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STORMO! © 2006 1 (2006) 1

The Regia Aeronautica in A.O.I. 1939/41

Giulio Gobbi

May, 2006

STORMO!

At the beginning of WWII the situation of the Regia Aeronautica in AOI was far from adequate, with but a single Stormo assigned to the area. This situation was recognized at the higher levels of the Regia Aeronautica and a program was initiated in 1939 to reinforce these units both quantitatively and qualitatively as follows:

1) The transport of 41° Stormo to AOI consisting of 36 SM.79s via air from Italy to AOI through Egypt

2) Transport via sea of another 36 SM.79s in order to replace one Stormo of Ca 133s

3) A sufficient shipment via sea of materials, fuel and ammunition for one year of operations.

The course of events that would follow would only allow for this program to be partially executed. Only 18 SM.79 could be transferred in flight because of restricted flights through English airspace ( Egypt ) in January 1940 imposed by the British. 36 Fiat CR 42s were sent via sea from Naples in place of the 36 SM.79 because of the closing of sea traffic through the Suez Canal. Fuel, materials and ammunition would also not reach the colony.

The Comando Aeronautica A.O.I. based in Adis Abeba were organized into three Sectors: Northern Sector (Asmara), Central Sector (Adis Abeba), Southern Sector (Mogadishu) and the total forces available to those sectors were as follows:

-14 bomber squadrons of Caproni Ca 133s with 6 aircraft each

-7 bomber squadrons of SM.81s with 6 aircraft each

-2 bomber squadrons of SM.79s with 6 aircraft each

-2 fighter squadrons of Fiat CR 32s with 9 aircraft each

-2 fighter squadrons of Fiat CR 42s with 9 aircraft each

-1 reconnaissance squadron of IMAM Ro 37s with 9 aircraft

STORMO!
Fiat CR.42s over Eritrea, 1940. These fighters took a considerable toll on
Blenheims and Wellesley's (Shores)

In total there were 138 bombers, 36 fighters and 9 reconnaissance aircraft.

In reserve there were 140 aircraft of which 59 were flight worthy:

35 Ca133

1SM81

1 SM79

5 CR32

2 Ro37

Remaining aircraft were in a state of repair with about 48 aircraft being used for replacement parts:

1Ca133

16 SM81

2 SM79

11CR32

2 CR42

2 RO37

A nucleus of air transports was also available and was composed of:

9 SM73

9 Ca133

6 Ca185

1 Fokker FVII

These aircraft were used for the transport of staff and materials, but not outfitted for combat.

On 10 June 1940 the following inventories of material were available:

-107,000 tons of aviation fuel

-5,300 tons of bombs

-8,620,000 cartridges for machine-guns

-500 aviation motors of varied types (ground reserve).

Aircraft repair shops were provided through local workshops of Piaggio and Caproni, as well as from SRAM, servicing capability included the overhaul of 15 aircraft on a monthly basis.

SuperAereo expected an impending conflict and data gathered on enemy forces facing the Regia Aeronautica were exact and as follows:

-8th Fighter Sqd with 71 Blenheims of the RAF

-94th Fighter Sqd with 34 Hurricanes of the RAF

-11 fighter bombers, Blenheims of the RAF

-15 Wellesley bombers of the RAF

- In Nairobi 53 bombers between Hart, Audax, Blenheims of the RSAF

- In Gibuti, 15 bombers Potez 63, 15 reconnaissance aircraft Potez 25, 11 Fighters Morane Ms 4, 11 Fighters Morane Ms 406 (French AdlA)

The RAF with its Blenheims and Hurricanes had a modern qualitative superiority over the Regia Aeronautica types together with the advantage of being able to supply these planes with fuel and replacement parts from the motherland, this being most difficult for the Regia Aeronautica. To its disadvantage, the Commonwealth airbases were dispersed which made it relatively difficult to provide adequate aerial cover or to reinforce each other. The antiquated Hart and Audax were considered less effective, but still served the function as ground decoys.

The high command of the Armed Forces FF.AA. in A.O.I. had prepared a meticulous plan for the conquest of Somalia that began 3 August 1940, giving priority to the Regia Aeronautica, to which mainly the task was entrusted to neutralize the enemy air forces, the enemy land forces were not considered a problem.

