Thursday, March 12, 2015

Regia Aeronautica – Northern Africa and Malta I

The Regia Aeronautica did not adequately support the Regia Marina. Their aircraft were ineffective against the Royal Air Force. Malta was normally bombed, but according to the old air doctrine “Direttive per l’impiego dell’Armata aerea” (Directive for the Employment of the Air Force), Italian aircraft did not conduct massive bombing raids. Results were clearly poor, and continued in this manner until the German X Fliegerkorps was deployed in Sicily. But by the time German aircraft arrived, it was too late to seize Malta. The feasibility of a landing was studied. Operation C 3—a landing in Malta—foresaw sea and air operations using paratroopers. By the time the new paratroopers of Division “Folgore” were ready, the desperate need for men in the Sahara led Italian headquarters to deploy them in that theater as an infantry division.

Regia Aeronautica – Balkans III

The Italian air force was more successful in fighting in the Balkans, against Greece and Yugoslavia. It also fought in the Western Desert from 1940 to 1943, as well as in Ethiopia. When fielding modern machines—the later models with German engines—the air force was effective. But despite the fact that the Italian air force had operated in Libya since 1911, its aircraft still lacked dust filters on the eve of war, and its tactics were reminiscent of World War I acrobatics.

Regia Aeronautica – Balkans II

In the Mediterranean Theater, the Italian air force was invoked in air strikes against Malta, targeted on British merchant ships and naval units operating near Italy. It also conducted raids against Gibraltar and Palestine and even as far afield as the Persian Gulf. However, the Italians soon learned that aircraft that had been successful against stationary merchant ships docked in harbors during the Spanish Civil War were ineffective in high-altitude bombing attacks against warships. Indeed, early in the war, the aircraft occasionally attacked Italian warships by mistake, although recognition improved as the war unfolded. But not until March 1941 did the air force place liaison officers on board warships at sea.