Fiat BR.20

Fiat BR.20

infobox Aircraft
name = BR.20 Cicogna
type = Bomber
manufacturer =Fiat

caption =A Fiat BR.20 on the ground just prior to Italy's declaration of war in 1940.
designer =Celestino Rosatelli
first flight = 10 February 1936
introduced = 1936
retired = 1945
number built = 530-600
status =
unit cost =
primary user ="Regia Aeronautica"
more users = Japan
developed from =
variants with their own articles =
The Fiat BR.20 Cicogna (Italian: "stork") was a twin-engined bomber of the Italian Regia Aeronautica which saw service in the Spanish Civil War, Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II. Although the BR.20 was Italy's standard medium bomber in the mid-1930s and had proven effective in the Spanish Civil War, it was already obsolescent by the time Italy entered the war.

Design and development

In 1934, Regia Aeronautica requested Italian aviation manufacturers to submit proposals for a new medium bomber; the specifications called for speeds of 330 km/h (205 mph) at 4,500 m (15,000 ft) and 385 km/h (239 mph) at 5,000 m (16,500 ft), a 1,000 km (620 mi) range and 1,200 kg (2,600 lb) bombload. Although Piaggio, Macchi, Breda, Caproni and Fiat offered aircraft that mainly exceeded the speed requirements (but not range), not all exhibited satisfactory flight characteristics or reliability. Accepted among the successful proposals, together with the tri-motor Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 and Cant Z.1007, was the BR.20 Cicogna designed by Celestino Rosatelli, thus gaining the prefix BR, (for "Bombardiere Rosatelli"). Lembo 2003, p. 8-26.]

The BR.20 was designed and developed quickly, with the design being finalised in 1935 and the first prototype (serial number "M.M.274") flown at Turin on 10 February 1936. Green and Swanborough 1982, p. 291.] Production orders were quickly placed, initial deliveries being made to the Regia Aeronautica in September 1936.

Technical description

The BR.20 was a twin-engined low-wing monoplane, with a twin tail and a nose separated into cockpit and navigator stations. Its robust main structure was of mixed-construction; with a slab-sided fuselage of welded steel tube structure having duralumin skinning of the forward and centre fuselage, and fabric covering the rear fuselage. The 74 m² (796 ft²) metal-skinned wings had two spars and 50 ribs (also made of duralumin), with fabric-covered control surfaces. The hydraulically actuated main undercarriage elements retracted into the engine's nacelles, and carried 106 x 375 x 406 mm wheels. The takeoff and landing distances were quite short due to the low wingloading, while the thickness of the wing did not compromise the aircraft's speed. The twin tail allowed a good field of fire from the dorsal gun turret.

The engines were two Fiat A.80 RC 41s, rated at 1,000 cv at 4,100 m (13,500 ft), driving three-bladed Fiat-Hamilton metal variable pitch propellers. Six self-sealing fuel tanks in the centre fuselage and inner wings held 3,622 litres of fuel, with two oil tanks holding 107 kg. This gave the fully loaded bomber, (carrying a 3,600 kg (7,900 lb) payload) an endurance of 5.5 hours at 350 km/h (217 mph), and 5,000 m (16,400 ft) altitude. Takeoff and landing distances were 350 and 380 m respectively. The theoretical ceiling was 7,600 m.

Crewed by four or five, the BR.20's two pilots sat side-by-side with the engineer/radio operator/gunner behind. The radio operator's equipment included a R.A. 350-I radio-transmitter, A.R.5 receiver and P.3N radio compass. Green and Swanborough 1982, p. 292.] The navigator/bomb-aimer had a station in the nose equipped with bombsights and a vertical camera. Another two or three crewmembers occupied the nose and the mid- fuselage, as radio-operator, navigator and gunners. The radio operator was also the ventral gunner while the last crew member was the dorsal gunner.


