The Breda Ba.88 Lince (Italian: Lynx) was a ground-attack aircraft used by the Italian Regia Aeronautica during World War II. Its streamlined design and retractable undercarriage were advanced for the time, and after its debut in 1937 the aircraft established several world speed records. However, when military equipment was installed on production examples, problems of instability developed and the aeroplane's general performance deteriorated. Eventually its operational career was cut short, and the remaining Ba.88 airframes were used as fixed installations on airfields to mislead enemy reconnaissance. It represented, perhaps, the most remarkable failure of any operational aircraft to see service in World War II.
Two Gruppi (Groups) were equipped with the Breda Ba.88 on June 1940, operating initially from Sardinia against the main airfield of Corsica,
with 12 aircraft on 16 June 1940 and three on 19 June 1940. The crews
soon found that the Bredas were extremely underpowered and lacked
agility, but the lack of fighter opposition resulted in them being able
to perform their missions without losses.
Later, 64 aircraft became operational serving 7º Gruppo in the North African Theatre with 19º Gruppo stationed in Sardinia, but their performance remained extremely poor resulting in 7º Gruppo
being grounded from the end of June until September, when the Italian
offensive against British forces started. Of three aircraft used, one
was not even capable of taking off, and another could not turn and was
forced to fly straight from their base at Castelvetrano to Sidi Rezegh.
With anti-sand filters fitted, a maximum horizontal speed of 250 km/h
(155 mph) was reported in some cases and several units were even unable
to take off at all. These machines were fitted with "Spezzoniera" Nardi
dispensers (with 119 kg/262 lb bomblets), 1,000 rounds for the three
12.7 mm (0.5 in) machine guns and 500 rounds for the 7.7 mm (0.303 in)
Bredas. Although the weapons were not loaded to full capacity and the
aircraft was lightened by eliminating the rear machine gun, observer,
bombs and some fuel, lessening the weight did not substantially affect
the aircraft's performance. Such attempts to reduce weight failed to
achieve positive results.
By mid-November, just five months after the start of the war on 10
June 1940, most surviving Ba.88s had been phased out as bombers and
stripped of useful equipment, and were scattered around operational
airfields as decoys for attacking aircraft. This was a degrading end for the new, (theoretically powerful) Breda Ba.88. This action forced the Regia Aeronautica to use totally outdated aircraft in North Africa, such as the Breda Ba.65 and Fiat C.R.32.
As an additional problem, Regia Aereonautica remained without any
suitable heavy fighter, a notable weakness for a major air arm.
Similar "heavy fighter-zerstörer" projects were developed in several countries. In France, the Breguet Br.690
even with only 1,044 kW (1,400 hp) was more capable than the Ba.88.
Despite some problems of reliability, the Br.690 showed a practical
usefulness that the Breda never achieved. It is notable that the Ba.88
was also a contemporary of the Messerschmitt Bf 110,
with no great differences in hp, weight, P/W ratio or wingload. But the
difference in success was immensely in the Bf 110's favour.
Niclot was the only pilot capable of flying this machine at its best
(and only in the racer version which was much lighter), while the
average pilot was not capable of using it effectively. Despite its
impressive world records and aggressive, slim shape, the Ba.88 was a
failure and totally unable to undertake combat missions. Its structure
was too heavy, wing loading too high, and the engines were quite
unreliable with insufficient power. The Piaggio P.XI was quite powerful,
but never reliable, leading also to the overall failure of the Reggiane Re.2000. (Hungary substituted the engines with similar ones for the first license-produced examples).
Three Ba.88s were modified by Agusta plant in late 1942, to serve as ground-attack aircraft. The Ba.88M had the wingspan increased by 2 meters (6 ft 6½ in) to alleviate wing-loading problems, dive brakes, Fiat A.74 RC.38 engines and nose armament increased to four 12,7 mm (0,5 in) Breda-SAFAT machine guns. Evaluated at Guidonia, they were delivered to the 103° Gruppo Autonomo Tuffatori at Lonate Pozzolo on 7 September 1943, the day before Italian Armistice. Later they were evaluated by Luftwaffe pilots and that was the last heard of this mediocre aircraft.
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