The Ansaldo A 1 Balilla ("Hunter") was the first aircraft fighter design of Italian origins. In the early part of World War 1 (1914-1918), Italian forces consistently relied upon French-designed combat aircraft, leading the local Italian concern of Ansaldo to design, develop, and produce the "A.1" as a fighting biplane. The resulting aircraft offered exceptional performance (one of the fastest biplanes of the period) for its time in the air but reportedly held suspect handling qualities that did not endear the machine to its pilots. The A.1, named the "Hunter", appeared in the final stages of The Great War which helped to limit its availability and subsequent use - Italy becoming its sole primary operator for lack of anything better. Some of the stock did, however, find their war into American hands where they were converted as air racers and carried Curtiss D-12 engines (American World War 1 Ace Eddie Rickenbacker netted a national airspeed record in 1920 flying such an aircraft).
The Ansaldo A.1 Balilla was arranged as a basic biplane fighter design which relied on an over-under wing mainplane configuration. Struts were parallel installations at each member. The lower section ran into the lower fuselage with the upper section suspended over the aircraft. The engine was installed at the nose in the usual way but its oversized nature meant that views to the front were severely restricted. The engine drove a multi-bladed wooden propeller in typical fashion. The pilot sat in an open-air cockpit ahead of midships and the fuselage tapered towards the rear. The tail unit was made up of a single vertical fin and low-set horizontal planes. The undercarriage consisted of two wheeled main landing gear members under the forward mass of the aircraft and a simple tailskid at the rear.
Power was from an SPA 6A water-cooled inline piston engine outputting 220 horsepower and driving a four-bladed propeller. Flight time for the platform amounted to 1 hour and 30 minutes and reachable speeds neared 140 miles per hour. Its service ceiling was a useful 16,400 feet, the aircraft making about 520 feet-per-minute to get there. Range was listed at 410 miles.
As was typical of fighter aircraft of the period, the Balilla carried the usual armament of 2 x 7.7mm (British) Vickers Machine Guns in fixed, forward-firing mounts over the nose. These were synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades.
Beyond the Corp Aeronautico Militare (Italian Air Force), operators icluded Argentina, Belgium, Greece, Latvia, Mexico, Poland, the Soviet Union, and Uruguay. Production totaled 307 units with 250 manufactured by Ansaldo and a further 57 by Polish-based Lublin under local license.
The Polish models were a post-World War 1 initiative begun in 1919 but these arrived to late to be used in the Russo-Polish War of 1919-1921. In 1920, the Russians also contracted for the same aircraft but these were not on hand in number until April of 1922 and served only until the middle of 1928.
Status Retired, Out-of-Service
Production 307 Units
Gio. Ansaldo & Co. - Italy
Argentina; Belgium; Kingdom of Italy; Greece; Latvia; Mexico; Poland; Soviet Union; United States; Uruguay
22.47 ft (6.85 m)
25.20 ft (7.68 m)
8.30 ft (2.53 m)
1,411 lb (640 kg)
1,951 lb (885 kg)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Ansaldo A.1 Balilla production model)
1 x SPA 6A water-cooled in-line engine developing 220 horsepower and driving a two-bladed propeller at the nose.
137 mph (220 kph; 119 kts)
16,404 feet (5,000 m; 3.11 miles)
410 miles (660 km; 356 nm)
520 ft/min (158 m/min)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Ansaldo A.1 Balilla production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
2 x .303 caliber Vickers machine guns synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades.
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Ansaldo A.1 Balilla production model)
A.1 "Balilla" - Base Production Model Designation
Balilla Racer - Modified Post-War Variant; fitted with Curtiss D-12 engine for air racing in the United States of America.
Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
The overall rating takes into account over 60 individual factors related to this aircraft entry. The rating is out of a possible 100.
Relative Maximum Speed
This entry's maximum listed speed (137mph).
Graph average of 112.5 miles-per-hour.
Ansaldo A.1 Balilla operational range when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era Span
Showcasing era cross-over of this aircraft design.
The "Military Factory" name and MilitaryFactory.com logo are registered ® U.S. trademarks protected by all applicable domestic and international intellectual property laws. All written content, illustrations, and photography are unique to this website (unless where indicated) and not for reuse/reproduction in any form. Material presented throughout this website is for historical and entertainment value only and should not to be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation. We do not sell any of the items showcased on this site. Please direct all other inquiries to militaryfactory AT gmail.com.
Part of a network of sites that includes GlobalFirepower, a data-driven property used in ranking the top military powers of the world and WDMMA.org, the World Directory of Modern Military Aircraft.