Reggiane Re.2001

Reggiane Re.2001

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The Reggiane Re.2001 Falco II was an Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 fighter aircraft
Fighter aircraft
A fighter aircraft is a military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat with other aircraft, as opposed to a bomber, which is designed primarily to attack ground targets...

, serving in the Regia Aeronautica
Regia Aeronautica
The Italian Royal Air Force was the name of the air force of the Kingdom of Italy. It was established as a service independent of the Royal Italian Army from 1923 until 1946...

(Italian Air Force) during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. A contemporary of the renowned Macchi C.202, the production of this type was to be limited to only 252, but it was a flexible design that proved to be able to undertake a number of roles. Thanks to its manoeuvrability it could dogfight with more powerful opponents like the Supermarine Spitfire
Supermarine Spitfire
The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries throughout the Second World War. The Spitfire continued to be used as a front line fighter and in secondary roles into the 1950s...

. The Re.2001 became the basis of a later, more formidable fighter, the Re.2005
Reggiane Re.2005
The Reggiane Re.2005 was an Italian monoplane fighter/fighter-bomber produced for the Regia Aeronautica during the later years of World War II. It is considered by many to be "the most beautiful plane of the Second World War". Along with the Macchi C.202/C.205 and Fiat G.55, the Reggiane Re.2005...

.

Design and development


The Reggiane
Reggiane
Officine Meccaniche Reggiane SpA was an Italian aircraft manufacturer, owned by Caproni and situated in Reggio Emilia, a city of what today is the Emilia-Romagna region...

 Re.2001 was a development of the Re.2000
Reggiane Re.2000
The Caproni-Reggiane Re.2000 Falco I was an Italian all metal, low-wing, monoplane with a Curtiss-style retractable undercarriage, used in the first part of World War II. This lightly built and highly manoeuvrable interceptor/fighter, similar to the Seversky P-35, flew for the first time in 1939...

 Falco I which had been rejected by the Regia Aeronautica primarily because of its engine. This was the main problem the Falco II set out to fix, now having a 1,175 hp Alfa Romeo
Alfa Romeo
Alfa Romeo Automobiles S.p.A. is an Italian manufacturer of cars. Founded as A.L.F.A. on June 24, 1910, in Milan, the company has been involved in car racing since 1911, and has a reputation for building expensive sports cars...

 inline
Inline engine (aviation)
In aviation, an inline engine means any reciprocating engine with banks rather than rows of cylinders, including straight engines, flat engines, V engines and H engines, but excluding radial engines and rotary engines....

 engine (a more powerful and reliable licence-built German DB 601
Daimler-Benz DB 601
|-See also:-Bibliography:* Mankau, Heinz and Peter Petrick. Messerschmitt Bf 110, Me 210, Me 410. Raumfahrt, Germany: Aviatic Verlag, 2001. ISBN 3-92550-562-8.* Neil Gregor Daimler-Benz in the Third Reich. Yale University Press, 1998-External links:...

) rather than a 986 hp Piaggio
Piaggio
Piaggio based in Pontedera, Italy encompasses seven brands of scooters, motorcycles and compact commercial vehicles. As the fourth largest producer of scooters and motorcycles in the world, Piaggio produces more than 600,000 vehicles annually, with five research and development centers, more than...

 P.IX radial engine
Radial engine
The radial engine is a reciprocating type internal combustion engine configuration in which the cylinders point outward from a central crankshaft like the spokes on a wheel...

.

Incorporating much of the Re.2000's fuselage
Fuselage
The fuselage is an aircraft's main body section that holds crew and passengers or cargo. In single-engine aircraft it will usually contain an engine, although in some amphibious aircraft the single engine is mounted on a pylon attached to the fuselage which in turn is used as a floating hull...

 structure, even retaining the entire tail unit, the Re.2001's wings were of semi-elliptical design with three spars in each wing. The initial design had conventional fuel tanks with 544 l total capacity (five tanks, one in the fuselage and the others in the wings). The armament consisted of Breda-SAFAT machine gun
Breda-SAFAT machine gun
Breda-SAFAT was a series of machine-guns mounted on Italian aircraft during World War II. The weapon came in 7.7mm and 12.7mm variants. The 7.7mm model was similar to the M1919 Browning machine gun and could use some types of .303 British ammunition. The 12.7mm version could fire a...

s, with two nose-mounted 12.7 mm (up to 800 rounds) and two 7.7 mm guns in the wings, (1200 rounds total).

