Fiat Cr32

The following specification of one of the most widely used fighter types of the Spanish Civil War gives a representative example of the performance of combat aircraft of international standing just two years before the outbreak of the Second World War:

Powerplant One Fiat A30RAbis in-line liquid-cooled engine rated at 600hp at 2,750rpm with adjustable pitch airscrew diameter 9.24ft Wing span (upper) 31.168ft (lower) 20.16ft Length 24.29ft Height 8.63ft Wing area 237.88sq ft

Weight (empty) 3,2051bs Weight (loaded) 4,2201bs Useful load 1,115lbs, of which pilot = notional 176lbs. fuel = 5721bs, ammunition (350rpg) =» 1291bs Performance at 600hp and 2,750rpm:

Max. speed at sea level 206mph at 10,000ft 220mph at 20.000ft 208mph Landing speed 65mph

Climb to 3,OOOft 1 min 35 sees to 10,000ft 5 min 25 sees to20,000ft 14min25secs Take-off run 890ft Landing run 755ft

Comba: ceiling 25,250ft Range at 15,800ft and 196mph 485 miles Armament Two nose-mounted 12.7mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns

Soviet Air Force Flight Jackets
27. A Spanish Republican fighter pilot of the 7e Escuadrilla de Moscas based in the Barcelona area, carries on his flying jacket the 'Popeye the Sailorman' emblem of his unit. This was also painted on the tail fins of the unit's I-16s.

fighter detachment under Senior Lt. A. K. Serov (alias 'Carlos Castejon'). This experienced pilot shot down a Ju52/3m of the Legion Condor in the early hours of 26 July near Escorial - the war's first night victory.

German units now returned to cover the drive on Santander, which fell on 22 August. Four more victories in this period raised the score of Fw. Wilhelm Boddem to eight, the greatest score yet by a German pilot. While mopping-up continued around Santander, the Republicans concentrated 80,000 men west of Barcelona and at the end of August launched the Belchite offensive towards Saragosa, supported by 150 aircraft. Saragosa was seriously threatened by the 26th, and Nationalist aircraft were rushed to the area; the Cadenas, heavily committed, suffered significant casualties.

Spanish Polikarpov Mosca

The Republicans are estimated to have lost 30 fighters in a week of intense fighting, and the Nationalists lost, among others, three Ju52/3ms which blew up due to faulty bomb release mechanisms. Franco refused to be distracted from his climactic northern offensive, however, and on 4 September drove into the Reds' remaining enclave in Asturias; 1. and 2.J/88, both now flying Bfl09Bs, enjoyed success and by the end of the month Republican air opposition had been neutralised. Boddem and Harder had each claimed ten victories by 13 October, and the Republican destroyer Ciscar, with members of the High Command on board, was sunk while attempting to leave Gijon. The Republican northern front collapsed, and 150,000 prisoners fell into Franco's hands; he'was able to regroup his forces, and nearly all the rest of the significant battles were fought on the north-east front in Aragón and Catalonia. Two escuadrillas of I-16s and two of I-15s fell into Nationalist hands in the north, only four aircraft and a few pilots escaping to France.

By this time few of the highly-paid but disenchanted foreign volunteer pilots were still flying with the Republicans, whose own pilots were returning from Russian training in large numbers. The Americans and Yugoslavs had gone, after the Brunete fighting. Abel Guides had been shot down and killed in a transport aircraft on 8 June. Bozko Petrovik had been killed after his seventh victory. Tinker had claimed eight kills and Baumler five, while another American, Eugene Finnick, had flown recce-bombers - probably Polikarpov R-Zs -with distinction before being shot down and wounded. The Russians continued to rotate aircrew through Spain to gain combat experience, and sent further batches of fighters; another fifteen I-16s arrived in September, and late in the year the first 1-152 'Super-Chatos', which were superior to the CR.32 on almost all counts. The difficulties of shipping direct to Spain were overcome by delivering crated aircraft to France, but the succession of a less sympathetic French government towards the end of the year led to the closing of the border.

