The Fiat G.50 Freccia (meaning "Arrow") series provided the Italian Air Force with a then-modern monoplane fighter featuring a retractable undercarriage, all-metal construction and an enclosed cockpit. During this period in aviation history, these three design features alone were strong distinguishers between older generation 1920/1930-era fighters and the new breed appearing almost monthly across the globe. The G.50 fought on from 1938 through to the end of the war in 1945 - the latter years to a lesser extent - being utilized in a variety of roles and by a handful of very different operators. An impressive total of 791 G.50's were produced.
Design of the G.50 began as soon as 1935 to which the prototype was made available for first flight two years later on February 26th. Despite the aircraft's relatively modern design, it did not prove to be a substantial leap when compared to other previous modern Italian attempts. Despite this, the aircraft was well accepted for her speed and maneuverability and put into production. In its early form as with an enclosed cockpit, the G.50 received its baptism of fire as part of the Italian involvement in the Spanish Civil War. The aircraft - at least by 1938 standards - proved a worthy success and became a mainstay of the modern Italian Air Force, or Regia Aeronautica. Pilot reaction to the aircraft was generally good, though the Italian flyboys were not as fond of her greenhouse framed canopy. As such, the follow-up production models were actually built with an open-air cockpit instead - effectively advancing Italian aviation by a two steps forward, one step back philosophy.
Design-wise, the G.50 was a standard low-wing monoplane with rounded edges, a smooth yet stout-looking fuselage and a conventional empennage. The radial engine was housed in a characteristically Fiat cowl, sporting a three-bladed propeller and conical spinner. Wings were positioned just below and ahead of the cockpit position. The canopy featured a framed forward section and a "razorback" style rear section, integrating into the tail section. The main gear systems of the undercarriage were fully retractable while the tail wheel was not.
The G.50 was pressed into further combat in the coming years, playing a limited role in the Battle of Britain though it saw considerably more action in the skies over North Africa. Finland received at least 35 of the aircraft via export and used them to good effect in the Soviet invasion of the country from 1939 through 1944. By 1944, however, the G.50 had far surpassed its pinnacle and was becoming wholly inadequate against the later Allied and Soviet fighters. Part shortages and the fall of Italy all contributed to the aircraft's fall from any type of grace it had achieved just years earlier.
Compared with her contemporaries, the G.50 lacked firepower to a degree, being armed with two synchronized 12.7mm heavy caliber machine guns provided for by Breda-SAFAT. Beyond this arrangement, the G.50 carried no other armament. Power for the Freccia came in the form of the single Fiat A.74 RC38 series radial engine, delivering upwards of 838 horsepower. Performance specifications were adequate, sporting a top speed of 301 miles per hour, a range of 418 miles and a service ceiling of 32,258 feet. A rate-of-climb of 44.9 feet per second was also reported.
A handful of variants existed beginning with the base G.50 production model. The G.50 bis followed with improved range and was produced to the tune of 421 examples. The G.50ter was a single example model featuring the Fiat A.76 engine of 1,000 horsepower. Similarly, the G.50V existed in a single form, this one being fitted with a German Daimler-Benz DB 601 series engine. A prototype two-seat fighter-bomber was produced as the G.50bis A/N. The G.50B would have been the designation afforded to a two-seat trainer model of the base G.50. Experimentation with the Daimler-Benz DB 601-powered G.50 led to the development of the off-shoot G.55 fighter series fitted with DB 605 engines.
Operators of the aircraft included Germany and Italy along with Croatia, Finland, Spain and Yugoslavia. The G.50 was the design brainchild of Italian engineer Giuseppe Gabrielli.