The aircraft was fitted with a Breda model H nose turret carrying a single 7.7 mm Breda-SAFAT machine gun, and was initially fitted with a Breda DR dorsal turret carrying one or two 7.7 mm machine guns. This turret was unusual because it was semi-retractable: the gunner's view was from a small cupola, and in case of danger, he could extend the turret. This was later replaced by a Fiat M.I turret carrying a 12.7 mm Breda, then by a Caproni-Lanciani Delta turret mounting a 12.7 mm Scotti machine gun (although this was unreliable), and finally by a more streamlined Breda R, armed with a 12.7 mm Breda; this was a much better system that did not need to be retracted because of the lower induced drag. The aircraft was fitted with a further 7.7 mm machine gun in a ventral clamshell hatch that could be opened when required. The original defensive armament weighed 220 kg (484 lb).

The BR.20's payload was carried entirely in the bomb bay in the following possible combinations: 2 x 800 kg bombs as maximum load, 2 x 500 kg, 4 x 250, 4 x 160, 12 x 100, 12 x 50, 12 x 20, or 12 x 15 kg bombs. Combinations of different types were also possible, including 1 x 800 and 6 x 100 kg, 1 x 800 and 6 x 15/20 kg, or 2 x 250 and 6 x 50 or 100 kg bombs. The BR.20 could also carry four dispensers, armed with up to 720 x 1 or 2 kg HE or incendiary bomblets. All the bombs were loaded and released horizontally, improving the accuracy of the launch. No torpedoes were used.

By the time Italy had entered World War II, a new variant, the BR.20M, had been produced and put in service. The BR.20M had a different nose with added glazed sections for the bombardier and a slightly longer fuselage. Also the weight was increased because part of the fabric was substituted with metal, improving the resistance to flutter while reducing speed from 430 to 410 km/h (267 to 255 mph).

Cicogna vs. Sparviero

Despite the BR.20 being the winner of the 1934 new bomber competition, the Savoia Marchetti SM.79, a non-competitor which was developed at practically the same time, gained a reputation that overshadowed the Cicogna, partly because of its performance in air-racing. The performance differences between the two aircraft were minimal: both were rated at about 430 km/h, with maximum and typical payloads of 1,600 kg and 1,250 kg respectively for a range of 800–1,000 km. Both also had three–four machine guns as defence weapons, but almost totally lacked protective armour.

The reasons for the Sparviero's success lay in its flying characteristics. The Sparviero was a more difficult aircraft to fly with a heavier wingload, but overall its three engines gave more power than the two of the BR.20. The Sparviero, weighing around the same, had a reserve of power and was capable of performing acrobatic manoeuvers, even rolls. Its engines were more reliable than those of the BR.20 and had enough power to return to base even with one shut down. The Sparviero's superior agility enabled it to perform as a torpedo-bomber, while the Cicogna was never considered for that role. Over 1,200 Sparvieros were built, at least twice as many as the Cicogna.

Operational history

Shortly after entering service with the "Regia Aeronautica" the aircraft became central to the propaganda campaign lauding Italian engineering. In 1937 two stripped-down BR.20s (designated BR.20A) were built for entry into the prestigious IstresDamascus air race gaining sixth and seventh place when S.M.79s scored the first place, leaving the Fiats far behind. They had a rounded nose similar to civil aircraft, and had all military hardware, such as defensive turrets, removed. The internal fuel capacity was increased to 7,700 litres, bringing the maximum range to 6,200 km. In 1939 a modified long-range BR.20 version (designated BR.20L) named "Santo Francesco" under the command of Maner Lualdi made a highly publicised nonstop flight from Rome to Addis Ababa at an average speed of 390 km/h (242 mph). Green and Swanborough 1982, p. 307.] [ [ Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) - General Aviation World Records: History of General Aviation World Records List of records established by the 'Fiat B.R.20.'] Retrieved: 1 December 2007.] It carried 5,000 litres of fuel, increasing the range from 3,000 to 4,500 km.