The new Falco II was considered equal by most experts with the Macchi MC.202
Macchi MC.202
The Macchi C.202 Folgore was a World War II fighter aircraft built by Macchi Aeronautica and operated by the Regia Aeronautica . Macchi aircraft designed by Mario Castoldi received the "C" letter in their model designation, hence the Folgore is referred to as the MC.202...

, but the Macchi fighter, having first call on production for the Alfa Romeo R.A.1000RC.41-1a (the licence built DB 601) was still produced in greater numbers. The Re.2001 was then delayed because the Regia Aeronautica insisted on the fuel tanks being placed inside the wings, which required a substantial redesign of the wing structure. The first order, amounting to 300 machines, was cut back with only 252 produced. This number included 100 Re.2001 Serie I, Serie II and Serie III with armament variations, the Reggiane Serie IV fighter-bomber and 150 Re.2001 CN Caccia Notturna, night fighter.

Due to the wing redesign coupled with production delays, the first production aircraft were finally cleared for operational use in June 1941, nearly a year behind schedule.

Along with the fighter variant, two other main variants were developed to suit specialised roles. The Re.2001 CB (Cacciabombardiere, Fighter-bomber) version produced from 1942 could carry a 100 or 250 kg bomb under the fuselage for the attack role. The CN (Caccia notturno, Night fighter) version was adapted with the introduction of engine exhaust-flame dampers and a 20 mm Mauser MG 151/20 cannon in two gondolas, one under each wing, although many fighters retained the original armament. A total of 34 CNs were produced of the 50 ordered.

Operational history


The Re.2001 reached operational status late in 1941 with 2° Gruppo (part of 6° Stormo) that had returned from North Africa without aircraft in September 1941. Its three Squadriglie, 150a, 152a and 358a, were based at Gorizia and then relocated to Rome-Ciampino
Ciampino
Ciampino is a town and comune in the province of Rome, Lazio, Italy. It was a frazione of Marino until 1974, when it became a comune; it obtained the city status in 2004 by presidential decree.-Overview:It is best known for the local "Giovan Battista Pastine" International Airport, best known as...

 in December. But due to technical reasons the unit was not fully equipped and trained until February 1942. Finally, on 4 May 1942 it moved to Caltagirone
Caltagirone
Caltagirone is a town and comune in the province of Catania, on the island of Sicily, about 70 km southwest of Catania. It is bounded by the comuni of Acate, Gela, Grammichele, Licodia Eubea, Mazzarino, Mazzarrone, Mineo, Mirabella Imbaccari, Niscemi, Piazza Armerina, San Michele di...

 in Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

, with 18 Reggiane under command of Colonnello Bajlon. In May 1942, Re.2001s began to fly escort missions over Malta
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

, encountering British Spitfire Mk Vs
Supermarine Spitfire
The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries throughout the Second World War. The Spitfire continued to be used as a front line fighter and in secondary roles into the 1950s...

. First encounter took place on 12 May, when 15 Reggiane 2001s of 2° Gruppo while escorting (with Macchi MC.200s) three S.84 of 4° Gruppo, were attacked by nine Spitfires. The British fighters shot down a bomber and badly damaged the other. The Reggiane pilots claimed two Spitfires, one by Sergente Paolo Morcino, that had to make a crash-land (just like his commander) close to Ispica, as his undercarriage had been damaged by a 20 mm cannnon shell. That day RAF lost two Spitfires: one pilot, Sergeant Charles Graysmark of 601 Sqn was killed and another, Sergeant C. Bush of 603 Sqn, wounded.
In the afternoon of 15 May 1942, 19 Re.2001s flew to the airfields at Malta on a hunting spree. Dogfights took place over the southern part of the island and according to the Italians, the Allies lost four aircraft, three falling into the sea east of Valletta
Valletta
Valletta is the capital of Malta, colloquially known as Il-Belt in Maltese. It is located in the central-eastern portion of the island of Malta, and the historical city has a population of 6,098. The name "Valletta" is traditionally reserved for the historic walled citadel that serves as Malta's...

