The Fiat G.55 Centauro (centaur) was
an all-metal low-wing monoplane single-
seat fighter designed by Giuseppe
Gabrielli, and represented a great improvement
by comparison with the
previous Fiat monoplane fighter to go
into production, the G.50. Great care
was taken to blend an aerodynamically
advanced airframe with a structure
which was robust and would lend itself
to mass production. Its configuration
included fully-retractable landing
gear and a raised cockpit providing an
excellent view. Fast and maneouvrable,
the type proved popular with its
The first of three prototypes was
flown on 30 April 1942; the third (MM
493) was the only one to carry armament,
comprising one enginemounted
cannon and four fuselagemounted
machine-guns. It was evaluated
under operational conditions
from March 1943, but by then the Italian
air ministry had already decided
on mass production of the G.55.
However, only 16 G.55/0 preproduction
and 15 G.55/1 initial production
aircraft had been delivered to the
Regia Aeronautica by September
1943, production thereafter being for
the Fascist air arm flying alongside the
Luftwaffe. Before wartime production
ended 274 more were completed and
a further 37 were abandoned at an advanced
Before the armistice of September
1943, G.55s had participated in the defence
of Rome with the 353a Squadriglia
of the Regia Aeronautica. The postarmistice
operations were rnamly with
the Fascist air arm's Squadriglia 'Montefusco',
based at Venezia Reale, then
with the three squadriglie which
formed the 2° Gruppo Caccia Terrestre,
but losses were heavy, as a result
mainly of Allied attacks on the airfields.
While the war was still in progress, Fiat
flew two prototypes of the G.56, which
was developed from the G.55 to accept
the more powerful Daimler-Benz DB
603A engine. Built during the spring of
1944, they incorporated minor structural
changes and had the fuselagemounted
machine-guns deleted. The
first prototype survived the war and
was used subsequently by Fiat as a
| ENGINE||1 x FIAT RA 1050 RC 58 "Tifone", 1100kW|
| Take-off weight||3718 kg||8197 lb|
| Loaded weight||2630 kg||5798 lb|
| Wingspan||11.85 m||39 ft 11 in|
| Length||9.37 m||31 ft 9 in|
| Height||3.13 m||10 ft 3 in|
| Wing area||21.11 m2||227.23 sq ft|
| Max. speed||630 km/h||391 mph|
| Ceiling||12700 m||41650 ft|
| Range||1200 km||746 miles|
| ARMAMENT||3 x 20mm cannons, 2 x 12.7mm machine-guns, 2 x 160kg bombs|
|A three-view drawing (686 x 976)|
The G.55 was the only series 5 fighter to have adequate cooling during sustained climb without overheating at the Guidonia competition. Another point in it's favor.
The G.56 should have been focused on by the Axis and expedited by the Luftwaffe to the full with the DB 603.
The former post of mine about the A38 powered G.55 was experimental it seems. Those speeds were not for the production version with the DB 605.
WesWorld site has this for the Centauro:
engine cv: 1780
speed: 424 mph @ 19,029' (683 km/h@ 5,800 m)
climb: 4,134 fpm (21 m/s)
ceiling: 39,042' (11,900 m)
engine cv: 1860
speed: 432 mph @ 19,029' (696 km/h @ 5,800 m)
climb: 4,232 fpm (21.5 m/s)
ceiling: 39,370' (12,000 m)
These figures spice things up.
A heavily armored version (G.55CB) with a 2200 cv engine could climb 4,882 fpm (24.8 m/s)!
But speed was 419 mph @ 17,060' (674 km/h @ 5,200 m) and 374 mph @ sea level (602 km/h @ 0 m).
I hope they didn't get their wires crossed with the Re 2005 Sagittarioor something.
If the Centauro had wing-root electric synchronized Mausers and one in the spinner (ala Dora), it would have adequate punch per second with only 3 guns and wing-loading would benefit in the bargain. Firepower would be more concentrated for long range shooting. Unloaded wings would improve roll-rate and agility generally.
Then, remove the 100 hp handicap on the export DB605 and mass produce a winner.
I believe it would do a 360 turn in under 18 seconds (pure speculation)! It could then at least match the Re 2005 and Spitfire perhaps.
