Falklands Sea Kings



Westland, Mitsubishi, and Agusta manufactured over 400 versions of the H-3 under license. Westland installed a pair of Rolls Royce Gnome H. 1400 turboshafts and a Louis Newmark Mk 31 automatic flight control system in the British Sea Kings. The RN initially ordered fifty-six HAS1 Sea Kings, with 700(S) Squadron receiving the first for test and evaluation in August 1969. Testing resulted in the more powerful HAS2, and the HAS5 with a longer cabin to accommodate the Sea Searcher radar. Westland provided the Egyptian Air Force with a twenty-one-seat Sea King utility transport, minus the external floats, called the “Commando.” The British Royal Marines also ordered this version as the HC4, which conducted extensive combat operations in the Falklands War.

Westland also produced a completely self-contained SAR helicopter that carried a crew of four, nine stretchers, a weather/search radar, smoke and flare dispensers, a flight director system with an auto hover mode, and folding blades for shipboard storage. The RAF made use of this version as the HAR Mk3 and the West German Navy as the Mk 41. Westland exported Sea King variants to India, Norway, Belgium, Pakistan, Australia, and Qatar.

On April 2, 1982, Argentinean forces invaded the Falkland Islands, touching off the Falklands War, or the Guerro Pour Los Malvinas, which lasted until June 20. Both countries possessed many of the same type of helicopters, but, despite the loss of most of their helicopters when an Exocet missile slammed into the container ship Atlantic Conveyor, the British helicopters and crews proved much more effective than the Argentineans. Operating in immoderate weather conditions, the UK machines accomplished extraordinary rescues and inflicted heavy losses on the enemy. When two Wessex HU5s crashed on Fortuna Glacier, another Wessex crew, contending with 90-mph winds and blinding snow, rescued both downed crews. During the short war, Wessex and Sea King helicopters plucked several downed aircrews from the icy waters off the Falklands, in both plane guard and SAR roles. In their baptism of fire, 20 naval Lynxes, armed with Mk 44, Mk 66, or Stingray torpedoes, or four BEA Sea Skua ASMs, scored 100 percent accuracy in the antisurface role. The Lynx HAS 2 was faster and more agile than previous British ASW helicopters and carried an updated Sea Spray search/targeting radar to locate enemy shipping and the 600-mph Sea Skua, designed to attack vessels moving at up to 50 knots. Army Lynxes, and the Chinook saved from the fire-ravaged Atlantic Conveyor, performed more than credible service in transporting troops and supplies throughout the campaign.
A number of Sea Kings were deployed during the Falklands War. They were transported to the combat zone and operated from the decks of various ships of the Royal Navy, such as the landing platform dock HMS Fearless. In the theatre, they performed a wide range of missions, from anti-submarine patrols and reconnaissance flights to replenishment operations and the insertion of special forces. Support provided by the Sea Kings in the form of transport for men and supplies has been viewed as vital to the success of the British operation. Sea Kings also protected the fleet by acting as decoys against incoming Exocet missiles, with some missions being flown by Prince Andrew, Duke of York.

Anti-Submarine Sea Kings of 820 Naval Air Squadron were embarked in HMS Invincible. With 11 HAS.5s, the squadron operated anti-submarine and search and rescue sorties with one helicopter always airborne on surface search duties. On 14 June, an 820 NAS Sea King HAS.5 was used to transport Major General Jeremy Moore to Port Stanley to accept the surrender of Argentine troops on the island. The squadron flew 1,650 sorties during the war. A Flight of 824 Naval Air Squadron embarked two Sea King HAS.2As aboard RFA Olmeda and were used to move supplies to other ships on the way south and later anti-submarine patrols. C Flight had three Sea King HAS.2As on board RFA Fort Grange which were used for replenishment duties, supplying over 2,000 tons of stores.
825 Naval Air Squadron was formed for the war with 10 Sea King HAS.2s modified as utility variants to support ground forces. The anti-submarine equipment was removed and the helicopters fitted with troop seats. Two aircraft embarked in Queen Elizabeth 2 and were later used for moving troops from QE2 to other ships, the remainder embarked in Atlantic Causeway and were used for troop movements around the islands. Embarked in HMS Hermes was 826 Naval Air Squadron with nine HAS.5s, which carried out continuous anti-submarine sorties. From the departure of Hermes from Ascension in April until the Argentine surrender, the squadron operated at least three helicopters airborne continuously for fleet protection.

On 23 April 1982, a Sea King HC4 was ditched while performing a risky transfer of supplies to a ship at night, operating from the flagship HMS Hermes. On 12 May, a Sea King operating from Hermes crashed into the sea due to an altimeter problem; all crew were rescued. On 19 May 1982 a Sea King, in the process of transporting SAS troops to HMS Intrepid from Hermes, crashed into the sea while attempting to land on Intrepid. Twenty-two men were killed and nine survived. Bird feathers were found in the debris, suggesting a bird strike, although the accident’s cause is inconclusive. The SAS lost 18 men in the crash, their highest number of casualties on one day since the Second World War. The Royal Signals lost one man and the RAF one man.

Both the British and Argentinean military lost helicopters during the war, in combat and operational accidents. Ground fire shot down British Sea Kings and Argentinean Pumas, and both sides lost helicopters when ships on which they were based sank as a result of naval combat. Argentine Pucara ground attack aircraft shot down a couple of Gazelles, killing the crews, and a friendly fire incident, when HMS Cardiff mistakenly shot down another Gazelle with a Sea Dart, cost the United Kingdom another aircraft and crew. British Sea Harriers shot down at least three Argentinean Pumas and destroyed two others plus an Agusta 109 on the ground. By the end of the conflict British forces had captured nine Bell UH-1H Hueys, two 212s, and several Pumas left on the islands.



The problem was that Curtis LeMay had become an altered man. The young colonel who had been so open-minded and keen to learn that he had risked personal humiliation by convening all-ranks, freewheeling criticism sessions in the mess hall after a raid on Nazi-occupied Europe had become the four-star general who was no longer willing to hear anything that did not fit his preconceptions. He was the classic example of a man made arrogant by power. Years of commanding with unchallenged authority had rendered him rigid. He had become a figure of obsessions and had lost his sense of proportion. His former restraint had also been replaced by a quick temper, a short fuse as it was called in the military, which further inhibited his ability to listen.

