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Fiat Cr.32

Kingdom of Italy (1938)
Picture of Fiat Cr.32 Biplane Fighter Aircraft

The Fiat CR.42 was one of the best inter-war designed fighters to ever see service, though largely outclassed by the start of World War 2.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Fiat Cr.32 Biplane Fighter Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 5/31/2017. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

The Italian Fiat CR.32 biplane fighter is widely regarded as one of the best of its kind during the inter-war period, specifically the 1930s. The CR.32's design was based on the preceding CR.30 offering which totaled 176 aircraft for various global operators including Italy, Paraguay and the Spanish State. From this framework, a dimensionally-smaller form was worked into a viable gunnery platform possessing good maneuverability and excellent in-the-field survivability.

A biplane winged arrangement was used and the aircraft was crewed by a single operator seated in an open-air cockpit under and aft of the upper wing element (near midships). The upper and lower wings (of unequal span) were joined by parallel strutworks and cabling common to fighter designs of the period. The undercarriage was of a tail-dragger configuration though the main wheels were spatted for aerodynamic efficiency. The tail was of single-rudder design. At front in the fuselage (direct ahead of the pilot's position) was the engine installation and this drove a two-bladed propeller unit at the nose. Armament included 2 x 7.7mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades though 12.7mm heavy caliber machine guns could be used in their place. A modest bomb load of up to 220lb could also be carried for ground attacks. Internally, a metal understructure was used while skinning was a mix of alloy and fabric covering.

Dimensions included a length of 24.5 feet, a wingspan of 31.2 feet and a height of 7.8 feet. Empty weigt was 3,210lb against an MTOW of 4,350lb.
Power was served from a Fiat A30 RA-bis V12 engine developing 600 horsepower. Maximum speed of 225 miles per hour with a range out to 485 miles and a service ceiling up to 28,870 feet. Rate-of-climb neared 1,822 feet per minute.

A first-flight in prototype form was recorded on April 28th, 1933. China was the initial global operator to commit to the type through a twenty-four strong order. These arrived in 1935 though the order totaled only nine fighters in the end. From March of 1934 until February of 1936, the Italian Air Force became the proud recipient of this homegrown product and took on 282 aircraft. Almost immediately, pilots appreciated the small fighter's capabilities and its impact on the air service was well publicized. Before its combat service began, the CR.32 was a favorite at many of the air displays it attended.

Spain managed to secure a license for local production of the Italian machine which resulted in 100 HA-132-L "Chirri" fighters. These were pressed into service during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) from 1938 onward. The Italians had already been using their CR.32 fighters in the conflict since August 1936 and this marked the series' first taste of combat.

Improved A30 RAbis engines of 600 horsepower output greeted the equally-improved CR.32bis variant delivered to the Italian Air Force by way of a 283-strong order. Armament was mixed with 2 x 7.7mm and 2 x 12.7mm machine guns giving the nimble fighter a better offensive punch. Austria was sold 45 of this standard and an additional 52 were entrusted to Hungary though only 38 of the lot were handed over to the customer.

One hundred fifty more CR.32 fighters were realized as the CR.32ter in 1937 and these carried just 2 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns but were given improved cockpit panels and aiming devices. The CR.32quater (based on the CR.32ter) numbered 337 production units for the Italian Air Force but was also sold to Paraguay and Guatemala. This version was also produced locally by Spain from 1940 until 1943 and forty were reworked as two-seat training platforms. Its major change was a new lightweight design and now a communications set had been added.

The CR.33 made up three prototypes with Fiat AC.33RC engines. Maximum speed was improved to 256 miles per hour but the model was not adopted for serial production.

The CR.40 was a one-off prototype with a British Bristol Mercury IV air-cooled radial piston engine. Like-wise the CR.40bis was a single prototype and the CR.41 followed suit - neither were adopted.

Total CR.32 fighter production reached 1,052 units before its end was seen. It was more or less made obsolete by modern inventions by the time of World War 2 in 1939 but Italian authorities were still convinced of the merits of the CR.32 even against more modern types and the biplane went on to represent over half of the fighter stock available to the Italians as war broke out. As such, these aging biplanes were encountered in the North African campaign and across Italian homeland airspace during the early part of the conflict - certainly into 1940 by which point the fighter was still having a good showing, even against more modern thoroughbreds.

Additional combat actions were seen over Greece but, by 1942, the line was all but marked for retirement. Night time missions were the last taken on by the line. The Spanish Air Force did not retire their lot until 1953.

Other global operators beyond those mentioned included Austria, China, and Nazi Germany. The Austrians committed to 45 of the CR.32bis model while the Chinese fielded the type under the Nationalist Air Force banner. German examples were taken over from the existing Austrian stock.

The Fiat CR.42 biplane fighter (detailed elsewhere on this site) of 1939 was born from this same design.






Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

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Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (233mph).

    Graph average of 225 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the Fiat Cr.32bis's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
750
750


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.


Altitude Visualization
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National Flag Graphic
Origin: Kingdom of Italy
Year: 1938
Type: Biplane Fighter Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Fiat - Italy
Production: 750
Global Operators:
Argentina; Austria; China; Nazi Germany; Hungary; Kingdom of Italy; Paraguay; Spain; Venezuela
Historical Commitments / Honors:

Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Fiat Cr.32bis model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
1


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
24.44 ft


Meters
7.45 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
31.17 ft


Meters
9.5 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
8.63 ft


Meters
2.63 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
2,921 lb


Kilograms
1,325 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
4,079 lb


Kilograms
1,850 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x Fiat A.30 V-12 water-cooled in-line piston engine developing 600 horsepower.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
233 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
375 kph


Knots
202 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
423 mi


Kilometers
680 km


Nautical Miles
367 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
28,871 ft


Meters
8,800 m


Miles
5.47 mi


Performance
CLIMB RATE


Feet-per-Minute
2,000 ft/min


Meters-per-Minute
610 m/min

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft heavy machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Armament - Hardpoints (2):

STANDARD:
2 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns
2 x 7.7mm medium machine guns

OPTIONAL:
220lb of conventional drop bombs.
Variants: Series Model Variants
• CR.30 - Fitted with Fiat A.30 V-12 water-cooled engine of 600 horsepower; 2 x 7.7mm OR 12.7mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns.
• CR.32 - Fitted with Fiat A.30 RAbis engine of 600 horsepower; armed with 2 x 12.7mm machine guns.
• CR.32bis - Close-Support Fighter Model; fitted with 2 x 7.7mm machine guns and 2 x 12.7mm machine guns; provision for up to 100kg of external ordnance.
• CR.32ter - "Improved" CR.32bis model
• CR.32quater - Based on the CR.32ter model series; improved performance; 337 examples produced.
• CR.33 - Prototype Model appearing in 3 examples.
• CR.40 - Single Production Prototype; fitted with Bristol Mercury IV radial piston engine.
• CR.40bis - Single Production Prototype
• CR.41 - Single Production Prototype
• HA-132L - Spainish Designation; produced under license by Hispano-Chirri.