The Reggiane Re.2001 was a development of the Re.2000 Falco I which had been rejected by the Regia Aeronautica primarily because of its engine. This was the main problem the Falco II set out to fix, now having a 1,175 hp Alfa Romeo inline engine (a more powerful and reliable license-built German DB 601) rather than a 986 hp Piaggio P.IX radial engine.
Incorporating much of the Re.2000's fuselage structure, even retaining the entire tail unit, the Re.2001's wings were of semi-elliptical design with three spars in each wing. The initial design had conventional fuel tanks with 544 l total capacity (five tanks, one in the fuselage and the others in the wings). The armament consisted of Breda-SAFAT machine guns, with two nose-mounted 12.7 mm (up to 800 rounds) and two 7.7 mm guns in the wings, (1200 rounds total).
The new Falco II was considered equal by most experts with the Macchi MC.202, but the Macchi fighter, having first call on production for the Alfa Romeo R.A.1000RC.41-1a (the license built DB 601) was still produced in greater numbers. The Re.2001 was then delayed because the Regia Aeronautica insisted on the fuel tanks being placed inside the wings, which required a substantial redesign of the wing structure. The first order, amounting to 300 machines, was cut back with only 252 produced. This number included 100 Re.2001 Serie I, Serie II and Serie III with armament variations, the Reggiane Serie IV fighter-bomber and 150 Re.2001 CN Caccia Notturna, night fighter.
Due to the wing redesign coupled with production delays, the first production aircraft were finally cleared for operational use in June 1941, nearly a year behind schedule.
Along with the fighter variant, two other main variants were developed to suit specialized roles. The Re.2001 CB (Cacciabombardiere, Fighter-bomber) version produced from 1942 could carry a 100 or 250 kg bomb under the fuselage for the attack role. The CN (Caccia notturno, Night fighter) version was adapted with the introduction of engine exhaust-flame dampers and a 20 mm Mauser MG 151/20 cannon in two gondolas, one under each wing, although many fighters retained the original armament. A total of 34 CNs were produced of the 50 ordered.
The Re.2001 reached operational status late in 1941 with 2° Gruppo (part of 6° Stormo) that had returned from North Africa without aircraft in September 1941. Its three Squadriglie, 150a, 152a and 358a, were based at Gorizia and then relocated to Rome-Ciampino in December. But due to technical reasons the unit was not fully equipped and trained until February 1942. Finally, on 4 May 1942 it moved to Caltagirone in Sicily, with 18 Reggiane under command of Colonnello Bajlon. In May 1942, Re.2001s began to fly escort missions over Malta, encountering British Spitfire Mk Vs. The first encounter took place on 12 May, when 15 Reggiane 2001s of 2° Gruppo while escorting (with Macchi MC.200s) three S.84 of 4° Gruppo, were attacked by nine Spitfires. The British fighters shot down a bomber and badly damaged the other. The Reggiane pilots claimed two Spitfires, one by Sergente Paolo Morcino, that had to make a crash-landing (just like his commander) close to Ispica, as his undercarriage had been damaged by a 20 mm cannon shell. That day the RAF lost two Spitfires: one pilot, Sergeant Charles Graysmark of 601 Sqn was killed and another, Sergeant C. Bush of 603 Sqn, wounded. In the afternoon of 15 May 1942, 19 Re.2001s flew to the airfields at Malta on a hunting spree. Dogfights took place over the southern part of the island and according to the Italians, the Allies lost four aircraft, three falling into the sea east of Valletta and the fourth, south of Kalafrana. Re.2001 MM.7210, hit during the dogfight, made an emergency landing at Comiso, in Sicily. On 18 May, eight Re.2001s led by Tenente Remo Cazzolli of 152a Squadriglia flew to Malta in support of a maritime/land reconnaissance of the island. The Re.2001s were attacked by four Spitfires of 249 Squadron, three pilots each claiming a Reggiane. Later records show that Cazzolli, a Spanish Civil War veteran, was the lone victim, crashing north of Fort San Leonardo, near Marsaskala, and was taken POW.
Generally slower than contemporary fighters, at lower and medium altitudes the Re.2001 was able to hold its own, but above 7,000 m (23,000 ft), the Spitfire clearly had a speed advantage. However, in the hands of an expert pilot, like the ace Laddie Lucas tells in his Malta: The Thorn in Rommel's side, the Reggiane could be a difficult opponent for the Spitfire V.
On 13 July 1942, 249 Squadron had been embroiled high up on Malta with a mixed force of German and Italian fighters. Jack Rae, then fast developing into one of New Zealand's outstanding pilots and his able No. 2, the Australian, Alan Yates, despite being low on ammunition, had finally set upon a lone Reggiane 2001 as it was about to disengage and head for Sicily. What then followed gave Jack such a shock that the incident has stuck starkly in his mind for half a century. "To my amazement the Italian proved to be an extremely competent opponent. I had never before been involved in such a complex sequence of aerobatics as I pursued him. Twice I nearly 'spun off' as I stayed with him; I found it difficult to get any sort of worthwhile deflection shot at his aircraft. At times he got dangerously close to getting a bead on me. Eventually he started to smoke and we hit his tail, but we were halfway across the Strait of Sicily and our position was getting dangerous as we were now low in fuel and would be in real difficulty if we were attacked. But, as we turned back to base, the Italian, to my amazement, turned with us and made one final and defiant attack upon our section - as if to show what he thought of a pair of Spitfires!"
