The Fiat G.55 Centauro
(centaur) was and all metal low wing monoplane single seat fighter
designed by Giuseppe Gabrielli, and represented a great improvement by
comparison with the previous Fiat monoplane fighter to go into
production, The G.50 Freccia. Great care was taken to blend an
aerodynamically advanced airframe with a structure which was robust and
would lend itself to mass production. Its configuration included a
fully retractable landing gear and a raised cockpit providing an
excellent view. Fast and manoeuvrable, the type proved popular with its
The first of three
prototypes was flown on 30 April 1942. The third (MM 493) was the only
to carry armament, comprising one engine mounted cannon and four
fuselage mounted machine guns. It was evaluated under operational
conditions from March 1943, but by then the Italian air ministry had
already decided on mass production of the G.55. However, only 16 G.55/0
pre-production and 15 G.55/I initial production aircraft had been
delivered to the Regia Aeronautica by September 1943, production
thereafter being for the Fascist air arm flying alongside the
Luftwaffe. Before wartime production ended 274 more were completed and
a further 37 were abandoned at an advanced construction stage.
Before the armistice of
September 1943, G.55s had participated in the defence of Rome with the
353 Squadriglia of the Regia Aeronautica. The post armistice operations
were mainly with the Fascist air arm's Squadriglia 'Montefusco' based
at Veneria Reale, then with the three Squadriglie which formed the 2nd
Gruppo Caccia Terrestre, but losses were heavy, as a result mainly of
Allied attacks on the airfields. While the war was still in progress,
Fiat flew two prototypes of the G.56, which developed from the G.55 to
accept the more powerful Daimler Benz DB 603A engine. Built during the
spring of 1944 they incorporated minor structural changes and had the
fuselage mounted machine guns deleted. The first prototype survived the
war and was used subsequently by Fiat as a testbed.
Fiat reinstalled the
G.55 assembly line after the war, using wartime manufactured assemblies
and components to produce the G.55A single seat fighter/advanced
trainer of which the prototype was first flown on 5 September 1946. If
differed from the G.55 only in instrumentation and armament. The
armament comprised of either two wing mounted plus two fuselage mounted
12.7 mm (0.50 in) machine guns, or two 20 mm Hispano-Suiza cannon plus
two fuselage mounted 12.7 mm (0.50 in) machine guns. The Italian
Aeronautica Militaire procured 19 G.55As and 30 were supplied to
Argentina, which returned 17 in 1948 for resale to Egypt, these being
armed with four 12.7 mm (0.50 in) Breda-SAFAT machine guns. A two seat
advanced trainer variant of the G.55 had been flown in prototype form
on 12 February 1946 under the designation G.55B. The Italian
Aeronautica Militaire aquired 10 of these, and 15 were sold to
Argentina in 1948.
G.55/I Centauro "Centaur")
Type: Single Seat
Giuseppe Gabrielli of Aeronautica D'Italia S.A. (Fiat)
Aeronautica D'Italia S.A. (Fiat) in Turin
Powerplant: One 1,475
hp (1100 kw) Fiat RA.1050 RC.58 Tifone 12-cylinder inverted Vee engine
(license built version of the Daimler Benz DB 605A-1).
speed 391 mph (630 km/h); climb to 19,685 ft (6000 m) in 7 minutes 12
seconds; service ceiling 41,665 ft (12700m).
Range: 746 miles (1200
km) with internal fuel.
Weight: Empty equipped
5,798 lbs (2630 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 8,197 lbs (3718
Dimensions: Span 38 ft
10 1/2 in (11.850 m); length 30 ft 9 in (9.37 m); height 10 ft 3 1/4 in
(3.13 m); wing area 227.23 sq ft (21.11 sqm)
Armament: One engine
mounted 20 mm Mauser MG 151/20 cannon and two similar wing mounted
cannon, and two fuselage mounted 12.7 mm (0.50 in) Breda-SAFAT machine
guns plus provision for two 353 lbs (160 kg) bombs on underwing racks.
(prototype), G.55/0 (pre-production), G.55/I (initial production),
G.55A (single seat advanced trainer), G.55B (two seat advanced
trainer), G.56 (two prototypes with the DB 603A engine).
Operators: Italy (Regia
Aeronautica, Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana), Argentina, Egypt.