The Italian concern of Macchi was founded in 1912 by Giulio Macchi out of Varese, Italy. Despite Italy being a member of the Triple Alliance - which included both the German Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire - the nation was not quick to declare war on the Triple Entente (Britain, France and the Russian Empire) in the summer of 1914. It was not until the Allies convinced Italian leaders that the Treaty of London was secured in 1915 - this led to Italy officially declaring war on neighboring Austria-Hungary on May 23rd, 1915, bringing about an end to the Triple Alliance loyalty. Attempting to take the newly established Italian Front against Austria-Hungary through surprise, the campaign eventually bogged down into a "West Front-style" method of Trench Warfare.
With Italy entrenched in World War, aircraft of all types were brought into play - including foreign models originating from Britain and France. However, Italy managed an indigenous aero industry all her own that made good use of local talent. Macchi was one such concern and, in 1915, engineers used a captured Austro-Hungarian "Lohner L" series two-seat, reconnaissance biplane flying boat as the basis for their own production copy as the "Macchi L.1". Of a rather conventional design, the L.1 showcased a low-slung fuselage nacelle with a high-mounted, wide-spanning biplane wing arrangement to go with a high-mounted engine in a "pusher" configuration. The hull was boat-like in its design which allowed for waterborne landings. The crew of two (a pilot and an observer) managed the onboard facilities which included a single Fiat machine gun. Four light bombs would be carried for the maritime bombing role. Macchi tied the airframe to an Isotta-Frashini V.4A inline piston engine and 14 of the aircraft were produced, more or less as direct copies of the Lohner L. The Macchi L.1 was then improved in the upcoming "Macchi L.2", this through implementation of a more contained wingspan and an Isotta-Fraschini V.4B series engine.
From the L.2 came the two-seat "L.3" of 1916 which was then redesigned to "M.3" to showcase its Macchi origins over that of the enemy Lohner. Compared to the L.2 prior, the M.3 was given a revised hull for improved waterborne operation as well as a slightly modified tail. Armament was a single Fiat machine gun which could be replaced with a light cannon. Four light bombs could be carried for the bombing role. The M.3 was quick to separate itself from the previous offerings when it claimed the rate-of-climb world record for seaplane aircraft - reaching 17,700 feet in 41 minutes. The M.3 was adopted into Italian naval service and approximately 200 of this capable aircraft were produced and utilized through to the end of the war in 1918, replacing the previous L.2 series in the process. Paraguay and Switzerland joined Italy in operating the M.3.
All of this wartime work led to the refined single-seat Macchi M.5 seaplane. A prototype (recognized as the "Type M") first went airborne in 1917 to prove the newer design sound. The overall arrangement was similar to the previous Macchi seaplanes including the boat-like hull, biplane wing arrangement and Isotta-Fraschini V.4B engine of 160 horsepower. Further prototypes refined the design before the type was formally adopted in 1917 by the Italian Navy and Air Force to which 244 were manufactured under the Nieuport-Macchi brand label.
The M.5 exhibited a running length of 26 feet, 6 inches with a shorter wingspan of 39 feet (compared to 52 feet in the M.3). Maximum speed was 117 miles per hour (the M.3 operated up to 90 miles per hour) with a flight endurance time of three hours, forty minutes. The service ceiling was listed at 20,340 feet which allowed for excellent scanning of the area under the aircraft. Unlike the previous M.3 product, the M.5 incorporated 2 x 7.7mm Vickers machine guns in a fixed, forward-firing arrangement. As the powerplant mounted the propeller in a "pusher" arrangement, no synchronizer was required. This provided the M.5 with a very "fighter-like" quality consistent with designs of the time. Additionally, the crew was reduced to one which furthermore allowed the aircraft to be flown as a single seat fighter aircraft in combat.
Regarded as a fine seaplane, whose primary role was that of reconnaissance and maritime patrol, its bombing capability allowed it to engage surface vessels of opportunity while its inherently good performance specifications and machine gun armament enabled it to tangle with fighter types of the day. Short of many war-making goods, the United States military (Navy and Marine Corps) procured the Macchi M.5 in number and it was an M.5 that produced the first naval aviator Medal of Honor recipient in Charles Hammann after Hammann landed his M.5 under threat to rescue a fellow aviator from the water. The M.5 gave a long and excellent service tenure and survived The Great War to forge an existence during the early part of the interwar years that followed.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Air-to-Air Combat, Fighter
General ability to actively engage other aircraft of similar form and function, typically through guns, missiles, and/or aerial rockets.
✓Maritime / Navy
Land-based or shipborne capability for operating over-water in various maritime-related roles while supported by allied naval surface elements.
26.5 ft (8.08 m)
39.0 ft (11.90 m)
9.4 ft (2.85 m)
1,587 lb (720 kg)
2,183 lb (990 kg)
+595 lb (+270 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base Macchi M.5 production variant)
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