The change was conspicuously apparent in his correspondence with Nathan Twining in the mid-1950s. Formed as he was by the gruesome, no-quarter-given air battles with the Luftwaffe in 1943, he was fixated in the belief that the Soviets were also going to build an air force powerful enough to challenge his SAC in a similar death struggle for supremacy of the skies. He had such profound and unquestioning faith in the bomber that he could not imagine someone else might resort to an alternative weapon to rain nuclear fire on an opponent. The fixation resonated in a March 21, 1955, memorandum to Twining and in a covering letter of the same date. Both assessed with uninhibited criticism a plan by Twining’s headquarters that laid out a proposed structure for the Air Force through 1965. “Before 1965 Soviet Forces will probably attain a delivery capability and a [nuclear] stockpile of sufficient size and configuration to completely destroy any selected target system within the U.S.,” LeMay stated on the opening page of his memorandum. Some of this “delivery capability,” he conceded, may consist of future Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles, but he was convinced that the predominant element would be intercontinental bombers. (The prototype of the first strategic bomber of original Soviet design, not a copy of the B-29, had been detected in 1954. It was the Miasishchev Mia-4, dubbed the Bison by NATO intelligence, with swept-back wings and four jet engines.)

Therefore, he emphasized again and again in the memorandum and in the covering letter, the Air Force had to structure itself so that its “primary objective … should be to win the battle against Soviet Air Power.” This meant a bigger and better SAC because “the bomber airplane is the best delivery vehicle” to triumph in this “battle against Soviet Air Power,” a phrase he repeated constantly. He asserted that his bombers would catch the Russian planes on the ground and destroy them and their bases as well as the industries that produced them. He wanted 1,440 of the new B-52s by 1965. To keep this bomber fleet aloft with midair refueling, he asked for 1,140 of the forthcoming Boeing KC-135 four-engine jet tankers, which were to replace the propeller-driven KC-97s. (The KC-135, ample-bodied to carry as much aviation fuel as possible, initiated one of the most spectacularly successful commercial spinoffs from military hardware. The entrepreneurs in Seattle saw in its dimensions a passenger jet and with the installation of seats and other civilian accoutrements it became the famous Boeing 707 jetliner, over a thousand of which were sold to American and foreign airlines. The plane transformed international air travel.) With the cost of this stupendous bomber and tanker fleet in mind, he objected to the number of jet fighter-bombers and air superiority fighters the Air Force planned to buy to fulfill the Tactical Air Command’s mission of providing close air support over a battlefield for Army ground troops. Assisting the Army was not a mission that interested LeMay. He even argued that the bomber was the best weapon to neutralize any ICBMs the Soviets might field by 1965 because of its ability “to destroy their launching sites as a matter of high priority.” (Since it would take hours for SAC’s bombers to reach the launching sites and only half an hour for a Soviet ICBM to reach its target in the United States, the logic of bombing empty launching sites hardly seems to follow.)

LeMay’s attachment to the bomber and his fixation on winning the air battle he anticipated with a Soviet version of SAC led him to what was perhaps his most astonishing proposal to Twining. He wanted to abolish conventional armaments and go entirely nuclear. “Atomic and thermonuclear weapons have made conventional weapons obsolete, and the United States should cease stockpiling of conventional weapons,” he wrote. “The expense of developing and maintaining a limited conventional capability in the face of the critical need for skilled personnel and resources to man and equip strategic units can no longer be justified.” He proposed henceforth to use only nuclear weapons in wars both big and small. In other words, it was just as appropriate to let fly with nuclear weapons in a small-scale war like the recent conflict in Korea as it was in a full-scale one with the Soviets. “The distinction between localized and general war is political rather than military,” he said, and the United States should “always use the best weapons available in either general or limited war.”

There was a further advantage to moving straight to nuclear weapons in small wars, he maintained. They would bring quick victory and, apparently with the example of Korea in mind, avoid having the war drag out and public opinion turn against it. Therefore, “to insure the favorable outcome of a localized war in a short period of time, it was necessary that any political or psychological restraint in employing atomic weapons be erased.” Precisely what Twining thought of LeMay’s proposal is unknown and there is no record of a reply in the correspondence. Presumably he understood, as the changed LeMay did not, that for the U.S. Air Force to publicly advocate something like this would set off a political firestorm at home and abroad of nuclear dimensions.

His memory of those terrifying skies over Germany was also the root cause of LeMay’s most striking loss of a sense of proportion—his unquenchable desire for more and more megatons of nuclear explosive to drop on his Soviet opponents and more and more bombers with which to loose it. (A megaton is the equivalent of a million tons of TNT.) He feared that when war came, unnerved crews would not strike with the accuracy they attained in practice exercises in peacetime. Some planes would also not find their targets because of navigational errors, others would be shot down, still others would turn back because of mechanical failures. The answer was to make up for these errors and omissions with bigger and bigger bombs and enough planes to double and triple the number of strikes programmed for a single target.

He was extremely pleased in late 1954 to get the first practical hydrogen bomb, designated the Mark 17, a “weaponized” version of a dry thermonuclear device, fueled by lithium deuteride, which the Los Alamos laboratory had set off at Bikini Atoll earlier that year in a test called Romeo. This first “droppable” H-bomb weighed 42,000 pounds, which meant that only a B-36 in the current SAC fleet could carry it, but it exploded with a doomsday blast of eleven megatons, the equivalent of 524 Nagasaki, first-generation plutonium bombs, and 880 times the force of the smaller atomic bomb that had devastated Hiroshima. LeMay began pressing right away for lighter hydrogen bombs of equal or greater megatonnage. With them he wanted to turn his B-47s, which had a 25,000-pound payload, into thermonuclear bombers and fit more than one hydrogen bomb into the new B-52, with its 43,000-pound capacity (soon increased to 50,000), in order to obliterate multiple targets. When the Mark 21 hydrogen bomb, which weighed 15,000 pounds and yielded 4.5 megatons, appeared in 1955, he immediately mated it to the B-52 as the central component of SAC’s striking power for the next couple of years. The Mark 21’s “bang” did not satisfy LeMay, however, and so he pressed for an upgrade. This was to be the Mark 36, which would be produced the following year. It was somewhat heavier than the Mark 21 at 17,500 pounds, but yielded more than twice the force when it exploded.

