Fiat Cr.42 Falco (Falcon) Biplane Fighter Aircraft
The Fiat CR.42 was designed off the successes of the CR.32, with Italy still believing in the capabilities of biplane aircraft.
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Despite its by-gone era appearance, the Fiat CR.42 Falco (meaning "Falcon") played a crucial role in the early war years for Italy, serving as the primary fighter for the Italian air force (Regia Aeronautica. The system was fielded in some quantity with multiple nations and provided some surprising combat capabilities despite the old-school design. CR.42's served with Italian forces up until the end of Italy's part in the war, ultimately being retired for good in 1945.
Even by 1939 standards, the CR.42 played the role of outdated aircraft by sheer appearance. The system (designed by one Celestino Rosatelli) utilized a sesquiplane biplane approach where the lower wing assembly was shorter in span than the upper. The undercarriage remained fixed and the pilot sat in an open-air cockpit behind the engine and entire wing assembly. A Fiat-brand A.74 R1C 14-cylinder radial piston engine of 840 horsepower powered the type offering up good range and an adequate service ceiling. Armament initially consisted of a pair of synchronized 7.7mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns but this was later upgraded to a more potent array of 2 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns. The latter upgrade could also be complimented with an additional 2 x 12.7mm machine guns in underwing fairing positions. A bombload of up to 440lbs could be added underwing for strike sorties.
The Falco was initially fielded in 1939 with over 140 in service by the summer of 1940. CR.42's fared reasonably well as dogfighters and interceptors against French fighters and bombers over Southern France and were adept at bomber escorting and light bombing French ground targets themselves. CR.42's were fielded in this latter role over North Africa as well. Being wholly outclassed by the crop of monoplane aircraft littering the skies by the middle years of the war, the CR.42 played a more diminished role, particularly by the end of Italy's involvement in the conflict. The capitulation of Italy all but ended the Regia Aeronautica-operated CR.42's involvement to which the German Luftwaffe put in an order of their own for some 200 CR.42LW (LuftWaffe) models for "night harassment" duty.
Some 1,784 total CR.42's were produced during the war with just a small portion of that surviving in operational form by war's end. Primary users alongside the Italians included the Germans, Hungarians, Swedes and Belgians. Variants of the base fighter type included a multi-machine gun version in the CR.42bis, a night fighter model in the CR.42CN a two-seat communications platform.