ALRIGHT FIERCE WARRIORS....CLEAN UP THIS MESS!
THE PROBLEMS WITH THE REGIA AERONAUTICA
The problems with the Regia Aeronautica, the Italian air force, during World War Two were numerous. Having said that, many individual Italian fighter pilots and units did fight well. Private research has found that Italy produced 123 fighter pilots who reached “ace” status during the war, and their land-based SM.79 torpedo bombers were quite successful against allied shipping.
One reason the Italian pilots are not well known is that because the Italian air force was split in two after the September 1943 treaty, many of their best pilots fought with the ANR, which was allied with Germany. Pilots who fought with the ANR were persona non grata after the war; virtually all were expelled from the post-war Italian air force. The Italian authorities have done little to publicize the efforts of any Italian pilots, because they don’t want to give credit to pilots who fought with the Nazis; for example, there is no official list of Italian aces.
Some of their later aircraft, especially the Macchi C.202/205 series, were actually quite good.
Anyway the major problems that hounded the Regia Aeronautica included the following -
1) Obsolete equipment, especially at the start of the war. Italy built up a large air arm in the early and mid-1930s, with aircraft that were acceptable for the time. Unfortunately, most of these aircraft were still in service in 1940, by which time open cockpit biplanes with fixed undercarriages had generally been replaced in most air forces. Not so in Italy - the re-armament program started in the late 1930s was slow to get moving. When Italy declared war, it had 542 operational fighters in front-line service. Over two-thirds of them (377 to be exact), were either Fiat CR.32 or CR.42s, the aforementioned open cockpit biplanes with fixed undercarriages.
Like the Soviets, the Italians also drew the wrong conclusions from their experience in the Spanish Civil War, as far as fighters were concerned. The CR.32 had been able to hold its own against similar Soviet and French fighters, leading Italian authorities to believe that the maneuverable biplane was still a viable fighter concept. The CR.42 biplane didn’t go into production until 1939, at which time aircraft such as the Spitfire and Bf 109 were equipping other air forces.
They also had too many multi-role aircraft such as the Caproni Ca.311 to Ca.316, which were twin-engined aircraft supposed to fill a variety of roles, but which excelled at none.
2) Lack of standardization and outmoded production techniques. Italian authorities, instead of selecting one aircraft type for a particular role, often ordered small quantities of several different types, leading to huge problems with training, operations, and logistics. For example, at the same time the CR.42 was going into production, three monoplane fighters quite similar to each other, the Fiat G.50, Macchi C.200, and Reggiane Re.2000 were also entering production. It would have been better to concentrate production on the best design, rather than order a few of each. While countries such as the USA, which had a large industrial base, could afford to duplicate resources, a country such as Italy could not. Many Italian air units operated mixed equipment, which led to huge logistics problems.
Italian aircraft were also built very slowly compared to other countries. They were beautifully hand crafted, but while that means they look great in museums, they didn’t get to the front lines in sufficient quantities. Production of the most important Italian fighter, the Macchi C.202/205, totaled a little over 1,350. Compare that with 33,000+ Bf 109s, 23,000+ Spitfire/Seafires, 16,000+ Yak-9s, 15,000+ P-47s, or even 11,000+ Zeros.
3) Lack of suitable engines and armament. While Italian airframes were often quite good, their engines were not. The lack of a high performance engine for fighters handicapped Italian designers until the German DB 601 engine was acquired in 1940, to be built under license by Alfa Romeo. When the DB 601 replaced the radial engine in the Macchi C.200, as the C.202, it immediately transformed a mediocre fighter into an excellent one.
Most early war Italian fighters were under gunned, carrying only two 12.7 mm machine guns. Muzzle velocity and rate of fire were very poor, and the ammunition was of poor quality.
4) Italian logistics were terrible. Especially in North Africa, supply lines were erratic, a problem compounded by having to provide spares for too many different aircraft types.
5) Leadership was terrible. Italian leadership at squadron level was not all bad, but the higher ups were inflexible and clung to outmoded tactics. Promotion in the Regia Aeronautica was extremely slow compared to other air forces. Unlike the RAF or Luftwaffe, successful fighter pilots were not able to impart their knowledge and experience to other pilots from command positions, lowering the overall quality of the service.
All of these factors meant that while some Italian pilots were quite successful, and well respected by their opponents, as a whole the Regia Aeronautica was not very successful.
Germany's unforgivable crime before the Second World War was her attempt to extricate her economy from the world's trading system and to create her own exchange mechanism which would deny world finance its opportunity to profit.
— Winston Churchill