Fortunately for the Allies, history tells a different story of meager production and misplaced resources by the Axis.
After evaluation by the Luftwaffe against the contemporary Messerschmitt Bf 109G-4, Fw 190A-5, Macchi MC 205 and Re 2005, the robust Fiat G 55 Centauro was declared the best Axis fighter overall in 1943!
It was easiest of the 3 Italian fighters to mass produce and man-hours could be cut from 15,000 to an estimated 9,000 on German production lines.
It was also most suitable for upgrading later to the bigger DB603 engine.
The G 55/II had 5 Mauser 20mm cannons!!
Good for intercepting Heavy bombers, even B-29s should they venture over Europe.
Speed: 417 mph with WEP. 590 mph terminal dive without flutter.
Good rear view. Better high altitude handling and turn than all but the weaker Re 2005.
Good ceiling and range for a European intercepter too.
In my opinion, the fighter version could make do with 3 cannons for lighter weight to mix it up with enemy fighters. Then it could even be exported to Japan when reliable new high altitude fighter designs were the exception and the Zero and Oscar were obsolete mid-war.
Can you imagine all 3 Axis nations ramping up mass production of the G 55 like Germany almost did?
Don't forget, the 5,000+ Oscars took 25,000 man-hours each to produce!
Climb correction to my last post:
Another source has 7'12" time for 6 Km altitude, not 7.
It has 8'34" time climbing to 7 Km;
10'11" time climbing to 8 Km. This was it's best level for speed: 391 mph without WEP boost.
Ceiling was 41,830' and maximum range was 1,025 miles.
It had no sign of flutter at high speed.
It had no stall vices.
Great stability even at high altitudes.
No structural weaknesses.
Could easily up-engine to the bigger DB603A (G56) later.
Was the best series 5 to mass produce.
Packed more ammo than the other series 5 fighters.
Some had 5x20mm Mauser cannons!
It was judged as the best fighter in the Axis (in 1943)!
Luftwaffe enthusiasm was high to produce the 'excellent' Centauro in Germany until one was delivered to the Allies by a defector with chilling effect.
It was test flown in England. But in any case, the Allies had access to the G55 with the Surrender of Rome in September, 1943. So the German order to destroy them in October, 1944 was ignored by the Italians.
Some folks online discussing German 1943 testing of the G55 said it had good rear view;
590 mph max dive (950 kph), no problemo!
417 mph WEP level max speed;
7 km climb in 7 minutes, 12 sec.(7'12");
considerably better turn, and better high altitude handling than the contemporary Bf 109G-4 and Fw 190-5;
also very good, well harmonized light controls even at very high speeds.
No wonder it was so popular with it's pilots!
It was perhaps a tad slow until it dives!
Remember, the Fiat version of the DB605 had about a 100 hp handicap. The Bf 109G and Fw 190A both had a 466 mph redline dive by comparison, due to lack of such high speed handling.
Italian pilots flew the fighters supplied by their allies as well as their own. The G 55 Centauro was better than the Bf 109G and later the hand me down Cobras like the Russians flew. These inferior planes were in adequate quantities at least. Too bad the Fiat G 55 and the other Italian series 5 designs were in token quantities only.
If I were a Soviet pilot, I`d swap the US guns for Russian. That about triples my firepower for closer velocity to boot. The King Cobra can take the weight increase if the Yak-9T could.
The P-63 was officially used by Russia in 1945 against Japan but UNOFFICIALLY against the Luftwaffe earlier but not 1943.
Few Japanese were tough in 1943. The Tony was but unfortunately unreliable too. US fighters were good but either fast and heavy like the P-38, P-47, P-51, F4U, and F6F; or slow and agile by American standards like the P-39, P-40, F2A and F4F/FM.
I must admit the Centauro could be the exemplary fighter of 1943!
Unbeatable at high altitude.
Dives away from Allied as well as Luftwaffe fighters at will.
Out turns them as well as Spitfires and Mustangs.
Exemplary stall and handling.
Competent roll beats Spits and Mustangs.
Competent climb and range.
Ditto for boosted speed and up engined capacity ala 440+mph G56.
Production cost similar to Spitfire in man hours. Even better on German factory lines by 1/3 potentially.
How many other WW2 fighters could do all that?