Against the Hawker Hurricane, the Re.2001 fared better and could take on this opponent on a more equal basis, although the type was noticeably slower at most altitudes. By the end of June, 22° Gruppo based at Rome-Ciampino received their first Re.2001 CBs and redeployed to Monserrato, Sardinia, later to be transferred to Sicily to participate in the raids on Malta. On 12 July, over Malta, Canadian ace "Buzz" Beurling from 249 Sqn shot down the Reggiane Re.2001s of Tenente Colonnello Aldo Quarantotti and Tenente Carlo Seganti, of 150a Squadriglia Caccia, mistaking them for Macchi MC. 202s.
On 12 August 1942 two Re.2001G/Vs, modified to carry single 640 kg (1,410 lb) fragmentation bombs and accompanied by a fighter escort of Re.2001s, carried out a successful attack on HMS Victorious during Operation Pedestal. Reportedly, the Re.2001s were not challenged because of their similarity in appearance to Sea Hurricanes. During the attack, a direct hit was scored on the aircraft carrier's flight deck but the bomb failed to explode and fell harmlessly into the sea.
Beginning in spring 1942 Reggiane Re.2001 CN night fighters were issued to 59° Gruppo, and primarily used in the defence of Italian cities. As the tide of war shifted, the Re.2001 units were constantly moved from base to base and finally by 10 July 1943 when the invasion of Sicily began, all available Re.2001 fighters were diverted to defend Italy and nearby Mediterranean islands held by Italian forces.
Later in 1943, the fighter in all of its variants was used to defend northern and central Italy. Fighter pilots praised the Re.2001's handling qualities (some considered it more maneuverable than the Macchi C.202); however, like many Italian combat aircraft, the type experienced poor serviceability and many of the units using the Re.2001 were not fully equipped.
The complexity of the Re.2001 design led to higher costs (in 1942, the production cost of the Re.2001 was 600,000 lire versus 520,000 lire of the Macchi C.202) and slowed production rates which also limited its effectiveness as a fighter. Due to attrition, only 33 Re.2001s were available at the Armistice of 9 September 1943. Furthermore, poor serviceability meant that only nine Re.2001s survived the split into civil war in Italy, eight going to the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force with the Allies, and one to the Italian Social Republic.Re.2001
Prototypes, two built. Second prototype had three-spar wing, modified canopy and fixed tailwheel. First flight on May 1940
Re.2001 Serie I
First production series operated as fighter-bomber and carrier trainer; also used for land-based catapult tests, 100 built.
Modified fighter-bomber produced from 1942, to carry 100 or 250 kg bomb under the fuselage for the attack role.
Re.2001 OR Serie II
Proposed ship-borne fighter version for the carrier Aquila
, 50 built. First addition of wing-mounted machine guns to development and optional cannon, able to carry a 600 kg torpedo or bomb as standard.
Re.2001 CN Serie III & IV
Night fighter and fighter-bomber version, 74 built. Optional bombload of up to 640 kg (1,410 lbs) or additional fuel tank on Serie IV. Two 20 mm Mauser MG 151/20 cannon (60 rounds each) were fitted in two gondolas, one under each wing.
Experimental torpedo- (carrying a 600 kg torpedo) fighter or anti-tank version with lengthened tailwheel and two 20 mm cannons, two built.
Modified fighter-bomber, with reinforced fuselage structure to carry a single 640 kg (1,410 lb) bomb with 120 kg HE, derived from a 381 mm shell (made for the Littorio
-class battleships). A small number of the variant was built; two G/Vs took part in Operation Pedestal but this was the sole use of the variant.
Prototype version powered by 840 hp Isotta-Fraschini Delta RC 16/48 engine, one built- first flight: 12 September 1942. After tests when a top speed of only 478 km/h at 5,760 m was reached, the Regia Aeronautica cancelled the 100 variants on order.
Prototype (MM.438) version with repositioned radiators, one built; although flight trials were successful, proving to be the fastest of the Re.2001 variants, it was converted back to a standard Re.2001.
Other variants were considered including a design for a dedicated anti-tank fighter (armed with 20 mm guns and anti-tank bomblets) and the Re.2001 Fotografico, a photo-reconnaissance version, although some standard Re.2001s were later modified for this role. Kingdom of Italy
Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force operated eight aircraft.
Italian Social Republic
Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana operated one aircraft.
General characteristicsCrew: 1
Length: 8.36 m (27 ft 5 in)
Wingspan: 11 m (36 ft 1 in)
Height: 3.15 m (10 ft 4 in)
Wing area: 20.4 m2 (219.58 ft2)
Empty weight: 2,495 kg (5,500 lb)
Loaded weight: 3,280 kg (7,231 lb)
Powerplant: 1 × Alfa Romeo R.A. 1000 RC. 41-I Monsone (license-built DB 601Aa), 864 kW (1,175 PS)
PerformanceMaximum speed: 542 km/h (337 mph)
Range: 1,100 km (684 mi)
Service ceiling: 11,000 m (36,090 ft)
Rate of climb: 780 m/min (2,591 ft/min)
Wing loading: 1.38 kg/m2 (32.93 lb/ft2)
ArmamentTwo 12.7 mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns in upper cowling
Two 7.7 mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns in wings