggiore Aldo Buvoli of 378a Squadriglia, 155 Gruppo Autonomo, took off from Castel Benito airfield to patrol Tripoli harbour and intercepted seven Blenheim light bombers; which had been engaged in a low-level attack on the ships. Two Fiat CR.42 biplanes from 151 Gruppo were already pursuing the Blenheims when Buvoli attacked, shooting at each bomber in sequence. One Blenheim ditched in the sea, another was shot down a few miles north of Tripoli. Two more failed to return to Luqa airfield in Malta and were posted as missing. For these successes, Buvoli was awarded the Silver Medal of Military Valor and subsequently credited with four kills. No. 110 Squadron RAF reported the loss of a similar number of Blenheim IVs on its first mission since arriving in Malta from the UK in early July.[33][34]

The fighting intensifies[edit]

One of the units fielded by the Regia Aeronautica was 155 Gruppo, based at Derna airfield. One of the few first claims by Freccia pilots was on 9 April 1941, when Tenente Pilota Carlo Cugnasca (an expert pilot, and the first to deliver a G.50 to Finland), attacked three Hurricane Mk Is from No. 73 Squadron RAF and claimed one, although it was not confirmed.[35] On his return, he was forced to crash-land his G.50, flipping the aircraft over on the airstrip but remaining unharmed. At low level, the clashes were often confused and had unpredictable effects. Tactical surprise was often what made the difference, as shown on 14 April when 66 Axis aircraft, including eight G.50s, attacked Tobruk. The defenders of 73 Squadron RAF were outnumbered. RAF Hurricanes had to ignore the Axis fighters and concentrate on attacking the bombers, which were the greatest threat. Cugnasca and Marinelli attacked H.G. Webster while he was shooting at a Stuka (dive bomber). Hurricanes were only marginally faster than G.50s, and Webster was finally shot down and killed over Tobruk. A Canadian pilot (the ace 'Smudgeon' Smith) saw them and shot down and killed both Cugnasca and Marinelli, damaging another G.50 before being shot down himself by the G.50's squadron commander.[36]

An Italian Fiat G.50 captured by the British at Sidi Rezegh airfield in North Africa. An RAF Hawker Hurricane is landing (left) and another is in the background on the right.

G.50s operated from Martuba Air Base, attacking Sidi el Barrani airfield. On 18 November, during Operation Crusader, the Desert Air Force destroyed 13 aircraft on the Ain el Gazala airfields; 10 of them were G.50s. On 19 November, 20 Gruppo, based at Sid el Rezegh, suffered heavy losses when British armoured forces suddenly attacked the airfield. Of the 19 G.50s, only three escaped, 80 pilots and ground crew were taken prisoner. Altogether, 26 G.50s were lost and 20 Gruppo was left with only 36 G.50s, of which 27 were serviceable. Mario Bonzano, now a Tenente Colonnello and commander of 20 Gruppo, was among the captured, and his deputy, Furio Niclot Doglio, was almost shot down, since he was unaware of the British operation. Several G.50s were captured almost intact, and at least one was taken by No. 260 Squadron and later passed to No. 272 Squadron.[37]

After 1941, G.50s played a minor role in the Regia Aeronautica. In June 1942, British intelligence estimated that 12 Gruppo had 26 G.50s (10 serviceable), while the backbone of 5a Squadra Aerea was 104 C.202s, 63 C.200s, 32 Z.1007 and 31 S.79s.[38]

Aegean theatre[edit]

After Italy declared war on Greece in 1940, the Freccia began operations on 28 October over the Balkans and the Aegean Sea, operating from Berat, Devoli and Grottaglie airfields.[39]

During the Greek campaign, adverse weather conditions hampered air operations for most of the time, but fierce battles were fought on several days, often with a large amount of overclaiming by both sides. Early on 20 February 1941, Hawker Hurricane fighters were engaged in their first aerial combat over the Balkans when seven G.50s of 54 Gruppo were scrambled from Devoli to intercept a formation of RAF bombers with their Hurricane escorts. A few days earlier, a British cargo ship had delivered six Hurricanes and several Wellington bombers to Paramythia, boosting RAF power in the region. Freccias claimed a bomber and a fighter, while the British claimed four G.50s. That afternoon, 15 G.50s engaged a large mixed formation of RAF Gloster Gladiators, claiming 10 aircraft for the loss of one G.50.[40] The RAF claimed three G.50s with no loss. Postwar records showed one Bristol Blenheim and one G.50 lost on that day. On 28 February 1941 RAF units intercepted Italian bombers and their escorts, claiming 27 aircraft shot down and several others damaged in the ensuing battle. The Italians claimed six Gladiators and one Supermarine Spitfire. The recorded losses were one Gladiator and eight Italian aircraft; many more were damaged. After this battle, the Regia Aeronautica was no longer effective in the theatre.[41][42]

