Italian air force frontline strength throughout Crusader

The following information is similar to that provided for the German side in this post and is based on Santoro’s not particularly satisfying L’Aeronautica Italiana Nella II Guerra Mondiale published in the 1950s. Unfortunately the Aeronautica Militare Italiana’s historical office is busy churning out pretty coloured books with aircraft drawings instead of getting on with a proper operational study of the Regia Aeronautica in World War II. But hey, a man’s gotta work with what he has got, so here it goes.

At the end of the 1941 section of this book, Santoro has inserted some data which is very interesting.  Unfortunately he does not provide loss data for the period by month, but only in total between 7 February and 31 December, so I won’t bother with that here.  For the table below, which shows average effective (serviceable) frontline strength, I have included September as starting date since it was fully outside the Crusader air offensive.

The list is quite interesting, in that it gives a nice overview of the high variety of types present with the Regia Aeronautica, and the relative weight.  It is also interesting to note that average frontline strength did not drop very much in November compared to October, but crashed in December. This was probably related to the loss of landing grounds east of El Agheila.

Of particular interest is the reduction of 50% of the availability of G.50 fighter planes, indicating either a withdrawal (which I think unlikely), or the complete inferiority of the type (which I think is more likely) and high losses in escort and ground attack operations.  On the other hand, the introduction of the very fine M.C.202 in November must have come as a shock to the Commonwealth fighter pilots.

The biplane Cr.42 is quite an interesting one – apparently it was used as escort (which appears madness to me) for Ju 87 dive-bombers (saner explanation – they were coming along as ground attack planes to give the attack more weight), and (far more sensible) for convoys for which it was quite well suited, because of its ability to keep a low speed and the good visibility provided by the open cockpit (thanks to Jonas for those points).

Average Monthly Frontline Strength Sept - Dec 41

Average Monthly Frontline Strength Sept - Dec 41

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