Fiat G.50 Freccia / G.51 / G.52
Fiat's Giuseppe Gabrielli produced his proposals for the G.50 single-seat monoplane prototype in 1936, at which time it was the most modern fighter design in Italy. Although a contemporary of the Spitfire and Hurricane, it remained to the end extremely lightly armed. The Freccia (arrow) was the first all-metal monoplane with a retractable undercarriage to be evaluated by the Italian air force; the prototype flew for the first time on February 26, 1937, and proved light to handle, with a high degree of manoeuvrabil-ity, but somewhat lacking in both engine and fire power. Its powerplant was t he 840-hp Fiat A.74 RC 38 14-cylinder two-row radial, fitted with a super-charger and driving a Fiat-built Hamilton three-blade variable-pitch metal propeller. The armament comprised two 12.7-mm (0.5-in) Breda-SAFAT machine-guns mounted forward of the cockpit in the top of the fuselage, synchronized to fire through the propeller arc. The 150 rounds for each gun could be fired in single shots or in salvo.
Production was undertaken both by Fiat and CMASA, a subsidiary, and the first 12 were delivered to the Italian expeditionary forces in Spain in January 1939 towards the end of the civil war. Although too late to give a true indication of their potential under battle conditions, it was decided to continue with a further order for 200 aircraft. The first 45 production G.50s had an enclosed cockpit but Italian pilots preferred the open variety and after testing several designs, an open canopy with hinged, transparent side flaps was adopted as standard. Upon Italy's entry into the Second World War in June 1940, a total of 118 G.50s were in service: 97 with operational units and the other 21 awaiting either delivery or repair. The 51o Stormo CT at Ciampino was composed entirely of G.50s, and G.50s in company with Fiat C.R.32s made up the 52o Stormo in Tuscany; they were used mainly as escorts during the early days of the war.
Fiat G.50s also formed part of the 56o Stormo, based at Maldegern in Belgium, to assist the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain, but they achieved no great success in that theatre and most had been returned to Italy by April 1941. Better results were achieved by the 35 G.50s ordered by Finland in late 1939, although deliveries were initially sporadic due to German interference. However, after the start of the so-called 'continuation war' in Finland in June 1941, the Finnish G.50s gave excellent service until withdrawn from the front line in May 1944.
A two-seat trainer version, also manufactured by CMASA, was pro-duced. Designated G.50B, it had a second cockpit with dual controls added and the armament installation removed. One hundred and eight were produced, and gave satisfac-tory service at Regia Aeronautica training units.
The initial production series of 246 aircraft were followed by 421 examples of the G.50bis with greater fuel capacity, improved radio and a modified wing.
The Regia Aeronautica, meanwhile, utilized its G.50s in Greece, the Balkans, the Mediterranean and North Africa before they began to be replaced by the superior G.50bis The prototype of this was flown for the first time on September 9, 1940, and differed from the original aircraft in having improved fuselage contours, increased fuel capacity, more modern radio equipment, an enlarged rudder, and a modified canopy and armour protection for the pilot. A total of 421 G.50bis were built, and served mainly in North Africa (Libya) from late 1940 until December 1941. Nine were supplied to the Croatian air force. Some G.50bis were fitted with underwing racks at this time, to carry small bombs.
The basic G.50B airframe formed the basis of the G.50bis/A two-seat carrierborne fighter with four 12.7-mm (0.5-in) machine-guns. The G.50bis-A was an enlarged two-seat fighter-bomber with better armament and a bigger bombload, plus an arrester hook for service aboard the planned aircraft carriers Aquila and Sparviero. It flew for the first time on October 3, 1942, but after Italy's surrender all further development ceased and none was produced.
This latter was flown only in prototype form, and other prototypes (G.50ter, G.50V, G.51 and G.52) were developed round imported German engines or their Italian licence-built versions. The basic type was also exported to Croatia and Finland.
FIAT G. 50 Freccia
Length : 25.558 ft / 7.79 m
Height: 9.711 ft / 2.96 m
Wingspan : 35.958 ft / 10.96 m
Wing area : 195.367 sq.ft / 18.15 sq.m
Max take off weight : 5325.1 lb / 2415.0 kg
Weight empty : 4354.9 lb / 1975.0 kg
Max. speed : 255 kts / 472 km/h
Service ceiling : 32267 ft / 9835 m
Wing load : 27.27 lb/sq.ft / 133.0 kg/sq.m
Range : 362 nm / 670 km
Engine : Fiat A. 74 RC.38, 828 hp
Crew : 1
Armament : 2x MG 12,7mm Breda-SAFAT
Engine: l x Fiat A.74 RC 38, 626kW (840 hp).
Span: 10.9m (36 ft 0.75in).
Length: 7.8m (25ft7in).
Normal T/O weight: 2522 kg (5,560 lb).
Max speed: 293 mph at 14,765ft.
Operational range: 420 miles.
Armament: 2 x 12.7-mm (0.5-in) mg plus 300 kg (661 lb) of bombs
Engine: Daimler-Benz DB 601.
Fiat G.50 Freccia