Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Macchi MC200 Lightning


The Macchi MC200 Saetta (Lightning) was the Regia Aeronautica’s primary monoplane fighter early in the Second World War. The Italians introduced the aircraft in small numbers before entering the war in June 1940. By 1942-1943, the MC200 was obsolete. They replaced it in the fighter interceptor role with the newer MC202 and MC205. It proved a decent fighter-bomber, supporting the defence of the islands of Pantelleria and Sicily. Only 33 of the type remained serviceable when Italy withdrew from the Axis on 8 September 1943. The Italians used them as training aircraft into the early post-war period.  

Specifications (MC200CB)

Type: single-seat fighter/fighter-bomber

Powerplant: one 649kW (870hp) Fiat A.74 RC.38 14-cylinder two-row radial engine

Performance: maximum speed 503km/h (312mph); climb to 5000m (16,405ft) in 5 minutes 51 seconds; service ceiling 8900m (29,200ft); range 870km (541 miles)

Weights: empty 2019kg (4451lb); normal take-off 2339kg (5597lb)

Wingspan: 10.58m (34ft 9in)

Length: 8.19m (26ft 10in)

Height: 3.51m (11ft 6in)

Armament: two 12.7mm (0.5in) fixed forward-firing machine guns in the upper part of the forward fuselage, plus an external bomb load of 320kg (705lb)


The following Regia Aeronautica units flew the MC200 in the defence of Sicily:

  • 157 Gruppo Caccia Terrestre
    • 163 Squadriglia
    • 357 Squadriglia
    • 371 Squadriglia
Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Junkers Ju 88

A captured Ju 88 crew noted that their unit had arrived in Italy with 43 crews and was now down to nine. Replacement crews were untrained in nighttime flying and were therefore being returned to Germany.

– Excerpt from Eagles over Husky


The Junkers Ju 88 was probably the most versatile German aircraft of the Second World War. During Operation HUSKY, Luftwaffe units used these aircraft for level and dive bombing. The Ju 88R was a night fighter variant while the Ju 88D and Ju 88H offered the Germans long-range reconnaissance services.

In response to their ejection from the continent of Africa, the Luftwaffe established a new bomber command (Fernkampffuehrer Luftflotte 2) to control all long-range bombers based in Sicily, Italy, and southern France. The bulk of these aircraft were Ju 88s, although Dornier Do 217s and Heinkel He 111s rounded out the order of battle. Allied strikes on airfields in close proximity to the front line meant that these units were largely unable to concentrate for decisive effect during the Battle of Sicily.     

Specifications (Junkers Ju 88A-4)

Type: four-seat high-speed, level and dive-bomber

Powerplant: two 999kW (1340hp) Junkers Jumo 211J-½ 12-cylinder engines

Performance: maximum speed 470km/h (292mph); climb to 5400m (17,715ft) in 23 minutes; service ceiling 26,900ft (8200m); range 2730km (1696 miles)  

Weights: empty 9860kg (21,737lb); maximum takeoff 14,000kg (30,865lb)

Wingspan: 20.00m (65ft 8in)

Length: 14.40m (47ft 3in)

Height: 4.85m (15ft 11in)

Armament: one 7.92mm (0.31in) fixed or trainable forward-firing machine gun in windscreen, one 13mm (0.51in) or two 7.92mm (0.31in) forward-firing machine guns in nose position, two 7.92mm (0.31in) machine guns in rear of cockpit, and one 13mm (0.51in) or two 7.92mm (0.31in) trainable rearward-firing machine guns in rear of undernose gondola, plus a bomb load of 2500kg (5511lb)


The following Luftflotte 2 units flew the Junkers Ju 88 during Operation HUSKY:

Nightfighters (Bf 110 or Ju 88)

  • Nachtjagdgeschwader (NJG) 2
    • II/NJG 2

Bombers (Ju 88, Do 117 & He 111)

