The Reggiane Re.2000 Falco

Italy
Italy

side view front view under view

In 1937 Reggiane was a subsidiary of the huge industrial company Caproni. In that year Caproni revived it's aeronautical enterprise after World War I. Just in time so, because in 1938 the Italian Air Ministry started 'Program R', a program designed to modernise the Italian Air Force, and restructure it's command lines and equipment. Spurting from this program were a number of requirements, amongst which a requirement for a monowing fighter. Reggiane entered the competition against four other types, being the Fiat G.50 Freccia and Macchi MC.200 Saetta (both in prototype stage), and the AUT 18 and Caproni Vizzola F.5 (both in advanced design stage). The Re.2000 was the only fighter specfically desinged for the requirement from the start.
Reggiane was told, given the short time available for the creation of its proposal, it should secure licences to make American fighters, but Count Gianni Caproni would not consider any such suggestion and the Re.2000 was therefore created with very considerable speed on the conceptual basis of current American fighter thinking, with which one of the designers had first-hand experience.
The aircraft was of basically all-metal construction with fabric-covered control surfaces, and its core was a fuselage of light alloy semi-monocoque construction. The fuselage was designed round the large-diameter radial piston engine installed in the nose, and was notably short with a pronounced taper to the rear of the high-set cockpit. The cockpit, in its turn, was framed and alomost fully glazed with a rearward-sliding section providing the pilot with the means of access and egress. The fuselage supported the flying surfaces, which comprised a cantilever tail unit and a low-set wing. The tail unit was of metal construction with metal-skinned fixed surfaces and fabric-covered moving surfaces, and the semi-elliptical wing was of stressed-skin construction: this wing was of considerable area and chord, dihedraled from root to tip, and tapered in thickness and chord with straight leading edges and curved trailing edges. The trailing edges were occupied over virtually their full span by long-span outboard Frise-type ailerons and inboard split flaps. The airframe was completed by the fully retractable tailwheel landing gear, which included wide-track main units that retracted rearward as the wheels turned through 90° to lie in the undersurfaces of the wings.
The prototype made its maiden flight in May 1939, powered by 1 × Piaggio P.XI RC.40 radial, rated at 840 hp (626 kW) for take-off and 985 hp (734.5 kW) at 13,125 ft (4000 m), and driving a three-blade Piaggio metal propeller of the variable-pitch or, later, of the constant-speed type. Later in 1939 the prototype was evaluated against the Macchi MC.200 Saetta and Messerschmitt Bf 109E. The Reggiane fighter was deemed superior in performance and agility, although not to a decisively marked degree, but was finally rejected for Italian air force service as it possessed, according some some air force authorities, a number of structural defects. Its two fuel tanks, built integrally into the wing center section, were entirely unprotected and would have required considerable redesign for the incorporation of any protection.
Reggiane was sure to get an order, and had already started work on the first 12 aircraft, and on the production line, when the word was received that the order for an initial 188 Re.2000 fighters was cancelled. The Italian air ministry did authorize the type for export, however.

Version list:

Further pictures:

Reggiane Re.2000 Serie II Falco (Catapultabile) of the Italian Naval Air Arm
Reggiane Re.2000 Serie II Falco (Catapultabile) of the Italian Naval Air Arm

Reggiane Re.2000 Serie III Falco I (GA) of the Italian Air Force.
Reggiane Re.2000 Serie III Falco I (GA) of the Italian Air Force.

 