The main task of the BR.20 was medium-range bombing. It had many features that were very advanced for its time: with a maximum speed of over 400 km/h and a high cruise speed of 320 km/h, it was as fast as aircraft like the Tupolev SB light bombers. The range and payload were also very good.


Italy deployed six BR.20s to Spain in June 1937 for use by the "Aviazione Legionaria" to fight in support of Franco's Nationalist forces in the Spanish Civil War, Green and Swanborough 1982, p. 293.] with a further seven aircraft sent to Spain in July 1938. They took part in bombing raids over Teruel and at the Battle of the Ebro, proving to be sturdy and accurate bombers. The BR.20s were fast enough to generally avoid interception from the Republican Polikarpov I-16s and I-15s. Losses were very low; nine of the 13 BR.20s sent to Spain survived to the end of the war when they were handed over to the Spanish State to serve with the "Ejército del Aire (EdA)".

While the Cigognas were successful, just 13 examples were sent to Spain compared to at least 99 SM.79s, which meant that the Sparviero was almost the Italian standard bomber, especially on day missions.


In July 1937, when Japan entered into full scale war with China (the Second Sino-Japanese War), the Japanese Army Air Force found itself short of modern long-range bombers pending delivery of the Mitsubishi Ki-21, which was undergoing prototype trials, and so required an interim purchase of aircraft from abroad. Italy was willing to give priority to any Japanese orders over its own requirements, and offered the Caproni Ca.135 and the BR.20. While the Caproni could not meet the Japanese requirements, the BR.20 closely matched the specification, and so an initial order was placed in late 1937 for 72 Br.20s, soon followed by an order for a further 10 aircraft. Green and Swanborough 1982, p. 294.]

Deliveries to Manchuria commenced in February 1938, with the Br.20 (designated the I-Type ("Yi-shiki")) replacing the obsolete Mitsubishi Ki-1, equipping two Air Wings (the 12th and 20th "Sentai"), which were heavily deployed on long-range bombing missions against Chinese cities and supply centres during the winter of 1938–39. The BR.20s were operating with no fighter cover at the extremes of their range and consequently incurred heavy losses from Chinese fighters, as did the early Ki-21s that shared the long-range bombing tasks.

The fabric-covered surfaces were viewed as vulnerable, even if the main structure of this aircraft was noticeably robust. The aircraft had unsatisfactory range and defensive armament, but the first Ki-21s that entered service were not much better, except for their all-metal construction and the potential for further development when better engines became available (both types initially used two 1000 hp engines).

The 12th Sentai was redeployed to the Mongolian-Manchurian border to fight in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol, but when this war ended, in September 1939, the BR.20s were progressively withdrawn and replaced by the Ki-21. Despite having been phased out from operational service, the BR.20 was allocated the Allied code name "Ruth"." [Taylor 1980, p. 384.]

World War II

Following Nazi Germany's invasion of France in April 1940, and with German forces pushing deep into France, Italy declared war on France and the United Kingdom on 10 June 1940. At this time, only four wings operated BR.20s compared to the 14 wings equipped with SM.79s, with 172 Cicognas being in service with the "Regia Aeronautica" including those not yet delivered to operational squadrons. Green and Swanborough 1982, p. 308.] The units equipped with the Cicogna were the , 13°, 18° and 43° "Stormo" (Wing), all based in Northern Italy. The aircraft fought in the brief campaign against France.

On the night of 12 June, eight bombers attacked Toulon dockyard, while the next day attacks were made against Hyères and Fayence airfields. On 15 June, two BR.20s were shot down by Dewoitine D.520s, the French air defences in the south having not been defeated by the German attack in the north. Small scale air raids continued until the French surrender, with many BR.20s also used in support for the Army, and as reconnaissance aircraft.