In another memorandum to Twining that November of 1955, LeMay raised the ante on bombers. He now said he needed approximately 1,900 B-52s and some 1,300 KC-135 jet tankers to midair refuel these bombers by 1963. (Eisenhower was eventually to cap B-52 production at 744 aircraft by the fall of 1962, a decision the Kennedy administration was to uphold, with the comment: “I don’t know how many times you can kill a man, but about three should be enough.”) Nor did LeMay succeed in persuading the Eisenhower administration to build an H-bomb, except for the original Mark 17, beyond ten megatons, but not for lack of trying. In 1953, he asked the Nuclear Weapons Panel of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board to look into the feasibility of a hydrogen bomb of twenty megatons or greater, an idea Eisenhower is said to have vetoed as beyond common sense. The massive megatonnage and the doubling and tripling on targets was to lead to fantastic overkill. SAC was to end up programming for Moscow alone more than twenty-five megatons. Pressure from LeMay was to be the major impetus in driving the yield of the American stockpile of nuclear warheads up to the record 20,491 megatons peak it was to reach in 1960, enough to provide each of the approximately 180 million inhabitants of the United States at the time with bomb material equivalent in explosive force to 110 tons of TNT.

While LeMay wished to be absolutely certain that enough planes got through with enough big bombs to “kill” every target on his list, it is clear from his correspondence and statements over the years that he also simply wanted to blast the Soviet Union, and any targets he thought worthy of his attention in Eastern Europe and China, with as much explosive force as he could muster. He apparently did not understand how different in nature nuclear weapons were from the conventional explosives he had dropped on Nazi-occupied Europe. He seems to have thought of hydrogen bombs essentially as just vastly more powerful bombs. He had a pitiless, smug vision of what he was going to do to the peoples of the Soviet Union with them, a vision he described in a lecture to the National War College in April 1956:

Let us assume the order had been received this morning to unleash the full weight of our nuclear force. (I hope, of course, this will never happen.) Between sunset tonight and sunrise tomorrow morning the Soviet Union would likely cease to be a major military power or even a major nation.… Dawn might break over a nation infinitely poorer than China—less populated than the United States and condemned to an agrarian existence perhaps for generations to come.

What LeMay did not realize was that if he ever launched the war for which he had prepared, the result would be national suicide. It would hardly matter should the Soviet Union fail to strike the United States with a single nuclear bomb. If he dropped all of this megatonnage on the Soviets, the American people would perish too. And he would also be condemning to an agonizing perdition the peoples of Canada, Europe, and most of the rest of the Northern Hemisphere through the Middle East and Asia. The puny, by comparison, bombs that had shocked the world in demolishing Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been fused to burst in the air. (The Little Boy Uranium-235 bomb dropped on Hiroshima had been detonated at 1,900 feet above the courtyard of one of the city’s hospitals.) The air burst technique had been deliberate in order to focus the maximum pressure and heat of the bomb’s blast on the buildings and people below, obliterating both in an instant. While there was extensive radiation, it did not extend far beyond the area covered by the blast, because comparatively little dirt and debris was blown up into the atmosphere.

LeMay, however, as he wrote to Twining, was going to fuse a lot of his monster bombs for ground or near-ground bursts to be certain of crushing underground bunkers and so-called hardened targets, such as concrete revetments with thick overhead cover used to protect aircraft. These ground-level bursts would hurl massive amounts of irradiated soil and the pulverized remains of masonry and concrete structures high into the upper atmosphere. The clouds of poisoned soil and debris would spread as they were carried around the earth by the upper atmospheric winds. One result would be a nuclear winter, a catastrophic change in climate of unknown duration, with frigid temperatures at the height of summer, because the dirt in the upper atmosphere would block out the sun’s rays. Agriculture, on which human beings depend for sustenance, would become impossible. Most animal and bird life would be extinguished because the plants, shrubs, and trees on which so many of these creatures depend would also die from the cold and lack of sunlight, without which plants cannot perform the photosynthesis process that nourishes them. And as precipitation brought down the irradiated particles, humans and animals and birds would be stricken with fatal radiation sickness. The water resources would be contaminated too as this deadly residue from LeMay’s thermonuclear devices was gradually absorbed into them. Civilization as we know it in the Northern Hemisphere would cease to exist.

To give the man his due, he created a force that posed a formidable deterrent to Soviet military adventurism in Western Europe, had the Soviet dictator been so inclined. That Stalin had no intention of launching such adventures, as was revealed with the opening of the Soviet Union’s archives after its collapse in 1991, did not negate the fact that the threat was perceived as real by Americans in the early 1950s. And the promise of overwhelming retaliation from SAC undoubtedly kept Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev, from being more rash than he was. LeMay’s deterrence mission was thus a legitimate one, given the thinking of the period. Although he would later express regret that the United States missed an opportunity in the early 1950s to unleash SAC and destroy the Soviet Union at what he believed would have been little or no cost to itself, there is no evidence that LeMay actively sought to provoke what was referred to at the time as “preventive war.”


Savoia-Marchetti SM.79

Even if SM.79s were considered overall to be quite sturdy and well-developed aircraft, they had their share of misfortune.

In Spain, SM.79 MM.28-16 (with a total crew of 17) was destroyed in the air on 12 April 1938, when one of its bombs detonated in the bomb bay. MM.28-25 (again with a crew of 17) was lost when another SM.79 damaged by anti-aircraft guns collided with it on 23 March. A further SM.79, MM.28-16 was damaged by an anti-aircraft shell, and landed with dead and wounded on-board (4 January 1939). On 30 June 1939 two of the aircraft, 13-6 and 13-7, both carrying a full fuel load, collided and crashed, with the entire crew of nine killed on impact.

At the beginning of World war II, on 13 June 1940, six Sparvieros of 9th Wing bombed Ghisonaccia airfield, but one was shot down by anti-aircraft guns and became the first Sparviero downed in World War II.

The 9th Stormo continued to suffer heavy losses in Africa. Initially used to harass light forces operating in the desert, the Sparvieros were subsequently sent against the British advanced columns in Operation Compass. On 16 December 1940, six Sparvieros were sent over As Sallum to counter enemy armoured units, but before they could reach their target, three of the lead section were shot down with the loss of 16 men, including Commander Mario Aramu. The wing was put out of action and the personnel were sent back to Italy aboard the RM Città di Messina, but on 14 January 1941 the ship was sunk by submarine HMS Regent, with the loss of 432 men, including 53 members of the 9th. The wing was later re-formed with Z.1007s.

A major safety issue in the operation of the SM.79 was the difference between the calculated and effective range figures, which led to several mishaps. Two accidents highlight the deficiencies in range of the Sparvieros.

