Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Junkers Ju 87 Stuka

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Made famous by its part in the Blitzkrieg that led to early German victories in 1939 and 1940, the Junkers Ju 87 was designed as airborne artillery for the army. Even during its early successes in the war, the Stuka was highly vulnerable to enemy fighters. By mid-1943, modern Allied fighters like the Spitfire V, VIII, and IX made the Ju 87’s mission hazardous without air superiority.  

Stukas — short for the German translation of dive bomber — adorned with black crosses were a common sight above Malta and in the Western Desert in 1941-1942. The Regia Aeronautica (Italian Air Force) also flew various models of the Ju 87 during these campaigns. During its defence of Sicily, at least one Italian dive bomber unit flew the aircraft. These obsolete warplanes were part of the Axis force tasked with the impossible mission of stopping the Allied invasion.


Specifications (Junkers Ju 87D-1)

Type: two-seat dive-bomber and close support warplane

Powerplant: one 1044kW (1400hp) Junkers Jumo 211J-1 12-cylinder inverted-Vee engine

Performance: maximum speed 410km/h (255mph); climb to 5000m (16,405ft) in 19 minutes 48 seconds; service ceiling 7300mm (23950ft); range 1535km (954 miles)  

Weights: empty 3900kg (8598lb); maximum take-off 6600kg (14,550lb)

Wingspan: 13.8m (45ft 3in)

Length: 11.50m (37ft 9in)

Height: 3.88m (12ft 9in)

Armament: two 7.92mm (0.31in) fixed forward-firing machine guns in the leading edges of the wing and one 7.92mm (0.31in) trainable two-barrel rearward-firing machine gun in the rear of the cockpit, plus an external bomb load of 1800kg (3968lb)


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The following Regia Aeronautica units flew the Junkers Ju 87 during Operation HUSKY:

  • 121 Gruppo Tuffatori
    • 237 Squadriglia
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Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Reggiane Re.2002 Ram

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The Republic P-47 Thunderbolt had yet to deploy to the Mediterranean in mid-1943, but its Italian doppelganger had. First flown in October 1940, and introduced to combat squadrons in March 1942, the Re.2002’s Piaggio engine proved unreliable. Consequently, the Regia Aeronautica employed the Reggiane Re.2002 as a fighter-bomber during the defence of Sicily. Re.2002 attack squadrons suffered heavy losses to RAF Spitfires while attempting to attack Allied shipping off the invasion beaches, losing 14 in four days. They were also heavily bombed on their aerodromes in southern Italy.


Specifications (Re.2002)

Type: single-seat fighter-bomber

Powerplant: one 877kW (1,175hp) Piaggio P.XIX RC 45 Turbine radial engine

Performance: maximum speed 530km/h (329mph); range 1100km (680 miles); service ceiling 10,500m (34,450ft)

Weights: empty 2400kg (5280lb); maximum take-off 3240kg (7128lb)

Wingspan: 11m (36ft 1in)

Length: 8.16m (26ft 9in)

Height: 3.15m (10ft 4in)

Armament: Two 12.7 mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns and two 7.7 mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns with an external bomb load of 650kg (1430lb) on three hardpoints


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The following Regia Aeronautica units flew Re.2002s in defence of Sicily:

  • 101 Gruppo Tuffatori
  • 102 Gruppo Tuffatori
Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Dewoitine D.520

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A Dewoitine D.520 tangles with a Messerschmitt Bf 109E during the Battle of France (Image: QuentinR.deviantart.com on @DeviantArt)

This French fighter was one of few aircraft to serve on both sides during the Second World War. The Dewoitine D.520 first entered service in early 1940, before the German Blitzkrieg rampaged across France. After the fall of France, the fighter served both the Vichy French and Free French air forces. When Vichy French forces in North Africa sided with the Allies in late 1942, a number of these aircraft served briefly in Tunisia. The Allies quickly phased these out in favour of types like the Spitfire and P-39 Aircobra.

The Regia Aeronautica also employed some captured D.520s in the defence of Italy. Its 20mm cannon made it a decent gun platform to take on large American daylight bombers like the B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator. Unfortunately, the French-built cannons were not compatible with Italian-built ammunition, meaning the Italians were dependent on French depots for their supply. After the 8 September 1943 Italian armistice, both the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force and the German-backed Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana used the type.   


Specifications (D.520C.1)

Type: single-seat fighter

Powerplant: one 930hp (693kW) Hispano-Suiza 12Y-45 12-cylinder Vee engine

Performance: maximum speed 540km/h (336mph); climb to 4000m (13,125ft) in 5 minutes 49 seconds; service ceiling 11,000m (36,090ft); range 1540km (957 miles)

Weights: empty 2125kg (4685lb); maximum take-off 2790kg (6151lb)

Wingspan: 10.2m (33ft 6in)

Length: 8.76m (28ft 9in)

Height: 2.57m (8ft 5in)

Armament: one 20mm (0.79in) fixed forward-firing cannon in the nose, and four 7.5mm (0.29in) fixed forward-firing machine guns in the leading edges of the wing


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The following Regia Aeronautica units used the Dewoitine D.520 in the defence of Sicily and southern Italy:

  • 161 Gruppo Autonomo Caccia Terrestre
    • 162 Squadriglia
    • 164 Squadriglia
    • 371 Squadriglia
Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Macchi MC200 Lightning

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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)


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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: Macchi MC205 Greyhound

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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)


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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