Fiat G.50 Freccia
|FIGHTER||Virtual Aircraft Museum / Italy / Fiat|
Representing the first design essay of the young technician Giuseppe Gabrielli with the Fiat company, the Fiat G.50 fighter was designed in 1935-6 but, although a break from the traditional biplane formula, offered much less in operational potential than the contemporary Hawker Hurricane and Messerschmitt Bf 109. The prototype G.50 first flew on 26 February 1937 and was the first all-metal monoplane with constant-speed propeller and retractable landing gear to be evaluated by the Regia Aeronautica. Named Freccia (arrow), the G.50 was ordered into production with the CMASA company (a subsidiary of Fiat) and 12 of the first aircraft were sent to Spain for operational evaluation. Despite the superiority of the Macchi C.200, it was decided to go ahead and equip one stormo and one gruppo with the G.50, and an initial order for 200 aircraft was placed. In November 1939 the type was delivered to the 51° Stormo, and soon afterwards to the 52° Stormo, and when Italy entered the war in the following June 118 Freccias were in service. In November 1940 48 G.50s of the 51° Stormo moved to Belgium to take part in the air attacks on the UK; however, they saw little action, being principally engaged in 'surveillance' duties. In September that year the prototype of a new version, the G.50bis, had flown, and with improved cockpit armour and increased fuel this entered production for eventual service with five gruppi in North Africa. With a maximum speed of only 460km/h and an armament of two machine-guns, the G.50 was hardly a match for RAF fighters in the Mediterranean, yet survived in service until July 1943. Production eventually reached 245 G.50 and 421 G.50bis fighters, and 108 of a dualcontrol two-seat trainer, the G.50B. G.50s were also supplied to the Croatian and Finnish air forces.