Aerial reconnaissance at the beginning of the hostilities indicated Commonwealth air bases were concentrated mainly in the Aden sector and did not have bases sufficiently forward in order to effectively disrupt any major Italian advance, however, for the same reasons the RA was also restricted in its capacity to halt any major Allied advance which would prove to be the case later on in the war

The operations plan for the RA, approved by S.A.R., the Viceroy Amedeo di Savoia, Duca of Aosta would be carried out as follows:

1) Pin down enemy forces in Somalia to allow unrestricted flow of reinforcements through Sudan via air.

2) Eliminate or attack forward airfields and support points near Aden so as to force the enemy to operate from bases further from the front, and so render the support of its air forces for land operations as ineffectual.

3) Impede the eventual arrival of reinforcements via sea by attacking ports of arrival.

4) Render the support to our troops in as timely a manner as possible by occupying opposing air fields as quickly as possible.

The plan seemed logical, however it did not take into account of capability to Italian aircraft in this theater.Fortunately at this time, the English had little interest in Somalia, and they were more preoccupied with transporting their Hurricanes and older Blenheims into Sudan than to intercept RA aircraft. For this plan, there were 85 aircraft consisting of 19 SM81, 11 SM79, 21 Ca 133, 9 Ro37, 9 CR32 and 16 CR42. On 20 July, intense aerial reconnaissance was begun over a large region preceding the Italian ground offensive. The build up of Italian ground forces did not escape the Commonwealth who had carried out various ground attack missions on Italian air fields and troops, however causing little damage. During this period Italian aircraft succeeded in shooting down two enemy aircraft.

On the evening of 3 August the Regio Esercito begun its offensive and continued its advance until 7 August without encountering any resistance.Some resistance was encountered near Karrin, however Allied forces were eventually overcome on 19 August and the Italians reached Berber. The RA at this time carried out ground support missions without meeting much resistance, and bombers attacked the ports of Aden and Berbera as well as the airfields of Hargheisa, Burao and Faruk. From 7 August air activity increased in which RA bombers met for the first time enemy fighters at Aden .Reconnaissance had indicated the presence of enemy aircraft at this airfield as well the airfield at Faruk with the consequent destruction of all the enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground. At this point the RA focused its support on ground troop movements, until the occupation of the Somaliland ended.

Given this success, the Commonwealth aircraft destroyed on the ground were mostly antiquated biplanes, and in some cases WWI surplus, Hurricanes and Blenheims having been flown to Egypt .

In total during the conquest of British Somaliland, 935 hours were flown, of which 376hrs were flown in ground attack and strafing missions, 204 hours were flown in interception missions and 355 hours flown in reconnaissance missions. The Italians reported the following : in total 14 enemy aircraft were destroyed, 9 destroyed on the ground and 5 shot down in air to air combat, against 4 losses, 2 SM81, 1 SM79, 1 CR32, with 6 officers killed in action, 2 NCOs and 12 regulars.

To the Commonwealth forces, a report issued to General Wavell by Vice Air Marshal Reid, commander of the air forces of Aden in which he indicated the RAF had carried out 19 aerial reconnaissance missions, 26 ground attack missions and 8 interceptions employing all 184 aircraft, losing 10 aircraft on the ground and 4 in the air, while destroying 4 enemy aircraft (an almost exact appraisal of Italian claims), although it should be pointed out the main task of the British Commonwealth air forces at this time was to protect the evacuation of its troops towards the port of Aden.

Until the end of September 1940 there was a lull period in combat, the short but remarkable effort made for the conquest of the Somalia had created an acute shortage of materials which forced the Italian High Command unto the defensive from this point forward. In October the British Commonwealth air forces launched attacks at the bases of Assab and Massaua as well as harrying ground troops. During this time the Commonwealth forces had received a good number of reinforcements, and to make matters worse for the Italians, there was a total absence of air defense that allowed Commonwealth bombers to operate almost unimpeded, except for a few CR32s equipped as night fighters.

To the defense of Mogadishu , 9 Ro37 reconnaissance aircraft were assigned and used in the fighter and interception roles because of a lack of fighters in this area. However, in spite of the chronic shortage of aircraft and fuel, the Regia Aeronautica still remained active, and during the month of September missions were carried out against convoys that journeyed through the Red Sea as well as isolated night time missions of SM 81s and Ca 133s on the Port of Sudan.In October, 84 aircraft were lost with a further 85 damaged or in repair, against 40 Commonwealth aircraft destroyed. The loss of aircrew was always devastating, however even more so in this theater were the loss of any aircraft because of the unlikelihood of replacements, and to this end the Viceroy sent urgent requests for the shipment of 60 SM 79 and 50 Fiat CR 42.

