Aeronautica Macchi C.202 Folgore

Virtually unknown outside Italy, the C.202 Folgore was the best fighter airplane fielded in significant numbers by the Regia Aeronautica (Italian Royal Air Force or RA) during World War II. This airplane demonstrated that Italy could design and build fighter aircraft to world-class standards. Aeronautica Macchi S. p. A. designed and built the Folgore (Lightning), which was based on an earlier Macchi design powered by a radial engine, the C.200 Saeta (Thunderbolt). To create the Folgore, Macchi's chief of design, Mario Castoldi, adapted the Saeta airframe to the German Daimler-Benz DB 601 liquid-cooled engine. Italy was a significant air-faring nation during the mid-1930s but its aviation industry began to lag late in the decade, particularly in engine development. No indigenous, in-line powerplant of sufficient power was available when the war started so early in 1940 Macchi had to import the German engine as a private venture. The results were impressive. Flat out, the Folgore was almost 97 kph (60 mph) faster than the Saeta's speed of 502 kph (312 mph).

Transferred from the United States Air Force.

Physical Description:
Single-seat, single-engine, low-wing monoplane fighter of all-metal monocoque construction; retractable, tailwheel-type landing gear.

Country of Origin
Italy

Manufacturer
Macchi S.A.

Location
National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC
Exhibition
World War II Aviation

Type
CRAFT-Aircraft

Dimensions
Wingspan: 10.6 m (34 ft 8 ½ in)
Length: 8.8 m (29 ft ½ in)
Height: 3 m (9 ft 11 ½ in)
Weights: Empty, 2,338 kg (5,196 lb)
Gross, 2,963 kg (6,585 lb)
Engine: Alfa Romeo R. A. 1000 R. C. 411 Monsonie (Monsoon, a license-built
DB 601), liquid-cooled twelve-cylinder vee, 1,075 horsepower

Virtually unknown outside Italy, the C.202 Folgore was the best fighter airplane fielded in significant numbers by the Regia Aeronautica (Italian Royal Air Force or RA) during World War II. This airplane demonstrated that Italy could design and build fighter aircraft to world-class standards. Aeronautica Macchi S. p. A. designed and built the Folgore (Lightning), which was based on an earlier Macchi design powered by a radial engine, the C.200 Saeta (Thunderbolt). To create the Folgore, Macchi's chief of design, Mario Castoldi, adapted the Saeta airframe to the German Daimler-Benz DB 601 liquid-cooled engine. Italy was a significant air-faring nation during the mid-1930s but its aviation industry began to lag late in the decade, particularly in engine development. No indigenous, in-line powerplant of sufficient power was available when the war started so early in 1940 Macchi had to import the German engine as a private venture. The results were impressive. Flat out, the Folgore was almost 97 kph (60 mph) faster than the Saeta's speed of 502 kph (312 mph).

The C.202 first flew in August 1940 and the RA initially deployed the aircraft during the summer of 1941 to the 1° Stormo C.T. for conversion training. By November, this unit had transferred to Libya and engaged British forces shortly before the British blockaded Tobruk. Although it was available too late to affect the outcome in North Africa, the new Macchi C.202 proved clearly superior to both the American Curtiss P-40 and the British Hawker Hurricane. Pilots flying the Italian fighter outperformed all opponents except Supermarine Spitfires and North American P-51 Mustangs. Folgore pilots lauded the fighter's finger-light handling and superb agility.

When supplies of DB 601 engines ran out, Alfa Romeo began building a copy, under license, called the R. A. 1000 R. C. 41 Monsonie (Monsoon) but initial production was slow. The need for airplanes was urgent so for a time, Macchi built the outdated C.200 alongside the C.202 but by late 1942, Folgores outnumbered all other fighter airplanes in the Regia Aeronautica. Folgore production totaled about 1,500 airplanes, built from

1941 to 1943. Macchi built fewer than 400 but the Breda and S. A. I. Ambrosini firms manufactured the balance.

Chief designer Castoldi employed a unique method of counteracting the torque and P-factor (propeller factor) generated by the engine. These aerodynamic phenomena often cause airplanes to swing on take off, sometimes uncontrollably. Castoldi made the left wing 21 cm (8 3/8 in) longer than the right wing. The larger wing created more lift which tended to roll the fighter right, opposing and thereby counteracting the torque and P-factor.

The Germans operated the C.202 in limited numbers and after 1943 it appeared in the small Allied Co-Belligerent Air Force that operated continuously against the Axis from the Italian Armistice to V-E Day. Postwar Folgores, modified to accept the more powerful DB 605 engine and redesignated C.205 Veltros, last served in the Egyptian Air Force in 1949.

The Macchi C.202 in the National Air and Space Museum is one of only two remaining in the world. The early history of this airplane is obscure, but it was among many Axis aircraft brought to this country for evaluation at the Army's Air Technical Service Command at Wright Field, Ohio, and Freeman Field, Indiana. After evaluation, it remained in storage for years.

In 1975 National Air and Space Museum technicians completely restored the fighter to exhibit condition. Positive identification of the C.202 model series is still unknown, but it rests somewhere between the late production block Series VI and IX. For marking purposes, curators selected the arbitrary serial number MM 9476 from Series IX. No record is known of the original markings and but curators chose to copy aircraft 90-4 of the 4º Stormo (Wing), 10º Gruppo (Squadron), and 90º Squadriglia (Flight) that operated in Libya during the summer of 1942. The 4º Stormo is a famous Italian fighter wing that fought during the Axis advance in North Africa and claimed 500 victories from 1940 to the end of the war.