 and the fourth, south of Kalafrana. Re.2001 MM.7210, hit during the dogfight, made an emergency landing at Comiso
Comiso
Comiso is an Italian municipality in the Province of Ragusa in Sicily.-Geography:Comiso consists of three boroughs: Comiso, Pedalino, and Quaglio. It lies some 22 km west of Ragusa in the South of Sicily...

, in Sicily. On 18 May, eight Re.2001s led by Tenente Remo Cazzolli of 152a Squadriglia flew to Malta in support of a maritime/land reconnaissance of the island. The Re.2001s were attacked by four Spitfires of 249 Squadron, three pilots each claiming a Reggiane. Later records show that Cazzolli, a Spanish Civil War veteran, was the lone victim, crashing north of Fort San Leonardo, near Marsaskala, and was taken POW.

Generally slower than contemporary fighters, at lower and medium altitudes the Re.2001 was able to hold its own, but above 7,000 m (23,000 ft), the Spitfire clearly had a speed advantage.

But in the hands of an expert pilot, like the ace Laddie Lucas tells in his Malta: The Thorn in Rommel's side, the Reggiane could be a difficult opponent for the Spitfire V.
On 13 July 1942, 249 Squadron had been embroiled high up on Malta with a mixed force of German and Italian fighters. Jack Rae, then fast developing into one of New Zealand's outstanding pilots and his able No. 2, the Australian, Alan Yates, despite being low on ammunition, had finally set upon a lone Reggiane 2001 as it was about to disengage and head for Sicily. What then followed gave Jack such a shock that the incident has stuck starkly in his mind for half a century. "To my amazement the Italian proved to be an extremely competent opponent. I had never before been involved in such a complex sequence of aerobatics as I pursued him. Twice I nearly 'spun off' as I stayed with him; I found it difficult to get any sort of worthwhile deflection shot at his aircraft. At times he got dangerously close to getting a bead on me. Eventually he started to smoke and we hit his tail, but we were halfway across the Strait of Sicily and our position was getting dangerous as we were now low in fuel and would be in real difficulty if we were attacked. But, as we turned back to base, the Italian, to my amazement, turned with us and made one final and defiant attack upon our section - as if to show what he thought of a pair of Spitfires!"


Against the Hawker Hurricane
Hawker Hurricane
The Hawker Hurricane is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was designed and predominantly built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd for the Royal Air Force...

, the Re.2001 fared better and could take on this opponent on a more equal basis, although the type was noticeably slower at most altitudes. <
By the end of June, 22° Gruppo based at Rome-Ciampino received their first Re.2001 CBs and redeployed to Monserrato
Monserrato
Monserrato is a comune in the Province of Cagliari in the Italian region Sardinia, located about 5 km northeast of Cagliari.-History:Still 1991, when it was separated with a local referendum, Monserrato was a district of Cagliari...

, Sardinia
Sardinia
Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea . It is an autonomous region of Italy, and the nearest land masses are the French island of Corsica, the Italian Peninsula, Sicily, Tunisia and the Spanish Balearic Islands.The name Sardinia is from the pre-Roman noun *sard[],...

, later to be transferred to Sicily to participate in the raids on Malta.
On 12 July, over Malta, Canadian ace "Buzz" Beurling
George Beurling
George Frederick "Buzz" Beurling DSO, DFC, DFM & Bar, RCAF , was the most successful Canadian fighter pilot of the Second World War....

 from 249 Sqn
No. 249 Squadron RAF
No. 249 Squadron RAF was a Royal Air Force squadron, active in the sea-patrol, fighter and bomber roles during its existence.-First formation:...

 shot down the Reggiane Re.2001s of Tenente Colonnello Aldo Quarantotti and Tenente
Lieutenant
A lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer in many nations' armed forces. Typically, the rank of lieutenant in naval usage, while still a junior officer rank, is senior to the army rank...

