The Reggiane Re.2000 Falco (Falcon) was inspired by the US Republic P-35, designed by Alexander Severski as the designer, Ind. Longhi, worked for the aeronautical division of Cadillac’s Italian operation. The design meant a complete re-tooling for the Regianne factory.
The first prototype flew on 5/24/39 and had excellent handling and flight characteristics. The plane was a low wing monoplane with retractable landing gear. The only weakness was the engine, a Piaggio IX radial, which was unreliable. However, in tests against the Fiat Cr.42 and the Bf 109E, the Re.2000 was clearly more maneuverable.
However the Regia Aeronautica rejected this fighter claiming the lack of self-sealing wing tanks made the plane too vulnerable and awarded the major contract to the Macchi Mc.200. Of all of the “0” series, the MC.200, Fiat G.50 and the Re.2000, only the Re. 2000 did not suffer from the stall phenomena that the other two aircraft encountered.
The first unit to test to Re.2000 was the 74th Squadriglia based in Sicily who received 9 with a more powerful Piaggio XI radial of 870 hp. Most of the duties were convoy escort due to the great range of the aircraft – 590 miles. The Re. 2000 had a maximum speed of 325 mph and a service ceiling of 34,450 ft. The units Re.2000 were withdrawn in September 1942.
However, the Italian Navy had a version built (the Serie II) with 12 aircraft for catapult launching as use for as a reconnaissance and observation plane, with the first prototype flying on 5/21/41. 2 were embarked on the battleship Roma, 2 on the Vittorio Veneto and 1 on the Littorio (later Italia). The 2 on the Roma were lost with the battleship to the German attack and the one on the Italia was damaged during the attack and was thereafter dropped overboard. One of the Vittorio Veneto aircraft were launched to look for survivors of the Roma and then crashed when it tried to land at Ajacco airfield.
The Re.2000 however served with Sweden who bought 60 and called them the J-20. The J-20 was used until 1945. The Swedish pilots only complaint was about the engine.
Hungary also used the Re.2000, called the Heja (Hawk) operationally with good results. 70 were built in Italy and then license produced in Hungary, with 200 examples powered by the MW 14B radial, the Hungary license built Gnome Rhone K14 radial.
Article by JDG
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