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Ansaldo A.1 Balilla (Hunter)

Single-Seat, Single-Engine Biplane Fighter Aircraft


The Ansaldo A.1 Balilla became the first indigenous fighter design to come out of the Kingdom of Italy - this during the fighting of World War 1.

Detailing the development and operational history of the Ansaldo A.1 Balilla (Hunter) Single-Seat, Single-Engine Biplane Fighter Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 6/7/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
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.


YEAR: 1918
STATUS: Retired, Out-of-Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Gio. Ansaldo & Co. - Italy
LENGTH: 22.47 ft (6.85 m)
WIDTH: 25.20 ft (7.68 m)
HEIGHT: 8.30 ft (2.53 m)
EMPTY WEIGHT: 1,411 lb (640 kg)
MTOW: 1,951 lb (885 kg)
POWER: 1 x SPA 6A water-cooled in-line engine developing 220 horsepower and driving a two-bladed propeller at the nose.
SPEED: 137 mph (220 kph; 119 kts)
CEILING: 16,404 feet (5,000 m; 3.11 miles)
RANGE: 410 miles (660 km; 356 nm)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 520 ft/min (158 m/min)
OPERATORS: Argentina; Belgium; Kingdom of Italy; Greece; Latvia; Mexico; Poland; Soviet Union; United States; Uruguay

2 x .303 caliber Vickers machine guns synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades.
Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Variants / Models

• A.1 "Balilla" - Base Production Model Designation
• A.1bis
• Balilla Racer - Modified Post-War Variant; fitted with Curtiss D-12 engine for air racing in the United States of America.

General Assessment

Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
MF Power Rating
The MF Power Rating takes into account over 60 individual factors related to this aircraft entry. The rating is out of 100 total possible points.
Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 150mph
Lo: 75mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (137mph).

Graph average of 112.5 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Ansaldo A.1 Balilla's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
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 (307)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

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

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
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 pioneering aircraft
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 representing modern aircraft
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 War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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