Macchi MC.200 Saetta

It is unlikely that in the mid-30's there was anyone in Italy better experienced to create a new single seat fighter than Dr Mario Castoldi, chief designer of the Aeronautica Macchi company. Like R.J. Mitchell in the UK, Castoldi had adequately demonstrated his originality and attention to detail in the series of racing seaplanes developed by Macchi to compete in the Schneider Trophy contests. His MC.72 prevented by problems with it Fiat AS.6 engine from contending in the final contest in 1931, twice captured the world absolute speed record for seaplanes during 1934. The speed of 440.68 mph (709.209 km/h) established on 23 October of that year remained unbeaten in 1984.

Ground crews re-arm a Macchi MC.200 Saetta

Following the end of Italy's military campaigns in East Africa a programme was initiated to re-equip the Regia Aeronautica, the Macchi MC.200 Saetta (lightning) being designed by Mario Castoldi to meet the requirement for a new single seat fighter. The resulting prototype (MM 336) was flown for the first time on 24 December 1937 as a cantilever low wing monoplane of all metal construction, except for fabric covered tail control surfaces, with retractable tailwheel landing gear and an enclosed cockpit. Castoldi's advanced design for the wing resulted in a completely hinged trailing edge, the hydraulically actuated flaps being interconnected with the ailerons so that when the flaps were lowered the ailerons were drooped simultaneously. Power was provided by a Fiat A.74 RC.38 radial engine, and interesting change after the Fiat inline success in the Schneider Trophy contests. Italian engine manufacturers hand now been instructed to concentrate on the development of radial engines. Castoldi would dearly have liked to power the MC.200 by a high performance inline engine, for he was concerned that the bulky radial would limit the performance of this new fighter, but he was to find a solution to this problem for the MC.202.


Flight testing of the two MC.200 prototypes was successful, one of them attaining a speed of 500 mph (805 km/h) in a dive, and during 1938 the MC.200 won the fighter contest and was ordered into production with an initial contract for 99 aircraft, a total of more than 1,100 being constructed eventually, about 400 being built by Macchi and the remainder by Breda and SAI-Ambrosini. Numbered among them were sub-variants that included the MC.200AS which was equipped for tropical operation, and the MC.200CB fighter-bomber with provision to carry a maximum 705 lbs (320 kg) bombload or, when deployed as an escort fighter, two underwing auxiliary fuel tanks. The single prototype of a developed version was built under the designation MC.201, introducing a revised fuselage. It was designated to ne powered by th e 1,000 hp (746 kw) Fiat A.76 RC.40 radial engine, but had been flown only with the Fiat A.74 RC.38 of the standard MC.200 when its development was abandoned in favour of the MC.202 Folgor.

The type began to enter into service in October 1939, by which time the MC.200 had been given the name Saetta, and when Italy entered the war in June 1940 about 150 hand been delivered to the Regia Aeronautica. The first combat missions were flown as escorts for bomber/fighter-bombers attacking Malta in the autumn of 1940, and the type served subsequently in actions over Greece and Yugoslavia. The MC.200 saw extensive use in North Africa and a number were involved in operations on the Eastern Front during 1941-2. Following the Italian armistice with the Allies in September 1943, 23 of the Saettas were flown to Allied airfields in southern Italy, to be flown shortly afterwards by pilots of the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force

 (Macchi MC.200 Saetta "Lightning")

Type: Single Seat Fighter Interceptor

Design: Ingeniere Mario Casoldi of Aeronautica Macchi

Manufacturer: Aeronautica Macchi with plants in Varese-Schiranna and Lonate Pozzolo

Powerplant: One 870 hp (649 kw) Fiat A.74 RC.38 14-cylinder radial piston engine.

Performance: Maximum speed 312 mph (502 km/h) at 14,765 ft (4500 m); cruising speed 283 mph (455 km/h); service ceiling 29,200 ft (8900 m).

Range: 540 miles (870 km) with auxiliary tanks.

Weight: Empty 4,178 lbs (1895 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 5,710 lbs (2590 kg).

Dimensions: Span 34 ft 8 1/2 in (10.58 m); length 26 ft 10 3/4 in (8.19 m); height 11 ft 5 3/4 in (3.50 m); wing area 180.84 sq ft
(16.80 sqm)

Armament: Two 12.7 mm (0.50 in) Breda-SAFAT machine guns in the upper cowling. Some later versions had two additional 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Breda-SAFAT machine guns mounted in the wings.

Variants: MC.200, MC.200AS (tropical), MC.200CB (fighter bomber), MC.201
(one prototype which was abandoned in favour of the MC.202 Folgor).

Operators: Italy (Regia Aeronautica, Aeronautica Cobelligerante de Sud, and Aeronautica Nazionale Republicana).