Technical data on the Regianne Re.2000 Serie I Falco I
Powerplant 1 × Piaggio P.XI RC.40 radial, rated at 985 hp (734.31 kW) Role during war
  • Fighter
Length 26 ft 2.5 inch Height 10 ft 6 inch
Empty weight 4585 lb Operational weight 5722 lb typical,
6349 lb max
Wing Span 36 ft 1 inch Wing Aspect ratio 5.93
Wing Area 219.59 sq ft Service ceiling 34450 ft
Maximum speed 329 mph at 16405 ft Cruising speed 317 mph at 19685 ft
Initial climb rate Climb to 19,685 ft in 6 min 10 sec Range 714 miles typical,
870 miles max
Fuel capacity internal 153 Imp gal (184 US gal) Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns
  • 2 × 0.50 inch Breda-SAFAT fixed forward-firing in the upper nose, 300 rounds each
Cannons -
Bomb load Up to unrevealed load of disposable stores carried in a ventral weapons bay. General disposables load consisted of:
  • unknown4 × 4.4 lb anti-personnel and/or incendiary bombs
Torpedoes/rockets -
Crew 1 Naval or ground based Ground and Naval
First flight (prototype) 24 May 1939 Operational Service 1940 - July 1945
Manufacturer Officine Meccaniche 'Reggiane' S.A. Number produced 359 total, 130 this version
Metric system
Length 7.99 m Height 3.2 m
Empty weight 2080 kg Operational weight 2595 kg typical,
2880 kg max
Wing Span 11 m Wing Aspect ratio 5.93
Wing Area 20.4 m² Service ceiling 10500 m
Maximum speed 529 km/h at 5000 m Cruising speed 510 km/h at 6000 m
Initial climb rate Climb to 6.000 m in 6 min 10 sec Range 1149 km typical,
1400 km max
Fuel capacity internal 695 liters Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns
  • 2 × 12,7 mm Breda-SAFAT fixed forward-firing in the upper nose, 300 rounds each
Cannons -
Bomb load Up to unrevealed load of disposable stores carried in a ventral weapons bay. General disposables load consisted of:
  • unknown4 × 2 kg anti-personnel and/or incendiary bombs
Torpedoes/rockets -

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

Different versions of the Reggiane Re.2000  Falco
Reggiane Re.2000 Serie I Falco I The initial production model of the Re.2000 fighter series. See details above. Of this version, powered by 1 × Piaggio P.XI RC.40 radial, the first batch was menat for Hungary. They were unhappy with the powerplant, however, and this led to the Héja I version (see below)
Number built: 30
Reggiane Re.2000 Serie II (Catapultabile) In 1940 the Italian Navy needed a fighter that could be launched by a catapult. Interrest was taken in the Re.2000, to protect the Italian Navy battle groups. Until then the work was done by obsolete biplanes (Meridionali Ro.43 and Ro.44). The Italian Air Force (Reggia Aeronautica) feared that the interests of the Navy would endanger their own expansion plans. The Re.2000 wasn't considered a critical aircraft however, and thus the Air Force was happy to hand over 10 aircraft that were impressed by then.
To cope with the violence of catapult launchings the aircraft had to undergo some changes in order to strengthen the structure. The cockpit was thus revised with a solid rear, without the windows in the back. The powerplant was changed to 1 × Piaggio P.XIbis RC.40 radial, rated at 1,025 hp (764 kW), and internal fuel was increased to 327 Imp gal (394 US gal, 1.490 liters). Additionally four hardpoints were added: two under the wings inboard of the main landing gear, and two more under the fuselage to the rear of the wing-root trailing edges.
Because of the size of the ships the Re.2000's were placed upon (Battleships and Cruisers), the aircraft would after launch carry on with their mission and then land on a land base.
Number converted: 10
Reggiane Re.2000 Serie III (GA) The GA (= Grande Autonomia - long range) was the result of the worsening conditions in Italy's remote fronts. Italian forces in Eritrea, Abyssinia and Italian Somaliland became isolated in 1941 at the hand of the British forces. Supplies consisting of crated Fiat CR.42 fighters and engines, and other materials, could only be delivered to the beleaguered Italians through the air. Savoia-Marchetti SM.82 transports flew the supplies from Libya to Eritrea and Abyssinia, and had to cross British airspace over Egypt and Sudan. Letting the transports to fend for themselves was a sure way to achieve that the supplies would never reach their intended destination, so the need for a new, long range fighter arose.
The Re.2000 could be changed in a number of ways to increase it's range. By sealing the cells of the outer wing panels internal fuel capacity increased to 328 Imp gal (394 US gal, 1.490 liters).
Next problem was the fact that Italy didn't have any Re.2000's in it's inventory, all aircraft were destined for export. To save time 28 aircraft meant for Hungary and Sweden were seized, while the latter countries received aircraft that were produced later.
While tests were conducted to prove the increased range of the Re.2000 Serie III (GA), the Italian front in Africa was pushed back once more since British, Indian and Sudanese forces had invaded Eritrea and Abyssinia, and effectively pushed the Italians back out of range of the new long range fighters.