One such incident befell MM.23881 of the 278th, which took off at 1725 hours on 21 April 1941, captained by Oscar Cimolini, with the intention of searching for enemy shipping near Crete. The SM.79 carried out an attack at around 20:00 hours, and then began the trip back to its base near Benghazi. The crew became disoriented and unable to locate their exact position, missing their airfield in bad weather conditions. Their radio was broken and they were unable to communicate. They were also unaware that they had reached the African coast. The fuel supply was exhausted at around 23:00, and the aircraft made a forced landing some 500 km (310 mi) away from its base. Most of the crew of six had suffered some injuries, but one crew member, Romanini, was able to leave to search for help. He walked for over 90 km (60 mi) in the desert, and finally was overcome and died only a few kilometres from a road, where his remains were found in 1960. Subsequent searches led to the discovery of the SM.79 and the remains of the rest of the crew.

Another example was the ferry flight of 27th Gruppo. This unit was transferred from Alghero to North Africa. The 16 Sparvieros took off at 11:50 of 4 April 1941, but one of the eight aircraft of the 18th Squadriglia in the first wave had an accident and crashed on the airport strip. The other eight from 52nd Squadriglia could only take off 40 minutes later, while the first seven circled over the airfield. The 15 Sparvieros flew together until reaching Misurata, but the 18th squadriglia had flown for much longer and was short of fuel. Subsequently, its SM.79s crashed one after the other with only two landing safely. At least two were completely destroyed, and three damaged. On that day, on a simple ferry flight of 1,100 km, the 18th lost five Sparvieros and at least one crew, with many wounded. The flight of 52nd Sq lasted for 4 hours and 45 mins but 18th Sq flew for 5h and 15 mins, without any payload, at an average speed of only 210 km/h.

9–11 July 1940: Battle of Calabria, one SM.79 (38th Gruppo) was downed by a Blackburn Skua of HMS Ark Royal. On 11 July, another SM.79 (90th Gruppo) was downed by a Gloster Sea Gladiator of HMS Eagle.

1 August 1940: an SM.79 was shot down by a Skua from Ark Royal. This was General Cagna’s aircraft.

2 September, Operation Hats: the new Fairey Fulmar fighters based on HMS Illustrious downed a 41 Stormo SM.79.

4 September: another SM.79 (34th Gruppo) was downed by Fulmars.

12–14 October 1940, Operation MW 2: two SM.79 (36th Stormo) were downed by Fulmars from Illustrious.

10 January 1941, Battle of Taranto: a single Fulmar from Illustrious downed two SM.79s of 30th Stormo.

20–22 April 1941: one SM.79 (278th Squadriglia, torpedo unit) was shot down on the 21st, another, from 34 Gruppo was shot down the next day, by Fulmars from HMS Formidable

8 May 1941, Operation Tiger: two SM.79s (38thGruppo) were downed by the Ark Royal’s Fulmars

21–25 July 1941, Operation Substance: 23 July, one SM.79 (38th) and two (283rd) torpedo bombers and on the 25th, one SM.79 (89th Gruppo) were shot down, all by Fulmars from Ark Royal.

12–17 June 1942, Operation Harpoon: Fulmars and Sea Hurricanes downed four SM.79s of 36th Stormo (torpedo-bombers) on 14 June. On 15 June another SM.79 (52nd Gruppo) was shot down.

10–15 August 1942, Operation Pedestal: two SM.79s (109th and 132nd Gruppo) were downed on 12 August.

The total number of reconnaissance, bomber and torpedo bombers downed in these two years by naval fighters was, not counting aircraft heavily damaged and eventually lost, 24 aircraft, 2% of total production.




The RAF had established a Coastal Command to support the Royal Navy. Its primary mission was to provide the Navy reconnaissance on German capital ship movements in the North Sea and elsewhere. Although land-based aircraft had positively sunk only one U-boat in all of World War I, it was believed that Coastal Command could serve effectively in an ASW role. But Coastal Command pilots had not drilled in submarine spotting, and the hardware had also been neglected. In September 1939, Coastal Command had 300 aircraft in its inventory, most of them obsolete, and only about half the pilots were fully trained. Only three squadrons were equipped with modern aircraft: two with long-range four-engine flying boats (Sunderlands); one with medium-range twin-engine American-designed, British-built wheeled aircraft (Hudsons). The Hudsons (replacing obsolete Ansons) were not yet fully operational.

The brand-new U-55, a Type VIIB,  commanded by Werner Heidel, age thirty, who had done well in the duck U-7, also went directly into action. Rounding the British Isles, Heidel sank two small neutrals (a Dane and a Swede), then proceeded to the Western Approaches. On the tenth day of the patrol, January 29, 1940 Dönitz alerted Heidel to a convoy, which had been detected by B-dienst. Heidel responded by sinking the 5,000-ton British tanker Vaclite and a 5,000-ton Greek freighter.

One of the convoy escorts, the sloop Fowey, left the convoy and pursued U-55 in foggy seas. Fixing the boat on sonar, Fowey attacked with depth charges, driving Heidel to 328 feet. Fowey dropped five charges, three set for 500 feet by mistake, two for 350 feet. The two set at 350 feet exploded very close to U-55, causing severe flooding and panic. Heidel temporarily contained the damage and panic and slipped away, but Fowey continued to hunt aggressively through the fog and called for help. Two British destroyers, Whitshed and Ardent, and a French destroyer, Valmy, responded, as did a four-engine Sunderland flying boat of Coastal Command Squadron 228, piloted by Edward J. Brooks.

The four ships and the aircraft hunted the damaged U-55 relentlessly. Whitshed got sonar contact and attacked with depth charges. By that time the U-55 crew could no longer contain the flooding. Believing he might escape in the fog, Heidel gave orders to surface and man the deck gun. Fowey sighted U-55 making off in the fog and opened fire. Valmy and the Sunderland joined. The Sunderland dropped a bomb and, helpfully, a smoke float and then made a strafing run. Heidel returned the fire—until the breechblock of the gun jammed.

Gunless, unable to dive, Heidel was left no choice but to scuttle. The first watch officer and chief engineer volunteered to help Heidel open the vents. When the boat started under for the last time, there was no sign of Heidel. The survivors believed he chose to go down with the boat. The other forty-one men of the crew launched a rubber life raft, jumped into the icy water, and were picked up by Fowey and Whitshed.

The loss of U-55 was known immediately to Dönitz. Eager to give a lift to the Coastal Command aviators who had patrolled the seas endlessly for months with no confirmed success, the RAF publicly claimed credit for the kill on January 31. The surface forces grudgingly conceded that the Sunderland may have helped—but not all that much. However, a British assessment committee gave Coastal Command partial credit for the kill along with Fowey and Whitshed. Doubtless some fault for the loss lay in Dönitz’s decision to send U-55 against an escorted convoy before she was adequately trained.

