Special Hobby 1/48 Fiat G.55 Sottoserie 0
Centauro (Centaur)
by Jean Barby


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There were about 30 of these aeroplanes in service in the Italian Air Force at the time of the 1943 armistice. There were 150 in the fighter units of the ANR after that date, and they remained in service until the end of hostilities in 1945. This was the operational career of the Fiat G.55, one of the finest Italian combat aeroplanes of the war. The aeroplane was the result of the last desperate production effort of the Italian aviation industry during the war. It was powerful, fast, and sturdy, an unbeatable interceptor at high altitude. In dog fights carried out in the north during the last year of the war, the G.55 was pitted against the best British and American aeroplanes of the time, such as Spitfires, Mustangs, Thunderbolts, and Lightnings, and proved to be no easy adversary.

The Fiat G.55 appeared at the same time as the other two 'Series 5' fighters, the Macchi MC.205 and the Reggiane Re 2005. Comparative tests were made, but it was hard to choose between such well-matched aircraft however the G.55 was judged to be the best over-all, but the ministerial decision was not impartial. Instead of concentrating production on one of these aeroplanes, it was decided to build all three. Thus 250 Macchi MC.205s were ordered, along with 600 Fiat G.55s and 750 Caproni-Reggiane Re 2005s. It should be pointed out that although the British had one competitive aircraft of this type in early 1943, namely the Spitfire, the Italians had produced three outstanding designs, equal and arguably superior to the Spitfire in most aspects. And it should also be pointed out that the Supermarine designs (Spitfire) were inspired by the Macchi Schneider Trophy Racer M.39, indeed the lines are undeniable.

The Fiat was a good deal faster than the Macchi MC.205 above 23,000 ft (7,010 m). It was more modern, and more powerfully armed, but it was slower and less manoeuvrable than the Re 2005, although it was much sturdier. The Fiat G.55 was an all metal single-seat low-wing monoplane, and the under-carriage was fully retractable. Power was provided by a 1,475 hp Daimler Benz DB.605 engine driving a three-blade metal propeller with variable pitch. Armament consisted of two 12.7 mm machine guns in the engine housing, synchronized to fire through the propeller disc; two 20 mm Mauser cannons in the wings; and a third cannon firing through the propeller hub.

The aeroplane became operational in June 1943 with the 353a Sq. This unit did not take part in any major battle. The situation was different in the north after the 1943 armistice. About 20 aeroplanes were taken over by the ANR, and the rest of the aeroplanes that were produced went into fighter squadrons where they saw service until the end of the war.

In early 1943 a German test team was sent to Guidonia to evaluate the new generation of Italian aircraft. Among the fighters tested by the Luftwafee pilots, led by Oberst Petersen of the Rechlin Erprobungsstelle, the G.55 was judged to be "Excellent". After listening to recommendations from Milch, Galland and Petersen the Future Aviation Programs meeting held by Goering on 22 Feburary 1943 voted to build the Fiat G.55 in Germany.

"Tests began 20 February 1943 with the German commission impressed by Italian aircraft, the G.55 in particular . . . the G.55 was competitive with its German counterparts in terms of speed and climb rate at high altitudes, while still maintaining superior handling characteristics. The definitive evaluation by the German commission was "Excellent" for the G.55 with Oberst Petersen declaring the G.55 'the best operational fighter in the Axis' inventory' "

Milch a strong proponent of the plan to build the G.55 in Germany hoped to have the G.55 available for the Luftwaffe within a year, and aimed at building a more powerful variant (G.56) powered by the new 1,750hp DB.603 (which could not be installed in the Bf.109). The plan was eventually cancelled after the Italian Armistice but again resumed with the construction of two prototype G.56s (MM.536 and MM.537), MM.536 making its maiden flight on 28 March 1944. Performance was quite good and the fighter reached 680 km/h (423 mph) with no trace of flutter, even while manoeuvering under high speeds, a common problem with most piston-engined fighters of the period.

Production of the G.55 was resumed after the war as the Fiat G.55A and about 100 were sold to Argentina, Egypt and Syria. Sixteen aircraft were delivered to the Italian Air Force early in 1948. Variant models included the dual seater G.55B trainer and the G.55S torpedo carrier. The G.55S was developed in 1944, but the project was abandoned after a few test flights.









Construction

This is the Special Hobby 1/48 Fiat G.55 Sottoserie 0 (Serie I). The SH kit is a nice scale reproduction of this famous fighter, probably the best the Italian industry had produced during WWII. There are a couple of annoying things thought: some parts are really molded on the heavy side and must be scratched, the U/C legs for instance, and the worst, the moving part of the canopy with a poor rendition of its structure. As I intended to do it closed, I protected the front windshield and sand the details of the rear part. Transparency was obtain trough micro mesh, compound and mirror. Then using the Silhouette tool I did draw a new armature, which in turn gives me the correct masks et voilà! On the Sotto serie 0, in front of the radiator there is a plate which receive the empty gun carriage deflectors, this plate was also done with the Silhouette. The exhausts are from Ultracast Me 109 G/K as they are the only one to be of the proper length, those of Quickboost are too small. This plane was taken by the German at the Armistice, received German markings, then they were versed to the Montefusco Squadriglia, and the were incorporated in the 2°Squadriglia 2° Gruppo of the ANR. Through the VOS some of the old German can be seen, and the Italian flag with the 6 yellow fringes typical of the Montefusco/Bonnet planes of origin. I have used Italian Kit prop and spinner and MC 200 wheels as they have the correct dimension.

Technical Specifications

Aircraft: Fiat G.55 Sottoserie 0 (Serie I)
Manufacturer: Fiat S.A.
Type: Fighter
Year: 1943
Engine: FIAT Tifone RA 1050, 12-cylinder V, liquid-cooled 1,475hp
Wingspan: 38 ft 10 1/2 in (11.85 m)
Length: 30 ft 9 in (9.37 m)
Height: 12 ft 4 in (3.77 m)
Weight: 8,200 lb (3,720 kg) (Loaded)
Maximum Speed: 385 mph (620 km/h) at 24,300 ft (7,400 m)
Ceiling: 41,700 ft (12,700 m)
Range: 1,025 miles (1,650 km)
Armament: 4 x 12.7mm (0.5 in) SAFAT machine guns, 1 x 20mm canon
Crew: 1

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February, 2018
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