  • Part of I/Lehrgeschwader (LG) 1
  • Kampfgeschwader (KG) 1
    • Gruppenstab KG 1
    • I/KG 1
    • II/KG 1
  • KG 6
    • Gruppenstab KG 6
    • I/KG 6
    • III/KG 6
  • KG 26
    • Gruppenstab KG 26
    • I/KG 26
    • III/KG 26
  • KG 30
    • III/KG 30
  • KG 54
    • III/KG 54
  • KG 76
    • Gruppenstab KG 76
    • I/KG 76
    • II/KG 76
  • KG 77
    • II/KG 77
  • KG 100
    • Gruppenstab KG 100
    • II/KG 100
    • III/KG 100
Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Hawker Hurricane

The Hawker Hurricane, famous for its service in 1940 during the Battle of Britain, was obsolescent by 1943. Another famous use of this aircraft was as a fighter-bomber with the Desert Air Force in 1941-1942. The Hurricane IIC had a four 20mm cannons, but this was not enough firepower to destroy enemy tanks. The Hurricane IID swapped its 20mm cannons for a pair of 40mm cannons. This new “Hurribomber” quickly earned a reputation as a tank buster; the first IID-equipped squadron became known as the “Flying Can Openers”.  

The Vintage Wings of Canada Donald “Bunny” McLarty Hawker Hurricane Mk IV in the colours of No. 6 Squadron RAF (Photo: Eric Dumigan)

For Operation HUSKY, the Hawker Hurricane saw very limited action. Most Hurricane squadrons would eventually swap these aircraft for Supermarine Spitfires. One notable use of the Hurricane in support of the Sicilian invasion was in the intruder role. A detachment of Hurricanes at Malta flew around the coast of Sicily at night shooting out Axis searchlights in support of Allied night bombers and the airborne landings. Some Hurricanes also remained in service as fast courier aircraft.

Specifications (Hawker Hurricane IID)

Type: single-seat tank buster

Powerplant: one 1088.5kW (1460hp) Rolls-Royce Merlin XX 12-cylinder Vee engine

Performance: maximum speed 518km/h (322mph); climb to 6095m (20,000ft) in 12 minutes 24 seconds; service ceiling of 9785m (32,100ft); range 1448km (900 miles)

Weights: empty 2586kg (5700lb); normal take-off 3493kg (7700lb); maximum take-off 3674kg (8100lb)

Wingspan: 12.19m (40ft)

Length: 9.81m (32ft 3in)

Height: 3.98m (13ft 1in)

Armament: two 40mm (1.57in) fixed forward-firing cannon under the wing, and two 7.7mm (0.303in) fixed forward-firing machine guns in the leading edges of the wing typically armed with tracer ammunition


The following Mediterranean Air Command units flew the Hawker Hurricane:

Northwest African Coastal Air Force

  • No. 253 Squadron RAF
  • No. 32 Squadron RAF
  • No. 87 Squadron RAF

Northwest African Tactical Air Force

  • No. 6 Squadron RAF
  • No. 241 Squadron RAF

Air Headquarters Malta

  • No. 73 Squadron RAF
Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Douglas A-20 Havoc / Boston


In an interesting combined operation, RAF Boston light bombers acted as pathfinders on the night of 17/18 July for a US B-25 Mitchell attack [against Naples] because the USAAF was a day bombing force.

– Excerpt from Eagles over Husky

The Douglas A-20 Havoc (or Boston for Commonwealth aircrews) was a light bomber that served with the Northwest African Tactical Air Force’s tactical bomber force. Targets for these aircraft included Axis gun positions, lines of communication, and troop concentrations. In particular, these tactical bombers. On rare occasions, Boston crews with night flying training and experience served as pathfinders for USAAF medium bomber crews who had limited experience operating at night.  