Carlo Seganti, of 150a Squadriglia Caccia, mistaking them for Macchi MC. 202s.

A notable action took place on 12 August 1942 when two Re.2001G/Vs modified to carry single 640 kg (1,410 lb) fragmentation bombs, accompanied by a fighter escort of Re.2001s, carried out a successful attack on HMS Victorious
HMS Victorious (R38)
HMS Victorious was the second Illustrious-class aircraft carrier ordered under the 1936 Naval Programme. She was laid down at the Vickers-Armstrong shipyard at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in 1937 and launched two years later in 1939...

  during Operation Pedestal
Operation Pedestal
Operation Pedestal was a British operation to get desperately needed supplies to the island of Malta in August 1942, during the Second World War. Malta was the base from which surface ships, submarines and aircraft attacked Axis convoys carrying essential supplies to the Italian and German armies...

. Reportedly, the Re.2001s were not challenged because of their similarity in appearance to Sea Hurricanes. During the attack, a direct hit was scored on the aircraft carrier's flight deck
Flight deck
The flight deck of an aircraft carrier is the surface from which its aircraft take off and land, essentially a miniature airfield at sea. On smaller naval ships which do not have aviation as a primary mission, the landing area for helicopters and other VTOL aircraft is also referred to as the...

 but the bomb failed to explode and fell harmlessly into the sea.

Beginning in spring 1942 Reggiane Re.2001 CN night fighter
Night fighter
A night fighter is a fighter aircraft adapted for use at night or in other times of bad visibility...

s were issued to 59° Gruppo, and primarily used in the defence of Italian cities. As the tide of war shifted, the Re.2001 units were constantly moved from base to base and finally by 10 July 1943 when the invasion of Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 began, all available Re.2001 fighters were diverted to defend Italy and nearby Mediterranean islands
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 held by Italian forces.

Later in 1943, the fighter in all of its variants was used to defend northern and central Italy. Fighter pilots praised the Re.2001's handling qualities (some considered it more maneuverable than the Macchi C.202) but like many Italian combat aircraft, the type experienced poor serviceability and many of the units using the Re.2001 were not fully equipped.

The complexity of the Re.2001 design led to higher costs (in 1942, the production cost of the Re.2001 was 600,000 lire versus 520,000 lire of the Macchi C.202) and slowed production rates which also limited its effectiveness as a fighter. Due to attrition, only 33 Re.2001s were available at the Armistice
Armistice
An armistice is a situation in a war where the warring parties agree to stop fighting. It is not necessarily the end of a war, but may be just a cessation of hostilities while an attempt is made to negotiate a lasting peace...

. Furthermore, poor serviceability meant that only nine Re.2001s survived the split into civil war in Italy, eight going to the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force
Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force
The Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force , or Air Force of the South , was the air force of the Royalist "Badoglio government" in southern Italy during the last years of World War II. The ACI was formed in southern Italy in October 1943 after the Italian Armistice in September...

 with the Allies
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

, and one to the Italian Social Republic
Italian Social Republic
The Italian Social Republic was a puppet state of Nazi Germany led by the "Duce of the Nation" and "Minister of Foreign Affairs" Benito Mussolini and his Republican Fascist Party. The RSI exercised nominal sovereignty in northern Italy but was largely dependent on the Wehrmacht to maintain control...

.

Variants


Re.2001
Prototypes, two built. Second prototype had three-spar wing, modified canopy and fixed tailwheel. First flight on May 1940

Re.2001 Serie I
First production series operated as fighter-bomber
Fighter-bomber
A fighter-bomber is a fixed-wing aircraft with an intended primary role of light tactical bombing and also incorporating certain performance characteristics of a fighter aircraft. This term, although still used, has less significance since the introduction of rockets and guided missiles into aerial...

 and carrier trainer; also used for land-based catapult tests, 100 built.