At this time the first examples of the improved 1-16 Type 10 arrived, an aircraft which could out-climb, out-turn, and, with its four guns, out-shoot

29. The answer to the improved Russian fighters employed by the Republicans was the Messerschmitt Bf 109B. Following a brief evaluation of a batch of pre-production prototypes, 2 Staffel of J/88 was re-equipped with these aircraft. In the background are two of the He 51Bs which they replaced.

29. The answer to the improved Russian fighters employed by the Republicans was the Messerschmitt Bf 109B. Following a brief evaluation of a batch of pre-production prototypes, 2 Staffel of J/88 was re-equipped with these aircraft. In the background are two of the He 51Bs which they replaced.

the Bfl09B. The Messerschmitt continued to enjoy an edge as regards ceiling, however, and was a more stable gun-platform. The Legion Condor pilots now adopted the 'Mosca's' own technique of diving into the attack from high altitude and breaking quickly upwards.

The government aircraft factories produced a considerable number of licence-built I-15s during 1937, apart from spare parts for Russian types generally; and now the Hispano-Suiza plant tooled up for production of I-16 Type 10s, to befitted with Wright Cyclones due to lack of Russian engines. Towards the end of 1937 another 31 SB-2s arrived,

30. A pair of Savoia SM 79 bombers of the 28CP Squadriglia, 29° Gruppo, 111 Stormo B.V., release loads of small antipersonnel bombs on a front-line target. (Nicola Malizia)

and ten Letov S.231s are also reported to have been supplied. Russia apparently purchased two Belgian cannon-armed Fairey Feroce biplanes and passed them to the Republic; one seems to have been lost very quickly, but the other achieved useful results. The main non-Russian type to arrive was the Grumman GE-23, a two-seat recce-fighter biplane with retractable undercarriage. Built by Canadian Car and Foundry Co., this version of the US Navy's FF-1 equipped the new Grupo num 28 formed in December 1937; some 40, originally ordered by Turkey, had arrived by autumn 1938. In September 1937 the Republic still had a powerful air force of some 470 machines; but although their enemies mustered only some 350, the balance would now tip inexorably in favour of Franco, who had acquired a superior industrial base with the capture of the Basque provinces.

Two new grupos of Nationalist SM.79s, 4- and 5-G-28, were nearly ready for operations; the A-101 and He70F were both now in full use as bombers, although the former were soon relegated to second-line duties. During September Morato -with 27 kills, the outstanding fighter pilot of the war - handed over 2-G-3 to Salas and went on a mission to Italy. That month six Fiat BR.20 bombers joined the 29° Gruppo as the 230a Squadriglia, beginning operations from Soria. In November they were joined by the Breda 65s to form the 35° Gruppo Misto at Tudela. In Majorca nine Cant Z.501 flying-boats now formed 2-G-62. During September the

German Condor Fighter Mickey Mouse

32. A Republican ground crewman refuels an 1-15. Note the 'Mickey Mouse' emblem of one of the Escuadrillas de Chatos on the tail fin.

Condor Tail

31. Heinkel He 11 IB of the Legion Condor. These aircraft were later handed to the Nationalists after more modern E models had arrived from Germany for K/88. The first Spanish He 111 unit, 10-G-25. went into action during the Battle of the Ebro in August 1938. (Franz Selinger)

32. A Republican ground crewman refuels an 1-15. Note the 'Mickey Mouse' emblem of one of the Escuadrillas de Chatos on the tail fin.

Legion Condor also received new equipment - three Junkers Ju87A-l dive-bombers from St. G163, manned by rotated crews, formed the 'Jolanthe Kette'. Their debut in the later stages of the forthcoming battles in Aragon was dogged by technical problems, but in time they proved themselves. Five obsolescent diesel-engined Ju86D bombers were also flown briefly at the end of the year before being handed to the Nationalists.

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