The Fiat BR.20 was modern and technically advanced when it appeared. It remained in production for almost seven years, and it was the standard Italian bomber of the Second World War.  More than 500 aircraft were built, higher than the average for multi-engine Italian aeroplanes at the time. This aircraft served on almost all fronts, including Africa, Russia, the Mediterranean, the Balkans, and Northern Europe.  BR.20s were also used extensively in the Spanish Civil War where the plane's good operational range and speed rendered the plane virtually untouchable. In WWII BR.20s took part in the bombing raids on southern England in late 1940, as part of the Italian air corps stationed in Belgium. The planes flew 137 missions and dropped 120,000 lbs (60 tons) of bombs and suffered relatively few losses (5 BR.20s lost).  In North Africa and Russia the plane put in a good showing, and most losses were suffered through normal wear and tear.

The aeroplane was designed in 1936 by Celestino Rosatelli, the designer of several other excellent Fiat aeroplanes. The BR.20 was a low-wing twin-engine monoplane. The structure was metal, and the covering was in duralumin and fabric. The aeroplane was powered by a pair of 1,000 hp Fiat A.80 RC 41 radial engines, driving three-blade metal propellers. The under-carriage was partially retracted into the engine nacelle. The aircraft provided more than was required by the government specifications for a twin-engine medium bomber and went into large-scale production. The government specification required a maximum speed of 240 mph (386 km/h), a bomb load of 2,640 pounds (1,200 kg), and a range of 600 miles (965 km). When the first production models were coming off the assembly line, two BR.20s were modified to take part in long-distance races. The two special BR.20As took part in the Istres-Damascus-Paris race in 1937, and although the planes did not win, they proved to be fast and capable of long-range flight. In 1939 another special BR.20 was prepared for an endurance flight, almost 3,000 miles (4,828 km) from Rome to Addis Ababa. With Maner Lualdi at the controls, the aeroplane set a world record for its category with an average speed of more than 250 mph (402 km/h).

This was the aircraft's last civil flight. In 1937 some BR.20s had been sent to Spain, where they remained in service for about a year and a half, until the end of the Civil War.  When Italy entered the Second World War the Fiat bombers were sent to France and then to the English Channel.

The final model was the BR.20bis which appeared in 1942.  A total of 15 were built in the first months of 1943.  The forward part of the fuselage was completely redesigned and new enigines were installed, two 1,250 hp Fiat A.82 RC 32s.  The aeroplanes performance improved significantly with this increase in power and the armament was also increased as a result.  The BR.20bis did not however see operational duty.
Technical Data:
Fiat BR .20
Fiat S.A.
Year: 1937
Engine: Two Fiat A.80 R6 41, 18-cylinder radial, air-cooled, 1,000 hp each
70 ft 8 in (21.53 m)
52 ft 10 in (16.10 m)
14 ft 1 in (4.30 m)
21,850 Ib (9,900 kg) (Loaded)
Maximum speed:
286 mph (460 km/h) at 16.400 ft (5.000 m)
29.500 ft (9,000 m)
1,860 miles (3,000 km)
3 machine guns; 3,527 Ib (1.600 kg) of bombs

Additional Images
Special Hobby 1/48 FIAT BR.20
Cicogna (Stork)
by Jean Barby
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July, 2010
STORMO! 2010