Re.2001 CB
Modified fighter-bomber produced from 1942, to carry 100 or 250 kg bomb under the fuselage for the attack role.

Re.2001 OR Serie II
Proposed ship-borne fighter version for the carrier Aquila
Italian aircraft carrier Aquila
Aquila was an Italian aircraft carrier converted from the trans-Atlantic passenger liner during World War II. Work on Aquila began in late 1941 at the Ansaldo shipyard in Genoa and continued for the next two years. With the signing of the Italian armistice on 8 September 1943, however, all work...

, 50 built. First addition of wing-mounted machine guns to development and optional cannon, able to carry a 600 kg torpedo or bomb as standard.

Re.2001 CN Serie III & IV
Night fighter
Night fighter
A night fighter is a fighter aircraft adapted for use at night or in other times of bad visibility...

 and fighter-bomber version, 74 built. Optional bombload of up to 640 kg (1,410 lbs) or additional fuel tank on Serie IV. Two 20 mm Mauser MG 151/20 cannon (60 rounds each) were fitted in two gondolas, one under each wing.

Re.2001 G/H
Experimental torpedo- (carrying a 600 kg torpedo) fighter or anti-tank version with lengthened tailwheel and two 20 mm cannons, two built.

Re.2001 G/V
Modified fighter-bomber, with reinforced fuselage structure to carry a single 640 kg (1,410 lb) bomb with 120 kg HE, derived from a 381 mm shell (made for the Littorio class battleship
Littorio class battleship
The Littorio class, also known as the Vittorio Veneto class,Vittorio Veneto and Littorio were laid down on the same date, so ambiguity exists in the naming of the class. was a class of battleship of the Regia Marina, the Italian navy. The class was composed of four ships: Littorio, Vittorio Veneto,...

s). A small number of the variant was built; two G/Vs took part in Operation Pedestal
Operation Pedestal
Operation Pedestal was a British operation to get desperately needed supplies to the island of Malta in August 1942, during the Second World War. Malta was the base from which surface ships, submarines and aircraft attacked Axis convoys carrying essential supplies to the Italian and German armies...

 but this was the sole use of the variant.

Re.2001 Delta
Prototype version powered by 840 hp Isotta-Fraschini
Isotta-Fraschini
Isotta Fraschini represents two Italian manufacturing companies which produce, respectively, marine engines and luxury goods. In the early 20th century it was famous worldwide as a luxury car manufacturer.-History:...

 Delta RC 16/48 engine, one built- first flight: 12 September 1942. After tests when a top speed of only 478 km/h at 5,760 m was reached, the Regia Aeronautica cancelled the 100 variants on order.

Re.2001bis
Prototype (MM.438) version with repositioned radiators, one built; although flight trials were successful, proving to be the fastest of the Re.2001 variants, it was converted back to a standard Re.2001.


Other variants were considered including a design for a dedicated anti-tank fighter (armed with 20 mm guns and anti-tank bomblets) and the Re.2001 Fotografico, a photo-reconnaissance version, although some standard Re.2001s were later modified for this role.

Operators


 Kingdom of Italy (Napoleonic)
  • Regia Aeronautica
    Regia Aeronautica
    The Italian Royal Air Force was the name of the air force of the Kingdom of Italy. It was established as a service independent of the Royal Italian Army from 1923 until 1946...

  • Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force
    Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force
    The Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force , or Air Force of the South , was the air force of the Royalist "Badoglio government" in southern Italy during the last years of World War II. The ACI was formed in southern Italy in October 1943 after the Italian Armistice in September...

     operated eight aircraft.

 Italian Social Republic
  • Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana
    Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana
    thumb|250px|Wing emblem of the A.N.R. from 1944 to 1945.The National Republican Air Force was the air force of the Italian Social Republic during World War II, closely linked with the German Air Force in northern Italy.-Description:This air force was tasked with defending the industrial areas of...

    operated one aircraft.

Specifications (Re.2001 Serie III)



See also



External links