Early Attacks

The U-26, commanded by Heinz Scheringer, reached the Western Approaches in late June with serious engine problems. Despite the deficiencies, Scheringer patrolled aggressively, sinking three freighters and damaging another, the British Zarian, in convoy. One of the convoy escorts, the new Flower-class corvette Gladiolus, pounced on U-26 in favorable sonar conditions, dropping thirty-six of her forty-one depth charges set at 350 to 500 feet.

The charges badly pounded U-26, causing leaks but not fatal damage. In the early hours of July 1, Scheringer surfaced to charge his depleted batteries and to escape in the fog. By that time, the British sloop Rochester and a Sunderland of Coastal Command’s Australian Squadron 10, piloted by W. M. (“Hoot”) Gibson, had come on the scene in response to Gladiolus’s alert. Seeing U-26 surface, Rochester commenced a high-speed run to ram. Had the U-26’s diesels and motors been working properly and had Scheringer been able to charge batteries, the boat might have escaped. But with Rochester (believed to be a “destroyer”) bearing down firing her forward gun and the Sunderland overhead, he was forced under again.

The Sunderland saw the “swirl,” or disturbed water, where U-26 had submerged and ran in for an attack. Hoot Gibson dropped four 250-pound antisubmarine bombs, which exploded very close and rocked the boat. The bombs did no real damage, but Scheringer had no battery charge left and the boat was still leaking in the stern as a result of the depth-charge attack from Gladiolus. Fearing U-26 would be fatally damaged by the apporaching “destroyer,” Scheringer surfaced, intending to scuttle. When the boat appeared, the Sunderland dropped four more bombs, but by then U-26’s chief engineer had set in motion scuttling procedures and the crew was leaping into the water.

The U-26 went down quickly with all hatches open. Rochester came up with guns trained. After allowing the survivors to swim a while in order to scare them into talking more freely, Rochester fished all forty-eight men from the water. There were no casualties, but the scare tactic did not work. The U-26 crew was one of the most reticent to be captured, British intelligence reported.


Three of the five boats engaged in the attack on Halifax 79 returned to Lorient: U-38 (Liebe), U-47 (Prien), merely eight days out, and U-100 (Schepke), merely eleven days out. The other two, U-46 (Endrass) and U-48 (Bleichrodt), proceeded to Germany for scheduled yard overhauls and modifications. While passing near the coast of Norway on October 25, 1940, Endrass in U-46 was caught on the surface by three Hudson aircraft of Coastal Command Squadron 233. One aircraft, piloted by Arthur T. Maudsley and a Canadian, Everett Baudoux, was riddled by U-46 gunners but dropped ten 100-pound bombs; another, flown by Pilot Officer Winnicott, dropped two 250-pound bombs; the bombs of the third plane, commanded by Pilot Officer Walsh, failed to release. The bombs fell close, inflicting severe damage on U-46 and fatally injuring one crewman. Unable to dive, Endrass limped into Kristiansand, Norway, escorted by the German minesweeper M-18. From there he went on to Germany with an air and surface escort. The high-scoring U-46 and U-48 were to remain in German shipyards for the next three months.

New Equipment

Coastal Command, led by Frederick Bowhill, had matured considerably since the beginning of the war, but it was still a poor stepchild of the RAF. Its daylight aircraft patrols with Sunderlands and Hudsons had been useful in forcing down U-boats, but no aircraft of Coastal Command had yet sunk a German U-boat unassisted by a surface craft. From July 1940, when the U-boats shifted to night surface attacks, these Coastal Command air patrols had been virtually useless inasmuch as it was almost impossible to spot a U-boat at night by eye.

What was needed was ASW radar. At the beginning of 1940, the Air Ministry had provided a few 1.5-meter-wavelength ASV (airborne radar sets) for a handful of Coastal Command and Navy aircraft types (Hudson, Swordfish, Walrus) to be used to track big enemy surface ships. However, since these sets were not capable of detecting U-boats, Coastal Command and the Royal Navy had requested the “crash” production of 4,000 improved 1.5-meter-wavelength sets (ASV-II). “Unfortunately,” Admiralty historian J. David Brown wrote recently, “the Air Ministry bureaucracy failed to recognize the importance of the program” and pigeonholed the request, giving priority to Fighter Command for Air Interception (A-I) radar to help find enemy bombers. The upshot was that by the end of 1940, only forty-nine Coastal Command aircraft and a few experimental Navy Swordfish biplanes had the improved ASV-II radar sets, an appalling lapse second only to the British failure to prevent the building of U-boat pens in French Atlantic ports.

Even when properly calibrated and working at peak efficiency, the improved 1.5-meter-wavelength Mark II ASV radar in these Coastal Command aircraft was almost useless for killing a U-boat at night. For complicated electronic reasons apart from ground or sea “clutter,” the radar went “blind” when the aircraft got within a mile of the U-boat. An alert U-boat watch thus had time to maneuver left or right off the flight path of the “blind” aircraft, avoiding its bombs or depth charges.

What the aircrews needed was some means of “seeing” during that last mile to the U-boat. In late October 1940, an officer in Coastal Command headquarters, Humphrey de Verde Leigh, proposed one possible solution: a very powerful, steerable searchlight, mounted on a retractable bed in the underside of the fuselage. Bowhill enthusiastically endorsed the proposal and detached Leigh to work on it full time. But owing to technical problems, bureaucratic inertia, and indifference, it was to take Leigh a full eighteen months to work out the bugs, to gain full approval from the Air Ministry, and to get the searchlight into combat, yet another serious British lapse.




Saukel’s project. An aerial photograph of the REIMAHG bombproof factory near Kahla, 26 December 1944. The photograph was included in the target sheet file of this factory. Allied interpreters marked the workshops and tunnel entrance area. Visible at the top is the landing strip constructed on top of the complex (courtesy U. S. National Archives and Records Administration).