On 4 March 1941, a Fiat G.50 bis shot down the Hurricane V7288 of Australian RAF ace Flight Lieutenant Nigel Cullen (who was credited with 15 or 16 victories) off Valona coast (Albania), while he was flying as wing-man for ace Marmaduke Pattle.[29][41] In the Greek campaign, 10 Fiat fighters were lost, including both combat losses and others destroyed in accidents and in the bombing of Italian airfields.[40]

Fiat G.50 in Finnish markings, c. 1940

In Finnish service[edit]

The G.50 saw its longest and most successful service in the two Finnish wars against the Soviet Union, the Winter War of 1939-1940 and the Continuation War of 1941-1944. At the end of 1939, before the outbreak of hostilities, Finland ordered 35 Fiat G.50s. The first 10 aircraft were to be delivered before February 1940. A group of Finnish pilots attended a 10-hour training course at Guidonia airport and later at Fiat Aviazione in Turin. On a training flight, during a dive from 3,500 m (11,500 ft), Lieutenant Tapani Harmaja reached an estimated speed of 780 km/h (480 mph), which was considered excessive for the structural integrity of the aircraft. The windscreen was damaged.[43][44]

Germany hindered the transit of the aircraft, so they were dismantled and embarked in La Spezia on the Norwegian ship Braga, which set sail for Turku, Finland, on 20 January.[45] Because of this delay, the first G.50s did not reach No. 26 Squadron, Finnish Air Force (HLeLv 26) at Utti until February 1940.[46] The G.50s were numbered from FA-1 to FA-35, but it seems that only 33 were delivered (13 in February, 17 in March and 1 in June).[contradiction] Squadron No 26 received from material command G.50 fighters according to the table below. A day before the truce after the Winter War, they had received 30 Fiat G.50s of the 35 purchased and 33 not damaged during the procurement.[citation needed]

Fiat G.50 deployed with fighter squadron no 26[edit]

Fiat G.50 total subtotal 1 2 3 4 5 6 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35
11-02-1940 4 4 1 1 1 1
14-02-1940 5 1 1
15-02-1940 11 6 1 1 1 1 1 1
20-02-1940 13 2 1 1
27-02-1940 14 1 1
02-03-1940 18 4 1 1 1 1
03-03-1940 19 1 1
08-03-1940 25 6 1 1 1 1 1 1
10-03-1940 29 4 1 1 1 1
12-03-1940 30 1 1
19-06-1940 31 1 1
01-07-1940 32 1 1
01-07-1941 33 1 1

Source: Fiat.laivue - Lentolaivue 26 sodassa (The Fiat Squadron - the Squadron n:o 26 in war), pages 150 and 151. appendix Koneluettelo (Aircraft list), Kari Stenman, Maininkitie 14 A, FI-02320 ESPOO, +358 9 8092187, http://www.kolumbus.fi/kari.stenman, printed Otavan Kirjapaino Oy, Helsinki, 2013, ISBN 978-952-99743-8-2

Fiat G.50 FA-8 was destroyed during take-off when the pilot, a Hungarian volunteer, second lieutenant lieutenant Wilhelm Bekasy, in bad flying weather, lost contact with his countryman, lieutenant Matias Pirity, who turned back. The next day sergeant Asser Wallenius took-off with FA-7, having forgotten to switch on the fuel pump of the main tank and as the extra fuel tanks emptied, FA-7 crashed and was damaged. Wallenius survived but he was injured. Because of technical problems in the Finnish airforce itself, only 33 of the 35 Fiat G.50s were delivered to Finland.

The Italian fighters had arrived too late to affect the course of that year's winter battles,[44] however, most of them were soon sent to the front. The Fiat pilots found themselves involved in the heavy fighting over the bay of Vyborg in late February and early March. According to some sources, the first kill was achieved on 26 February.[citation needed] The following day, Second Lieutenant Malmivuo became the first Finnish pilot to be killed in a G.50, when his fighter FA.12 crashed after a battle with Soviet aircraft.[47] And on 11 March, the Italian volunteer Sergente Dario Manzocchi crashed to his death while returning from a combat sortie.[45] The Fiat bases were under constant attack. The Utti airfield was bombed by the Soviet airforce. Consequently, the Fiats were transferred two kilometres to the north of Utti, proper onto the ice at Haukkajärvi (Falcon lake). As Haukkajärvi become bombed and attacked by fighters, another lake-side base was established near the city of Lahti, Hollola, also on the ice of Vesijärvi near Pyhäniemi mason. Overall, HLeLv 26 achieved 11 kills, against one loss in combat and another in an accident.

