Regia Aeronautica Bombers during CRUSADER


This post continues the prior post on Regia Aeronautica fighters used during CRUSADER, at this link.

Fiat Br. 20 Cicogna (Stork)

The Br.20 was one of these planes which the Regia Aeronautica had developed just a bit too early (or alternatively, WW2 started just a bit too late) for it to shine. The Br.20 came out of the same call for proposals as the Sm.79 below.  It was a modern-looking, sleek design, and reasonably fast, overall comparable to the Vickers Wellington Mk.I, of which it is a contemporary, and superior to contemporary (1936) versions of the He 111.  By 1941 however, it suffered from a relatively short range, of just 3,000 km, and a low bombload of max. 1,600kg, as well as weak defensive armament of just 3 MGs (one heavy).

The ceiling of 9,000m was quite good, given the performance of other types, both in the Italian and foreign arsenals. Given the overall payload limitation I also have doubts that you could have had max. payload and max. range. I would be interested in seeing a payload/range chart for this type. About 600 were produced, serving in all theatres with the possible exception of East Africa. There are no survivors.


Fiat Br.20 Aircraft No. 3 of 242 Squadriglia, 1940 (Archivio di Stato via Wikimedia Commons)


Plane Recognition Entry for the Br.20 (US Government File, via Wikimedia Commons)

Savoia Marchetti Sm. 79 Sparviero (Sparrow)

This is probably the best recognised combat plane of the Regia Aeronautica, because of its almost unique (for a bomber) three-engine design.  This type doubled as transport and torpedo plane as well.  Despite having three engines it was actually less powerful than the Br.20, but could carry slightly more payload, at slightly lower speed of 430km.  Defensive armament was slightly better 4-5 MGs, 3 of which heavy), but max. bombload considerably less, at only 1,200kg.  Range was also considerably less, at only around 2,000 km, and the ceiling was considerably compromised compared to the Br. 20, at just 7,000m.

The Italian Air Force Museum and the Savoia Marchetti Museum hold survivors.

From teh Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons

From the Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons

Junkers Ju.87 Picchiatello (no idea)

Not much needs to be said about the Ju 87. The Regia Aeronautica flew the R variant in North Africa, with quite a lot of success.

An article about the Picchiatelli over Malta can be found at this link. There are two German Stukas surviving.

Italian Ju87, probably R version, from Wikimedia Commons

Italian crew in front of a Picchiatello, unkown date. Private picture. (Fotografia di mio padre, fotografo nella Regia Aeronautica nel periodo 1940/1942.)  (User Ellwood, via Wikimedia Commons)

  Cant Z. 1007bis Alcione (Kingfisher)


This was another three-engine design, and again one suffering from short range. Ceiling at 7,500m was reasonable, and bombload (external and internal) of 2,200kg considerable, and four MGs for self-defense.  The top speed was also good for the time, at 458km/h, showing the heritage of speed-racing seaplanes which spawned this plane. It was built on a wooden structure, with a very unusual tandem arrangement for the pilots, and apparently had very bad flying characteristics. Nevertheless, some examples of this type served in a specialised strategic reconnaissance role in CRUSADER. There are no survivors.


A CANT Z.1007 in flight, aircraft No. 8 of 210 Squadriglia. (Filename::15_003033.TIF – Image from the Charles Daniel’s Collection Italian Aircraft Album. Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive) Via Wikimedia.

Torpedo bombers

Savoia Marchetti Sm. 79

See above.

Ground attack

Fiat Cr.42

See previous article at this link.

The final article will be on reconnaissance and liaison planes.

The Amphibious Landing Scare of 1941

There has been a suggestion that the attack on Tobruk planned for 21 November 41, but cancelled because of CRUSADER, contained an amphibious landing element (see e.g. this thread at the Comando Supremo forum), similar to Operation Venezia, the attack on the Gazala position in May 42 (see here for Kampfgruppe Hecker). The evidence on which this is based is a sentence in Hinsley’s British Intelligence in World War II, Vol.II, the official history.

Having looked at the relevant evidence on the Axis side, I must say I can not find anything showing such a plan.  I did however find that elements of the Tobruk garrison were alerted to the possibility of such a landing on 16 November (e.g. D Squadron 7 RTR).  So this leaves us with evidence from the British side that such an attack was planned, but no evidence from the Axis side to that effect.

My conclusion is therefore that this was a real British scare, but not a real Axis plan. If that conclusion is correct, I find it baffling that the British official history would repeat such a claim, given that access to German plans could have been had quite easily for the writers. But I would be interested if anyone has any evidence that this was a real plan.