Aviation of World War II
Fiat CR.32 (Chirri) ("Cricket") - flown in August 1935. The chief project engineer is Celestino Rosatelli. The abbreviation CR stands for Caccia Rosatelli - Rosatelli Fighter. The CR.32 had the same engine and general layout as the previous CR.30 but was 40 cm shorter than its predecessor and had a wingspan of almost 1 meter less. Thanks to this, it was possible to reduce the weight of the aircraft and increase its speed (by 25 km / h) and maneuverability. CR.32 was exported to many countries of the world: to China (sent 18, delivered 9, participated in hostilities 6), Hungary (112), Argentina, Paraguay (5) and Venezuela (9). A total of 150 aircraft were sent for export. 45 CR.32 was in service with the Austrian Air Force (after the Anschluss, the Germans sold them to Hungary). The Fiat CR.32 was the main aircraft of the Italian Legion and General Franco's fighter units. 377 CR.32s were sent to Spain, nicknamed there for the abbreviation "CR" Chirri - "cricket".
Hispano Aviacion factories manufactured 100 CR.32s under the Spanish designation HA-132L Chirri.
Engine: FIAT A.30RA V-shaped, 12-cylinder liquid-cooled, rated power 600 hp, which generally corresponded to the relatively low weight of the airframe. He rotated a two-blade metal FIAT screw, which had two steps - a large one and a smaller one, but one or another mode could be set only on the ground. Water and oil coolers were located behind a common round air intake under the toe of the crankcase.
Armament: All the first CR.32s were armed with a pair of 7.69mm machine guns, which was clearly insufficient. On the next modification of the CR.32bis, which rolled off the FIAT conveyors in the spring of 1936, two more Vickers were added, mounted on top of the lower wing outside the propeller disc. At the same time, the improved А.30RАbis engine was installed. He allowed a three-minute takeoff afterburner up to 800 hp. and featured a new carburetor and bearings. Less fuel consumption made it possible to increase the flight duration by half an hour. At the same time, the increase in weight by 120 kg and the additional resistance created by the wing machine guns reduced the maximum speed by 25 km / h and worsened the rate of climb. This modification lasted in production until the summer of 1937, when it was replaced by a new one - CR.32ter. In the course of mass production, the CR.32bis armament was once again strengthened by replacing the fuselage machine guns with the large-caliber (12.7 mm) Breda-SAFAT.
Combat use. On August 13, 1937, 12 CR.32s arrived in the city of Melilla, Spanish Morocco. Over the next few days, the first seven fighters, which received Spanish insignia, under the leadership of Captain Vincenzo Degual (Degual), moved to Tablada airfield in the Seville region. Three days later, on August 21, the rest of the fighters joined the advance detachment, which, together with 9 SIAI Machetti S.81 bombers, made up the Aviacion del Tercio squadron.
The Spaniards called Italian cars "Chirri" ("Cricket"), playing on the abbreviation "CR." in the name of the fighter. For the first time, the fighters took the battle on 20 August. On that day, Lieutenant Ceccherelli shot down Hispano Newport 52 over Seville and Sergeant Magistrini shot down Dewoitain D 372 over Guadiz.
On August 31, over Oropresa in the Madrid area, 3 CR.32s fought three Republican D 372s from Espaca squadron. This battle proved fatal for the Italians - two aircraft piloted by Lieutenant Monico and Sergeant Castellani were shot down, and the third aircraft was damaged and crashed on landing.
September 7, 19 CR.32 from Aviation del Tercio were divided between two squadrons: 1st (commander - Captain Degual) and 2nd (commander - Captain Dante Olivera).
The commander of the legion, Lieutenant Colonel Bonomi (Bonomi), first ordered his subordinates to patrol the airspace along the front line in small groups, but the superiority of the Republicans in the air was so great that soon individual flights were abandoned and at least six were simultaneously lifted into the air, and usually eight or twelve, fighters.
The main task of the Italian fighters was to cover the bombers. Usually three fighters flew side by side, and the rest of the cars circled at an altitude of 1000 meters above the bombers.
For the defense of Madrid, the Republicans brought in about twenty D-372s and five Loire 46s. In terms of their characteristics, republican aircraft were practically not inferior to the Italians ("Dewoitaine" developed a speed of up to 405 km / h, and "Loire" - up to 410 km / h), but in terms of armament power and ammunition capacity, republican aircraft were significantly inferior to the Italian ones. In addition, the republican volunteer pilots in terms of training could not equal the Italian career pilots.
American ace Derek Dickinson, who fought on the side of the Republicans, became famous for his stories that he had a chance to fight in the Spanish sky with Mussolini's son - Bruno. However, Dickinson did not take into account three points: firstly, Bruno Mussolini flew in a bomber, secondly, he fought at a different time than Dickinson himself, and thirdly, the Fiat G-50 aircraft appeared in the Franco only in January 1939 in quantity only 12 pieces.
The Republicans also used 30 outdated Newport 52 aircraft from Hispano. Since the Republicans still flew alone or in pairs, the new tactics of the Francoists allowed the latter to inflict casualties on the enemy and gain air superiority. Between 18 August and 4 November, Italian pilots claimed 75 aerial victories. In mid-September, 1st Squadron received its own name "La Cucaracha" ("cockroach"), probably from the popular pop song of the same name. Four Spaniards appeared in the legion's pilots: Captain García Morato (Morato) - the best Spanish ace, on account of which there were 40 aerial victories, who died in a plane crash while performing aerobatics, Captain Julio Salbator (Salvator) - 24 victories, Captain Angel Salas ( Salas and Captain Bermudez de Castro. The Spaniards formed a link called "La Patrulla Azul" ("blue patrol"). Over time, when military assistance from Italy became legal, the Blue Patrol became the first link in the Spanish Air Force.
