A biplane with wings of unequal span resulting from development of the CR-30, using the same fabric covered tubular metal structure – aluminum for the wings, steel and aluminum for the fuselage. W-type Warren bracing was used between the wings. The CR-32 was of smaller dimensions and had improved maneuverability and performance. The spatted, wide track, fixed undercarriage had hydraulic shock absorbers and pneumatic brakes. Like its predecessor, it was designed by Celestino Rosatelli, and the prototype, (M.M. 201), first flew on 4/28/33. Series production began a year later. It was an immediate success, and a large export order book followed.
The engine was an in-line V-12 Fiat A 30 R. A. bis developing 600 H.P. at take off. Armament was initially two Breda-Safat 7.7 mm. machine guns. It was produced in four very similar versions: the CR-32 and CR-32 quater with two machine guns, and the CR-32 bis, with four. The CR-32 formed the backbone of the Aviazione Legionaria and around 400 were operating in the skies over Spain from 8/36, equipping Nationalist fighter units as well as five Italian groups.
The CR-32 was faster in level flight and in a dive than the Chato (I-15), and compared with the Mosca (I-16) it was more maneuverable and more heavily armed. By employing superior tactics with this aircraft the nationalist pilots out flew the fighters on the Republican side. Italian pilots scored 300 victories, themselves losing 132 aircraft – of which 73 in combat. They were decorated with the collective Military Medal. After the war Hispano Aviación built 100 CR-32s under the designation HA-132 L. Thirty one of these were converted into two-seaters. The final examples remained in service until 1957.
It performed very well in Spain, but this had the drawback that Italy neglected the development of modern fighters. It first flew in 1933, with some 1,309 built, including licensed production in Spain. In 1940, some 294 were still in front line service primarily in North Africa, however, the British in their Gloster Gladiators easily defeated large numbers of the Fiat C.R. 32. It had been quickly eclipsed.
A number of foreign air forces in Europe and South America bought the CR.32 and prior to World War II, the airplane took part in the defense of Shanghai during the second Sino-Japanese war (Chinese AF), the Grand Chaco war (Paraguyan AF), Carpathian dispute (Hungarian AF) and the Spanish Civil War (Nationalist). Numerically the CR.32 was the most important fighter in the Italian Air Force in the late 1930s. At the time of Italy’s entrance into the war in 6/40, the CR.32 was being replaced as a first-line fighter, but was still used in early campaigns, especially in Albania, Greece and North Africa in the night fighter and close support roles. The CR.32 was gradually relegated to training and ancillary duties.
Specifications for CR.32ter
|Bomb Load||220 lbs|
|Engine||Fiat A30 RA-bis V-12|
|Max Speed||220 mph at 9,845 ft|
|Max Ceiling||28,870 ft|
|Users||Italy (1,142), Austria (45), China (24), Hungary (90), Spain (380 + 100 license-built), Paraguay (5), South Africa (1 captured) and Venezuela (9)|
|Weapons||2 x Breda-Safat 7.7 mm machine guns in upper part of forward fuselage, 2 7.7mm machine in leading edges of lower wings. Could carry up to 220 lbs of bombs|
CR.32: Prototype and initial production model. Armed with 2 12.7mm machine guns. Pilots loved its combination of structural strength and great agility. Delivered to Italian air force between 3/34 and 2/36.
CR.32bis:: Close-support fighter version. Increased armament to 2 7.7mm and 2 12.7mm machine guns and provision for 220 lbs of bombs. Used in Spanish Civil War and then turned over to Spain.
CR.32ter:: Revised CR.32bis with an improved engine, gun sight and upgraded instrumentation and strengthened and revised undercarriage. Delivered between 7/37 and 12/37. All used in Spain.
CR.32quater:: Revised CR.32ter with reduced weight and radio added. Definitive model with 337 produced for the Italian air force. Maximum speed of 221 mph at 9,845 ft.
HA-132L:: Spanish version, including 40 converted to trainer. Served until 1953.
Article by JDG
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