Later they were used against Great Britain, serving with the "Corpo Aereo Italiano", based in Belgium during the Battle of Britain. The 13° and 50° Stormo formed the major bombing strength of the Corpo Aereo Italiano. They were fully equipped with BR.20Ms, but this did not prevent one disaster after the other. The ferry journey from Italy to their bases in Belgium ended with five bombers crashing, and a further 12 being forced to land en-route due to poor visibility. The first mission, a night attack of 16 aircraft on Harwich, lead to three bombers being lost, with one crashing on takeoff and two becoming lost on their return, failing to find their airfield and their crews bailing out. In a famous battle on 11 November, a formation of 10 BR.20s, escorted by Fiat CR.42 biplane fighters on a daylight raid on Harwich, was intercepted by RAF Hurricanes. Despite the escort, three bombers were downed (together with three CR.42s) and four damaged, with no loss to the Hurricanes. Winston Churchill commented on this raid, which occurred on the same day as the Fleet Air Arm's attack on Taranto: "They might have found better employment defending their Fleet at Taranto." [ [ David Scott Malden] Retrieved: 7 December 2007.] The Italians did not attempt further day missions, and re-commenced flying night missions, which also proved ineffective owing to the poor training in night navigation of the Italian crews. The BR.20-equipped units flew their last mission against Britain on 2 January 1941, and were then withdrawn back to Italy, having lost a quarter of their strength. Green and Swanborough 1982, p. 310.] The Italian contribution to the Battle of Britain was both minimal and a substantial failure. Still, almost 200 modern aircraft were involved, weakening the Regia Aeronautica's presence in the Mediterranean.

During the course of the war, BR.20s were used in North Africa, Albania, Greece and Malta. They were also used extensively in Yugoslavia against Tito's partisans. By 1943, when the Italian armistice was signed, many had been relegated to training, although 81 were with operational units, mostly in the Balkans and Italy; also later serving on the Eastern Front.

Italy invaded Greece in October 1940, and deployed increasing numbers of BR.20s in attacks on Greece from bases in Italy and Albania in support of the Italian Army while it was being driven back into Albania. They were involved in heavy battles with the Greeks and British, often facing fierce RAF opposition, as happened on 27 February 1941, when four BR.20s were lost or heavily damaged. This force was redeployed against Yugoslavia during the more successful German and Italian invasion in April 1941, Green and Swanborough 1982, p. 311.] using a strong detachment (131 aircraft) in four groups.

BR.20s were used against Malta from May 1942, with the 99 and 31 Gruppo carrying out night bombing attacks. The two "gruppi" carried out raids against the besieged island almost nightly, but losses were heavy, and these two units were replaced by the 55 and 116 "gruppi" in October. Attrition remained high, and BR.20 units continued to be rotated to bases on Sicily to continue the offensive against Malta though 1941 and 1942.

From March 1941, 98 Gruppo was sent to Tripolitania to bomb the British forces, in particular the key port of Tobruk. North Africa was never a primary theatre for the Cicogna, but 13 Wing was sent there to continue the night attacks against the British in July 1941–April 1942, while the last use over Africa was when 55 Gruppo aircraft contested Operation Torch. Several BR.20s were sent to Russia in August 1942, to perform long-range reconnaissance from Odessa in support of the retreating Italian forces. Other BR.20s were used to drop food and other material to the Italian Army, often trapped in the Balkans, faced with Yugoslavian resistance.

After the first year of war, the limitation of this type were evident. It was highly vulnerable to enemy attacks, as Japanese experience had shown in 1938, and the aircraft was replaced by the Cant Z.1007 and Savoia-Marchetti SM.84 in almost all operational units that had employed the BR.20.

While the main front line task remained that of night bombing, especially against Malta, other roles included reconnaissance and the escort of convoys in the Mediterranean. For escort duties, aircraft were fitted with bombs and possibly depth charges, but with no other special equipment. They were used in this role from 1941, with 37° Wing (Lecce), 13° Wing (end of 1942), 116°, 32 Group (Iesi, from 1943), and 98° (based in Libya) from 1941. One of the 55° aircraft was lost in August 1941 against British torpedo-bombers, while between 9 August–11 September 1941 98° escorted 172 ships from Italy to Libya. In almost all these units, the Cicogna was operated together with other aircraft, such as the Caproni Ca.314. This escort task was quite effective, at least psychologically although the Cicogna was hampered by the lack of special equipment and, consequently, no submarines were sunk.

