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The Macchi MC.202 Folgore or "Thunder​bolt" was a single seat fighter that was used by Italy during World War II.

Description

It had an Alfa Romeo R.A.1000 R.C.41-I Monsoni (Monsoon) engine - the same as the Messerschmitt Bf 109's engine built under license - capable of propelling it at speeds of up to 598 km/h at 5,600 meters. The armament of the Folgore consisted of dual 12.7mm MGs mounted in the nose of the aircraft, with some later versions had wing mounted MGs or 20mm guns.

The MC.202 had a wingspan of 10.5 meters, length of 8.8 meters, and wing area of 16.7 square meters. The type also had an empty weight of 2,350 kg, normal combat loaded weight of 2,929.7 kg and maximum take-off weight of 3,010 kg.[1]

The MC.202 also had one Alfa Romeo R.A.1000 R.C.41-I Monsoni (Monsoon) twelve cylinder inverted Vee liquid cooled engine rated at1,175 hp at 2,500rpm for take off and 1,400 hp at 2,400rpm.[1] This was supplied by fuel contained in two fuselage tanks - a main tank holding 59 Imp gal (70.85 US Gal), and a reserve tank holding 17.6 Imp gal (21 US Gal) - supplemented by two wing tanks holding 8.8 Imp gal (10.57 US Gal) each.[2] Early examples retained the twin Breda-SAFAT 12.7mm guns of the Saetta, but ammunition capacity was increased to 400 rounds per gun.[3] Later models also carried a 7.7mm gun with 500 rounds in each wing. One batch carried a Mauser MG 151/20 with 200 rounds in a fairing under each wing, in place of the 7.7mm weapons.[4]

Variants

The first variant of the MC.202 series was the C.202AS model which featured modified filters so that it could effectively operate in the North African desert. The MC.202CB fighter bomber version also carried a pair of 320 kg bombs.[5] The last variant was the RF model which had camera equipment for reconnaissance purposes.

History

Development

The prototype MC.202 - basically a Macchi MC.200 Saetta fitted with an imported Daimler-Benz DB 601A-1 engine - first flew on 10 August 1940. Due to the success of the initial trials, and the fact that the aircraft could be built using most of the same jigs and tooling as the Saetta. The import of 400 DB 601As from Germany allowed the first production examples, which were built by SAI-Ambrosini [6] and Breda,[7] as well as Macchi, to be delivered only eight months after testing had begun.[8]

Combat Service

Mc.202 folgore flight

An MC.202 in flight.

The first examples were assigned to 1 Stromo, reaching Libya on 25 November 1941. By the end of the failed Second British Western Desert offensive, the MC.202 equipped two Gruppi - 6 Gruppo at Ara Felini and 17 Gruppo at Tarret.[4]

In May 1942, 1 Stormo was supplemented by 4 Stormo, also equipped with Folores. On 26 May, 59 Folgores attacked the British held Gambut airfield, as part of an Italo-German offensive. From the start of the offensive until the capture of Bir Hacheim during the first week of June, the Folgores flew 1,093 sorties. Their activities after the Italo-German retreat to the El Aghelia-Tauorga line were reduced by shortages of fuel and spare parts, resulting in 3 Stormo and their Folgores being transferred to Tunisia, where they took over the surviving aircraft of 4 Stormo, before joining up with 13 Gruppo.[9]

Folgores also briefly served with 21 Gruppo on the Russian Front, with the first examples arriving in Russia in early September 1942. Only eleven Folgores remained by the start of the winter offensive in November 1942. The survivors were withdrawn from operations after their last sortie on 17 January 1943.[9]

MC.202 Smithsonian

An MC.202 on display at the National Air and Space Museum.

By 12 February 1943, there were fifty three serviceable Folgores in Tunisia, Serving with in the north with 6 Gruppo at Sfax and Gannert, and in the south with 3 Gruppo - Folgores and Saettas - at El Hamma, and 16 Gruppo - Folgores only - at airfields K34 and K41. By May few aircraft remained serviceable, and the survivors were withdrawn from North Africa.[10]

On 9 July eight Folgores from 3 Stormo, together with ten MC.205 Veltros from 51 Stormo, were hurridly flown to Sicily in response to the Allied invasion, but were quickly overwhelmed.[1]

When Marshal Baboglio's government capitulated on 8 September 1943, there were only one hundred and twenty two Folgores on charge, of which only fifty three were serviceable. Six of the Folgores were among the thirty five Italian fighters that reached Allied airfields.[1]

Total production consisted of 1,500 examples, of which only 392 were built by Macchi.[1] Final delivery, to the Repubblica Sociale Italiana, took place in early 1944.[7]

The Folgore was finally succeeded by the MC.205 Veltro.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Green, William. Famous Fighters of the Second World War. Purnell Book Services. 1975. Page 83
  2. Green, William. Famous Fighters of the Second World War. Purnell Book Services. 1975. Page 76 & 78
  3. http://www.wwiivehicles.com/italy/aircraft/fighter/macchi-mc-202-folgore.asp
  4. 4.0 4.1 Green, William. Famous Fighters of the Second World War. Purnell Book Services. 1975. Page 78
  5. Aircraft of the World Card Collection - Group 13 Card 1 (Other Aircraft of World War II: MC.202 and MC.205V)
  6. Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. Complete Book of Fighters. Salamander Books. 2001.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Gunston, Bill. Illustrated Directory of Fighting Aircraft of World War II. Salamander Books. 1988.
  8. Green, William. Famous Fighters of the Second World War. Purnell Book Services. 1975. Page 76
  9. 9.0 9.1 Green, William. Famous Fighters of the Second World War. Purnell Book Services. 1975. Page 79
  10. Green, William. Famous Fighters of the Second World War. Purnell Book Services. 1975. Pages 82-83


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