Virtually unknown outside Italy, the C.202 Folgore was the best fighter airplane fielded in significant numbers by the Regia Aeronautica (Italian Royal Air Force or RA) during World War II. This airplane demonstrated that Italy could design and build fighter aircraft to world-class standards. Aeronautica Macchi S. p. A. designed and built the Folgore (Lightning), which was based on an earlier Macchi design powered by a radial engine, the C.200 Saeta (Thunderbolt). To create the Folgore, Macchi's chief of design, Mario Castoldi, adapted the Saeta airframe to the German Daimler-Benz DB 601 liquid-cooled engine. Italy was a significant air-faring nation during the mid-1930s but its aviation industry began to lag late in the decade, particularly in engine development. No indigenous, in-line powerplant of sufficient power was available when the war started so early in 1940 Macchi had to import the German engine as a private venture. The results were impressive. Flat out, the Folgore was almost 97 kph (60 mph) faster than the Saeta's speed of 502 kph (312 mph).

Transferred from the United States Air Force.

Physical Description:
Single-seat, single-engine, low-wing monoplane fighter of all-metal monocoque construction; retractable, tailwheel-type landing gear.

Country of Origin
Italy

Manufacturer
Macchi S.A.

Location
National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC
Exhibition
World War II Aviation

Type
CRAFT-Aircraft

Dimensions
Wingspan: 10.6 m (34 ft 8 ½ in)
Length: 8.8 m (29 ft ½ in)
Height: 3 m (9 ft 11 ½ in)
Weights: Empty, 2,338 kg (5,196 lb)
Gross, 2,963 kg (6,585 lb)
Engine: Alfa Romeo R. A. 1000 R. C. 411 Monsonie (Monsoon, a license-built
DB 601), liquid-cooled twelve-cylinder vee, 1,075 horsepower

Virtually unknown outside Italy, the C.202 Folgore was the best fighter airplane fielded in significant numbers by the Regia Aeronautica (Italian Royal Air Force or RA) during World War II. This airplane demonstrated that Italy could design and build fighter aircraft to world-class standards. Aeronautica Macchi S. p. A. designed and built the Folgore (Lightning), which was based on an earlier Macchi design powered by a radial engine, the C.200 Saeta (Thunderbolt). To create the Folgore, Macchi's chief of design, Mario Castoldi, adapted the Saeta airframe to the German Daimler-Benz DB 601 liquid-cooled engine. Italy was a significant air-faring nation during the mid-1930s but its aviation industry began to lag late in the decade, particularly in engine development. No indigenous, in-line powerplant of sufficient power was available when the war started so early in 1940 Macchi had to import the German engine as a private venture. The results were impressive. Flat out, the Folgore was almost 97 kph (60 mph) faster than the Saeta's speed of 502 kph (312 mph).

The C.202 first flew in August 1940 and the RA initially deployed the aircraft during the summer of 1941 to the 1° Stormo C.T. for conversion training. By November, this unit had transferred to Libya and engaged British forces shortly before the British blockaded Tobruk. Although it was available too late to affect the outcome in North Africa, the new Macchi C.202 proved clearly superior to both the American Curtiss P-40 and the British Hawker Hurricane. Pilots flying the Italian fighter outperformed all opponents except Supermarine Spitfires and North American P-51 Mustangs. Folgore pilots lauded the fighter's finger-light handling and superb agility.

When supplies of DB 601 engines ran out, Alfa Romeo began building a copy, under license, called the R. A. 1000 R. C. 41 Monsonie (Monsoon) but initial production was slow. The need for airplanes was urgent so for a time, Macchi built the outdated C.200 alongside the C.202 but by late 1942, Folgores outnumbered all other fighter airplanes in the Regia Aeronautica. Folgore production totaled about 1,500 airplanes, built from

1941 to 1943. Macchi built fewer than 400 but the Breda and S. A. I. Ambrosini firms manufactured the balance.

Chief designer Castoldi employed a unique method of counteracting the torque and P-factor (propeller factor) generated by the engine. These aerodynamic phenomena often cause airplanes to swing on take off, sometimes uncontrollably. Castoldi made the left wing 21 cm (8 3/8 in) longer than the right wing. The larger wing created more lift which tended to roll the fighter right, opposing and thereby counteracting the torque and P-factor.

The Germans operated the C.202 in limited numbers and after 1943 it appeared in the small Allied Co-Belligerent Air Force that operated continuously against the Axis from the Italian Armistice to V-E Day. Postwar Folgores, modified to accept the more powerful DB 605 engine and redesignated C.205 Veltros, last served in the Egyptian Air Force in 1949.

The Macchi C.202 in the National Air and Space Museum is one of only two remaining in the world. The early history of this airplane is obscure, but it was among many Axis aircraft brought to this country for evaluation at the Army's Air Technical Service Command at Wright Field, Ohio, and Freeman Field, Indiana. After evaluation, it remained in storage for years.

In 1975 National Air and Space Museum technicians completely restored the fighter to exhibit condition. Positive identification of the C.202 model series is still unknown, but it rests somewhere between the late production block Series VI and IX. For marking purposes, curators selected the arbitrary serial number MM 9476 from Series IX. No record is known of the original markings and but curators chose to copy aircraft 90-4 of the 4º Stormo (Wing), 10º Gruppo (Squadron), and 90º Squadriglia (Flight) that operated in Libya during the summer of 1942. The 4º Stormo is a famous Italian fighter wing that fought during the Axis advance in North Africa and claimed 500 victories from 1940 to the end of the war.

ID: A19600332000