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Fiat G.55 Centauro

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Despite their pre-war success with powerful in line engines installed in Schneider Trophy racing seaplanes, Italian fighter manufacturers concentrated on radial engines for their fighters of the 1930s. Consequently, when war began in 1939 the Regia Aeronautica's fighter units were ill equipped. Aircraft like the Fiat G.50 were underpowered and sufferred at the hands of more modern Allied types.

In addressing this problem, manufacturers developed new variants of these machines, fitted with more powerful German engines. The Daimler Benz DB.605, which powered the Luftwaffe's Messerschmitt Bf 109G and late model Bf 110s, was put into production by Fiat as the RA.1050 Tifone (Typhoon). This engine was installed in both the Macchi MC.205 and a reworked Fiat G.50, the G.55.

The resulting aircraft vie for the title of the best Italian fighter of the period. First flown in April 1942, the G.55 was an all metal aircraft armed with three 20 mm (0.79 in) cannon and two machine guns and carried a modest bombload. Very few were delivered before the Italian surrender in 1943, but continued production allowed a small number to see service with the fascist Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana, fighting alongside the Luftwaffe.

Just as a powerful in line engine transformed the Macchi MC.202 into the MC.205, the same powerplant resulted in Fiat G.55 - a speedy derivative of the sluggish G.50 Freccia. The G.55 Centauro (Centaur) was produced in limited numbers before the armistice in September 1943, but production continued in German held parts of Italy. Most Centauros served with the Italian forces that fought alongside the Luftwaffe until 1945.


Fiat G.55 Centauro

Fiat G.55 Centauro the single seat fighter and torpedo bomber Two seat Fiat G.55 Centauro Fiat G.55 Centauro with maximum velocity
An elegant design, the G.55 was also sturdy and its airframe could withstand very high manoeuvres during dogfights. A two seat derivative, known as the G.55B, was also built but did not fly until 1946. Ten were supplied to the AMI, and a further 15 were purchased by Argentina. Two G.56s, with DB.603 engines, were built. This would have been the fastest Italian fighter of the war, but production was cancelled.

Fiat G.55 Centauro (Technical Specification)
Role Single seat fighter and torpedo bomber
Manufacturer Fiat
Maximum Speed 630 kmh (391 mph)
Maximum Range 1,200 km (744 miles)
Loaded weight

2,630 kg (5,786 lbs)
3,520 kg (8,180 lbs)
Wing Area

11.85 meters (38 ft 10 in)
9.37 meters (30 ft 9 in)
3.13 meters (10 ft 3 in)
21.11 square meters (227 sq ft)
Engines One Fiat RA 1,050 Tifone (Daimler Benz DB 605A) inverted V12 liquid cooled piston engines which provides 1,100-kW (1,475 hp)
Armament Two fixed forward-firing Breda-SAFAT 12.7 mm (0.50 cal) machine guns plus up to 198 kg (437 lbs) of bombs

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