The last of the six bombproof factories was the REIMAHG factory in Kahla. On 8 March 1944, Fritz Sauckel, the Reich Plenipotentiary for Labor Mobilization and Gauleiter of Thuringia, suggested to Göring the construction of a massive complex of bombproof factories in the Kahla-Pössneck area, south of Jena. Armaments giant Wilhelm Gustloff Werke teamed with OT and contracted various mining firms in order to construct these factories. Gustloff purchased aircraft producer AGO, whose Oschersleben factory was largely destroyed by American bombing. Then it established a subsidiary firm named REIMAHG (after Reichsmarshall Hermann Göring) to take over production of FW 190 and Ta 152 fighters formerly produced in Oschersleben. Construction began in a former china clay mine dug in a hillside on 11 April 1944. The mine needed relatively little adaptation, including strengthening of weak points, flooring with cement, spraying with concrete against dust, and finally whitewashing. The Jägerstab planned to commence production in August 1944, but in October 1944 the facility was still not ready. The delay has been attributed to the failure to construct a branch railway to the site at an early stage and to Sauckel’s dilettante interventions in the planning and construction process. These allegedly included the removal of the ducted air conditioning system installed by the contractors. By that time Allied intelligence had already identified the factory and determined that it was supposed to produce jets.

Hitler was briefed about the progress of the construction on 21-23 September, and he suggested that a BMW engine production line also be moved to the tunnels Göring and Saur visited the site on 10 October 1944 and two days later Hitler ordered production switched to Me 262. Messerschmitt hurriedly moved production facilities to the factory and began producing there some subcomponents. Since the tunnels were still unfinished this initial production was done in makeshift bunkers constructed on the southern side of the complex. Final assembly began only after some of the tunnels were finished in January 1945. The factory comprised 75 tunnels totaling 32 km in length, offering approximately 30,000 square meters of floor space, and four bombproof buildings with 2-meter-thick walls. Final assembly was supposed to be carried out in one of the bunkers. A special elevator was supposed to deliver completed aircraft to a 1,250-m-long runway on top of the complex, used for test flying and for delivery flights. During early 1945 around 15,000 workers- two-thirds of them slave and foreign workers-worked in the Kahla REIMAHG complex. The slave workers were provided and guarded by an SS watch. At least 3 labor camps were constructed for them around the site. 399 Production, however, never really picked up the pace at REIMAHG and it is estimated that REIMAHG completed only between 15 and 26 aircraft by the time the U. S. Army captured the place on 12 April 1945.

Thus, despite all the monetary investment (estimated at around 30,000,000 RM) and resources invested in this ambitious project, practically nothing came of it. In addition, its unique construction made it very conspicuous to aerial reconnaissance and Allied intelligence easily found it. As the first USSBS team to visit the place summed up, this factory “must have been one of Germany’s less efficient industrial enterprises.” However, REIMAHG definitely represented prevailing late-war thinking regarding armaments production in Nazi Germany. It was also another example of multiple partners’ cooperation in the field of aircraft production. Fritz Sauckel played here a central role in his double function as a local Gauleiter and as the Reich Plenipotentiary for Labor Mobilization, therefore controlling both the territory on which the complex was constructed and the workforce required for its construction.


Yakovlev Yak 15

Russia’s first Jet fighter
The closing stages of the Second I World War saw as radical a change in fighter development as that brought about a decade earlier by the appearance of the first fighter monoplanes with retractable undercarriages; the turbojet began to supplant the piston engine for fighter propulsion. Both the Luftwaffe and the RAF had introduced the jet fighter operationally, and the USAAF was preparing to do so, but the Soviet Union had failed to evolve an acceptable turbojet and, with the Third Reich rapidly crumbling in front of the victorious Russian forces, it had become a matter of the utmost importance that the Soviet Union compete, at least ostensibly, in all fields of technical development. The Soviet air forces had to have a jet fighter for prestige purposes!

Copied from Germans
Fortunately for the Russians, their forces had acquired a number of German BMW 003A and Junkers Jumo 004A turbojets by the beginning of 1945, and these were hurriedly shipped back to Russian experimental establishments for examination. A crash programme was immediately initiated to expedite the development of jet fighters, and prepara- tions were made to mass produce copies of the German engines, a task in which the Russians were much assisted by Czech technicians who succeeded in passing valuable data on production techniques to Russian agents. Work on adapting the turbojets to Soviet manufacturing standards had reached an advanced stage some time before Germany’s final collapse, and the subsequent capture of factories building the BMW and Jumo engines expedited the Russian programme. Captured German technicians were hastily transported to the Russian plants where production of the turbojets had started, the BMW 003 under the designation RD-20 and the Jumo 004 under the designation RD-I0 ” (the prefix “RD ” signifying Reaktivnyi Dvigatel or Reaction Motor), and Russian designers were already at work evolving suitable airframes.

One of the design teams allocated one or two of the precious captured Jumo 004 turbojets was that of Alexander S. Yakovlev, whose piston-engined fighters had been responsible, perhaps more than those of any other individual designer, for turning the tide of the air war over the Soviet Union. No fewer than 30,000 of Yakovlev’s piston-engined fighters had been manufactured by the Russian aircraft industry during the war years, and in order to expedite the development of an interim jet fighter, he decided to use major components from his last wartime fighter design to see widespread service, the Yak-3. Although designed in parallel with the better-known Yak-9, the Yak-3 had not been introduced until 1944. Intended specifically for low-altitude combat and army co-operation, it had a smaller wing span than that of the Yak-9, and pilots who flew both the earlier versions of the Spitfire and the Yak-3 claimed the Russian fighter to be lighter on the ailerons, smoother to fly, and superior in speed and initial climb rate.

The new jet fighter, which received the designation Yak-15, employed the wings, undercarriage and tail assembly of the Yak-3, these components being married to anew, all-metal fuselage. The Jumo 0048 turbojet, rated at 1,980 lb.s.t., was mounted below the wing main spar, being fed via a small, circular intake in the nose and exhausting beneath the rear fuselage, which was protected from the jet stream ‘by a convex steel ” bath.” Although rather crude and displaying ample evidence of its hasty design, the Yak-15’s small size and light construction compensated to some extent for the low output of the turbojet, resulting in a performance that compared reasonably well with those of contemporary West- ern jet fighters. The first prototype Yak-15 was flown for the first time on April 24, 1946, and was presumably powered by one of the captured German engines, but production machines which were being delivered to units of the IA-PVO early in 1947, employed the Russian adaptation of the Jumo engine, the RD-10, and on August 3, 1947, during the annual air display at Tushino, the fighter was revealed to the public for the first time, a trio of Yak-15s giving an aerobatic display.

