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Fiat Cr.42 Falco (Falcon)

Kingdom of Italy (1939)

Detailing the development and operational history of the Fiat Cr.42 Falco (Falcon) Biplane Fighter Aircraft.

 Entry last updated on 5/31/2017; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ©

  Fiat Cr.42 Falco (Falcon)  
Picture of Fiat Cr.42 Falco (Falcon) Biplane Fighter Aircraft

The Fiat CR.42 was designed off the successes of the CR.32, with Italy still believing in the capabilities of biplane aircraft.

Despite its by-gone era appearance, the Fiat CR.42 Falco (meaning "Falcon") played a crucial role in the early war years for Italy, serving as the primary fighter for the Italian air force (Regia Aeronautica. The system was fielded in some quantity with multiple nations and provided some surprising combat capabilities despite the old-school design. CR.42's served with Italian forces up until the end of Italy's part in the war, ultimately being retired for good in 1945.

Even by 1939 standards, the CR.42 played the role of outdated aircraft by sheer appearance. The system (designed by one Celestino Rosatelli) utilized a sesquiplane biplane approach where the lower wing assembly was shorter in span than the upper. The undercarriage remained fixed and the pilot sat in an open-air cockpit behind the engine and entire wing assembly. A Fiat-brand A.74 R1C 14-cylinder radial piston engine of 840 horsepower powered the type offering up good range and an adequate service ceiling. Armament initially consisted of a pair of synchronized 7.7mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns but this was later upgraded to a more potent array of 2 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns. The latter upgrade could also be complimented with an additional 2 x 12.7mm machine guns in underwing fairing positions. A bombload of up to 440lb could be added underwing for strike sorties.
The Falco was initially fielded in 1939 with over 140 in service by the summer of 1940. CR.42's fared reasonably well as dogfighters and interceptors against French fighters and bombers over Southern France and were adept at bomber escorting and light bombing French ground targets themselves. CR.42's were fielded in this latter role over North Africa as well. Being wholly outclassed by the crop of monoplane aircraft littering the skies by the middle years of the war, the CR.42 played a more diminished role, particularly by the end of Italy's involvement in the conflict. The capitulation of Italy all but ended the Regia Aeronautica-operated CR.42's involvement to which the German Luftwaffe put in an order of their own for some 200 CR.42LW (LuftWaffe) models for "night harassment" duty.

Some 1,784 total CR.42's were produced during the war with just a small portion of that surviving in operational form by war's end. Primary users alongside the Italians included the Germans, Hungarians, Swedes and Belgians. Variants of the base fighter type included a multi-machine gun version in the CR.42bis, a night fighter model in the CR.42CN a two-seat communications platform.
Fiat Cr.42 Specifications
National Flag Graphic
Kingdom of Italy
Year: 1939
Type: Biplane Fighter Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Fiat - Italy
Production: 1,784
Supported Mission Types
Ground Attack
Close-Air Support
Airborne Early Warning
Electronic Warfare
Aerial Tanker
Passenger Industry
VIP Travel
Business Travel
Special Forces
Crew: 1
Length: 27.13 ft (8.27 m)
Width: 31.82 ft (9.70 m)
Height: 11.78 ft (3.59 m)
Empty Weight: 3,929 lb (1,782 kg)
MTOW: 5,066 lb (2,298 kg)

Installed Power
1 x Fiat A.74 R1C 14-cylinder radial piston engine developing 840 horsepower.

Standard Day Performance
Maximum Speed: 267 mph (430 kph; 232 kts)
Maximum Range: 482 mi (775 km; 418 nm)
Service Ceiling: 33,465 ft (10,200 m; 6.34 mi)
Rate-of-Climb: 2,340 ft/min (713 m/min)

2 x 7.7 Breda-SAFAT machine guns

2 x 12.7mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns

2 x 12.7mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns in underwing blisters
440lbs of bombs held underwing

Operators List
Belgium; Nazi Germany; Hungary; Kingdom of Italy; Sweden.

Series Model Variants
• CR.42 - Base series designation; fitted with 12.7mm OR 7.7mm machine guns in some cases; some CR.42 models converted to twin-seat communications platforms.
• CR.42AS - Desert Modified Model
• CR.42B (CR.42DB) - Single Example Model fitted with Daimler-Benz DB 601 series engine for improved speed.
• CR.42bis - Fitted with 4 x 12.7mm machine guns and 2 x 7.7mm machie guns (these in underwing blister positions).
• CR.42CN - Nightfighter
• ICR.42 - Prototype Developmental Floatplane Model; produced by CMASA.
• CR.42LW - Nightfighter used by Luftwaffe.
• CR.42 "Bombe Alari" - Modified Bomber Model

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