Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Breda Ba.27 fighter in Chinese Service.

Resemblance of the Breda 27 to the American Boeing P-26 was obvious but coincidental. (MM 218)

The Breda 27 was an externally-braced low-wing fighter with fixed landing gear, bearing a marked resemblance to the Boeing P-26. However, the Breda 27 was an entirely distinct design in spite of the many common features. If any design directly influenced it, the more likely candidate was the Travel Air Model R imported by Italy in the early 1930·s. Powered by an Alfa Romeo Mercurius IV radial engine, the Breda 27 was produced in 1934 primarily for export. Armament was two 7.7-mm. Breda SAFAT machine guns. The prototype Breda 27 had a two-bladed wood airscrew, short-chord cowling, and further-aft cockpit.

When the Chinese government invited Italy to send an Air Mission to replace an unofficial American group which had been withdrawn after complaints by the Japanese, a small number of Breda 27 fighters were supplied, equipping one Chinese squadron during 1935-38. Claimed performance included a maximum speed of 236 m.p.h., a landing speed of 62 m.p.h., and a ceiling of 29,520 It. A time of 7 min. 30 sec. was given for a climb to 16,400 ft. Empty and loaded weights were 2772 lb. and 2938 lb. Dimensions were: span 31 ft. 1 in., length 24 ft. 11 in., height 11 ft. 2 in., and wing area 203 sq. ft.

Corpo di Spedizione Italiano in Russia (CSIR): HQ Tudora

The Comando Aviazione for this expeditionary force was formed on 25 July 1941.They were to support the Italian 8th Army in its advance to the River Don and operations in southern Russia. Where necessary, they also assisted the Germans, receiving commendations from General Messe and the local German commanders for covering the assault over the Don. After the retreat from Stalingrad began, the air contingent withdrew to Italy in January 1943. In 17 months the two fighter Gruppi had flown over 6,000 sorties, claiming 88 kills for the loss of 19.

Flying through Romania to what was to be a relatively successful campaign, despite the bitter weather and harsh conditions. For this, the Russian front, they received an additional squadriglia, 371 from 157 Gruppo. The numbers of unit aircraft sent were 51 MC 200s, 2 SM 81s, and 3 Ca 133s. The latter joined at Krivoi Rog on the 26th then they moved to Stalino. Two were lost by March 1942, and were not replaced as they were found to be inferior to the companion SM 81s and newly arrived SM 73s.

In the first combat, on 27 August, the Gruppo claimed six SB-2 bombers and two 1-16 fighters. Intercepts and escorts for reconnaissance aircraft were the early duties. Bad weather restricted the number of sorties and by October they were ordered to give direct support to the ground forces as well.

On 9 November 371 Sq was detached to Stalino, exchanging with 359 Sq on 1 December. They in turn were replaced by 369 Sq on the 28th. On 18 February 1942362 Sq replaced them, followed by 371 Sq again on 24 March. Between September 1941 and March 1942 the unit downed 14 Russian fighters plus several bombers, for no loss.

Between 5 March and 3 May the Gruppo joined the German NahkampffΓΌhrer Stalino to escort German aircraft, mainly Ju 87s, over the Don front. Fighter sweeps and ground strafing were also undertaken. The unit earned a German commendation for their assistance in this area. However, the crews were by now showing signs of strain from their constant battles with the elements and the enemy, so they were recalled to Italy on 7 May. Their aircraft were passed to the incoming 21 Gruppo.

Between March and July 1942 the unit personnel moved to Stalino, replacing 22 Gruppo as the fighter component of the Russian Expeditionary Force. They received that unit's surviving aircraft in addition to the ten new MC 200s they had brought with them. In early June 361 Sq arrived from the Aegean.

On 27 June two squadriglie were detached to Borvenkovo to cover the crossing of the River Don at Izyum, carrying out fighter sweeps and ground strafing. Using Voroscilovgrad as their main base, squadriglie were detached where needed most. Two went to Tazinskaj a as escorts to German Ju 87Ds from 24 July, and two then went to Oblivskaja four days later. In August two were on intercept duties at Millerovo and one was at Kantamirovka until 18 December when it moved to Starobelsk.

It was on 12December that Tenente Walter Benedetti led seven MC200s of 361 Sq from Kantamirovka to attack Russian troops attempting to surround units of the Italian 8th Army, who were defending the approaches to Stalingrad. It seems that the officer was downed by antiaircraft fire, but it is known that the Yak 9s of the 586th Regiment, under Commander T. Kazarinova, were making their first appearances in the area and so may have caused the loss of this highly experienced and decorated pilot. The weather was icy cold and a freezing mist covered the low altitude. The superb view from the open cockpit Macchi may have been countered by the icy blast and poor weather, and allowed one or more Yaks to attack unnoticed while the Italians concentrated on strafing the troops below.