The Yak-15 was evidently considered as little more than an interim type by the Russians, suited only to providing the Air Forces with some jet experience and useful in building up a nucleus of trained jet pilots while more advanced designs were being investigated. The Yak-15 was reputedly extremely manoeuvrable, but the tail wheel resulted in a rather lengthy take-off run and the pilot’s view from the aft-positioned cockpit was extremely limited, particularly during take-off and landing. Armament comprised two 23-mm. Nudelman-Suranov NS-23 cannon installed in the upper decking of the forward fuselage, and performance included an approximate maximum speed of 495 m.p.h. at 9,840 ft., a cruising speed of 404 m.p.h., and a range of the order of 460 miles. Overall dimensions included a span and length of 31 ft. 6 in. and 28 ft. respectively.

The impracticability of the tailwheel undercarriage resulted in the design of a nosewheel undercarriage for the fighter at an early stage in its development, the variant embodying this modification receiving the designation Yak-17. A comparatively small number of Yak-15 fighters had been delivered to the Soviet Air Forces when, early in 1948, it was supplanted on the production line by the Yak-17. The main undercarriage member attachment points were moved from the front to the rear spar, which was suitably reinforced, and a semi-retractable nosewheel was introduced. When retracted, this nosewheel was only partly enclosed, the air intake duct leaving insufficient space for a housing large enough to accommodate the whole wheel, but it served as a convenient bumper in the event of a” wheels-up ” landing, and drag was reduced by a small fairing attached to the nosewheel leg. Simultaneously with the introduction of the nosewheel undercarriage, Alexander Yakovlev took the opportunity to install the improved RD-10A turbojet, rated at 2,200 Ib.s.t., and to redesign and enlarge the vertical tail surfaces, the curved fin-and-rudder assembly which, until that time, had characterised all Yakovlev fighters.

The performance of the Yak-17 was slightly higher than that of its predecessor, maximum speed being 510 m.p.h. at 9,840 ft., and a tandem two-seat version, the Yak-17UTI, was evolved as Russia’s first two-seat jet conversion trainer. A second cockpit for the pupil was mounted ahead of the standard cockpit in place of the forward fuel tank, and the Yak-17UTI remained a standard conversion trainer with the Soviet Air Forces until the appearance of the two-seat MiG-15UTI. One Yak-17UTI was supplied to the Polish Aero Club and, bearing the civil registration SP-GLM, was used for several years to provide Polish reserve pilots with jet experience.


Aeronautica Macchi C.200 Saetta Series in Combat

Macchi MC 200 Saetta

While the Fw 190A served as a worthy complement to the Me 109F in the Luftwaffe’s fighter arsenal, Italy’s Regia Aeronautica was in desperate need of a new fighter just to restore parity with such British counterparts as the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire. The most numerous Italian fighter in 1939 had been the Fiat CR.42 biplane, essentially a refined World War I fighter. The Fiat G.50, Italy’s first monoplane fighter, could barely outperform the CR.42, let alone its contemporary opposition.

Aeronautica Macchi’s designer, Mario Castoldi, had already tried to redress those consequences of shortsightedness on the part of the Regia Aeronautica. His C.200 Saetta (Thunderbolt), which first flew on December 24, 1937, was a monoplane with retractable landing gear that strove to incorporate the aerodynamic refinements of Castoldi’s Schneider Trophy racers, much as Reginald Mitchell did with his Spitfire. Unlike the Spitfire, however, the C.200 suffered from compromises. It had a humped upper fuselage to provide the pilot with a good field of vision, which was enhanced by the later omission of its enclosed canopy at the behest of conservative seat-of-the-pants pilots. Most telling, both from the standpoint of performance and aesthetics, was the installation of an 870-horsepower Fiat A74 RC.38 fourteen-cylinder double-row radial engine on the airframe. Looking as if it had been stuck on as an afterthought—which, for all intents and purposes, it was—the radial obscured the C.200’s Schneider Trophy pedigree and added an inordinate amount of drag.

CR.42s were the only fighters committed to Italy’s invasion of France on June 10, 1940, but on the following day, the C.200 joined battle over another target entirely: the British-held isle of Malta. As successive flights of Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 trimotor bombers of the 34o, 11o, and 41o Stormi B. T. left their Sicilian air bases for Malta, eighteen Saettas, drawn in equal part from the 79a and 88a Squadriglie of Tenente Colonello (Lieutenant Colonel) Armando Francois’s 6o Gruppo Caccia Terrestre Autonomo, took off from Comiso, Sicily, to provide escort. As the eighth raid of the day neared Malta, the island’s lone radar picked up the attacking formations, and the island’s entire fighter force—three Gloster Sea Gladiator biplanes led by Flt. Lt. George Burges—rose to intercept them. The Italians were already bombing Valletta harbor and Hal Far airfield when the Gladiators split up to attack as many of the enemy as they could—with little damage inflicted by either side. It was the third Gladiator, N5520 flown by Flying Officer William J. Woods, that caught the attention of one of the escorting C.200s, flown by Tenente Giuseppe Pesola of the 79a Squadriglia. “Timber” Woods had just completed his second attack on a five-plane bomber formation when he heard machine gun fire behind him, immediately went into a steep left-hand turn and then saw the enemy fighter diving at him.

“For quite three minutes I circled as tightly as possible and got the enemy in my sight,” Woods reported afterward. “I got in a good burst, full deflection shot, and he went down in a steep dive with black smoke pouring from his tail. I could not follow him down, but he appeared to go into the sea.” Pesola, who had fired 125 rounds at the Gladiator before having the tables turned on him, was credited to Woods as the first aerial victory to be scored in the long aerial siege of Malta—but in fact he brought his Macchi back to Comiso with little damage. For neither the first nor the last time in the war, Woods and other witnesses had mistaken the black exhaust smoke from a fighter diving away with its throttle suddenly opened for a burning adversary.

The next encounter would be more conclusive. On June 23, three SM.79s made for Malta, escorted by five C.200s of the 88a Squadriglia. Burges, in Gladiator N5519, and Woods, in N5531, rose to intercept when Burges found one of the fighters diving on him. He evaded the Saetta’s fire and then engaged it in what he described as a tight dogfight out of World War I. At one point the Macchi overshot, allowing Burges, in his own words, to “belt him up the backside as he went past.” After four or five such rounds, Burges got in a burst that set the C.200 on fire, and its pilot, Sergente Maggiore Lamberto Molinelli, bailed out over Sliema, where he was taken prisoner. Burges later paid him a visit in Intarfa Hospital, but found him less than friendly.

Molinelli had reason for a sour mood because the C.200’s first combats showed it to be almost as nimble as a biplane—but not quite nimble enough to make old school dogfighting a good idea. They had not highlighted any other merits in the plane.