The Finnish G.50 y were taken from the 235 built by CMSA, both Serie I and Serie II, but all but seven had the open cockpit of the Serie II, a feature that Finnish pilots disliked, especially in winter. There were some attempts to improve the aircraft – one was tested with an enclosed cockpit, another with a D.XXI ski-undercarriage – but none of the modifications were put into service. Better protection for the propeller, which had problems at extremely low temperatures, and a few other changes were introduced. The speed of the Finnish G.50s was around 430–450 km/h (270–280 mph), much lower than the standard series could achieve.[48] At this stage, Finnish pilots preferred the Hawker Hurricane, the French Morane-Saulnier M.S.406 and the Brewster Buffalo to the G.50.[47]

Air victories from late February to early March, 1940[edit]

Fiat G.50 FA-4 FA-5 FA-9 FA-13 FA-20 FA-21 Aaltonen Linnamaa Nieminen Paronen Puhakka
26-02-1940 I-16, I-152 DB-3 DB-3
I-16, I-152
28-02-1940 DB-3 DB-3 SB, SB DB-3 SB, SB DB-3
02-03-1940 I-153 I-153
09-03-1940 I-153
I-153
11-03-1940 DB-3

Source: Fiat.laivue - Lentolaivue 26 sodassa (The Fiat Squadron - the Squadron n:o 26 in war), pages 152 and 153. appendix Koneluettelo (Aircraft list), Kari Stenman, Maininkitie 14 A, FI-02320 ESPOO, +358 9 8092187, http://www.kolumbus.fi/kari.stenman, printed Otavan Kirjapaino Oy, Helsinki, 2013, ISBN 978-952-99743-8-2

The first demonstration of the Finnish Air Force's effectiveness came on 25 June 1941, when the G.50s from HLeLv 26 shot down 13 out of 15 Soviet SB bombers.[46] Thirteen aerial victories were achieved altogether.[49]

During the Continuation War, the G.50s were most successful during the Finnish offensive of 1941, after which they became ever less impressive.[50] In 1941, HLeLv 26 claimed 52 victories for the loss of only two fighters. The Soviets brought better, newer types of fighter to the front line in 1942 and 1943, while the Fiats were becoming old and run-down and the lack of spare parts meant that pilots were restricted to a minimal number of sorties. Nevertheless, between 30 November 1939 and 4 September 1944, the G.50s of HLeLv 26 shot down 99 enemy aircraft, including aircraft more modern than they, such as the British fighters sent to the USSR. In the same period, Finnish squadrons lost 41 aircraft of several types.[46] But Fiat lost in combat were just three,[5] with a ratio victory/loss of 33/1.

The most successful Finnish G.50 pilots were Oiva Tuominen (23 victories), Olli Puhakka (11[51] or 13), according to other sources, Nils Trontti (6), Onni Paronen (4), Unto Nieminen (4) and Lasse Lautamäki (4).[49] The Finnish G.50s were finally phased out of front-line duty in the summer of 1944. They were no more than 10 or 12, and even as trainers, they did not last long, since they lacked spare parts. Unlike the older MS.406, there was no effort to change their engine to make them better and faster, and it is probable that at the end of the war they had already been taken out of service.[52]

In Croatian service[edit]

In October 1941, the Croatian Air Force Legion requested military aid from Italy, that country agreed to deliver 10 Fiat G.50s (nine single-seaters and one two-seater), along with ancillary equipment. On 12 June 1942, the Fiat G.50 bis fighters took off from Fiat Aviazione in Turin for Croatia, but before they reached the border, they were stopped on the orders of Ugo Cavallero, Chief of the Italian Supreme Command, who feared that the Croatian pilots would defect. The G.50s had to wait until 25 June before being delivered to the Croatian Air Force,[53] which assigned them to the 16th Jato at Banja Luka[54] and were intensively used until 1945 against Yugoslav Partisans, at first in Bosnia and Herzegovina, then in Serbia, Croatia and Dalmatia. During 1942, a Croatian G.50 bis squadron was transferred from Northern Yugoslavia to the Ukrainian front, flanking the 4th Luftflotte.[55]

