| Continued from above… "Falco" (falcon in English), was one of the last biplane fighters in the world. This great biplane first flew in 1938 and was actively employed throughout WWII. |
Like most Italian fighters of the period, it had a low power engine, high maneuverability, but was relatively lightly armed. Fiat sold the CR42 to Belgium, Hungary, and Sweden before WW2.
In 1940, CR42s fought well against France, but suffered heavy losses against the RAF early in the Battle of Britain. After 1940, CR42s were withdrawn from northern Europe, but fought on in Greece, the Balkans, and in north Africa, where they at least held there own against the antiquated RAF biplanes operating in that theatre.
Amazingly, the CR42 fought all the way through WW2 with about 2,000 built in total. After the Italian armistice in 1943, the CR42 fought on both sides, with the Luftwaffe taking over the few that remained in north Italy, using the CR42 in Russian-style tactics that employed older planes at night for ground attack raids.
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The CR.42 is a good candidate for the best biplane fighter ever built.
Fiat CR.42 fighter with the Swedish Air Force
| Fact File: |
Fiat CR 42 Italian biplane fighter
In a war which embraced the last of the biplane generations and the first of the jets, the Italian CR 42 'Falco' ('Falcon') was a popular all-rounder which served with many foreign air forces including those of Belgium, Hungary and Sweden. The last in a line of Italian biplanes, the CR 42's best-known predecessor was the CR 32, an agile machine that fought in the Spanish Civil War and was more than the equal of the Russian Polikarpov I 15 biplane and I 16 monoplane fighters. The CR 32 gave rise to the CR 41, an up-engined fighter powered by a 900-hp Gnome-Rhone radial engine. This plane was produced in only small numbers, but many of its advantages were carried over into the design of the CR 42, which first flew in 1939. With a maximum speed of 429 kph (267 mph) the CR 42's effectiveness in aerial combat was not extraordinary, but it was versatile enough to take on numerous roles other than that of an interceptor fighter, its original function. In addition it served as an escort fighter, a night fighter, and a fighter-bomber armed with two 100 kg (220 lb) bombs carried in special racks slung beneath the lower wings. There was also a floatplane version, the ICR 42, which first appeared in 1941 and was useful for coastal patrol duties in the Mediterranean.
But it was in the Western Desert that the CR 42 played its most significant part in the war. Even in the early stages of the fighting, however, CR 42s were more often than not outfought by the no less obsolescent British Gloster Gladiator biplanes and well trained pilots. Their shortcomings were further illuminated when in late-1940, at Mussolini's special request, or so the 'Duce' wished it to be known, Italian pilots were moved up to Belgium and joined the Luftwaffe in the cross-Channel raids that marked the tapering-off of the Battle of Britain. Again, the CR 42s met their match; on one day, 11th November, 13 Italian machines were shot down - five CR-42s and eight BR 20 bombers. In all, some 1,780 CR-42s of all types were built. Production was ended in 1942.
Length: 8.27 m (27 ft 2 ins) Span: 9.66 m (31 ft 9 ins) Engine: 1,840 hp Fiat radial Combat weight: 2,290 kg (5,049 lb) Crew: one Top speed: 429 kph (267 mph) Armament: two 12.7-mm Breda MGs; two 100 kg (220 lb) bombs optional.
By Debs McCaffrey