If we consider the influence and importance of supplies on the conduct of the war, it is worthwhile mentioning this aspect of operations. In spite of the loss of the ports in Somalia , the Commonwealth still could reinforce its troops with men and equipment as well as supplies almost unabated, something the Italians found practically impossible, especially considering its own limited national economic resources. In regard to its bombers, the resupply of aircraft to AOI was certainly possible although not easy. For example, the SM79 required a certain level of technical support on air fields located in extreme locations in Cirenaica.It was necessary to set aside on these air fields, fuel, parts, and aircraft engines.However, remotely located air fields in Cirenaica were too small and exposed to Commonwealth attack to store large supplies of materials.The net result was that only flights of three aircraft could be made at any one time.

In regard to fighters, the in flight transfer of aircraft was not possible due to the limited range of the fighters. Moreover, not all transport aircraft were equipped for transferring heavy equipment. Only the SM82 had the ability to embark aircraft by disassembling Fiat CR42s for example. However from 10 June 1940 to 14 November of the same year, 37 SM 79 were transferred to AOI and 13 CR 42.Transfers ceased temporarily at the end of 1940 because of the loss of airfields in Cirenaica. In February 1941 only 5 CR 42 reached AOI. In March 1941, through extreme efforts 15 CR 42s arrived at Asmara . It is interesting to note the dispachtes between the Viceroy and the High Command in Rome during this time: (G fonte G.Santoro- L'Aeronautica Italiana nella Seconda Guerra Mondiale vol.II - Ed. Esse )

"n.42563 - In the operations commencing 17 January, the Air Forces of the Empire have sustained the following losses: lost aircraft due to combat, aircraft destroyed on the ground 17; aircraft lost due to air-to-air combat 3; 24 aircraft damaged and will not be operational until March. In total 44 aircraft in the 13 days of combat have been destroyed or rendered unusable in the near term. The following aircraft are operational as of 31 January 7 x S.79, 6 x S.81. 37 x Ca 133, 17 x CR 32, 8 x CR 42, 2 x Ro 37, 1 x S 82 for a total of 82 aircraft. Pongo assess the enemy strength to have been greatly enhanced via the introduction of modern fighter types such as the "Hurricane" and Gloster. Operating the Ca 133 without proper fighter escort is impossible rendering the type unusable and further eroding our capacity to wage war. Considering this situation, continuing operations in the case of the Air Force of the Empire and its employment is sustainable only for another 15 days. Please put this to your attention a matter of urgent necessity to send an adequate number of aircraft and supplies to A.O.I. If the situation can not be rectified shortly I propose using remaining personnel of the Regia Aeronautica in forming a ground unit “ Divisione Azzurra” composed of military national and indigenous troops. The division will be employed in land operations to flank our armed forces and share their fate.

AMEDEO OF SAVOIA"

Dated communication 4 February 1941:

“n. 42744 - In operations, a further number of aircraft have been lost, 8 Ca 133 and 3 CR 42, 29 Ca 133 are remaining whose serviceability is well known; however the staff will continue forward until the extreme sacrifice.

AMEDEO OF SAVOIA."

Dated communication 17 March 1941:

"n. 46558/1 - Today, the entire English effort is now concentrated upon us, aircraft have been reduced to 3 S.79, 2 S.81, 9 Ca 133. Excluded are the Ca 133 which may only be used for transport operations and the S.81 for limited operations. I have at my disposal only 3 S.79 to support the battle at Keren, the adversary employs tens upon tens of aircraft, and bomb and strafe our lines continuously unmolested. The indigenous troops only fear aerial strafing, consequently affecting their moral resulting in widespread desertion. Yesterday 105° and 112° battalions, units still operating with some efficiency were nearly annihilated by severe bombing and strafing attacks. We can not conduct attacks at this time. If help is to be sent, please do not send one aircraft at a time, but tens. Since 2 February only one aircraft has been received, I repeat only one S.79, while having withdrawn 12 aircrews to Italy for operations elsewhere. If you do not want to run serious risks in compromising the battle of Keren, you must send sufficient supplies of aircraft and crew at all costs.

AMEDEO OF SAVOIA."

