Macchi C.200 Saetta (Lightning) Fighter / Fighter-Bomber
The Macchi MC.200 Saetta represented one of the new generation of Italian-produced, piston-engine fighters eventually used in World War 2.
Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
The Macchi C.200 Saetta ("Lightning" or "Arrow") became a hugely important contributor for the nation of Italy during World War 2 - both as a "first-generation", all-modern metal monoplane fighter and as a combat warplane. The model begat a line of progressively successful, and more powerful, fighters that included the C.202 Folgore ("Thunderbolt") and C.205 Veltro ("Greyhound") detailed elsewhere on this site. Design of the C.200 was attributed to Mario Castoldi whose prewar experience came from record-setting floatplane racers and this exposure served the C.200 project well in developing a refined, streamlined fighter design ultimately limited only by performance and its light armament. Despite this, it proved an extremely agile fighter for the period as well as a stable gunnery platform while supplying excellent climbing and diving capabilities. These qualities allowed it to be adapted to roles beyond that of fighter and it saw service in bomber-escort, fighter-bomber, trainer, and interceptor roles by war's end. Production yielded a total of 1,153 aircraft with the last formally retired in 1947.
The C.200 was being developed as early as 1935 to a Regia Aeronautica (Italian Air Force) fighter requirement against other competing types. Castoldi's background as a racing aircraft engineer meant that the new Italian fighter would be well-streamlined in many respects, its contours set around a massive radial piston engine at front. The design would incorporate several modern qualities about it - an enclosed cockpit, monoplane wings, a retractable undercarriage, and stressed metal skin. A prototype was ready for 1937 and made its first flight on December 24th.
Power came from a Fiat A74 RC38 14-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine developing 870 horsepower while driving a three-blade propeller unit in a "puller" configuration. This engine stayed the aircraft's primary installation for the duration of the war. Performance indicated a maximum speed of 315 miles per hour with a range out to 355 miles. The aircraft's service ceiling was 29,200 feet with a rate-of-climb reaching 3,030 feet per minute.
Further flight testing revealed some stability issues but and these were addressed with needed changes. On the whole she proved a wholly viable mount showcasing maneuverability, fast-climbing, and a robust airframe - though she was not particularly fast when compared to her contemporaries. The pilot's position at center was slightly elevated for better viewing over the nose. The wing mainplanes were set ahead of midships with the cockpit over center of the fuselage design. The engine was encased in a compartment at front with a short tail section installed at the rear. The tail exhibited the usual single vertical tail fin and low-set tailplane arrangement typical seen in World War 2 fighters. The undercarriage was of a "tail-dragger" arrangement. A sliding canopy was fitted over the cockpit and rested over the raised fuselage spine when opened for entry/exit.