The first confirmed victory for C.200s did not come until November 1, when Malta-based Short Sunderland N9020 of No. 228 Squadron, conducting a morning reconnaissance near Augusta, Sicily, was caught and shot down by Tenente Luigi Armanino and Sergente Maggiore Natalino Stabile of the 88a Squadriglia, with all nine crewmen perishing aboard. A second 228 Squadron Sunderland, L5806, was patrolling thirty-two miles from Malta at 1530 that afternoon when it came under attack by two more Saettas of the 88a, flown by Tenenti Pesola and Pio Tomaselli, along with Fiat CR.42s of the 75a Squadriglia, 23o Gruppo, 3o Stormo, flown by Tenente Ezio Monti and Sgt. Francesco Cuscuna. Although riddled by its attackers, the tough Sunderland managed to return to Kalafrana, where it was promptly taken upslip before it sank. The Italians reported their victim as only being “damaged,” and rightly so, for it was repaired and flying again on November 22.

Over the next three years, Saettas would soldier on over Malta, North Africa, and the Soviet Union with sometimes creditable, but never spectacular, results. Although a sufficient improvement over the Fiat CR.42 and G.50 to have warranted production as a stopgap fighter, the Saetta was barely a match for the Hurricane and no match for the Spitfire. A closer examination of the C.200’s airframe, however, revealed an essentially clean design with an excellent combination of stability and maneuverability. All it needed was a better engine.

With that in mind, Castoldi privately approached the Daimler-Benz A. G. and purchased a twelve-cylinder air-cooled DB 601Aa engine. He then commenced work on an aerodynamically refined adaptation of the C.200 airframe to accept the German engine, at the same time abandoning the C.201, another project to reengine the Saetta. The result of his efforts, which took to the air at Varese on August 10, 1940, restored the racy appearance of the Castoldi floatplanes to the basic C.200 design, as well as to its performance potential. So successful were its tests that the Ministerio dell’Aeronautica immediately ordered the new fighter into series production—not only at Macchi’s Varese factory but also at Breda’s plant at Sesto San Giovanni, near Milan. While more DB 601 Aas were ordered to power the first production batch, Alfa Romeo acquired a license to manufacture the engine as the R. A. 1000 R. C. 41-I Monsone (Monsoon), which was rated at 1,040 horsepower at 2,400 revolutions per minute. The Macchi C.202 Folgore (Lightning), as the new fighter was designated, had a maximum speed of 372 miles per hour at 18,370 feet, featured self-sealing fuel tanks, a molded armor-plate pilot’s seat, and an enclosed cockpit, although it lacked an armor-glass windscreen. Armament was initially the same as the C.200—two synchronized 12.7mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns—but ammunition capacity was increased from 370 to 400 rounds per gun. Later-production series Folgores added two 7.7mm Breda-SAFAT guns in the wings.

The first C.202s were delivered to the 4o Stormo C. T. at Gorizia in July 1941. After accustoming themselves with the new fighter’s characteristics, pilots of the wing’s 9o Gruppo, comprised of the 73a Squadriglia (Fotoricognitori) and 96a and 97a Squadriglie C. T., commenced operations against Malta from their base at Comiso on September 29, 1941. On the following afternoon, Italy’s new lightning bolt struck for the first time when five Hurricane fighter-bombers of No. 185 Squadron, escorted by six other Hurricanes, attacked Comiso. Three C.202s of the 97a Squadriglia scrambled up to intercept them, and in the running fight that followed, Tenente Iacopo Frigerio shot down Pilot Officer Donald W. Lintern, who was last seen bailing out near Gozo Island.

After returning to their base to refuel, five of the Hurricanes accompanied a Fairey Fulmar of the Kalafrana Rescue Flight in a search for Lintern. They never found him, but they did come under attack by the C.202s. Tenente Luigi Tessari and Sgt. Raffaello Novelli were jointly credited with downing an enemy fighter, which they reported to have fallen into the sea and blown up ten kilometers south of Cap Scaramia. Their victim was the Fulmar, but it ditched relatively intact, and its crew, Lt. D. E. C. Eyres and Sub-Lt. Bernard Furlong, were subsequently rescued by a Fairey Swordfish floatplane of their flight. One of the Hurricane pilots, Flt. Lt. Charles G. St. David Jeffries, claimed to have probably downed one of the unidentified enemy fighters, while Pilot Officer Peter J. B. Veitch and Flt. Sgt. A. W. Jolly each claimed to have damaged one; Tessari returned with numerous holes in his fuselage.

The 9o Gruppo carried the fight back to Malta on the morning of October 1, as Capt. Mario Pluda led seven C.202s to escort two C.200s on a reconnaissance mission. At 1150 hours, eight Hurricane Mark IIAs of No. 185 Squadron took off to intercept, but as they reached an altitude of 24,000 feet, thirty miles northeast of the embattled island, they were jumped by the Folgori. Capitano Carlo Ivaldi, Tenente Pietro Bonfatti, and Sergente Maggiore Enrico Dallari claimed two Hurricanes shot down and two probables in their first pass; but only one Hurricane was lost along with its pilot, Squadron Leader P. W. B. Mould—the same “Boy” Mould who, as a member of No. 1 Squadron, had scored the first confirmed Hurricane victory in France on October 30, 1939. Mould’s total account stood at eight, plus one shared, when he became one of the C.202’s earliest victims. The Italians did not get off scot-free, however. Sergeant Ernest G. Knight scored hits on Ivaldi’s main fuel tank, and he only just made it to Sicily before the last of his fuel drained away, force landing on the beach near Pozzallo.

The Folgore quickly demonstrated its inherent mastery over the Hurricane, and by the end of 1941, at least one of the 9o Gruppo’s pilots, Teresio Martinoli, had been credited with five out of an eventual personal total of twenty-two victories (one of them German while flying for the Allies in Italy’s Co-Belligerent Air Force), including Peter Veitch, whom he shot down and killed off Malta on October 4. The C.202’s numbers were too small to have a decisive impact over Malta in the late months of 1941, however. By the time it was available in significant quantities in 1942, Spitfire Mark Vs had arrived to engage the Italian fighters on roughly equal terms. Nevertheless, the C.202 gave a much-needed boost to the confidence of Italian fighter pilots and became the Regia Aeronautica’s fighter mainstay until Italy capitulated on September 8, 1943. A more potent variant with a license-produced version of the DB 605 engine and heavier armament, the C.205 Veltro (Greyhound), would continue to be a formidable fighter thereafter, in the hands of both Allied Co-Belligerent pilots and the diehard Fascisti of the Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana.