Italy to be able to survive especially if the Allies are going to come after her first if the med is not closed needs Nav and Ftr's to survive. It is all vey well saying it should commit a large number of air untis to Russia but if the Allies have Gib then you can expect Sardina to be under threat very early indeed.
True. The UK can often take Sardinia as early as 41 (or even 40) in this scenario. If you follow my strategy above, it is important to retrieve the 4 corps + art that you start with in africa. Combine that with a few german mil/garr, and you should be abe to garrison italy sufficiently to stay unconquered until the USA joins the war, at least, and even prevent british landings in the Italian home land. Make sure that every likely landing place is within range of either the mech or Graziani, so that any landing force can be blitzed back to sea at once.
To able to avoid this situation then Italy needs' to build Nav and it needs them sooner rather than later closley follwed by Ftr's.
If the Germans have gone for a 41 Barb they should be requesting the long range FW 190's to protect the Med sea zones.
I agree that having navs is the best way to keep italy alive. I disagree on the 190's though, and also on the timing. In my opinion, 1942 is the right time to attempt air superiority in the Med, or at least force the allies to stay in the 0 box. My favourite is to use any italian fighters that go into the 2 box (ie that have 4+ range), combined with short ranged navs, blue stukas, etc. You will still find on a 4 if you have a nav and the enemy uses a convoy point to keep sardinia in supply. Should you manage to cut supply to Sardinia, you may be in a position to retake the island. (I did this once, killing Alexander, a Mar, a Para and a couple of flipped aircraft in the process.).
If Germany goes after Gib then all the Nav come sin very useful in clearing the Brits out of Cape St Vincent and then the Bay.
With Gib in Axis hands Italy can then turn it's little eyes on the middle east and looking to align Iraq, far more likely than Turkey.
Turkey is really not that hard, if you crush the USSR :) After Turkey, you control the iraqi oil, anyway, at least until 44 or something. Going for Gib is a valid strategy, just not part of the all out Barbarossa strat.
As for DOWing at the start an early entry exposes your fleet but is conuteracted by allowing Germanty to send you much needed resources. Is very hard to programme as depends entirley on risk and reward, not forgetting USE entry chits. As always best to be aggressive in 1940 when the average is at it's lowest.
Dow'ing in early 40 suits me best. Italy does need the LL, but it is also nice to have time to extract the african forces before dowing. Since Italy doesnt really need her fleet in my strategy, I also want the allies to dow me, especially in 39/early 40 when their chits are high. I am willing to loose quite a chunk of the italian navy if I can delay US entry by a turn or two.
One final point that I would like to stress: IF Italy should go for an agressive med strat, I think the goal of it should always be to close the med by taking Gibraltar and suez. Spending any significant amount of production on a fleet without securing the home land, leads to a very weak italy indeed. The times that I have seen Italy fall in 1942, have typically been after Italy has spread out too thinly, allowing easy allied invasions.
Conversely, when NOT going after Gibraltar, I think Italy is best off just Turteling in, keeping all their ground forces at home, and just going for naval denial usinga a fleet-in-beeing strategy, combined with a massive naval air threat able to reach low boxes in the italian cost and western med, along with some naval air able to reach a somewhat higher box in the eastern med. The naval air does not need to be there until 1942, as mentioned above, as land forces should be more than enough in 1941. This creates a potential for a crushing number of axis aircraft on the eastern front in the summer of 1941, with enough italian fighters remaining there to secure air superiority throughout 1942. If the USSR collapses, or at the very least is preassured enough to be stopped from building fighters, air superiority in the med in 1942 and 1943 is a real possibility, even while barbarossa continues in strength.