Fiat G.59 (Centauro) - Italy, 1950
Detailing the development and operational history of the Fiat G.59 (Centauro) Fighter / Fighter-Trainer / Advanced Trainer Aircraft.
Entry last updated on 5/31/2017; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
Completing the World War 2-era Fiat G.55 fighter with the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine produced the post-war Fiat G.59 series for Italy and Syria.
During World War 2, German ally Italy was granted local license-production of the Diamler-Benz DB 605 inline piston engine and this fit went on to power several Italian frontline fighters of the conflict - including the Fiat G.55 "Centauro" of which 274 were produced during the period. The G.55 proved a strong counter to the classic Allied aircraft of the war including Spitfires, Mustangs, and Thunderbolts and certainly earned its respect. Italy surrendered to the Allies in September of 1943 and production of the G.55 was eventually ended.
After the war in 1946, Fiat looked to jumpstart manufacture of their useful monoplane fighter and this ultimately produced the G.55A and G.55B marks - the former was completed in a single-seat fighter / advanced trainer form with the latter was used as a two-seat trainer. Both Italy and Argentina took the renewed fighter into service and this demand eventually led to a shortage of available DB 605A inline engines. As orders for the G.55 were still outstanding, it was decided to re-engine the fighter with the British Rolls-Royce "Merlin" - the famous powerplant that drove the war-winning Spitfires and Mustangs for the Allies.
First-flight of a Merlin-engined (Merlin T.24-2 of 1,610 horsepower) G.55 (G.55BM) occurred in early 1948 and proved a healthy mating. The Italian Air Force liked what it saw and ordered their existing fleet of G.55 to be re-engined in the same fashion. Twelve G.55AM fighters were completed to the new "G.59" standard followed by sixteen single-seat "G.59-1A" and two-seat "G.59-1B" variants - introduced for service in 1950. Beyond the Italians, the Syrian Air Force took note and ordered thirty fighters which ended as new-build aircraft in the form of 26 x single-seat G.59-2A models (with 4 x 20mm cannon armament) and 4 xtwo-seat G.59-2Bs (2 x 12.7mm machine gun armament).
The G.59 line was completed with the introduction of the single-seat G.59-4A and the two-seat G.59-4B variants which installed bubble-style canopies for improved pilot vision. The A-model also featured a cut-down rear fuselage design. The Italian Air Force adopted twenty of the former and ten of the latter. The G.59-3A was proposed as a navigational trainer and did not proceed beyond a prototype.
The Argentine Air Force evaluated a single G.59-2A but this did not turn into a tangible production order.
As completed, the G.59 exhibited a maximum speed of 368 miles per hour and an operational range of 882 miles.