On 25 June 1943, the Zrakoplovstvo Nezavisne Drzave Hrvatske (Air Force of the Independent State of Croatia, or ZNDH), received nine G.50 bis fighters and one G.50B. In October, while based at Zaluani airfield, Banja Luka, they flew many strafing missions against partisans for nearly a year.[56]

After the Italian armistice of 8 September 1943, the Luftwaffe supplied the Croatian Air Force Legion with 20–25 Fiat G.50s captured on Regia Aeronautica airfields in the Balkans. These equipped two Croatian fighter units,[53] but by the end of 1943 only 10 aircraft remained. Three G.50s captured after the Armistice were loaned to Kro JGr 1 at the beginning of 1944.[57] In 1944 some of the G.50s were operated at the Brezice training school. ZNDH entered 1945 with seven G.50s (two operational).[57] On 10 March 1945 six of these Fiats were based in Lucko, operated by 2.LJ (Lovacka Grupa, Fighter Group). Three were damaged by RAF Mustangs of Nos 213 and 249 Squadrons attacking Lucko airfield with napalm bombs, on 25 March, and the following day one of the last operative Freccia was flown to a RAF-held airfield by vod (Corporal) Ivan Misulin that defected, together with vod Korhut (flying a Bf 109 G-10).[58] The last G.50s were captured by Yugoslav Partisans. After the war, the G.50s were used for some time by the newly formed Yugoslav Air Force – the last G.50s on active service.[53]

Variants, part II[edit]

FIAT G.50 II Series
Model of the Fiat G.50V
G.50
First production version.
G.50 bis
Development of the G.50 version with extended range; 421 built.
G.50 ter
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.50 bis A/N
Two-seat fighter-bomber prototype; one built.
G.50B
Two-seat trainer version.
G.51
Projected production version of the G.50V, abandoned infavour of the Fiat G.55.[59]
G.52
Projected version of the G.50, powered by a Fiat A.75 R.C.53 engine. The engine never materialised and the G.52 was never built.[59]

Operators[edit]

 NDH
 Finland
 Germany
 Italy
  • Regia Aeronautica
    • Gruppo Sperimentale da Caccia Spanish Civil War from January, 1939 to March, 1939, the aircraft was transferred to the Spanish Airforce, 12 F.50 fighters
    • 351st squadron (351ª Squadriglia)
    • 352nd squadron (352ª Squadriglia)
    • 353rd squadron (353ª Squadriglia)
    • 354th squadron (354ª Squadriglia)
    • 355th squadron (355ª Squadriglia)
    • 357th squadron (357ª Squadriglia)
    • 358th squadron (358ª Squadriglia)
    • 359th squadron (359ª Squadriglia)
    • 360th squadron (360ª Squadriglia)
    • 361st squadron (361ª Squadriglia)
 Italian Social Republic
 Spain
 Yugoslavia

Survivors[edit]

In September 2010, the only known G.50 bis still in existence was undergoing restoration in the Museum of Aviation, in Surčin, at Nikola Tesla Airport, Serbia.[60]

Specifications (G.50)[edit]

Data from A Second String Arrow...The Fiat G.50[61]

General characteristics

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 470 km/h (254 knots, 292 mph) at 5,000 m (16,400 ft)
  • Range: 445 km (240 nmi, 276 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 10,700 m (35,105 ft)
  • Climb to 5,000 m (16,400 ft): 6.05 min

Armament

  • Guns: 2 × 12.7 mm (0.50 in) Breda-SAFAT machine guns

See also[edit]

