Fiat CR 42 FalcoNovember 20, 2010 0 Comments
The superb-handling Falco (Falcon) was the last military biplane manufactured in quantity and the last to see wartime service. Despite obvious obsolescence, it was actively employed throughout World War II.
Celestino Rosatelli’s successful CR 32 biplane fighter prompted him to extend the life of the series with a newer version. This was undertaken at a time when most nations were discarding biplanes in favor of faster monoplane aircraft. Nevertheless, in 1939 Fiat unveiled the CR 42, possibly the finest expression of biplane technology ever constructed. Like the CR 32, the new craft consisted of metal frames and fabric covering. It was also the first Rosatelli design to use a radial engine, which was covered in a long chord cowling. The usual Warren struts were present, as were fixed, spatted landing gear. Unquestionably, the CR 42 continued Fiat’s tradition of robust fighters, being fast for a biplane, wonderfully acrobatic, and delightful to fly. The Regia Aeronautica (Italian air force) adopted it as its last biplane fighter, and by 1940 the Falcos were a major service type. The prevailing prejudice against biplanes notwithstanding, CR 42s were also exported abroad to Belgium, Hungary, and Sweden.
The CR 42 was history’s last combat biplane, and it campaigned extensively throughout World War II. They were initially engaged in the defense of Belgium and, after Italian entry into the war by 1940, flew missions against southern France. A large number subsequently arrived in Belgium to participate in the Battle of Britain, where they took heavy losses and were withdrawn. In secondary theaters the Falcos had better success, and they fought well in the Greek campaign, over Crete, and against a host of obsolete British aircraft in East Africa.
CR 42s formed the bulk of Italian fighter strength throughout the North African campaign and, although failing as fighters, performed useful work in ground support. Only a handful survived the Italian surrender in 1943, and Germans operated them as night intruders in northern Italy until 1945.