Reggiane Re.2002

With the Reggiane Re.2002 Ariete II the designers went back to the radial engine. In this sense the Re.2002 was the direct successor of the 1939 Re.2000 Falco, but it had the technical and structural features of the Re.2001. The Re.2002 was an agile and sturdy plane, and it played an important role in operations during the last months of Italy's participation in World War II. It was the best fighter bomber and attack plane in the Italian Air Force. Its fine qualities were also acknowledged by the Luftwaffe which decided in 1943 to develop a version of the Re.2002 powered by a 1,600 (1194 kw) BMW engine that powered the Focke-Wulf Fw.190 fighter. However this plan was never carried out. When Italy withdrew from the war in 1943, the Germans took over about 60 of the Re.2002's for use in their attack units. Total production reached 255 aircraft, 149 for the Italian Air Force and the rest for use in the Luftwaffe.

The Re.2002 project was developed in the summer of 1940 by Reggiane designers Longhi and Alessio. They decided to adapt the basic structure of the Re.2001 to a different engine. The Daimler Benz inline engine that powered the Re.2001 was always in short supply because Alfa Romeo was slow in producing the Italian version and deliveries from Germany were limited. The Re.2002 therefore was powered by a new Piaggio radial, the 1,175 hp (876 kw) P.XIX RC.45 14-cylinder air cooled engine. Thus the wing system and the empennage were those of the Re.2001, but the fuselage was remodelled to accommodate the larger radial engine. Armament consisted of a pair of 12.7 mm (0.50 in) machine guns in the forward fuselage section, synchronized to fire through the propeller disk, and two 7.7 mm (0.303 in) machine guns in the wings. A belly support permitted the plane to carry a 924 lbs (420 kg) or a 1,102 lbs (500 kg) bomb, and two 352 lbs (160 kg) carried in racks under the wings.

The prototype of the Re.2002 first took to the air in October 1940. It was an excellent plane and in some respects was superior to the Re.2001. But making final refinements in the aircraft, especially in the engine took a considerable amount of time, and it was in September 1941, before the Italian Air Force placed and order for 200 aircraft. The first planes were delivered in March 1942, but they did not become operational immediately. The 5th Diver Group became operational in July 1943, when a series of missions were carried out to try to block the Allied invasion of Sicily.

After the 1943 armistice, about 40 Re.2002s continued operations with the Allies until the summer of 1944. Mussolini's forces in the north made almost no use of the aircraft. The Luftwaffe took 60 planes to Germany, 40 of them being brand new. The German planes were eventually used in France in operations against the Maquis.

Type: Single Seat Fighter Bomber

Design: Ingeniere Antonio Alessio and Roberto Longhi of Officine Meccaniche "Reggiane" S.A. (Caproni) based on their previous Re.2001 Ariete design and the necessity to revert back to the use of radial engines

Manufacturer: Officine Meccaniche "Reggiane" S.A. (Caproni) in Reggio Emilia

Powerplant: One 1,175 hp (876 kw) Piaggio P.XIX RC.45 radial engine.

Performance: Maximum speed 329 mph (531 km/h) at 18,000 ft (5487 m).

Range: 685 miles (1105 km) with internal fuel.

Weight: Empty 5,270 lbs (2390 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 7,850 lbs (3650 kg).

Dimensions: Span 36 ft 1 in (11.00 m); length 26 ft 10 in (8.20 m); height 10 ft 4 in (3.15 m); wing area 219.59 sq ft (20.40 sq m)

Armament: Two 12.7 mm (0.50 in) Breda-SAFAT machine guns and either two 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Breda-SAFAT machine guns or two 20 mm cannon plus one 1,410 lbs (640 kg) bomb.

Variants: Re.2002 Serie I Ariete II (only 50 aircraft of this type were in operational service with Italian units at the time of the Allied invasion of Sicily, but 60 aircraft were built and delivered to Germany)

Operators: Italy (Regia Aeronautica), Luftwaffe.