Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Reggiane Re.2005 Sagittario
This aircraft flew with the Luftdienst Kommando Italien unit at Maniago Italy Feb 1944.
The Reggiane Re.2005 Sagittario (English: Archer, Sagittarius) was an Italian monoplane fighter/fighter-bomber produced for the Regia Aeronautica during the later years of World War II. It is considered by many to be "the most beautiful plane of the Second World War". Along with the Macchi C.202/C.205 and Fiat G.55, the Reggiane Re.2005 was one of the three Serie 5 Italian fighters. The well balanced lines of the fuselage were aerodynamically perfect, and everything was designed to get the most out of the famous Daimler-Benz DB 605 engine. The only drawback was a certain structural weakness in the rear section of the fuselage. Only 48 examples had been delivered before the Armistice and these fighters took part in the defence of Naples, Rome and Sicily with the final survivors battling above the crumbling ruins of Berlin, with German insignia. Well-respected ace and military observer, Group Captain Duncan Smith, DSO DFC, stated: "The Re.2005 was altogether a superb, potent aeroplane."
The Reggiane 2005 was the last of the Reggiane aircraft line to be built during World War II. The project which started in 1941 was carried out by a team led by Roberto Longhi, and included designers Alessio, Maraschini, Toniolo and Pozzi. Preliminary work was completed before the end of the year despite being a new project, and not simply a revamping of an existing aircraft design such as the Reggiane Re.2002. The DB 605 engine was waiting to be delivered when the airframe was ready in February 1942.
The resulting machine was not only rated as one of the best Axis wartime aircraft, but also one of the best, if not the best-looking. Its semi-elliptical wings, long nose and large tail were all distinctive features of this small, nimble fighter.
The prototype MM.494 first flew 9 May 1942, but the day after, a heavy landing led to an undercarriage failure which caused serious damage, and consequently it was unable to fly again until June (MM.494 was damaged two other times in tests). This prototype had four Breda 12.7 mm machine guns and one Mauser cannon and was primarily used for testing, and then for the aerial defense of Naples.
After a fierce competition, in which the C.205N was quickly abandoned, and the G.55 was considered better from a production point of view (being only marginally worse as a fighter but much easier to mass produce) the Regia Aeronautica ordered the production of 750 Re.2005 aircraft. This was an optimistic figure in wartime Italy.
The Re.2005 was a low-wing, single-engine, single-seat fighter monoplane, made of light alloys. Propulsion was by a 1,475 hp (1,100 kW) Daimler Benz DB.605A-1 engine, either of original German production or built by Fiat as the RA.1050 RC.58 Tifone (Typhoon), driving a right-handed three-bladed Piaggio P.2001 constant speed, mechanically controlled variable-pitch metal propeller. The streamlined but tiny fuselage was almost totally dominated by the DB 605 engine and did not allow for fuel storage. As well, the fuselage-mounted MG 151/20 cannon had less ammunition than those mounted in the wings (150 rounds versus 170 rounds in the wing gun bays from the second prototype on). The comparable Fiat G.55 had 250 rounds for the fuselage gun, but also 600 for a 12.7 mm machine gun. The smaller Re.2005 also carried 100 less 20 mm but 100 more 12.7 mm rounds, with an overall lighter armament array.
The aft fuselage was unusually small, even by Italian standards. It contained the radio equipment and oxygen bottles, and supported the relatively large vertical tail surface. The cockpit was covered by a canopy which tilted to the right for access, and had an armoured 50 mm glass windscreen. Other protection included an armoured seat incorporating an 8 mm-thick steel shell weighing 40 kg. Overall its effectiveness wasn't anything special by 1942 standards, and provided little protection against 12.7 mm rounds which were capable of piercing even 25 mm at short distances (this is with normal steel, and "short distances" aren't all that common in aerial combat). The armour used was more resistant than homogeneous steel, since it was tempered, and 8mm is nothing unusual as far as internal armor goes; lightness is important, and many shots are not 90deg hits against the armor. It's meant to improve your odds, not make you invulnerable. Given the heavy weight of a thick steel plate, every attempt was made to make the steel alloy used stronger. A headrest was attached to bulkhead six.
The sophisticated wing design, often described as elliptical, was actually semi-elliptical, with wing thickness tapering from 15% at the root to 8% at the tip. The structure of the three spars incorporated a "T" section. The triangular-shaped wing and tail control surfaces were mostly fabric-covered, and included all-metal two-part split flaps, and statically balanced ailerons. Fuel was carried in four self-sealing wing tanks, two forward and two behind, providing a capacity of 525 litres. The undercarriage included "wide-stance" main gear retracting outwards into the wings, and a fully retractable tail wheel. The Re.2005 was the only Italian aircraft of the war to have hydraulically activated flaps.
It was one of the most advanced Italian fighters but it was also too advanced to be made by the Italian industry, and one of the most expensive, if not the most expensive to produce. Its complex design and small dimensions led to its contemporary, the Fiat G.55, being evaluated as a superior choice for mass production.