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ a b Stormo means "group" in British English; the equivalent in US English is "wing". Conversely, Gruppo is "wing" in British English and "group" in US English.
  2. ^ More recently, an article in Storia Militare magazine gives a total of six aircraft lost, all through flight accidents.[23]
  3. ^ The Luftwaffe provided a small 17-kg piece of armour plate for the pilot's seat. It was light, to avoid overloading the G.50. In addition, a life jacket and some other technical help was afforded by the Luftwaffe.
Citations
  1. ^ "Historical Listings: Finland, (FND)". World Air Forces. Retrieved: 10 June 2011.
  2. ^ a b Ethell 1995, p. 64.
  3. ^ Gunston 1988, pp. 250–253.
  4. ^ a b Gunston 1988, p. 253.
  5. ^ a b Arena 1996, p. 483.
  6. ^ a b Avions Militaires 1919-1939 - Profils et Histoire 1979, p. 118.
  7. ^ a b Air International May 1988, pp. 251—252.
  8. ^ Malizia 2004, p. 17.
  9. ^ https://docviewer.yandex.ru/?url=ya-disk%3A%2F%2F%2Fdisk%2FFiat_G50.pdf&name=Fiat_G50.pdf&c=53624123f2d6&page=77
  10. ^ Air International May 1988, pp. 253–254.
  11. ^ Air International May 1988, p. 251.
  12. ^ Bignozzi, Giorgio. Aerei d'Italia (in Italian). Milan: Edizioni E.C.A., 2000.
  13. ^ Malizia 2004, pp. 17–19.
  14. ^ Malizia 2004, p. 19.
  15. ^ De Marchi, Italo. Macchi MC.200 "Saetta" (In Italian). Modena, Italy: Editore Stem-Mucchi, 1994.
  16. ^ Air International May 1988, p. 255.
  17. ^ Malizia 2004, p. 21.
  18. ^ a b Gunston 1984, p. 222.
  19. ^ a b Arena 1996, p. 455.
  20. ^ Arena 1996, p. 456.
  21. ^ Arena 1996, p. 459.
  22. ^ Arena 1996, pp. 489–491.
  23. ^ Leproni 2008, pp. 489–491.
  24. ^ Leproni, Enrico. "I G.50 sull'Inghilterra." Storia Militare Magazine, Albertelli editions, Parma 9/08, pp. 12–15.
  25. ^ Sgarlato 2004, pp. 33–34.
  26. ^ a b Massimello and Apostolo 2000, p. 25.
  27. ^ Shores 1977, p. 117.
  28. ^ Shores 1977, p. 118.
  29. ^ a b Spick 1999
  30. ^ Malizia 2004, pp. 82–83.
  31. ^ Shores, Masimello and Guest 2012, pp. 120, 148.
  32. ^ Locatelli, Daniele. "Sidi el Barrani, 14 luglio 1941. (in Italian)" Storia Militare, Albertelli editions, Parma, January 1998, pp. 31–32.
  33. ^ Massimello and Apostolo 2000, p. 92.
  34. ^ Malizia 2004, pp. 107–109.
  35. ^ Malizia 2004, pp. 82–84, 85–88.
  36. ^ Mattioli 2001, pp. 10–12.
  37. ^ Rocca 1991, p. 206.
  38. ^ Santoni 2007, p. 8.
  39. ^ Arena 1996, pp. 491-492.
  40. ^ a b Arena 1996, p. 492.
  41. ^ a b Gustavsson, Håkan. "Flight Lieutenant Marmaduke Thomas St. John Pattle, D.F.C. (39029), No. 80 Squadron." surfcity.kund.dalnet.se. Retrieved: 15 October 2010.
  42. ^ Marcon, Tullio. "Hurricane over Mediterranean." Storia militare magazine, Albertelli editions, Parma, July 2000, p. 33.
  43. ^ Fatutta, Francesco. "La guerra d'Inverno" (in Italian). RiD Magazine, Coop Riviera Ligure, 12/1989 p. 96.
  44. ^ a b Arena 1996, p. 477.
  45. ^ a b Arena 1996, p. 478.
  46. ^ a b c Neulen 2000, p. 201.
  47. ^ a b Arena 1996, p. 479.
  48. ^ Mattioli, Marco. "Il G.50 nella Guerra d'Inverno" (in Italian). Aerei nella Storia magazine, Parma, January 2000, pp. 32–35.
  49. ^ a b Keskinen 1977, p. inside back cover.
  50. ^ "Finnish Fiat G.50". modelingmadness.com. Retrieved: 26 September 2010.
  51. ^ Shores 1983, p. 105.
  52. ^ Lembo, DanieleG.50 nella Guerra d'Inverno, Aerei nella Storia magazine, Delta Editions, Parma, p.36
  53. ^ a b c Arena 1996, pp. 485–488.
  54. ^ Neulen 2000, p. 177.
  55. ^ Malizia 2008, p. 200
  56. ^ Savic and Ciglic 2002, p. 61
  57. ^ a b Savic and Ciglic 2002, p. 68
  58. ^ Savic and Ciglic 2002, p. 69
  59. ^ a b Thompson, Jonathan W. (1963). Italian Civil and Military aircraft 1930-1945. USA: Aero Publishers Inc. ISBN 0-8168-6500-0. OCLC 63 - 17621. 
  60. ^ Marinkovic, Vlado. "Air Museum." pbase.com, 11 September 2010. Retrieved: 26 September 2010.
  61. ^ Air International May 1988, p. 254.
  62. ^ tail up
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Thompson, Jonathan W. (1963). Italian Civil and Military aircraft 1930-1945. USA: Aero Publishers Inc. ISBN 0-8168-6500-0. OCLC 63 - 17621. 

External links[edit]