IAR 80 / IAR 81 Fighter Aircraft
Development of the serviceable IAR 80 was slow and, though the fighter was of a capable breed when it first appeared, the system was highly outclassed by 1944.
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When first unveiled in 1938, the Romanian-produced I.A.R. 80 (IAR = Industria Aeronautica Romana) piston engine, single-seat fighter was a promising performer even when compared to her contemporaries. The aircraft served with the Royal Romanian Air Force and primarily appeared in two major variants designated simply as the IAR 80 and IAR 81. A total of 346 consisting of both aircraft types were known to be produced and the fighter pressed on into wartime service up to 1944, by which time it was all but made obsolescent by new and more powerful entries appearing on the global stage. The aircraft suffered throughout its production life due to a shortage of adequate armament to fit the design.
The IAR 80 was born out of a 1930's Romanian fighter requirement. IAR was the only one of the three state-created aviation companies to answer the call locally, offering up several complete prototypes for review, while external providers were also considered. Though this original specification eventually netted the Polish company PZL the contract for its high-monoplane PZL P.11 series, IAR was clearly a player on the market. Future contracts were won by PZL over IAR's designs (PZL P.24) but IAR gained valuable knowledge by taking on license production of these Polish aircraft along with French designs as well.
The IAR design team proceeded in its fighter efforts and began "taking apart" the winning PZL P.24 design. The IAR design now incorporated the tail section and front-end fuselage of the PZL design into its own aircraft. The high-monoplane wings of previous PZL production fighters was abandoned in favor of the more modern low-wing monoplane mounting, this wing component said to be taken straight from an Italian Savoia-Marchetti bomber design. In essence, the IAR 80 would be pieced together from various successful working designs and re-engineered into a more capable platform. Even the open cockpit approach of the PZL designs were retained for the prototype.
By 1938, the first prototype was made available for flight, this aircraft sporting a IAR version of the French license-produced Gnome-Rhone 14K II Mistral Major engine - a powerplant brand that IAR had already achieved a good deal of experience constructing at their plant. Follow-up flights shown the IAR prototype to produce favorable results, particularly in the area of maneuverability, with a competently-arranged airframe to boot. The following year would be spent mostly on addressing several issues resulting from these test flights.
The new-look IAR.80 emerged with a new C36 930 horsepower engine in an lengthened fuselage to accommodate the powerplant. This change forced the cockpit position a ways back in the design to which the pilot's seat had to be raised and a bubble canopy added to improve his forward vision - particularly while taxiing along the ground. Along with these changes, additional fuel was added in the newly created fuselage spaces effectively increasing the aircrafts original intended range. Armament was just 2 x FN/Browning 7.92mm machine guns (production models were to mount a full suite of 6 x 7.92mm machine guns, all in the wings - three to a wing). A competition of the IAR 80 versus the impressive Heinkel He 112 series was put forth with the IAR design coming out ahead. Production of the IAR 80 immediately followed with an initial order of 100 examples though these were delayed with the fall of Belgium, as Fabrique-Nationale was the intended armaments supplier for the IAR 80.