The Italian aero-concern of Ansaldo was a player in the air war of World War 1 (1914-1918) and contributed some notable designs to the Allied cause. One offering became the Ansaldo SVA (Savoia-Verduzio), a unequal-span, biplane-winged single-seat reconnaissance platform. The type went on to be produced across 1,245 total examples, recording a first-flight in 1917. Production of the aircraft did not cease until 1927 - and amazing feat for a World War 1-era warbird. Its design is attributed to Umberto Savoia and Rodolfo Verduzio.
The SVA was originally designed along the lines of high-speed fighter platform but, despite its impressive straight-line performance (reaching up to 140 miles per hour), it failed in its given role and was, instead, relegated to reconnaissance duties for its time in the conflict. In this over-battlefield role, the SVA excelled for it held the top qualities needed of a reconnaissance mount - altitude, range and speed. This newfound role ensured the Ansaldo design would see service through to the end of the war and beyond - indeed the series managed some of the longest reconnaissance missions of the war, giving excellent service for what was expected of it. Many flights of over 300 miles were recorded during the war years and some even after, including a historic flight from Rome to Tokyo which covered some 11,250 miles.
The SVA.1 marked the first, one-off prototype used to test the viability of the SVA design. This led to the initial batch of 65 production-minded SVA.2 series aircraft. The ISVA was formed from this mark to become a floatplane off-shoot and fifty were constructed for the Italian Navy. The SVA.4 marked the first "true" production-quality models and lost the portside Vickers machine gun installation as a weight-savings measure (AER produced this mark as the SVA.3 and the SVA.3 Ridotto ("Reduced") was a speedy, lighter weight interceptor offshoot).
The definitive production mark became the SVA.5 "Primo" which sported an SPA 6A series engine of 200 horsepower. Performance included a maximum speed of 140 miles per hour, a range out to 420 miles and a service ceiling of 19,700 feet. Armament centered on 2 x Vickers .303 machine guns as well as a modest bombload of 200lb (the SVA could be fielded as a light bomber beyond its intended reconnaissance duties).
This was followed by a prototype bomber form in the SVA.6 and another one-off prototype as the SVA.8. Larger-area wings greeted the unarmed reconnaissance-minded SVA.9 and the SVA.10 retained a two-seat configuration and reconnaissance mission role but was completed with the Isotta-Fraschini engine of 250 horsepower. This mark was defensed by way of two machine guns - one fixed, forward-firing and the other a trainable Lewis Gun installation.
Operators of the SVA series (beyond Italy) included Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Georgia, Latvia, Paraguay, Poland, the Soviet Union, the United States, Uruguay and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
In 1918, Ansaldo released the A.1 "Balilla" biplane fighter (detailed elsewhere on this site) - another mount capable of reaching near-140 mph speeds. However this was a late-war design and just over 100 were produced, none seeing combat service in the conflict. It was Italy's only indigenously designed and produced fighter aircraft of the war - fulfilling the role the SVA series failed to.