The Macchi MC.200 Saetta

(Lightning)

Italy
Italy

side viewfront viewunder view

The Saetta (Lightning) was the first Italian design to combine a cantilever low-wing monoplane with fully retractable main landing gear. However, it was underpowered by a radial engine that was too weak to give it a good performance.
After Italy had concluded it's conquest of Abyssinia, the Italian Air Force decided it neede great expension with modern warplanes. The requirement for the Seatta was based on this idea. Initially the requirement called for an interceptor of bombers, armed with 1 × 0.50 inch (12,7 mm gun, and an endurance of 1 hour, but it was soon realised that this was insensible. The armament and endurance where then doubled. Macchi's design was to be powered by 1 × Fiat radial, driving a three-blade Fiat (Hamilton Standard) metal propeller of the constant-speed type. One of the typical features of the MC.200 is the engine's low-chord cowling with a ring of raised fairings over the rocker arm covers (see pictures). And although the original prototypes had fully enclosed cockpits, the preferences of Italian pilots ensured that it was an open cockpit, later semi-enclosed.

Version list:

Further pictures:

Macchie MC.200 Saetta, with a good view on the engine's fairings
Macchie MC.200 Saetta, with a good view on the engine's fairings

Macchi MC.200 Saetta, good side view
Macchi MC.200 Saetta, good side view

Macchi MC.200 Saetta, again good view on the nose section
Macchi MC.200 Saetta, again good view on the nose section

Macchi MC.200 Saetta, view from the rear
Macchi MC.200 Saetta, view from the rear

 

Technical data on the Macchi MC.200 Serie XXI Saetta
Powerplant 1 × Fiat A.74 RC.38 radial, rated at 870 hp (648.58 kW) Role during war
  • Fighter
Length 26 ft 10.4 inch Height 11 ft 5.75 inch
Empty weight 4451 lb Operational weight 5597 lb typical
Wing Span 34 ft 8.5 inch Wing Aspect ratio 6.66
Wing Area 180.94 sq ft Service ceiling 29200 ft
Maximum speed 312 mph at 14765 ft Cruising speed 286 mph at 19685 ft
Initial climb rate Climb to 16,405 ft in 5 min 51 sec Range 354 miles typical,
541 miles max
Fuel capacity internal 69 Imp gal (83 US gal) plus provision for 18 Imp gal (22 US gal) of auxiliairy fuel Fuel capacity external Up to 66 Imp gal (79 US gal), either 1 × 33 Imp gal (40 US gal) flush-fitting ventral tank, or 2 × 33 or 22 Imp gal (40 or 26 US gal) drop tanks
Machine guns 2 × 0.50 inch Breda-SAFAT fixed forward firing in the upper nose, 370 rounds each Cannons -
Bomb load Up to 705 lb, carried on two underwing hardpoints, rated 352 lb each. General disposables load consisted of: 2 × 352 lb, 220 lb, or 110 lb bombs Torpedoes/rockets -
Crew 1Naval or ground based Ground
First flight (prototype) 24 December 1937 Operational Service October 1939 - 1944
Manufacturer Aeronautica Macchi S.p.A. Number produced 1.153 total, unknown number this version
Metric system
Length 8.19 m Height 3.5 m
Empty weight 2019 kg Operational weight 2539 kg typical
Wing Span 10.58 m Wing Aspect ratio 6.66
Wing Area 16.81 m² Service ceiling 8900 m
Maximum speed 502 km/h at 4500 m Cruising speed 460 km/h at 6000 m
Initial climb rate Climb to 5.000 m in 5 min 51 sec Range 570 km typical,
871 km max
Fuel capacity internal 313 liters plus provision for 83 liters of auxiliairy fuel Fuel capacity external Up to 300 liters, either 1 × 150 liters flush-fitting ventral tank, or 2 × 150 or 100 liters drop tanks
Machine guns 2 × 12,7 mm Breda-SAFAT fixed forward firing in the upper nose, 370 rounds each Cannons -
Bomb load Up to 320 kg, carried on two underwing hardpoints, rated 160 kg each. General disposables load consisted of: 2 × 160 kg, 100 kg, or 50 kg bombs Torpedoes/rockets -

Here is a quick overview of all different versions, without the full technical specifications:

Different versions of the Macchi MC.200  Saetta
Macchi MC.200 Saetta Although a number of changes were introduced during production, there were no designation changes made in the meantime. Nevertheless there are 25 series identified during the whole production. The exact changes per series is unknown to me at the moment however. Some changes:
The first 13 aircraft could only carry 310 rounds per gun
Starting at number 27, the propeller was replaced from a Fiat three blade of the constant-speed type to a Piaggio three-blade of the constant-speed type
After delivery of the first 156 aircraft a number of crashes prompted a change in the wing airfoil section.
Later aircraft had the outer wing panels identical to the MC.202 Folgore, fitted with a pair of 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) Breda-SAFAT fixed forward firing guns.
Number built: 1.153
Macchi MC.200AS Saetta Conversion from the MC.200 Saetta for use in the North African Theatre (AS = Africa Settentroniale, or North Africa). Amongst others it had a dust filter fitted over the carburetor air inlet.
Number converted: unknown
Macchi MC.200CB Saetta Conversion from the MC.200 Saetta for use as a fighter-bomber (CB = Caccia Bombardiere, or Fighter-Bomber). It was fitted with underwing hardpoints for light bombs or drop tanks.
Number converted: unknown

Operational remarks:

The MC.200 first saw combat against Malta in 1940, and was further used in Greece, the Western Desert, North Africa, Yugoslavia, Sicily, and on the Eastern Front. Amongst others it sank the British destroyer HMS Zulu in Tobruk, and was responsible for 88 Soviet aircraft on the Eastern Front.
Because the southern part of Italy capitulated to the Allied forces before the North did, the Saetta was also used on the Allied side.

Strengths:

Weaknesses:

 

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© by Frans Bonné, 2000
Last revision: 9/23/01