Following the failure of the proposed Breda Ba.75 product (just one example was completed), intended to fulfill a reconnaissance / ground attack role for the Regia Aeronautica (Italian Air Force), the service passed along a new requirement in 1936 calling for a heavy fighter aircraft with a maximum speed of 329 miles per hour, a range out to 1,240 miles and standardized armament consisting of 20mm automatic cannons. This was to become a powerful, high-speed, heavy gun platform to outmatch all others of its kind and provide a true "bomber killer" for the Italian air service. To fall in line with heavy fighters of the day, a two-seat, twin-engined monoplane wing arrangement with all-metal skinning was envisioned.
The resultant design became the Breda Ba.88 which was debuted in 1937 and proved a promising venture in the early going. The aircraft was well-streamlined and carried its engines in nacelles along the wing leading edges. The cockpit was situated along the fuselage and aft of a nose cone assembly. The fuselage then tapered towards the tail to which a pair of rounded vertical fins was fitted. A conventional tail-dragger undercarriage arrangement was used with all legs wholly retractable into the design. Internally the aircraft was given a load-bearing structure which dated its otherwise advanced form. Self-sealing fuel tanks were standard within though internal space was such that a modest bombload was forced to be carried externally. Standard armament was 3 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns in the nose while the second crewmember managed a trainable 7.7mm installation at the rear cockpit. Provision was made to install a 20mm automatic cannon in place of one of the nose-mounted 12.7mm fits.
In testing, the stripped, baseline aircraft proved a speedy mount and went on to set several international speed records for its class. However, its fortunes changed when the airframe was saddled with the requisite military equipment as performance began to suffer notably. Despite this, serial manufacture of the design went ahead and service entry came in 1938 with the first Italian units equipped with the type in June of 1940. Production ran from 1936 until 1940 and 149 units were completed.
In practical service, the Ba.88 was not viewed fondly by Italian aviators for it was underpowered and overweight, leading to reduced handling and agility - and combat exposure showcased these weaknesses through mounting losses. By mid-1940, the aircraft was already being replaced in frontline service which forced the Regia Aeronautica to rely on more antiquated mounts for the fighter-bomber role. The Ba.88 was retired in full by 1941 - a rather short service record for such a highly-touted aeroplane.
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