Personal answer of Mussolini: "7361 Op. For the Viceroy. In reference to communication n.46558, our forces have encountered some difficulty to use the intermediate ports of call of Cufra and Auenat, and it was necessary to prepare fuel installations at new bases, which have resulted in the delayed shipment of S.79 aircraft. A further attempt to reinforce your units using the port of Rodi turned out unfruitful and resulted in a further loss of two aircraft. Another attempt is being made in order to satisfy necessity; currently Pirenaica is transferring 6 S.79. Another 30 aircraft have begun transfer with the maximum of speed. You are sure every possible effort is being made to sustain your forces.

MUSSOLINI."

However the reality of the situation in Rome was different, as seen in a follow-up minutes issued from a meeting of the S.M. Generale M. held in March: " ... Ecc . Guzzoni provides a reading of the last telegram sent from A.O.I., deliberating on how much aid could be provided; it was viewed the campaign in AOI could not be won and what aid could be provided represented but a drop in the sea. Gen. Pricolo (C.S.M. of the N.d.R Aeronautics.) considered what could be sent and decided on a shipment of 6 S.79 and 30 CR42."

In this meeting some consideration was also given to sending the Re.2000 in place of the CR 42, Pricolo knowing the characteristics of this optimal Reggiane fighter and knowing that it might have been used in all theaters of operations in Africa if not for lengthy and costly modifications; eventually decided against this consideration, sending instead tropicalized CR.42s that were ready for shipment.

28 March "n.001079/Op. The commander of the Air Forces of A.O.I. communicates the situation in Eritrea, put into effect to suspend all shipments of aircraft to the A.O.I."

Following this message, another was issued in April 14 in which the possibility of using Massawa as a base was suggested to land the S.79s, however in Rome 27 April, it was decided all attempts to resupply AOI would be suspended and the Amedeo di Savoia himself soon ended all further requests for resupply.

In the months of October and November 1940, in preparation for their final attack in the Northern Sector of AOI, the Commonwealth aerial activity intensified against civilian and military targets, in particular against military airfields.The Commonwealth using the same tactics, night attacks, a pair of aircraft, or a maximum of three, would bomb military targets using incendiary bombs.RA fighters without the aid of searchlights or radar equipment would oppose these attacks using only elderly modified CR 32s. However the Commonwealth incursions achieved no tangible results destroying only three CR 42s on the ground, against which RA aircraft succeeded in attacking the airfield at Ghedaref using the CR 42 destroying 11 Commonwealth aircraft on the ground.

6 November a surprise attack was made on Gallabat while RA aircraft were supporting of its land forces, however the RA still succeeded to repulsing the attack. Two days later Ca 133s destroyed 7 Commonwealth aircraft for the loss of 2 Ca 133.Although successful, it was obvious, the effort was enormous, in more so that the Commonwealth forces were advancing in other sectors. The Commonwealth attacks ceased during this time, and it would have been opportune time to carry out counterattacks on the port of Sudan Port, however remaining aircraft would not permit this. The Air Force of the A.O.I. was not in any condition to allow further losses, and was already imposing the criterion of economy on men and means, the consequence was that losses incurred were light, however not because of the enemy but a consequence of RA inactivity.

Returning to 10 January 1941, the number of airworthy aircraft was 164 Ca 133, 4 SM 81, 5 SM 79, 2 CR 32, 2 CR 42, 1 SM 82, in repair were 40 Ca 133, 10 SM 81, 12 SM 79, 5 CR 32, 10 CR 42, 3 Ro 37 therefore 158 aircraft were operationally ready and 80 in repair. Other concerns were the scarcity of fuel, only 6500 tons was available.

19 January the Commonwealth forces began their advance into Eritrea , towards Cassala Agordat and Barentu without encountering much resistance, the Air Forces of the AOI being unable to support its ground troops.8 February the Commonwealth Forces stopped their advance in front of the stronghold of Keren, and there they would remain for 54 long days, the stronghold being defended under the skillful leadership of General Carmineo.

In the southern sectors, the Commonwealth forces pressed home their attacks to prevent reinforcements or support of Italian troops at Keren. Against the Commonwealth aerial attacks, no defense could be mounted, the old Ca 133 however were flung into battle with much courage against the Commonwealth columns inflicting damage but enduring serious losses. 5 CR 42s were still operational at this time, however could do little. 14 February, all aircraft were in repair 23 Ca133, 7 SM 81, 9 SM 79, 11 CR 32, 13 CR 42. At this point, under pressure from the enemy, aircrew abandoned airfields and withdrew towards Asmara .On 15 March all aircraft remaining in AOI were as follows: 10 Ca 133, 3 SM 81, 4 SM 79, 8 CR 32, 15 CR 42.On the same day Keren fell, however some isolated victories were recorded on 6 March, and the Air Forces of the A.O.I. ceased to exist.

STORMO!
Caproni Ca.133 Colonial Bomber, 1941
 
At this point air personnel were absorbed into ground units of the so-called the "Reparti Azzurri " and used to defend the last bastions of the empire, with 3 battalions totaling approximately 1,100 troops. Thirty pilots and ground crew however did succeed in using two old SM 73s to escape from Adis Abeba and arrived at a neutral airport in Saudi Arabia from whence they re-entered Italy .

On 2 May the Air Force Commander of A.O.I., together with S.A.R. were taken captive followed by the Viceroy at Amba Algi, on 17 May. On the first of June the commander of the Southern Sector and the Governor of Galla and the Sidama were forced to withdraw while ordering the garrison of Aggarò to remain in place. This garrison was formed from troops of the “Reparti Azzurri”, and a mixed group of national and indigenous troops, equipped mainly with machine-guns taken from aircraft and a some provisions. 17 June the fortress at Aggaro was besieged with about 8000 Ethopian "soldiers” who promptly abandoned any kind of resistance on 21 June. At Gondar the last stronghold still in Italian hands housed 10,000 liters of aviation fuel and 1 Ca 133 and two CR 42 in air worthy condition. One of the two CR.42s was made flight worthy from parts taken from two Commonwealth aircraft shot down and from another aircraft abandoned, as well as parts from a Hawker Hurricane. The Caproni , was used to resupply the isolated garrison of Uolchefit. The CR 42s succeeded in shooting down two Wellingtons during this time and the lone Ca 133 was damaged on the ground during an attack by the Commonwealth. The CR 42s were then transformed into transports, and so equipped with canisters containing 30 kg of provisions and continued the resupply of Uolchefit. 10 September the lone Ca 133 was made flight worthy again and resumed the supply of Uolchefit. 21 September the “Old and Glorious” Caproni was destroyed as result of an accidental ground fire. 15 October the Second lieutenant Ildebrando Malavolti and Marshal Giuseppe Mottet offered volunteers for a desperate attack on Asmara and Gura, after which making their attack the pilots were to parachute from their aircraft, however one of the two CR 42s was destroyed on the ground before the mission was carried out, the other taking off and the pilot KIA. The day after the attack, pilots of the RSAF dropped the following message at Gondar : "Honor to the pilot of the agile Fiat, he was valorous and courageous. The Pilots of the Royal South African Air Force." On 27 November, Gondar falls to the Commonwealth forces and with this loss the Empire was also lost.

Mario Visintini

I'd like to write a few words on Mario Visintini and with him, that we remember all the pilots and airmen of whatever order and degree who fought in that very difficult theatre; having given themselves totally to the cause of their countries.
 
STORMO!

Born at Istria on 26 April, 1913, Capitano Mario Visintini became the most famous fighter pilot of the East African campaign.