Reunited back at Voroscilovgrad by the end of December, the last operation was carried out on 17 January 1943 over the Millerovo area. Five days later they retired to Stalino, ready for the return journey home. Fifteen unserviceable aircraft were left behind.

During September they had received 12MC202s, and later two photo-reconnaissance versions had arrived. Bad weather hindered operations and the MC 202s only managed 17 sorties with no losses or claims. The MC 200s claimed 88 Russian aircraft for the loss of the 15 writeoffs. A creditable performance for an open-cockpit fighter in the Russian autumn and winter. In February, at Odessa, the unit had 24 MC 200s and 9 MC 202s left.

In July 119 Sq arrived and the following month the Gruppo took 32 Ca 311s and an SM 82 to Russia. On 26 August 34 Sq moved to Krivoi Rog. The others followed five days later. In October 128 Sq used Saporoshje. On 16 November 119 Sq went to Stalino, closely followed by the others. They began bombing duties from here, in addition to the reconnaissance duties for the army. In the spring of 1942 the unit left its surviving Capronis to the incoming 71 Gruppo at Stalino. During their tour in Russia, between August 1941 and April 1942, they made 337 sorties in 686 hours and lost only four aircraft.

In the spring of 1942 the unit,Autonomo since 13 May, came under 8 Armata and joined in supporting the advance into Russia. They took over 61 Gruppo's Ca 311s at Stalino. During August and September they received seven BR 20Ms,followed by five more in December. Most of these went to 38 Sq, performing valuable photoreconnaissance work in the Don area in August. At this time 116 Sq was detached to Kalinovskaja landing ground, with a section of Ca 311s at Kantamirovka. Two Fi 156C liaison aircraft were used from November.

By 18 December the Gruppo was fully reunited at Voroscilovgrad with 17 BR 20Ms and 15 Ca 311s. Both 38 and 116 Sq used a Ca 133S ambulance plane between September 1942 and April 1943.Two Ca 312s also arrived in 1942 for ambulance work, but were soon put on ordinary transport duties. By February 1943 38 Sq had two and 116 Sq had three of these types, along with a Ca 164 each.

Following the retreat across Russia the unit returned to Italy, leaving all its surviving Capronis behind.

Italian Aircraft in East Africa II

410/411 Squadriglia Claims

410 Squadriglia C.T.
This unit arrived in Ethiopia by sea in 1938 as 155 Sq, being renumbered in August 1939. There were nine fighters on strength at the start of the war, and these moved to Giggiga in July in preparation for the offensive against British Somaliland.

On 7 August 1940 two CR32s were sent to Hargeisa in British Somaliland for fighter patrols in that area. They were given bomb-racks for two 50 kg bombs and began assault duties during the offensive, operating with 411 and 413 Sq as a Gruppo. Two more aircraft joined them on 10 August. The detachment moved to Aauax in September and two CR 32s returned to home base on 27 September when British Somaliland was occupied.

On 16 December two CR 32s downed a Free French Martin 167F from Aden, over their own base. In February 1941 two fighters were detached to Makale, returning in mid-March. On 9 March three fighters forced down one out of six Blenheims over their base. The fighters were only now given radios. On 28 March two CR32s were sent to Gauani for operations against Giggiga.

By April some aircraft had been lost at Addis Abeba, so the unit left for Gimma. On 9April two were destroyed on the ground and two were shot down, leaving only two operational at that base. By 5 June they had evacuated to Gondar but it is unlikely they had any aircraft left by then.

411 Squadriglia C.T.
This unit had nine fighters on strength at the start of hostilities. Three were sent to Javello on 19 June, fighting that same day against three Ju 86s and two Hurricanes of the SAAF. One fighter from each side was lost. The next day more Fiats were flown in. On 30 June two were detached from Javello to Neghelli followed by two more on 1 July. The five survivors all returned to Addis Abeba on 18 July.

On the 30th, nine CR32s moved to Dire Daua where three were passed to 410 Sq, and together with 413 Sq, the three squadriglie formed a fighter gruppo for operations during the offensive against British Somaliland. Giggiga was used as a staging base.

Returning to Addis Abeba in August, the unit sent three fighters back to Dire Daua on the 16th in case of a British counter-offensive. They returned on the 22nd as the threat receded.

On 27 September two CR 32s flew from Dessie to Sciasciamanna via Addis Abeba. The unit used both Dessie and Asmara during operations over the Cheren area. By March or April the unit had moved to Gimma then on to Gondar where they probably ran out of aircraft.