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CR.32
Role Fighter
Manufacturer Fiat
Designed by Celestino Rosatelli
Retired 1953 (Spanish Air Force)
Primary users Regia Aeronautica
Hungarian Air Force
Spanish Air Force
Variants Fiat CR.42

The Fiat CR.32 was an Italian biplane fighter used in the Spanish Civil War and World War II. The CR.32 fought in North and East Africa, in Albania and in the Mediterranean theatre. The CR.32 saw service in the air forces of China, Austria, Hungary, Paraguay and Venezuela. Used extensively in Spanish Civil War, it gained a reputation as one of the outstanding fighter biplanes of all time.[1] But then it was overtaken by more advanced monoplane designs and was obsolete by 1939.[2]

Contents

Development

The Fiat CR.32 was designed by Celestino Rosatelli. Derived from earlier Fiat CR.30 designs, the CR.32 was a more streamlined and smaller biplane fighter. The prototype MM.201 first flew the 28 April 1933 from the Fiat company airstrip at Turin.[1]

Design

The fuselage had same structure as the CR.30, utilizing aluminium and steel tubes covered by duraluminium on the nose ut to the cockpit, on the back, in lower section under the tail, and with fabric on the sides and "belly". The wings and tail had same mixed structure, with aluminium frame covered by fabric. A notable feature was that the lower wing was shorter than the upper wing making it sesquiplane. Ailerons were only on the upper wings. Armament included initially two 7.7 mm (.030 in) Breda-SAFAT machine-guns (later two 12.7 mm (.5 in) Breda-SAFAT), located on top of the engine cowling, with 350 rounds each.

The engine was the water cooled Fiat A.30 RA. Designed in 1930, it was a 60° V 12, producing 447 kW (600 hp) at 2,600 rpm, inspired to the American Curtiss D-12. It drove a 2,82 meters two-blade metal propeller with variable pitch ("a passo variabile") but only adjustable on the ground, not in flight. The engine did not use the usual avio-petrol but a mixture of petrol (55%), alcohol (23%) and benzole (22%). The main fuel tank located between the engine and cockpit, carried 325 liters. There was another small tank (25 liters) in the "torpedo" fairing in the center of the upper wing.

Although fully instrumented, the RA.80-1 radio was optional.[3]

Operational history

Fiat CR.32.jpg

The new biplane was an instant success. After a period of testing. The first production order were received in March 1934, and the type soon equipped the 1°, 3° and 4° Stormi of the Regia Aeronautica.[1] The CR.32 was well liked by its crews, being very maneuverable and having a strong fuselage structure. It was used extensively in the Spanish Civil War. At least 380 took part in the air battles fought over Spain, proving formidable adversaries to the Soviet Polikarpov I-15 and Polikarpov I-16 monoplanes that formed the back bone of the Republican air force.[4] It had its baptism of fire in 1936. On 18 August 1936, the first 12 CR.32 Freccias arrived in Spain and formed the Squadriglia "Gamba di Ferro", "Cucaracha" and "Asso di Bastoni" of 3° Stormo. Three days later, Tenente Vittorino Ceccherelli, Medaglia d'Oro al Valor Militare (Golden Medal to Military Valour) shot down the first enemy aircraft, a Nieuport 52, over Cordoba.[3] In total, the Italian government sent 365–405 C.R.32s to Spain while 127–131 were delivered directly to the Nationalist Aviation units. Six aircraft were captured by Republican FARE, with one sent to Urss for evaluation.[5]

Thanks to the agile CR.32, the Italians managed to obtain air superiority against its Fuerzas Aéreas de la República Española(Republican) opponents, that mainly flew a motley collection of very different aircraft. The Fiat biplane proved to be effective with Aviacion Legionaria claiming 60 (48 confirmed) modern Russian bombers Tupolev SB-2, once believed impossible to intercept, 242 Polikarpov I-15 biplane fighters and 240 Polikarpov I-16 monoplane fighters, plus another hundred not confirmed. Fiat C.R.32 losses were only 73. [3] The Fiat biplanes were used for many aerobatic shows, in Italy and abroad. When foreign statesmen visited the Holy City, the 4° Stormo, Regia Aeronautica élite unit, based in Rome, put on impressive displays with formations of five or 10 aircraft. In 1936, air shows were organized in other European capitals and major cities, and, during the following year, in South America. When the team returned a brilliant display was put on in Berlin.[6] The aerobatic characteristics of the CR.32 and its success in Spain misled the Italian air ministry, which formed the view that a fighter biplane still had potential as a weapon of war.[1] Consequently, in May 1939, prior to Italy entering World War II, the CR.32 fighters in bis, ter and quater versions, represented two thirds of all fighters in the Regia Aeronautica. A total of 294 were based in Italy and North Africa, while 34 were stationed in East Africa. When Italy declared war on 10 June 1940, the CR. soldiered on into World War II. About 40 "Freccias" in Libya were the first to see action, flying escort missions over Tripoli. The first combat with British aircraft came the following day; six CR.32s intercepted a formation of Bristol Blenheim bombers, shooting down two and damaging the other four, for no losses.

