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FIAT G.55 Centauro

FIAT G.55 Centauro

Some aviation experts consider the FIAT G55 Centauro the best single seat fighter produced for the Italian air force in World War Two. The Fiat G55 Centauro was a redesigned version of the G50 Freccia. Differences included a DB 605 A-1 engine, an improved fineness ratio of the fuselage and a redesigned wing, built in 2 sections ,bolted together at the centerline for greater efficiency. Metal stressed skin was used and the metal framed airlerone was fabric covered.

The first prototype was flown on April 30, 1942 and production started in the beginning of 1943. The initial model was the G55/0 which held a 20mm MG 151 cannon and (4) 12.7mm Breda SAFAT machine guns.

The “O” model was succeeded by the “I” model which held three 20mm MG151′s and two Breda SAFAT machine guns. Deliveries of the G55 to the 53rd Stormo and the 353rd Squadriglia of the 20th Gruppo just started when Italy surrendered to the Allies on September 8, 1943. Because of Italy’s surrender, the G55 did not see combat with the Regia Aeronautica. However, factories which were building the G55′s were still under the control of the Republica Sociale Italiana (Salo Republic) in northern Italy, and several thousand were ordered. The G55 became the RSI’s standard aircraft for their air force. Shortages began to develop as the DB 605 A-1 engines became scarce and only 105 FIAT G55′s were produced by the time the Allies overran all of Italy.

Other models developed based on the G55 which were the G55/II with 5 20mm cannons and the G55/S Torpedo Fighter, which carried one 2,176 lb Whitehead fiume torpedo beneath the fuselage. Both of these variations of the G55 flew in 1944.

After the war, production of the G55 resumed for foreign export and the newer G55/A’s and G55/B’s were built. Fiat reinstalled the production lines to produce the G.55A armed with either 2 wing-mounted 12.7mm machine guns or 2 20mm canon plus the 2 12.7mm machine guns in the cowling. 19 went to the Italian air force and 30 were supplied to Argentina. Argentina returned 17 that were then sold to Egypt in 1948, being armed with 4 12.7mm machine guns. A 2-seat trainer version, the G.55B was built in 1946 with 10 going to the Italian air force and 15 to Argentina in 1948.

Specifications
Model Fiat G55 single seat interceptor
Max Speed 385 mph
Ceiling 42,650 Ft
Range 746 miles
Horsepower 1,475 hp Fiat R.A 1050 (DB605 A-1)
Length 30′ 10 1/2″
Height 10′ 3 1/4″
Weight 8,179 lbs (Loaded)
Engine Fiat RA.1050 RC 58 Tifone (license-built Daimler-Benz DB 605A-1) V-12 inline liquid-cooled piston
Armament 20mm MG151 (250 rounds), 12.7mm Breda-SAFAT machine gun

Article by Adam Savery

Sources:
War Planes of the Second World War.
Fighters; Volume Two: Author William Green. Hanover House: Garden City, New York. 1961.

I created Comando Supremo: Italy at War in 2000 because of the the limited amount of information on Italian forces in WWII that was available online. Thanks to people like you, this site has grown to what it is today. Thank you for visiting and please bookmark the site!
jim h
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Comments

  1. 1
    RB says:

    Few know that this fighter could do 417 mph in level flight with boost!
    Not bad in 1943.
    The G55 and it’s stable mates, the Macchi 205 and Re 2005, were tested against the Bf 109G-4 and Fw 190A-5. It was best of the 3 Italian designs overall and right behind the Fw 190.
    It had excellent handling at all altitudes. None of the other 4 could say that.
    Although the Re 2005 was the better dogfighter up high, it couldn’t be mass produced as efficiently.
    The MC 205 was a handful if pressed hard in a stall turn and lose control, so it wasn’t a real contender.
    The Fiat took 3x the man hours to build than the German Bf 109, but steps were taken to bring that under 2x. Thus it was pick for the practical choice as the standard Italian fighter of northern Italy by the Luftwaffe.
    Notice how similar the plane looks to the US P-51 from the top, front and back due to the wing shape and the ventral scoop. Many were shot down by Luftwaffe pilots ‘by mistake’.
    Many were also scuttled by their pilots in protest to their German masters.