Hasegawa 1/48 Macchi C.202
Italian Ace - Giorgio Solaroli
by Jean Barby


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The three C.202 equipped Gruppi in North Africa at the end of 1941 found themselves compelled to retreat across Libya in front of the advancing Allied forces. 9 Gruppo engaged Allied Tomahawks the day after arriving at Martuba, 26 November. There followed a tough month of combat and retreat before it finally turned its surviving C.202s over to 1 Stormo and returned to Italy to join its mate at Gorizia. When the front stabilized at El Agheila on 8 January 1942, the two remaining Gruppi could only muster a total of 25 C.202s.

In late January 1942, when Rommel took the offensive again, 1 Stormo had its 6 Gruppo at Ara Phileborum and 17 at Tamet. They started 'freelance' hunting missions in consort with JG27's Bf109s, leaving the remaining Italian aircraft in Africa, CR.42s and C.200s, to ground attack duties. With Rommel's advance 1 Stormo moved forward, occupying Benghazi's K3 field. Through the rest of the spring of 1942 the front remained quiet, allowing both sides to rest and build strength.

On 26 May Rommel again struck. 4 Stormo had meanwhile returned, now with both Gruppi C.202-equipped. The two Stormi were joined in a 'Brigade' led by Lt. Col. Alfredo Reglieri, 1 Stormo commander. Based at Martuba, they had a strength of over 60 aircraft. Their task was to clear the air of the RAF, allowing Stukas and the older Italian fighters to attack without interference. At dawn on the 26th, 59 C.202s strafed No.250 Squadron's Tomahawks at Gambut, to start the offensive. They were then directed to gain air superiority over Tobruk and Bir Hacheim, which they were able to do. Both fortresses fell before the end of June. Over 1000 sorties were flown by C.202s during this period, only 17 of their number being lost.

During June, 1 Stormo returned to Italy, being replaced by 3 Stormo, whose 18 Gruppo was still in C.200s but whose 23 Gruppo had received C.202s in May. The new Stormo went to Abu Haggag, 4 moving to Sidi el Barrani and then Fuka. Abu Haggag and Fuka were on the Mediterranean coast between Marsa Mattruh and El Alamein, where the British retreat had finally stopped. The total number of C.202s in Africa peaked at 93 on 15 July 1942. In all, the RA had 25 bombers, 90 ground attack aircraft and the 93 C.202s, 46 C.200s and 43 G.50s, a total of 297 aircraft ready for the decisive battle at El Alamein.

By autumn 1942, Allied Liberators and Spitfires had reached the Western Desert, new and formidable opponents for the C.202s. Having held off Rommel's July and August attacks at El Alamein, Montgomery prepared his counterstroke for late October. In preparation for that offensive, the Allies attacked Axis airbases, striking Fuka and Abu Haggag on 20 October. A number of 3 and 4 Stormo Folgores were destroyed on the ground. Montgomery finally attacked on 23 October 1942. In the last days of October, between aerial combat and Allied strafing, the two C.202-equipped Stormi lost 15 in the air and four on the ground with a further 46 damaged. They were soon forced to retreat along with the general Axis withdrawl. 4 Stormo passed its remaining serviceable Folgores over to 3 Stormo which now had both its Gruppi in C.202s. 3 Stormo then continued the fighting retreat across Libya. Its continual harrassment of the Allied advance was instrumental in allowing the Axis to hold the Allied advance at Mareth on 16 February 1943. In late November 1942, 4 Stormo returned to the fray with new C.202s, supplementing 3 Stormo which was gradually being depleted of aircraft. 4 Stormo kept on with the fight into the second half of December when its 10 Gruppo gave its remaining fighters to 9 Gruppo and again returned to Italy. Until New Year's, 9 Gruppo flew sorties from Misurata and Castelbenito in the defense of Tripoli but was again forced to retreat in January. At that time 9 Gruppo once more turned its remaining Folgores over to 3 Stormo, once more leaving that unit as the last C.202 unit in Africa. 3 Stormo was at Medenine, Tunisia at the end of January 1943 where it finally was able to hold, and where it encountered USAAF fighters, P-38s, for the first time.









Construction

Here is my latest commission build for a loyal patron, a C.202 flown by Italian Ace Tenente Giorgio Solaroli, Marchese di Birona, 11 individual victories + 5 shared victories, 74a Sq., 23 Gr., 3 Stormo CT, Abu Haggag, Egypt, August 1942. I used Stormo Decals - Italian Aces Part III - STRM48003 for the Vespa Arrabiata , the blue serial numbers and weight data. The white triangle and the red 2, the wing fasces and the Savoia cross were painted using masks. The use of the Eduard wheel bay certainly adds something to the model, which I painted H-310+20% white for the NC4, H-65 for the VOS2 and H-324 for the undersides GAC1. The superb SBS resin and PE detail set was used for the cockpit, and the camo is the mid-type Breda production.



Technical Data

Aircraft: Macchi MC.202
Manufacturer: Aeronautica Macchi S.p.A.
Type: Fighter
Year: 1941
Engine: Daimler Benz DB 601A-1, 12-cylinder V, liquid-cooled, 1,175hp
Wingspan: 34 ft 8 1/2 in (10.57m)
Length: 29 ft 1 in (8.85 m)
Height: 9 ft 11 1/2 in (3.02 m)
Weight: 6,480 lb (2,937 kg) (Loaded)
Maximum Speed: 372 mph (600 km/h) at 18,050 ft (5,500 m)
Ceiling: 37,700 ft (11,500 m)
Range: 475 miles (765 km)
Armament: 2 x 12.7 mm SAFATs (0.5 in)
Crew: 1

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