Number converted: 17
Reggiane Héja I The Héja I (Hawk I) was the Hungarian standard of the Re.2000 Serie I. The Hungarians weren't very happy with the piaggio engine, and preferred the Gnome-Rhône 14K Mistral Major radial, rated at 1,000 hp (746 kW). This engine was license built in Hungary as the Manfred Weiss WM K-14, and drove a Hamilton Standard three-bladed propeller of the constant-speed type. The lighter weight of this combination as opposed to the piaggio combination caused the center of gravity to shift backward, and to offset this the engine bearers were lengthened. Total length of the aircraft thus increased 1 ft 3.75 inch (0.40 m).
Number built: 70
MAVAG Héja II MAVAG (Magyar Allami Vaggon Es Gepgyar or Hungarian State Waggon and Engineering Factory set up a production line which was ready not until late 1942. The line was to produce the licensed Re.2000 as the Héja II, differing however from the Reggiane fighter in a number of ways. Armament was changed to 2 × 0.50 inch (12,7 mm) gebauer fixed forward-firing guns in the upper nose, 300 rounds each. Length was 27 ft 6.25 inch (8,39 m), max level speed was 301 mph (485 km/h) at 13,780 ft (4.200 m). Endurance was 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Number built: 192
Reggiane/MAVAG Héjja versions Some sources describe the Héja series as actually being designated Héjja. I'm unsure of which name was actually the correct one since I don't have enough reference as to what name was actually applied, I'm inclined to believe the Héja would be the correct one. Reportedly, the name Héjja would mean Raptor.
Reggiane J 20 Another customer of Reggiane for their Re.2000 design was Sweden. It was based on the Re.2000 Serie I, but differed in a number of ways. Empty weight was 4,828 lb (2.190 kg), typical weight was 6,393 lb (2.900 kg), max take-off weight was 6,724 lb (3.050 kg). Max level speed was 311 mph (450 km/h) at optimum altitude, and range was 808 miles (1.300 km). Climb rate was 19,685 ft (6.000 m) in 8 minutes 0 seconds, and a height of 31,170 ft (9.500 m) could be reached.
The Swedish pilots liked the aircraft for it's speed, climb rate and maneuverability, but the ground crew had another opinion of the aircraft mainly because of the unreliability of the engine and the problems in cold weather circumstances with the propeller and gun equipment..
Number built: 60
Reggiane Re.2003 At some time the italian Air froce impressed 28 aircraft meant for export to Hungary and Sweden (see above). 10 of these were converted to Re.2000 Serie II, and 17 were converted to Re.2000 Serie III. This leaves one aircraft unaccounted for.
The last aircraft was actually a conversion as well, to the Re.2003 standard. This was to be a reconnaissance fighter variant, but it didn't enter production.
Number converted: 1

Operational remarks:

The Re.2000 hasn't had a big impact on the War. This is partly because of the number of aircraft produced. Nevertheless it was the main fighter of one airforce (Swedish), and the forefather of more aircraft to be designed and produced by Reggiane.
The fighter was initially rejected by the Italian Airforce, not because it's performance which was adequate, but because of the vulnerability of the unprotected fuel tanks in the wings. Hits in this area could easily turn the aircraft into a flying pyre. Even so, the impressment of 28 aircraft later in the War made the Re.2000 see Italian action, mostly as convoy escorts in the Mediterranean Theatre.
Sweden was happy with the Re.2000, or J 20 as it was designated there. The fighters were the best available to Sweden at the time, and were used mainly to intercept and escort Allied or Axis aircraft crossing Swedish Airspace. During one encounter a J 20 was shot down by a German Dornier Do 24 during the last month of the War.
By far the most action was bestowed upon the Hungarian fighters. Several aircraft served on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union in 1941, others were used as Home Defense fighters. Most of them however ended up as advanced trainers for the Hungarian Air Force, and were subsequently used as operational fighters to counter the Soviet forces during their drive through Hungary 1944.

Strengths:

Weaknesses:

 

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© by Frans Bonné, 2000
Last revision: 5/27/02