The first Italian aircraft to break the speed of sound under control - the "Sagittario 2" ("Archer 2") - actually held roots in an earlier piston-powered monoplane form. The S.7 was developed along the lines of a racing aircraft and first flew in July of 1939, prior to the formal start of World War 2 (1939-1945). This aircraft managed speeds near 370 miles per hour with its streamlined Alfa Romeo inline engine outputting 225 horsepower. About ten were taken on by Italy during the war and a further 145 were added in the post-war years.
From this rather conventional beginning, the "Sagittario" was realized as a technology demonstrator. Only one vehicle was constructed and this carried a Turbomeca "Marbore" turbojet engine outputting 840 pounds thrust. The airframe stayed somewhat faithful to the original S.7 but changes were clearly made to accept the jet powerplant - these included swept-back wing mainplanes (45-degrees) and a nose-mounted intake. First flight of the Sagittario came on January 5th, 1953.
With this foundation in place, the prototype "Sagittario "2 was born and its design was attributed to Sergio Stefanutti. Construction of the aircraft was through Industrie Meccaniche Aeronautiche Meridionali (AERFER) with the intent on bringing the model along for the daytime interceptor role with a light attack function as secondary.
Engineers were able to produce a most-compact jet aircraft. Power was from a Rolls-Royce "Derwent 9" turbojet engine outputting 3,600 pounds thrust and its aspiration came from a small circular nose intake. The single-seat cockpit was featured at midships under a largely unobstructed bubble-style canopy. Wings were swept rearwards for high-speed flight and the fuselage form was well-streamlined and left relatively featureless. The tail unit incorporated swept-back surfaces as well, made up of a single vertical tail fin and low-mounted horizontal planes (dihedral was noted on the latter). A tricycle undercarriage rounded out the list of features.
By any measure, design of the Sagittario 2 was a highly conventional jet aircraft for the period - the nose-mounted intake was a well-accepted trait as was the bubble canopy and tricycle undercarriage. This configuration was used by many aircraft of the immediate post-war period especially across the many test forms originating from the Soviet Union (leading to the classic Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 fighter). All-metal construction was used throughout the makeup of the aircraft. Dimensions included a running length of 9.5 meters with a wingspan of 7.5 meters. Empty weight was 5,070 pounds against a gross weight of 7,275 pounds.
Proposed armament was 2 x Hispano-Suiza 30mm cannons with a pair of hardpoints supporting up to 700-to-1,000 pounds of conventional drop ordnance or machine gun / cannon pods. Alternatively, plans were made to have the aircraft support launch rails for underwing rockets.
A prototype Sagittario 2 first went into the air on May 19th, 1956. On December 4th of that year the aircraft broke the sound barrier in a controlled dive from an altitude of 45,000 feet - achieving a recorded speed of Mach 1.1 in the process. Though never accepted into service in any role with the Italian military, the Sagittario 2 nonetheless provided valuable data concerning aspects of high-speed flight by jet power as well as high-speed flight relying on swept-wing mainplanes. The focus shifted to a more refined version of the Sagittario 2 that became the AERFER "Ariete" ("Ram") - though only one completed prototype emerged from this endeavor despite the efforts put into the program.
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