The G.50 Freccia was built by Giuseppe Gabrielli and the first prototype (MM 334) was flown on February 26, 1937. It was the first single seat monoplane fighter designed and flown in Italy. The G.50 was a low wing monoplane, which had a all metal fuselage with a three-piece wing. The movable control surfaces were fabric covered, balanced and split flaps were fitted.
Initial production consisted of 40 G.50’s of which 12 were sent to Spain in 1938 for testing under operating conditions with the Gruppo Caccia Sperimentale (Experimental Fighter Group). The results were extremely successful and a further 200 were ordered. Various changes in design occurred, such as the sliding cockpit canopy, which was deleted since it was disliked by the pilots.
Other semi-enclosed cockpits were created until a a folding flaps on each side of the cockpit was adapted. In 1939, 35 G.50’s were ordered by the Finnish government, but were detained en route by Germany until 1940 after cessation of hostilities between Finland and the USSR. The G.50’s served with the Finnish Air Force No.26 Squadron and continued front line service until May of 1944. In addition, 2 pre-production models were given to Spain and 10 G.50s were supplied to the Croat government
When Italy entered the war on June 10, 1940, 48 G.50’s of the 20th Gruppo Caccia Terrestre accompanied the Corpo Aero Italiano to Ursel, Belgium in October of 1940 for use in the Battle of Britain. There is, however, no record of any encountered actions over the British Isles.
A two seater training G.50 was built and renamed the G.50B. This version was flown on April 30, 1940. One hundred of these variants were built. On September 9, the G.50bis was flown which was a new fighter version of the G.50. Some of the differences included removal of the 2.2lb anti-personal or incendiary bomb and replacing it with a 25 lmp. gallon fuel tank. the tail wing fairing was eliminated and the vertical tail surfaces were redesigned. Another change was an increase in length from 26′ 4″ to 27′ 2 1/3″ and a reduction in height from 10′ 9″ to 9′ 2 1/4″. The G.50bis proved to be a good variant and 450 of these aircraft were built, 10 of which were supplied to the Croatian Air Force.
The G.50 Freccia was used with the 2nd Gruppo Caccia Terrestre over Greece in October of 1940 and the G.50bis was used extensively by the Regia Aeronautica over north Africa. The fighter still possessed inadequate speed and firepower, forcing most pilots to prefer the Macchi C.200. Several attempts were made to modernize the G.50 such as the the G.50ter in July 17, 1940 ,which had a 1,000 hp Fiat A.76 engine and attained a maximum speed of 329 mph. On August 25, 1941 a new G.50V , converted to hold a German Diamler-Benz DB 601A 1,050 hp engine, attained a speed of 360 mph. Fiat was in the process of making a newer aircraft named the G.52, but that was later dropped for the G.55 Centauro.
On October 3, 1942, the last variant of the G.50, a two seater G.50bis/A fighter bomber was developed. Additions included a 12.7mm Breda-SAFAT machine gun in each wing and shackles for a pair of 353 lb bombs. Arrester hooks were also added for use with the aircraft carriers Aquila and Sparviero, which were being converted from merchant ships
|Model||Fiat G50bis single seat fighter|
|Max Speed||293 mph|
|Length||27′ 2 1/3″|
|Height||9′ 2 1/4″|
|Weight||5,560 lbs (Loaded)|
|Engine||Fiat A74 R.C.38(DB605 A-1)|
|Armament||12.7mm Breda-SAFAT machine gun (300 r.p.g)|
Article by Adam Savery, JDG
War Planes of the Second World War.
Fighters; Volume Two: Author William Green. Hanover House: Garden City, New York. 1961