The Breda Ba.65 was a ground attack aircraft serving primarily with the Italian Air Force (Regia Aeronautica) in the years leading up to and into World War 2. The Ba.65 saw active combat service in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) which helped seal a Nationalist victory over the Republicans and led to the formation of the Spanish State. Continued use of the Ba.65 by the Regia Aeronautica led to further actions in the upcoming World War, particularly across the North Africa campaign. However, the Ba.65 proved all too vulnerable to the modern fighters of the time, restricting its use to that of a groudn attack aircraft until the end of its operational run. In all, some 218 Ba.65 aircraft were completed and delivered for use, production being handled by the Breda and Caproni firms of Italy.
Antonio Parano and Giuseppe Panzeri designed the Ba.64 - forerunner to the similar Ba.65 - in the early part of the 1930s. First flight was recorded in 1934 and the type was introduced into the Regia Aeronautica in 1937 as a primary ground attack aircraft system with fighter, bombing and reconnaissance duties as secondary. By the time the Ba.64 had entered service, work had already begun on a more powerful evolution of the system which delivered the prototype for the much improved Ba.65 fighter-bomber. The prototype first flew in September of 1935, went into series production that same year and were essentially copies of the prototype version. The Italians license-produced the French Gnome-Rhone K-14 engine of 700 horsepower under the Isotta-Fraschini banner and the early Ba.65 production forms all were fitted with the type. Production of the Ba.65 would last until 1939 to which all were officially retired from 1941 onwards, the aircraft now being wholly outclassed by newer and better breeds of aircraft and limited the Ba.65 to the ground attack role when possible. To help stem its inadequate performance in the growing war, the Fiat A.80 RC.41 18-cylinder, twin row, air-cooled engine was introduced from the 82nd production airframe onwards. The Fiat engine improved output to a relatively impressive 1,000 horsepower.
Design of the Breda Ba.65 was consistent with other Italian aircraft of the period. The engine was held in a forward compartment along the airframe with an identifiable oversized cowling. The cockpit was situated directly behind the engine and fitted well forward of the aircraft's center. Wings were of a low-set monoplane design and their bulk fitted ahead of amidships, each wing sporting well-rounded tips. The fuselage was stout in appearance and tapered off gently to become the empennage. The tail was topped with a single, rounded edge vertical tail fin and a pair of high-set horizontal planes, these also well-rounded at their tips. The undercarriage consisted of two main landing gear legs and a tail wheel. Each leg was affixed with a single wheel and the main legs recessed rearwards though only partly under each wing, the wheels half-exposed during flight. The tail wheel unit remained lowered at all times, even during flight.
Armament for the Ba.65 was all contained in the wings and was primarily a mix of machine gun systems. These consisted of 2 x 12.7mm Breda-SAFAT heavy machine guns joined by a pairing of 7.7mm Breda-SAFAT general purpose machine guns. For its intended ground attack role, the Ba.65 could be fitted with up to 1,102lbs of conventional drop ordnance. Categorized a ground attack aircraft, the Ba.65 was the only such Italian aircraft to serve in this role during World War 2.
The single-seat Ba.65 was powered by a single Fiat-brand A-80 RC-41 series radial piston engine delivering upwards of 1,000 horsepower driving a three-bladed propeller system. This arrangement supplied the airframe with a top speed of 270 miles per hour, a range of 342 miles and a service ceiling nearing 20,670 feet. Empty weight was in the vicinity of 5,300lbs while maximum take-off weight was rated at approximately 6,500lbs. Length of the airframe measured in at 30 feet, 6 inches while the aircraft held a wingspan of 39 feet, 8.4 inches. Height was 10 feet, 6 inches.
The Breda was produced in just three notable variants. The Ba.65 designation was used to signify the definitive single-seat production version while Ba.65bis marked both a two-seat bomber variant and its similar two-seat trainer derivative. Beyond the Italian Air Force, operators of the series included Iraq, Chile, Portugal, Spain and the Soviet Union. The numbers for Iraq, Chile and Portugal were made up from an export order totaling some 55 aircraft.