Caproni Ca.310 (Libeccio) Reconnaissance / Light Bomber Aircraft
The Caproni Ca.310 never proved itself an adequate military aircraft and its limited service history and production totals reflected this.
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The Caproni concern of Italy was founded in 1908 and delivered several notable designs to the Italian Air Service of World War 1 (1914-1918). The company continued its contributions to Italian aviation industry throughout the interwar years with a long line of aviation products (including airliners) in the lead-up to World War 2 (1939-1945). Engineer Cesare Pallavicino was credited with the design of a new aircraft, bestowed the "Ca.310" designation, of which a prototype made its first flight in April of 1937. The design was highly conventional and of a sleek, aerodynamically-friendly fuselage shape mounting two radial engines at the wing leading edges ()low-mounted wings) and featuring a retractable "tail-dragger" undercarriage with traditional single-finned tail unit. The type was adopted by the Italian Air Force - the Regia Aeronautica - and introduced in 1938 to be pressed into service during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) on the side of the Nationalists. Some sixteen aircraft served in what was essentially an evaluation period for the line. Despite its promising design, the aircraft never wholly satisfied on a military level.
During its service life, the Ca.310 carried the name of "Libeccio" meaning "Southwest Wind".
The base C.310 utilized a crew of three and featured a length of 40 feet, wingspan of 53 feet and height of 11.5 feet. The airframe showcased an empty weight of 6,700lbs with a loaded weight of 10,250lbs. Power was served through 2 x Piaggio Stella P.VII C.16/35 series radial piston engines delivering 470 horsepower each. This allowed for a maximum speed of 227 miles per hour, a cruising speed of approximately 180 miles per hour, a range of 1,050 miles and a service ceiling of 23,000 feet. The Ca.310 was capable of carrying a bomb load equal to 1,000lbs and was defensed by three machine guns. 1 x 7.7mm Breda-SAFAT medium machine gun was fitted to the dorsal turret while the remaining 2 x 7.7mm Breda-SAFAT guns were fitted one per wingroot in fixed, forward-firing mountings along the leading edges. Overall construction of the aircraft included a steel tubular frame with light metal skinning as well as fabric covering across non-critical surfaces. Wood was used at the tail section and covered in plywood and fabric.
For the life of her career, the Ca.310 was dogged by performance issues. Indeed, a Norwegian order was halted until better engine types were installed and the rest of the order fell incomplete with the arrival of World War 2. Over thirty purchased by Hungary in 1938 were returned to Caproni two years later due to underperformance. For those aircraft that fought under the banner of the Regia Aeronatica leading into, and during, World War 2, the Ca.310 was only ever utilized in the reconnaissance and bombing role. Its performance precluded its use in heavily-contested airspace and its rifle-caliber guns were relatively useless for offense or defense. Additionally, the limited bomb-carrying-capacity allowed for only light bombing sorties to be considered - all this to go along with a commitment from a three-man crew and resources being dedicated to a twin-engine aircraft. Ca.310s were used by Italian forces during the North African Campaign though they never materialized as adequate combat aircraft, eventually relegated to non-confrontational sorties when possible.
Ca.310 was used to designated the base twin-engine reconnaissance/light bomber model while Ca.310 "Idro" marked a specially-modified seaplane utilizing a twin-float arrangement. The Ca.310bis was the only other notable form of the Cz.310 line and essentially formed the prototype for the Ca.311 to follow. This version was noted for its all-glazed, contoured nose sections (non-stepped cockpit). In total, 312 Ca.310s were produced.
Beyond the Regia Aeronautica, Norway and Hungary, the Ca.310 was utilized by Croatia, Peru, Spain and Yugoslavia to various degrees. The aircraft soldiered on into 1948 before being given up for good.