The C.202 was a capable, yet not so well known fighter. It was the most important fighter of the Regia Aeronautica, the Italian Air Force, from 1942-43.
After the jump, we’ll look at a less known, but still successful weapon.
Italy was the third member of the Tripartite Pact that defined the Axis powers of World War II, yet their involvement in the war is the least known by a wide margin. Italy never quite made the total industrial and economic commitment to the war that other combatants did. Getting in to the how and why of it would be a bit more than I’m ready to tackle here. But Italy did have plans and strategies. Broadly speaking the plan was for a re-made Roman Empire. That meant the Mediterranean, and that meant a campaign for oil.
So North Africa would be the early focus of Italy’s war. In the early years of the war, that campaign would wage back and forth across the continent. Italian deficiencies would lead to German forces, the famous Afrika Korps under Irwin Rommel, bracing up the Italians. But the Italian military was always numerically the most important.
Among the Italian problems in the war, was that they had modernized heavily in the late 1930’s, and driven themselves to near economic exhaustion doing so. So in the early 1940s, their equipment was often a generation behind. One such example was the Macchi C.200. It was a very maneuverable fighter, of the sort so often popular with peace time stunt pilots. But it was under-powered, under-armed and under-armored. In an attempt to develop a fully modern fighter, Alfa Romeo arranged to produce the outstanding Daimler-Benz DB601 engine under license. Macchi mounted this engine on the C.200 air frame and came up with the much improved C.202 Folgore (Thunderbolt).
The resulting fighter had performance nearly as good as a Bf 109F or Spitfire Mk V. It did still have some serious deficiencies. It was still under-armed; two 12.7 mm machine guns in the cowling (roughly the same size as the .50, but lower rate of fire and prone to jamming), later two 7.7 mm guns were added to the wings (very marginal upgrade). The radios and oxygen system were particularly troublesome, and the pilot armor was still very light.
Improvements and tweaks would be made during the production run that ended in 1943, after slightly over 1100 units had been built. After Italy surrendered summer of 1943 surviving Folgores served with both the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force (flying with the allies) and the ANR (partnered with the Germans).
This example is from the Hasegawa kit. It represents an aircraft based in North Africa summer of 1942.
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