The CR.32 Falco was a handsome and highly maneuverable bi-plane fighter. During General Franco's fight with the Republicans for the control of Spain from 1936 – 39, no fewer than 477 CR.32s were involved, with an astounding 709 confirmed aerial victories, and an additional 320 kills claimed, against just 62 losses. As these statistics reveal, the CR.32 was the unrivaled master of the skies over Spain. By the war's end, the five leading aces of the conflict were all Spanish CR.32 pilots. Their exploits, and those of the other leading CR.32 aces, are examined for the first time in English in this exciting volume.
Flying aircraft such as the Macchi 200-202, Fiat G.50 and biplane Fiat CR.42, the Italian fighter pilots were recognised by their Allied counterparts as brave opponents blessed with sound flying abilities, but employing under-gunned and underpowered equipment. Following the Italian surrender in September 1943, a number of aces continued to take the fight to the Allies as part of the Luftwaffe-run ANR, which was equipped with far more potent equipment such as the Bf 109G, Macchi 205V and Fiat G.55. Flying these types, the handful of ANR squadrons continued to oppose Allied bombing raids on northern Italy until VE-Day.
Formed in May 1936, 53° Stormo was initially equipped with the iconic Fiat CR.32 biplane fighter. These were replaced by CR.42s three years later, and upon Italy's declaration of war on the Allies in June 1940, the unit saw action against French and British aircraft that same month. With France defeated, the Regia Aeronautica turned its attention to Greece, and 53° Stormo's 150° Gruppo was again in the forefront of the action against RAF Gladiators – the unit also operated over Yugoslavia.
Meanwhile, 53° Stormo's 151° Gruppo had been sent to Libya in July 1940, and it saw considerable action in North Africa until returning to Italy in January 1942. 150° Gruppo had also been sent to North Africa in early 1941, the unit having by then re-equipped with Macchi C.200s. Operations against Malta followed during the summer of 1942, when 53° Stormo was issued with Macchi C.202s.
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Italy's Sparviero (Sparrowhawk) saw combat with the Regia Aeronautica in France, Yugoslavia, Greece, North Africa, East Africa and in the Mediterranean versus the Royal Navy. Italy's most successful wartime bomber, the S.79 was also the most produced, with around 1370 built between 1936 and early 1944. Initially developed by Savoia-Marchetti as a transport aircraft it had evolved into a dedicated medium bomber by the time the S.79-I made its combat debut with the Aviazione Legionaria in the Spanish Civil War in 1936. The manufacturer then produced the S.79-II torpedo-bomber, fitted with 1000 hp Piaggio or Fiat radial engines in place of the original 780 hp Alfa Romeos. Entering service in 1939, the S.79-II saw much action over the next four years, particularly in its intended torpedo-bomber role against the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean. Indeed, the Sparviero crews tasked with targeting Allied shipping became national heroes in Italy thanks to their exploits, with men such as Buscaglia, Graziani, Erasi, Faggioni, Di Bella, Aichner and Cimicchi being as revered as fighter aces in other countries. Following Italy's surrender in September 1943, a large number of S.79s continued to see action against the Allies with the pro-German RSI, although they suffered heavy losses. This is the first of two proposed volumes on the S.79, the second book detailing its use as a bomber and transport.