On completing his higher-education, he applied to the Academia Aeronautica but failed the medical exam.  Undaunted, Visintini entered the air training center at Caproni di Taliedo in the spring of 1936. Transferred to Lecce , Visintini followed the usual training program. He began flying a Breda Ba 25, then moved to aerobatic training, and then spent 30 hours training on a CR 20. In 1937 Visintini was assigned to the famous Italian squadron, the 97a Sq. of Francesco Baracca (the highest scoring Italian Ace of WWI) at Gorizia. Visintini volunteered for Spain in the 1938 and claimed 4 victories. He was then assigned to 4° Stormo C.T. In January of 1940 he was promoted to Lieutenant and three months later he was transferred to Eritrea . From his training, one could see a passionate and avid aviator, those who knew him were greatly impressed by his character, a humble and quite individual, not pretentious, he was methodical, precise and very professional. Visintini was assigned to 412a Sq., and the CO Raffi, in as much as all his pilots came from 4° Stormo, would choose the 4° Stormo insignia of the “C avallino Rampante” as the squadrons emblem, except that a black background would be adopted representing the continent of Africa set against the distinctive “C avallino Rampante” furnished in red. From 10 June 1940 Visintini was involved in twenty interceptions shooting down two bombers and earning himself the Silver medal. Other victories followed in which a Vickers Wellesley was forced down intact; forced to land on an island garrisoned by the Regia Marina. With his commander Raffi, Visintini would capture the imagination of the Italian public in an episode marked by brazen flare and courage when on 12 December 1940, after attacking the British airfield at Goz Refeb, the CR.42 of Raffi had been forced down behind enemy lines near the airfield of Goz Refeb.Visintini without hesitation landed his aircraft and recovered his CO under enemy fire and returned safely with his CO on his lap. Following some time off Visintini returned to action this time destroying three armored cars attempting to destroy Italian aircraft and setting the armored cars afire and unusable. For this action Visintini was promoted to Captain. However, by now the situation in the horn of Africa was worsening, and in the air, if before there was some numerical parity, now it was more difficult to survive in duels against such aircraft as the Hurricane. Nonetheless attacks continued on opposing airfields unabated with Visintini destroying many enemy aircraft on the ground. Visintini would be confirmed with 32 shared aircraft destroyed on the ground. On 10 February after completing a ground attack mission near Keren, and after destroying a Hurricane, while flying over the area of Sabarguma searching for two missing airmen, Visintini accidentally crashed his aircraft into a mountain under low visibility conditions. Visintini was 26 years old, he is confirmed with 17 and 2 destroyed aircraft, 1 probable in fifty combat missions.

Technical Aspects

It is not the intent here to provide a detailed technical analysis of the aircraft engaged in this theatre because hundreds of books already exist covering this material, but suffice to say that Italian pilots of the Air Forces of the AOI flew, in general, with aircraft 10 years older in design than their respective English counter parts. Without radios, without up to date navigational equipment, and aircraft sometimes 150 km/h slower than their respective counter parts, RA pilots made due with what they had, however some times courage alone is not enough. The following is a table with aircraft specifications of the main aircraft employed in aerial actions from June 1940 to the November 1941.

BOMBERS/ATTACK AIRCRAFT

 

Caproni Ca.133

Savoia Marchetti SM.79

Savoia Marchetti SM.81

Bristol Blenheim Mk.I/IV

Vickers Wellesley Mk.I

Altitude 

5500 m

7000 m

7000 m

6700 m

10000 m

Range 

1350 km

1400 km

1800 km

2350 km

1780 km

Armament

4 mtg da 7,7
450 kg di bombe

2 mtg da 12,7
3 mtg da 7,7
1250 kg di bombe

5 mtg da 7,7
650 kg di bombe

4/8 mtg da 7,7
2000 kg di bombe

2 mtg da 7,7
905 kg di bombe

Engine 

3 Piaggio Stella P.VII C16 radiali da 450 hp

3 Alfa Romeo R.C.126 radiali da 750 hp

3 Alfa Romeo R.C.125 radiali da 680 hp

2 Bristol Mercury XX radiali da 920 hp

1 Bristol Pegasus XX radiale da 925 hp

Crew 

4

6

6

3

2

Max Speed 

288 km/h

430 km/h

340 km/h

428 km/h

367 km/h

First Flight 

1932

1937

1935

1939

1937

Immediately evident is the main aircraft for ground attack and strafing, the Ca 133 is clearly inferior to the Blenheim and also the older Wellesley. The SM 81 was designed for the dual role of transport and bombing, and although it was more modern than the Ca.133, and a very rugged machine, it was basically a "colonial" aircraft where no aerial opposition was expected. Nevertheless theirs crews were flung against the Commonwealth forces. The SM 79 was a very successful aircraft of real war value with great speed, good payload, however the plane was used primarily in the ground attack role, although it was successful in this role at Keren. The numbers of SM 79s unfortunately did not cover the operating necessities. The Wellesley was found in Kenya and Sudan since it was declared obsolete for European operations as well as Pacific, RA aircraft succeeded in downing several of these aircraft. Five of the 17 victories of Visintini were obtained against these bombers. The Blenheim was put into good effect as a ground attack aircraft and its payload allowed for 4 additional machines in the ventral position for defense.

