Fiat G.55 Centauro

The Fiat G.55 Centauro (Centaur) was a single-engine single-seat World War II fighter aircraft used by the Regia Aeronautica and the A.N.R. (Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana) in 1943-1945. It was designed and built in Turin by Fiat. The Fiat G.55 was, probably the best type produced in Italy during World War II, but it did not enter production until 1943. During its short operational service, mostly under the Repubblica Sociale Italiana insignia, after the 8 September 1943, this powerful, robust and fast aircraft proved itself to be an excellent interceptor at high altitude. In 1944, over Northern Italy, the Centauro clashed with British Supermarine Spitfire, P-51 Mustang, P-47 Thunderbolt and P-38 Lightning. Italian fighter pilots liked their Centauro but by the time the war ended, only less than 300 had been built.

The first G.55 prototype flew on 30 April 1942, piloted by commander Valentino Cus, immediately showing its good performance and flight characteristics. It was armed with one 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon, installed in the hub with 200 rounds, and four 12.7 mm (.5 in) Breda-SAFAT machine guns, two in the upper engine cowling and two in the lower part, with 300 rpg, in "Sottoserie O" airframes. This layout soon proved to be troublesome, both for rearming and for the servicing of the lower cowling mounted machine guns: for this reason, the two lower machine guns were removed, and replaced with a 20 mm MG 151/20 in each wing, in the later production series, the Serie 1.

The first Centauro to see operational use was the third prototype. On 21 March 1943, the aircraft was assigned to 20° Gruppo (squadron), 51° Stormo (wing) CT, based on Roma-Ciampino, for operational evaluation. In May, the G.55 followed the unit to Capoterra, near Cagliari having its baptism of fire on 5 June 1943, against Allied aircraft attacking Sardinia. The two first pre-production series flew, respectively, on 10 April and in May 1943. In early June they were assigned to 353a Squadriglia (flight - very similar in composition to the Luftwaffe Staffel) CT based in Foligno, Umbria, were, until August, were transferred nine more aircraft.

General characteristics
  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 9.37 m (30 ft 9 in)
  • Wingspan: 11.85 m (38 ft 10 in)
  • Height: 3.13 m (10 ft 3¼ in)
  • Wing area: 21.11 m² (227.23 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 2,630 kg (5,798 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 3,520 kg (7,760 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 3,718 kg (8,197 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1× Fiat R.A 1050 Tifone (Daimler-Benz DB 605A-1) liquid-cooled inverted V-12, 1,085 kW (1,475 hp)

  • Maximum speed: 623 km/h (337 kn, 387 mph) at 7,000 m (22,970 ft)
  • Range: 1,200 km, or 1,650 km with two 100 l (26 US Gal) drop tanks under wings
  • Service ceiling: 12,750 m (41,830 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 5 min 50 sec at 6,000 m
  • Wing loading: 154.0 kg/m² (34.15 lb/ft²)
  • Power/mass: 0.308 kW/kg (0.190 hp/lb)
  • Climb to 7,000 m (22,970 ft): 8.57 min

  • 3 × 20 mm MG 151/20s, one engine-mounted
  • 2 × 12.7 mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns
  • 2 × 160 kg (353 lb) bombs

** Fiat G.55 Centauro - Warbird Fare

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