On September 29, Aviation del Tercio was armed with 36 fighters, but as a result of intense battles, the number of the 1st squadron was reduced to 2 machines. Therefore, it was decided to combine both squadrons into one, keeping the name "La Cucaracha" for the new squadron.
In October, the 3rd Squadron was formed at Tablada airfield in Seville. On October 28, 4 Tupolev SB bombers raided the airfield while Italian pilots celebrated the anniversary of Mussolini's march to Rome. One of the bombers was damaged by Frankist anti-aircraft artillery fire, and the second was fired upon by Captain Salas. Republican air raids on Franco airfields continued in the future. For example, on November 1, 10 SB bombers struck the Gamonal airfield in Talavera, damaging 6 CR.32 fighters. To protect themselves, the Francoists relocated their aircraft to the Torrijos airfield. On November 2, Lieutenants Mantelli and Delicate shot down one SB bomber. A few days later, there was a major air battle between the Francoists and the Republicans. 9 CR.32s accompanying 12 Ju 52 / 3m and 5 RO.37 were attacked by ten I-15s. Soon ten more republican "donkeys" arrived in time, as a result two Italian aircraft were damaged and crashed during landing.
On November 1, one of the hottest air battles took place. Thirty CR.32s and Not 51 were opposed by more than 20 Republican I-15s. Both sides claimed numerous aerial victories, but in reality, losses on both sides were minimal - one CR.32 and one I-15.
Indeed, it was hard for Fiat to compete with the I-15 and I-16. Although the CR.32 slightly outperformed the Polikarpov biplane in speed at low altitudes, it was significantly inferior to its more agile enemy in horizontal maneuverability. The I-15 was almost one and a half times lighter and had a more powerful motor. And he had a larger bearing area. This combination provided the Polikarpov car with a significant advantage in the form of a smaller bend radius, and it was carried out much faster. Considering the then dominant tactics of close maneuvering on the horizontal lines, we can talk about the superiority of the I-15 over the Italian fighter. The powerful engine plus low weight gave the Soviet aircraft a gain in climb rate. The only maneuver that the Italian could break away from the enemy was a dive - here the heavier CR.32 accelerated much faster than the I-15.
I-16 Type 5, first used in the skies of Spain, on the contrary, was slightly inferior to the Rosatelli fighter in terms of maneuverability on the horizontals, but significantly won in speed at all altitudes, and at the same time in vertical maneuver. On a dive, the CR.32 could not get away from him. Competently using the advantages of his car, the I-16 pilot could impose on the enemy a style of battle that was beneficial to him.
An important point was the great firepower of the Italian fighter. The presence of large-caliber machine guns made it possible to open fire first, heavy bullets inflicted significant damage. In addition, the Breda's ammunition load included explosive ammunition. However, the muzzle velocity of the Italian machine guns is low and due to the rate of fire, the second salvo of four PV-1s on the I-15 was approximately equal to that of the CR.32bis and surpassed other modifications of this machine. The I-16 type 5 carried only two machine guns, but these were new machine guns of the ShKAS system, distinguished by an even higher rate of fire.
Significant was the fact that the I-15 clearly lacked stability, the plane was "prowling", and this prevented targeted fire and made it come close to the enemy. The same could be said about the I-16. The CR.32, on the other hand, almost did not sway when firing, which ensured a good concentration of bullets on the target.
In addition, Fiat had two more significant advantages - a significant flight range (approximately one and a half times more than the I-15 and I-16 type 5) and good combat survivability, provided by an all-metal structure. True, the Fiat did not have body armor. On the I-15, handicraft armored backs began to be mounted already in Spain, and on the I-16 they were installed from the very beginning.
In November, Germany sent the Condor Legion to Spain, which included a powerful air group. At the same time, Mussolini decided to officially declare his support for the rebels and on December 31, he fulfilled his intention. From that moment on, the Italian squadron in Spain became known as Aviazione Legionaria (Legionnaire Aviation). The Foreign Legion was led by Brigadier General Velardi. The 16th division "La Cucaracha" was led by Major Tarsisko Fagnani. The division consisted of three squadrons - 24th, 25th and 26th. In May, Mussolini dispatched two newly formed divisions to Spain: the 6th division "Gamba di Ferro" ("iron leg"), named after Captain Ernesto Botto (Botto), who lost a leg in battle in the fall of 1936, in the 31st , 32nd and 33rd Squadrons, and the XXIII Division "Asso di Bastoni" ("Aces Association") in the 18th, 19th and 20th Squadrons.
In January 1938, the X separate fighter division (X Gruppo Autonomo di Caccia Terrestre), consisting of the 101st and 102nd squadrons, was transferred to the Balearic Islands.
In 1937, Aviazione Legionaria numbered 170 aircraft, and by 1939, the number of aircraft increased to 200. The aircraft were part of 3 regiments, one fighter division, 1 mixed squadron and 1 experimental squadron. The personnel of the squadron consisted of up to 6,000 pilots and technicians. The main aircraft of the Aviazione Legionaria was the Fiat CR.32 biplane. Production of this aircraft began in 1935, replacing the previous Fiat CR.30 model. The Fiat CR.32 possessed excellent speed and maneuverability and carried powerful weapons. In addition to the XVI division, this aircraft was in service with the XXIII division, the X separate division and a separate assault squadron. During the war years, 378 aircraft of this type were sent to Spain, of various modifications, differing in equipment and weapons.
In total, 1212 CR.32s of all modifications were manufactured at Fiat factories until October 1939.