Macchi C.200 Saetta
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Macchi C.200 Saetta

Handicapped by Italy's pre-war lack of a powerful engine suitable for fighters, Mario Castoldi's radial-powered Fiat C.200 was so underpowered and undergunned that when it arrived in service in 1939 it was already outclassed by the Hawker Hurricane which had joined the RAF two years earlier. Indeed the first C.200 unit, the 4 Stormo, expressed a preference for the CR.42 and accordingly reverted to the biplane in 1940. First flown on 24 December 1937 by Giuseppe Burei, the C.200, named the Saetta (lightning), went on to equip the 1, 2, 3, 4 (in mid-1941) and 54 Stormi, and the 8, 12, 13, 21" and 22 Gruppi, a total of about 1,200 aircraft being produced by Macchi, Breda and SAI Ambrosini. On the date that Italy entered the war, 10 June 1940, two home-based stormi were combat-ready with the C.200, being first flown in action over Malta in September that year, and it was largely the losses suffered by the Italian fighter arm at this time and during the Greek campaign that prompted the Luftwaffe to deploy X Fliegerkorps in the Mediterranean to bolster the Regia Aeronautica's flagging resources. C.200s were heavily committed in North Africa, and were fairly evenly matched with the early Hurricane Mk.Is, weighed down by tropical air filters, but the attrition suffered by all Italian air force units (principally through poor serviceability and air attacks on their airfields) quickly reduced the number of C.200s. Some 51 Saettas of the 22 Gruppo operated in the Odessa zone of the Eastern Front from August 1941 onwards, proving capable of matching the older Soviet fighters in the early stages of that campaign. By the time of the Italian armistice in September 1943, however, the Regia Aeronautica's total inventory of serviceable C.200s stood at only 33.

Macchi C.200 Saetta

 ENGINE1 x FIAT A-74 RC-38, 620kW
    Take-off weight2533 kg5584 lb
    Empty weight2014 kg4440 lb
    Wingspan10.6 m35 ft 9 in
    Length8.2 m27 ft 11 in
    Height3.5 m12 ft 6 in
    Wing area16.8 m2180.83 sq ft
    Max. speed503 km/h313 mph
    Cruise speed455 km/h283 mph
    Ceiling8900 m29200 ft
 ARMAMENT2 x 12.7mm machine-guns

Macchi C.200 SaettaA three-view drawing (1685 x 1260)

Barry, 12.02.2013

Mario Castoldi had enough experience from designing and building his record breaking sea plane, the MC72, to realise the benefits of in line engines at that time. However, as Italian engine manufacturers had been instructed to concerntrate on radial engines the Saetta was powered by the wholely inadequate Fiat A.74 RC.38. It wasn't untill the coming of the very much improved MC202 and MC205V with the Alfa Romeo RC41 Mosone and Fiat RA.1050 RC58 Tifone respectively that Castoldi got what he wanted and the Italians got what they needed. As for the open cockpit, that was down to the rather conservative nature of the pilots of the "Regia Aeronautica".

Malcolm, 02.08.2011

There's a certain rugged beauty about this fighter. I was first negatively attracted to it for its aerodynamic uggliness compared with contemporary fighters like Spitfire and FW 190 etc. But the more I study it the more I am attracted to it. I'm going to model it from corrugated cardboard. Length approx 400mm.

Klaatu, 09.06.2011

As mentioned above, the British first encountered these fighters in 1940 over Malta. At that time, the total RAF fighter strength on Malta consisted of three (3) Gloster Gladiator biplane fighters. According to the British accounts, the Gladiators had more trouble dealing with the Fiat Cr-42 biplane fighters they encountered than they did with these monoplanes!

condor, 03.12.2009

Im buildg a r/c model of this plane on a scale of 1:5.2 and it as been quite a challenge.Im making everything except motor and electronics. The landing gear and the cooling flaps were a tought treat. Does anyone have pics. of the Breda Saffat 12.7 mm so I can reproduce them for my scale model airplane?

Ronald, 11.09.2009

The MC 200 Saetta had twin Breda-SAFAT 12.7 mm synchronized cowl guns firing 575 r/m (per gun. Not bad for a Browning). 370 rounds of ammo per gun was a decent supply. Late model versions also had 7.7 mm wing guns with a firing rate of 810 r/m ave, with 500 rounds of ammo per gun.
This carried through to the MC 202 Folgore. It was considered under-armed by then (replace the 7.7 mm with at least 2 more 12.7 mm MGs already!).

Ronald, 30.08.2009

It's easy to forget that many pilots were still loyal to the open cockpit biplanes early in the war. As late as 1940 the U.S. N. flew the F3F biplane. So the Macchi C 200 doesn't seem so bad if you remember it was surrounded by Fiat biplanes. It compares favorably with the Fiat G 50 Freccia monoplane.
Saettas climbed to 6km in 7.55 minutes; 5km took 5.86 minutes. Dive speed was in the 500 mph class!

Thomas De Moor, 28.06.2009

Sorry but your description of my favourite plane of the second war is so negative...I recognise i like it more because of its design than because of its performances,but for a 620kw enginered plane its speed or climbing rate is not so bad,no? I try it on the Il-2 stormovic fly simulator and I found it very nice to pilot.It climbs very well,turns correctly and its breda saffat are very accurate.The fighter is stable but for diving you have to reverse the plane on its back first,otherwise the engine stop,i dont know why.I expect Italian pilots should have appreciated its wonderfull shape,its high personnality and the open canopy they were asking for so desperately...I also liked its strage collimator and the inboard instuments.You have a perfect view in front of you from the cokpit and the oil tank seems to be corectly armoured against allies machineguns (up to .50) Finally I want to add that its little brother,the c 205 Veltro,with two breda saffat,two mg 151 and a me 109 g engine,seems to be one of the best fighter of the axe,maybe better than the latest mass produced messerchmits g.
I dont want to rewrite the war again,and I dont care of politics but I'm sure if the Italian have had more of these fighters,better maintenance meens and military stuctures,the little saetta could have desearved the respect of its rivals and ennemies...
So,thank you for your web site,see you.

Leo Rudnicki, 05.06.2009

Mario Castoldi, who designed the MC-72, was the designer. The open cockpit and the engine were not his choice, or his fault. It's the same aircraft as the Folgore, more or less. Designers don't choose armament either. And the 1935 Me 109 wasn't that hot.

Stratomunchkin, 05.06.2009

How anyone could design a plane with such lousy specifics by 1937 and then have *another* moron even hand out government contracts for it is way beyond me. The Me Bf 109 flew with better characteristics in 1935, for heaven's sake!

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