The greatest wartime successes achieved by CR.32 were in Italian East Africa.[6] Here, 410a and 411a Squadriglia CR.32s (that represented half of all the fighters operative in the Italian colony) destroyed a number of British and South African aircraft.[6] Their opponents included Blenheims and Hawker Hurricanes, 410a Squadriglia managed to shot down 14 enemy aircraft before being disbanded. The Fiats had their baptisme of fire on 17 June, when the Cr. 32s of 411a Squadriglia, flown by Tenente Aldo Meoli and Maresciallo Bossi, attacked three Junkers Ju 86 from 12 SAAF squadron (bound to bomb Wavello), escorted by two Hurricanes of 1 SAAF Squadron. The Fiats shot down one of the Ju 86s and then pounced the Hurricanes, shooting down the one flown by 2/Lt B.L. Griffiths that was killed in the crash. [7]

Fourteen CR.32s of 160° Gruppo and nine of 2° Gruppo from 6° Stormo saw action against Greece in the first weeks after the attack of 28 October 1940. Eight more from 163a Squadriglia, based in Gadurrà airport, on Rhodes island, took part in the occupation of Crete. CR.32s of 3° Gruppo operated in Sardinia but in the period July-December 1940, their number had fallen from 28 to seven serviceable aircraft. The last front line CR.32 survived until mid-April 1941 when the "Freccias" were sent to the Scuola Caccia (Schools for fighter pilots). By 1942, the type was relegated to only night missions as newer fighters were put into service.

The first international buyer of the CR.32 was Chiang Kai-shek for China that already in 1933 ordered 16 (according to other sources 24) CR.32s of the first series. The aircraft had Vickers 7.7 mm machine guns instead of the Breda-SAFAT, electric headlights, the little cooling fins on the oil tank in the nose were removed and some were equipped with radios. They were based at Nangahang airport, near Shanghai. Some officers of the Chinese high command disliked the Fiat, but Chinese pilots appreciated that the Italian biplanes in comparative tests proved superior to American Curtiss Hawk and Boeing P-26. The Chinese Government did not order more Fiats as it was difficult to import alcohol and benzole to mix with petrol for the engines. In May 1936 only six "Freccias" were still operational. In August 1937, the remaining CR.32s were used with some initial success in Shanghai against the invading Japanese.[5] By late 1937 when the Chinese capital at Nanjing fell, all Fiats were lost.[3] In spring 1936 45 CR.32s were ordered by Austria to equip Jagdgeschwader II at Wiener Neustadt. But in March 1938 the Austrian units were absorbed into Luftwaffe. After a brief period the 36 remaining aircraft were handed over to Hungary.[1] In 1938, Venezuela acquired nine (according to other sources, 10 aircraft [1]) CR.32quaters. Modifications included a larger radiator to assist engine cooling in tropical climate conditions. The aircraft were delivered to Maracay in the second half of 1938 and equipped the 1° Regimiento de Aviación Militar del Venezuela. These aircraft were struck off in 1943 when five were still in use.[3]

A small number, estimated at four [1], went to Paraguay in 1938. Five CR.32quater fighters (registered 1-1, 1-3, 1-5, 1-7 and 1-9) were assigned to 1.a Escuadrilla de Caza of the Fuerzas Aéreas del Ejercito Nacional del Paraguay. They did not arrive in time for military operations against Bolivia, but were in service for several years.[5] In 1938 Spain acquired a license to build the CR.32. Hispano Aviacion built 100 examples under the designation HA-132-L Chirri, some of these remaining in service as C.1 aerobatic trainers up to 1953.[6]

Variants

The Regia Aeronautica ordered 1,080 CR.32s (including the two prototypes and 23 aircraft rebuilt by SCA factory in Guidonia, near Rome, plus 52 without military registry numbers for Hungary). With 100 more CR.32quaters licence-built in Spain (as the Hispano Ha. 132L Chirri), the total CR.32 production numbers range from 1,306 to 1,332 examples.

