Caproni Ca.1 Heavy Day Bomber
The Italians and Russians led the way in developing the first useful heavy bombers in the world - the Caproni Ca.1 was a testament to that.
Authored By Captain Jack; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
While the British Handley Page and German Gotha bombers receive their fair share of notoriety in World War 1 text, both Italy and Russia were ahead of the development curve in terms of applying workable heavy daytime, long range bombers into modern military usage. These two nations had already developed serviceable heavy bombing platforms by the opening salvos of the war and the Ca.1 was at least one a testament to this fact. The "Societa de Aviazone Ing Caproni" bureau (better known simply as "Caproni") proved something of a pioneer in the field, resulting in their first impressive attempt sometime in 1913 as the "Caproni 260hp". This version sported a "pusher" engine and a pair of "pusher" engines - these Gnome rotary engines all being mounted in-line along a central fuselage nacelle. The two pusher systems drove propellers mounted at the tail booms via a tractor arrangement. A modified version was then later trialled in October of 1914. In the post-war years, these respective systems came to be designated as the Ca.30 and Ca.31.
The Heavy Bomber
Heavy bombers were a fine addition to any military arsenal, regardless of era. They supplied a world power with long-range attack capabilities and greater payloads than that of scouts or fighters, making good use of multiple engine layouts and requiring the use of multiple crew. As such, defensive measures were supplied in the way of trainable machine guns to cover the critical quadrants about the aircraft. Eventually, these day-only bombers graduated to become the massive monsters that complimented the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Today, the heavy bomber more-or-less exists in the new range of stealth-oriented implements and multi-role fighter systems.
Making a Better Product
After a period of evaluation, it was determined that these new larger bomber platforms were wholly underpowered. Caproni set to achieve better performance from his "giant" and moved the puller engines to the tips of each tail boom, keeping the pusher system in its centralized nacelle approach from earlier. This allowed each wing-mounted engine to directly drive its propeller in a more efficient manner. The French-based Gnome rotary engines were then replaced with Italian FIAT A.10 inline types and produced the new company designation of "Caproni 300hp". First flight occurred in late 1914. FIAT would eventually supply over 15,000 engines of all types during the First World War.
This revised development caught the eye and imagination of the Italian Army and the first Italian bomber force was conceived. The new bomber aircraft was designated officially as the Ca.1 by the Italian Army and production ramped up by the middle of August 1915. Some 162 to 166 aircraft were eventually delivered up to December 1916.