Macchi C.202 Folgore

The Macchi C.202 Folgore (Thunderbolt) was a World War II fighter aircraft built by Macchi Aeronautica and operated by the Regia Aeronautica. Macchi aircraft designed by Mario Castoldi received the "C" letter in their model designation, hence the Folgore is referred to as the MC.202. Considered one of the most beautiful fighters to fly with wartime Axis forces, the C.202 was a development of the earlier C.200 Saetta, with a more powerful German Daimler-Benz DB 601 engine and with an extremely streamlined fuselage. Undoubtedly the best wartime fighter to serve in large numbers with the Regia Aeronautica, the Folgore operated on all fronts.

The Folgore went into service with the Regia Aeronautica in July 1941 and immediately proved to be an effective and deadly dogfighter. The Australian ace Clive Caldwell, who fought a wide variety of German, Italian and Japanese fighters during 1941–45, later stated that the C.202 was "one of the best and most undervalued of fighters". Nonetheless, the C.202 had its defects: like its predecessor, the Macchi C.200, it could fall in dangerous autorotation. It was insufficiently armed, with just two machine guns that easily jammed. The radios were unreliable, forcing the pilots to communicate by waggling wings. The oxygen system was inefficient, causing 50 to 60 per cent of the pilots to break missions off, sometimes even causing fatal accidents.

The Folgore was put into production using imported DB 601Aa engines, while Alfa Romeo set up production of the engine under license as the R.A.1000 R.C.41 Monsone (Monsoon). Due to initial delays in engine production, Macchi resorted to completing some C.202 airframes as C.200s with Fiat radial engines. Nevertheless, by late 1942, Folgores outnumbered all other fighter aircraft in the RA.

The first units selected to be equipped with the C.202 Series I are the 17° and 6° Gruppi, from 1° Stormo, based on airfield of Campoformido, near Udine, and the 9° Gruppo of 4° Stormo, based in Gorizia. Their pilots start to train on the new fighter in May–June 1941, on Lonate Pozzolo (Varese), the airfield of the Macchi. Although deployed in mid-1941, the C.202 did not see action until later that fall, because of the many defects of the first machines.

Allied pilots who flew against the Folgore were impressed with its performance and manoeuvrability. The Macchi C.202 was considered superior to both the Hawker Hurricane and the Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawks it fought against, at first on the Libyan front, and the equal of the Spitfire Mk V. The C.202 was able to out-turn all three although the Spitfire had a superior rate of climb. Although the C.202 could effectively fly against Hurricane, Lockheed P-38 Lightning, Bell P-39 Airacobra, Curtiss P-40 and even the Spitfire at low altitudes, the aircraft's combat effectiveness was somewhat hampered by its weak armament.

General characteristics
  • Crew: One
  • Length: 8.85 m (29 ft 0.5 in)
  • Wingspan: 10.58 m (34 ft 8.5 in)
  • Height: 3.49 m (11 ft 5 in)
  • Wing area: 16.82 m² (181.04 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 2,491 kg (5,492 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 2,930 kg (6,460 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1× Daimler-Benz DB 601 (Alfa Romeo R.A.1000 R.C.41I / R.C.44I) liquid-cooled supercharged inverted V-12, 1,175 hp (864 kW) at 2,500 rpm for takeoff

  • Maximum speed: 600 km/h (324 knots, 372 mph) at 5,600 m (18,370 ft)
  • Range: 765 km (413 nm, 475 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 11,500 m (37,730 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 18.1 m/s (3,563 ft/min)
  • Wing loading: kg/m² (35.68 lb/ft²)
  • Power/mass: W/kg (hp/lb)

  • 2 × 12.7 mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns in the engine cowling, 360/400 rpg
  • 2 × 7.7 mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns in the wings, 500 rpg
  • 2 × 50, 100, or 160 kg (110, 220, or 350 lb) bombs
  • 2 × 100 L (26.4 US gal; 22.0 imp gal) drop tanks

** Macchi C.202 Folgore - Warbird Fare

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