CR.32
Armed with twin 7.7 mm (.303 in) or 12.7 mm (.5 in) machine guns and powered by 447 kW (600 hp) Fiat A.30 RAbis engine. Delivered to the Regia Aeronautica between March 1934 and February 1936.
CR.32bis
Close-support fighter version armed with twin Breda-SAFAT Mod.1928Av. 7.7 mm (.303 in) (a common field modification was to discard the 7.7 mm armament to reduce weight) and twin 12.7 mm (.5 in) machine guns. Bomb racks with ability to carry 100 kg (220 lb) bombload possible: 1 × 100 kg (220 lb) or 2 × 50 kg (110 lb).
CR.32ter
Revised CR.32bis with many improved features.
CR.32quater
Revised CR.32ter with reduced weight, added radio and max speed 356 km/h (221 mph) at 3,000 m (9,843 ft); 337 built for the Regia Aeronautica.
CR.33
Only three prototypes were built.
CR.40
One prototype powered by a Bristol Mercury IV radial engine.
CR.40bis
One prototype only.
CR.41
One prototype only.
HA-132L Chirri
Spanish version; 100 were built and 49 more of those used during the war were re-built. A total of 40 were transformed into two-seaters and kept in service as an aerobatic trainer till 1953.

Operators

 Austria
 China
 Chile
 Germany
  • Luftwaffe operated former Austrian aircraft
 Hungary
 Italy
 Paraguay
Spain Spanish State
 Venezuela

Specifications (CR.32)

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 7.47 m (24 ft 6 in)
  • Wingspan: 9.5 m (31 ft 2.25 in)
  • Height: 2.36 m (7 ft 9 in)
  • Wing area: 22.1 m² (237.88 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 1,455 kg (3,210 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 1,975 kg (4,350 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1× Fiat A30 RA-bis V12, 447 kW (600 hp)

Performance

Armament

See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Related lists

  • List of military aircraft of Italy

References

Notes
  1. ^ a b c d e f g Mondey 2006, p. 55.
  2. ^ Sgarlato 2005. pp. 10–14.
  3. ^ a b c d e De Marchi, Italo and Enzo Maio (tavole). Macchi MC. 200 "Saetta: / Pietro Tonizzo Gianfranco Munerotto Fiat CR. 32. Modena: Stem Mucchi Editore, 1994.
  4. ^ Mondey 1996, p. 27.
  5. ^ a b c Sgarlato, Nico. Fiat CR.42, CR.32 Gli ultimi biplani. Parma: Delta Editrice, 2005.
  6. ^ a b c d Mondey 2006, p. 56.
  7. ^ Sutherland & Canwell 2009, p. 38.
  8. ^ Haubner, F. Die Flugzeuge der Österreichischen Luftstreitkräfte vor 1938. Graz, Austria: H. Weishaupt Verlag, 1982.
Bibliography
  • Apostolo, Giorgio. Fiat CR 32 (Ali D'Italia 4). (in Italian/English). Torino, Italy: La Bancarella Aeronautica, 1996. No ISBN.
  • Cattaneo, Gianni. The Fiat CR.32 (Aircraft in Profile Number 22). Leatherhead, Surrey, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1965.
  • "Connaissance de l'Histoir Hachette." Avions Militaires 1919-1939 Profils et Histoire (in French). Paris: 1979.
  • (Italian) De Marchi, Italo /Enzo Maio - Pietro Tonizzo/Gianfranco Munerotto. MACCHI MC.200 "saetta" - FIAT CR.32. (in Italian) Modena: Stem Mucchi, 1994.
  • Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. "The Facile Fiat... Rosatelli's Italian Fighter." Air Enthusiast Twenty-two, August-November 1983. Bromley, Kent, UK: Pilot Press Ltd., 1983.
  • (Italian) Maliza, Nicola. Il Fiat C.R. 32 - Poesia del Volo (in Italian). Roma, Italy: Edizioni dell'Ateneo & Bizzarri, 1981.
  • McCullough, Anson. "La Cucaracha." Airpower Volume 28, No. 5, September 1998.
  • Mondey, David. The Concise Guide to Axis Aircraft of World War II. New York: Bounty Books, 1996. ISBN 1-85152-966-7.
  • Mondey, David. The Hamlyn Concise Guide to Axis Aircraft of World War II. London: Bounty Books, 2006. ISBN 0-753714-60-4.
  • Punka, George. Fiat CR 32/CR 42 in Action (Aircraft Number 172). Carrollton, TX: Squadron/Signal, 2000. ISBN 0-89747-411-2.
  • (Italian) Sgarlato, Nico. Fiat CR.32 Freccia - CR.42 Falco (in Italian). Parma: Delta Editrice, 2005.
  • Sutherland, Jon & Diane Canwell. Air War East Africa 1940-41. Barnsley (South Yorkshire) Pen and sword Aviation, 2009. ISBN 978-1-84415-816-4.
  • Westburg, Peter. "Dogfight over Ruthenia." Airpower Volume 13, No. 6, November 1983.

External links

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