The late war Yak9U had the altitude but not the range and reliability.
No other Soviet fighter had the high altitude handling. The P-63 was really a mid altitude fighter but is worth a look when stripped of wing gun boots for better agility. Still, its cannon is low velocity not matching the cowl guns.
So in 1943 the benchmark is the G55.
If the G55 could turn 360 in 18 seconds or so, it would be the only Axis fighter in Europe aside from the Re 2005 that could duel with Yaks and Lavochkins in a close-in dogfight on equal terms and do so with much more firepower.
High up it wouldn't even be a contest.
In the West the Spitfire would be the closest rival in 1943.
If some Messerschmit lines had run off 15,000 of these (and maybe some Re 2005s in the bargain), the unit cost would be driven down to Spitfire territory and the Italian jokes today would be much more respectful.
I mean I think this plane inspired Kurt Tank to field his uber fighter Ta 152 years after the G.55 was first flown!
It could have easily been a G.56 by that time, or until that time in place of the inferior Bf 109G.
With the escort occuppied with re 2005s and Me 262s, the G56 could tackle the heavies by dropping the cowl guns and pack a long range Mk 103 30-mm hub cannon! The DB-603 gives it 440+ mph. No 109 Gustav could do that in 1944! Fw 190Ds could team up with it too.
If you want to compare the Kurfurst, use the G56 with the DB603! The G55 was a Gustav contemporary before boost. The Luftwaffe compared it to their Bf 109G-4 circa 1943. Thats fair.
In Europe, I believe the Axis were expecting to see B-29 raids toward the end.
I don't believe it was better than the Bf 109K and so I believe that it should instead have been produced in Japan as successor to the Ki-61.It was extremely sturdy,it's speed was good enough to compete with Mustangs,Thunderbolts,Hellcats and anything else the Americans were using in 1944-45 and finally 5 MG151s were more than enough to destroy the B-29.
One source posted that about 200 of the 5 Cannon version were produced in the war as interceptors!
That would be a worthy B-29 interceptor.
The G55 may not roll as well at faster speed as the MC205 or Fw 190A due to their lighter ailerons but it's roll rate was equal to the Bf 109G-4 and better than the P-51 and Spitfire.
Initial dive acceleration was quicker with the inverted v engine than even the Merlin/Packard or BMW powerplants.
Here is something of interest I found:
"The DB605A was designed for a max power of 1475 hp at 2800 rpm, but the first engines produced, due to detonation problems and piston failures, had the 'emergency' settings disabled and were limited to 2600 rpm, giving a max power of 1350 hp. Problems were solved in 1943 by strengthening some parts and adopting new spark plugs by Bosch. The very same troubles afflicted also the FIAT version and were solved a bit later: until early 1944 the FIAT engine was limited to 2600 rpm.
Another difference between the original DB605A and the FIAT engine was the substitution of some rolling bearings with slider bearings. This solution did not compromised the performances and solved the problems related to the availability of rolling bearings. The drawback was in terms of duration and increased need of maintenance."
Due to slow production, spares were lacking. Especially for the problematic tail gear (this was eventually solved). At times most Fiat Centauros would be undergoing repairs or maintenance. So serviceable combat strength was lacking.
But the Veltro and Sagittario competition was produced even less efficiently per unit.
The germans discovered that the Centauro was better than BF-109G and FW-190, but there was a little problem... the working time to build this FIAT was almost 3 times than a german fighter!!! so all ended in a test.
Not only could the G.55 outmaneuver the Luftwaffe fighters, it could even dive away from them. Somehow I wasn't expecting to read the part about superior dive acceleration. It's build was strong allowing for very good pullout too.
However the Fw 190A-5 still could roll better than the rest of the Axis planes.
I found it interesting that the Luftwaffe was in favor of G55 production for the ANR until a test pilot flew one to the Allied lines and it was tested in England in 1944. This certainly dampened German enthusiasm and they wanted all G55s scrapped but that was ignored.
By late 1944 Italian pilots were being transferred to Bf 109s and even Me 262s. Too bad for the Centauros!
The G55 had better handling and range than the Bf 109, tougher too.
|Raptor lighting 2, 18.07.2011|
mon pêre il a une fiat ...
Do you have any comments about this aircraft ?