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Caproni CA.311

Caproni CA.311

In 1938 Caprioni flew the Ca.310bis prototype powered by P.VII RC.35 engines with a completely redesigned nose that was completely glazed and heavily framed, eliminating the previous stepped windscreen, and that was reminiscent of the Bristol Blenheim Mk I and Breguet Bre.482. The revised forward fuselage provided excellent fields of vision and, as it met the Italian Air Force’s requirement for a light reconnaissance bomber with observation capability, the type was ordered into production as the Ca.311.

It first flew in prototype form during 4/39 with the dorsal turret moved forward to a position immediately behind the cockpit as well as additional glazing on the upper sides of the central fuselage over the wings, on the sides of the fuselage above the wing trailing edges, and under the fuselage immediately behind the wing trailing edges.

The Ca.311 began to replace the Meridionali Ro.37 biplane in service with the Italian Air Force air observation wings from 1940, although full re-equipment did not occur until 1941. The details of the Ca.311 included a fixed armament of 3 7.7mm machine guns, and a bomb load of 882 pounds.

The sole subvariant was the Ca.311M Libeccio (modified) that reverted to a more conventional forward fuselage with a stepped windscreen. The subvariant still had extensive glazing on the nose, but the revision altered the overall length by 1 foot, 2.25 inches. Total production of the Ca.311 and Ca.311M series for the Italian air force exceeded 320 aircraft , and these aircraft served with all but two of the Italian Air Force observation air wings in theaters as diverse as North Africa and Russia.

In the contract finalized during 1/40 for the delivery of some 400 Ca.310 series aircraft to Britain, the Air Ministry included 100 Ca.311 in place of the 200 Ca.210. These aircraft were to be delivered in disassembled form to an airfield near Marseilles, assembled and then flown to Britain. The Germans knew of the order and in 3/40 signaled their approval for the contract to go ahead despite the fact that Germany and Britain were at war. Six weeks later however, the Germans changed their minds and requested the Italian authorities to halt implementation of the order.

Faced with this German embargo, Count Caproni (who was anti-German) arranged for the aircraft to be delivered to Britain via a front organization in Portugal, but less than four weeks later Italy entered the war on the German side and all further work ceased on the British order.

Specifications
Users Italy, Croatia
Horsepower 2) 470 hp
Range 1,181 miles
Engine (2) 470 hp Piaggio P.VII C 35 radials
Max Speed 217 mph at 13,125 ft.
Max Ceiling 22,965 ft
Bomb Load 882 lbs
Armament Two 7.7mm machine guns in the wings, one flexible 7.7mm machine gun in dorsal turret guns

Article by JDG

Sources:
Wings: Midway to Hiroshima – CD-ROM (Discovery Channel Multimedia: Wings)
Elke Weale, Combat Aircraft of World War Two, Bracken Books, 1985.
The Encyclopedia of Weapons: From World War II to the Present Day
In the Skies of Europe: Air Forces Allied to the Luftwaffe 1939-1945