Specifications (A-20B Havoc/DB-7B Boston III)

Type: four-seat light attack bomber

Powerplant: two 1193kW (1600hp) Wright GR-2600-A5B Double Cyclone radial engines

Performance: maximum speed 515km/h (320mph); initial climb rate 609m (2000ft) per minute; service ceiling 7470m (24,500ft); range 1996km (1240 miles) with reduced bomb load

Weights: empty 5534kg (12,200lb); normal take-off 8959kg (19,750lb); maximum take-off 9789kg (21,580lb)

Wingspan: 18.69m (61 ft 4in)

Length: 14.48m (47ft 6in)

Height: 6.36m (17ft 7in)

Armament: four 7.7mm (0.303in) fixed forward-firing machine guns on the sides of the forward fuselage, two 7.7mm (0.303in) trainable machine guns in the dorsal position and one 7.7mm (0.303in) trainable machine guns in the ventral position, plus an internal bomb load of 907kg (2000lb)


The following Mediterranean Air Command units flew the Havoc/Boston light bomber. Notice the South African Air Force (SAAF) squadrons:

Northwest African Tactical Air Force

  • No. 12 Squadron SAAF (Boston III)
  • No. 24 Squadron SAAF (Boston III)
  • No. 18 Squadron RAF (Boston III)
  • No. 114 Squadron RAF (Boston III)
  • US 84th Bombardment Squadron (A-20B)
  • US 85th Bombardment Squadron (A-20B)
  • US 86th Bombardment Squadron (A-20B)
  • US 97th Bombardment Squadron (A-20B)
Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Messerschmitt Bf 109

Toward noon 105 bombers came and destroyed the Jagdgruppe Vibo Valentia, which had about 80 aircraft. Not a machine was left intact, not even the [Junkers] which had just landed. Fuel trucks, hangars, aircraft, autos, everything was burning. The German fighters in Italy have been wiped out.

– Lieutenant Köhler, Luftwaffe fighter pilot, quoted in Eagles over Husky

Bf 109 G-2/Trop “Black 6” of JG 77 now on static display at Royal Air Force Museum Cosford

The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was the primary German fighter throughout the Second World War. Initially produced in 1937, the Luftwaffe began the war with the Bf 109E or “Emil” variant. The Bf 109F replaced the Emil in mid-1941, which was subsequently replaced by the Bf 109G or “Gustav” in mid-1942. The Gustav was the model German (and some Italian) fighter pilots flew in Sicily. The aircraft also served as a fighter-bomber on some occasions.

Specifications (Bf 109G)

Type: single-seat fighter

Powerplant: one 1100kW (1474hp) Daimler-Benz DB 605AM 12-cylinder inverted-Vee engine

Performance: maximum speed 386mph (621km/h); climb to 5700m (18,700ft) in 6 minutes; service ceiling 11,550m (37,890ft); range 1000km (621 miles)

Weights: empty 2673 (5893lb); maximum take-off 3400kg (7496lb)

Wingspan: 9.92m (32ft 7in)

Length: 8.85m (29ft 1in)

Height: 2.50m (8ft 3in)

Armament: one 20mm (0.79in) or 30mm (1.18in) fixed forward-firing cannon in an engine installation, and two 13mm (0.51in) fixed forward-firing machine guns in the upper part of the forward fuselage, plus an external bomb load of 250kg (551lb)


The following Luftflotte 2 and Regia Aeronautica units flew Messerschmitt Bf 109s in defence of Sicily:

Luftflotte 2

  • Jagdgeschwader (JG) 3
    • IV Gruppe/JG 3
  • JG 27
    • II/JG 27
  • JG 51
    • II/JG 51
  • JG 53
    • Gruppenstab JG 53
    • I/JG 53
    • II/JG 53
    • III/JG 53
  • JG 77
    • Gruppenstab JG 77
    • I/JG 77
    • II/JG 77
    • III/JG 77

Regia Aeronautica

  • 3 Gruppo Autonomo (Aut) Caccia Terrestre (CT)
    • 153 Squadriglia
    • 154 Squadriglia
    • 155 Squadriglia
  • 150 Gruppo Aut CT
    • 363 Squadriglia
    • 364 Squadriglia
    • 365 Squadriglia
Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Macchi MC205 Greyhound


While the Allies and the Germans would reorganize some Italian air units to support their efforts in the Mediterranean, the Regia Aeronautica largely collapsed in disorder following the armistice, having been practically shot from the skies by late July 1943.

– Excerpt from Eagles over Husky

The Macchi MC205 Veltro (Greyhound) was a development of the earlier MC202 Folgore (Lightning) fighter. During Operation HUSKY, the MC205 was a relatively new piece of kit, having started operational service in February 1943. Although it was arguably one of the finest single-engine fighters of the war, it arrived too little, too late to make a significant difference for the Italian war effort. By the time of the armistice, the Regia Aeronautica had only accepted approximately 150 of these aircraft. After the armistice, a handful of examples served with the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force while a few dozen served with II Gruppe/Jagdgeschwader 77 as the German fighter wing rebuilt in autumn 1943. The Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana (Italian Social Republic Air Force) also used surviving aircraft and the remaining production run of the Macchi plant in Northern Italy into 1944.

Specifications (MC205V)
Type: single-seat fighter

Powerplant: one 1100kW (1475hp) Fiat RA.1050 RC.58 Tifone 12-cylinder inverted-Vee engine

Performance: maximum speed 642km/h (399mph); climb to 5000m (16,405ft) in 4 minutes 47 seconds; service ceiling 11,000m (36,090ft); range 1040km (646 miles)

Weights: empty 2581kg (5691lb); normal take-off 3224kg (7108lb); maximum take-off 3408kg (7514lb)

Wingspan: 10.59m (34ft 9in)

Length: 8.85m (29ft)

Height: 3.04m (10ft)

Armament: two 12.7mm (0.5in) fixed forward-firing machine guns in the upper part of the forward fuselage and two 20mm (0.79in) forward-firing cannon in the leading edges of the wing, plus bomb load of 320kg (705lb)

The Macchi MC205 served in limited numbers with the following Regia Aeronautica fighter wing based in Sicily, Calabria (the Italian toe), and Puglia (the heel). These units also flew Macchi MC202s.

  • 4 Stormo Caccia Terrestre (CT)
    • 9 Gruppo CT
      • 73 Squadriglia
      • 96 Squadriglia
      • 97 Squadriglia
    • 10 Gruppo CT
      • 84 Squadriglia
      • 90 Squadriglia
      • 91 Squadriglia
Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: North American A-36 Apache

One squadron of 27th Group A-36s was sent in to attack four guns that had been holding up the advance that day. The pilots were given a pin point position and briefed on local terrain features. When the dozen aircraft arrived at the location no guns could be seen. Nevertheless, the pilots dropped their ordnance on the coordinates and later received a message from the US 1st Infantry Division noting that the battery had been destroyed.

– Excerpt from Eagles over Husky

The Collins Foundation’s A-36 “Baby Carmen” with dive brakes extended

Readers will be familiar with the P-51 Mustang, a fighter that came as close to being a war-winning weapon as any other. In the skies above Germany in early 1944 the long-range escort fighter helped win the Western Allies air superiority for D-Day. In the skies above Sicily in 1943 the A-36, a variant of the P-51, was a dive bomber and ground-attack plane. Its targets were Axis gun positions, vehicle convoys, trains, and grounded aircraft. Equipped with dive brakes, it was one of the few pure dive bombers in the Anglo-American arsenal.


Type: single-seat ground-attack/dive bomber

Powerplant: one 988kW (1325hp) Allison V-1710-87 liquid-cooled piston 12-cylinder engine

Performance: maximum speed 590km/h (365mph); range 885km (550 miles); service ceiling 7650m (25100ft)

Weights: loaded 4535kg (10000lb)

Wingspan: 11.28m (37ft 0.25in)

Length: 9.83m (32ft 3in)

Height: 3.71m (12ft 2in)

Armament: six 12.7mm (0.5in) machine guns and up to 454kg (1000lb) of bombs



These rare aircraft (only 500 were built) served exclusively in the Mediterranean and China-Burma theatres. The following units flew A-36s during Operation Husky:

Northwest African Tactical Air Force

  • US 27th Fighter-Bomber Group
    • 522nd Fighter-Bomber Squadron
    • 523rd Fighter-Bomber Squadron
    • 524th Fighter-Bomber Squadron
  • US 86th Fighter-Bomber Group
    • 525th Fighter-Bomber Squadron
    • 526th Fighter-Bomber Squadron
    • 527th Fighter-Bomber Squadron