TRASPORT

 

Savoia Marchetti Sm 82

Bristol Bombay

Altitude

6000 m

7600 m

Range

3000 km

1415 km

Armament

4 mtg da 12,7
4000 kg di bombe

2 mtg da 12,7
2 mtg da 7,7
900 kg di bombe

Engine

3 Alfa Romeo R.C.128 radiali da 860 hp

2 Bristol Pegasus XXii radiali da 1010 hp

Crew

4

4

Max Speed 

370 km/h

309 km/h

Payload

5000 kg di materiali o
28 paracadutisti equipaggiati o
un Fiat Cr42 completo e due motori di ricambio.

1500 kg di materiali o
29 soldati equipaggiati

First Flight

1939

1939

The SM82 "Marsupiale" was a purpose built transport aircraft, the first of its kind, and was a remarkable aircraft with incredible cargo capacity and long range, and thanks to this aircraft, supply of the Empire, particularly in remote locations was assured to some extent. The SM.82 could also be employed as a heavy-bomber, but it was not intended for this role. The Bristol Bombay was an operational failure, both as a transport aircraft and as bomber. The Bombay was an aircraft in the same class as the Ca 133 and SM 81 but greatly inferior in maximum speed, and was perhaps too delicate a machine to operate as a colonial airplane, however again, it had insufficient performance in order to operate in other theatres. In comparison, the Marsupiale was designed to operate exclusively from air fields in Africa, the plane also carried out missions and raids from Rome to Adis Abeba, on several occasions crews bombed the port of Aden on the route to Rome after having unloaded transported material to the colony.

FIGHTERS

 

Fiat CR.32

Fiat CR.42 Falco

Gloster Gladiator   Mk.I

Hawker Hurricane Mk.I

Altitude

9000 m

10500 m

10200 m

10180 m

Range 

750 km

785 km

715 km

845 km

Armament

2 mtg da 7,7

2 mtg da 12,7

4 mtg da 7,7

8 mtg da 7,7

Engine 

1 Fiat A30 in linea da 600 hp

1 Fiat A74 RC Radiale da 850 hp

1 Bristol Mercury VIII radielae da 840 hp

1 Rolls Royce Merlin il linea da 1030 hp

Crew 

1

1

1

1

Max Speed

375 km/h

440 km/h

414 km/h

550 km/h

First Flight

1933

1939

1937

1937

In regard to fighters, and at least until the appearance of the Hurricane during the English offensive of January of 1941, the situation was not dramatic and the CR42 could perform valid combat service against the Gladiator.The CR32 so equipped with two 50 kg bombs from pylons mounted under the center forward fuselage performed some sterling work as a ground attack aircraft. As soon as the Hurricane appeared in greater numbers, RA fighters could do little against this quantitative and qualitative advantage.

STORMO!
Fiat CR.42 of 413 Sq., 1941

The only aircraft specifically designed for reconnaissance duty in this theatre was the Ro37 (the Commonwealth forces had none). The Ro.37 was a sturdy biplane, excellent in its role but requiring some escort. For reconnaissance, the Commonwealth forces used unarmed Blenheims and would fly an army observer in place of the bomber. French aircraft in Gibuti were not used militarily and therefore are not listed here.

References

[1] MACH1 Enciclopedia dell'aviazione Vol.2-  AA.VV, ed.EDIPEM, 1977.

[2] L'Aeronautica Italiana nella Seconda Guerra Mondiale, G.Santoro, ed. Danesi, 1960.

[3] Dimensione Cielo Vol 1/2/3, M.Caso, B.Benvenuti, E.Brotzu, ed. Bizzarri, 1975.

[4] Le grandi Battaglie del XX secolo, A. Petacco, ed. Curcio, 1985.

[5] Storia della Seconda Guerra Mondiale Author: AA.VV, ed. Purnell-Rizzoli, 1960.

Photo Credits

[1] Italian Aces of World War 2, Osprey Publishing, G. Massimello and G. Apostolo, 2000.

[2] The Regia Aeronautica Part I, Squadron Signal Publications, C. Shores, 1976.





Giulio Gobbi is 43 years old and is a Senior Software Analyst who lives and works in Rome. Giulio has been married to his wife Nadia for 15 years and is the proud father of two beautiful children, Elena (12) and Leonardo (8). His many interests include Italian history, aircraft, modeling, math and music. Giulio is also a Webmaster of Modellismo Piu’, M+” (www.modellismopiu.com), the largest online modeling website in Italy. Giulio spends his free-time on historical research, static modeling and playing the guitar.






 
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