At the time of the September 1943 Armistice between Italy and the Allies, 67 BR.20s were operational with front line operational units, mainly being used on anti-partisan operations, Green and Swanborough 1982, p. 312] although most aircraft had been relegated to the training role. During the final years of the war, some surviving aircraft remained in use as trainers and transports. A small number were used by the RSI after the Armistice, with only one retained by the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force, which used it for communications duties. The last BR.20 was retired, 7 June 1946 and none survive today.

Final developments

BR.20 was a good overall design, but it soon became obsolete, and the lack of improved versions condemned it to be only a second line machine, underpowered and lacking in defensive firepower.

The final production variant was the BR.20bis which was a complete redesign. It had a fully glazed nose, a retractable tail wheel, and more streamlined fuselage, pointed fins, although the main change was increased engine power from two 932kW (1,250hp) Fiat A.82 RC 42 radial engines and improved and heavier armament. The nose held a simple machine gun position rather than the turret used on earlier aircraft and two waist blisters were fitted over the wing trailing edge while the dorsal turret was a Breda Type V instead of the earlier Caproni Lanciani type. While this was considered to be an improvement over the previous versions, planned production was limited as the Regia Aeronautica had placed large orders for the CRDA CANT Z.1018 Originally 98 were ordered but only 15 BR.20bis were built from March to July 1943, with heavy allied bombing of Fiat's Turin factory preventing further production. There is no evidence that they were used operationally.

Experimental versions included the BR.20C, a gunship with a 37 mm cannon in the nose and another aircraft was modified with a tricycle undercarriage. Another was modified to guide radio-commanded unmanned aircraft filled with explosives, but this was never used in combat.

Including those sold to Japan, at least 233 standard BR.20s were made, along with 264–279 BR.20Ms being built from February 1940.


;BR.20:Initial production model, 233 built. ;BR.20A:De-militarised conversion of two BR.20s for air racing.;BR.20L:Long ranged civil version, one built.;BR.20M:Improved bomber version with lengthened nose, 264 produced. ;BR.20C:Single aircraft converted by Agusta fitted with 37 mm cannon in revised nose.;BR.20bis:Major re-design with more powerful engines (two Fiat A.82 RC.42 rated at 1,250 hp each), increased dimensions and new, fully glazed nose.


;flagicon|Italy|1861-state Italy
*"Regia Aeronautica"
*Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force
*"Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana";flagicon|Japan Japan
*Imperial Japanese Army Air Service;flagicon|Spain|1939 Spanish State
*"Ejército del Aire (EdA)";flag|Croatia|1941
*Air Force of the Independent State of Croatia;VEN
*A single BR.20 was sold to Venezuela. Donald 1997, p. 407-408.] This was delivered in 1938 and continued in service until 1942 when an engine failure and a lack of spare parts forced its retirement. It was finally scrapped in 1946. [ [ Fiat BR.20] (in Spanish) Access date: 8 December 2007]

Specifications (Fiat Br.20M)

aircraft specifications

plane or copter?=plane
jet or prop?=prop
ref=The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War IIBishop, Chris, ed. "The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II". New York: Barnes & Noble, 1998. ISBN 0-7607-1022-8.]

length main=16.68 m
length alt=54 ft 8 in
span main=21.56 m
span alt=70 ft 8.75 in
height main=4.75 m
height alt=15 ft 7 in
area main=74.0 m²
area alt=796.5 ft²
empty weight main=6,500 kg
empty weight alt=14,330 lb
loaded weight main=
loaded weight alt=
max takeoff weight main=10,100 kg
max takeoff weight alt=22,270 lb
engine (prop)=Fiat A.80 RC.41
type of prop=18-cylinder radial engine
number of props=2
power main=746 kW
power alt=1,000 hp

max speed main=440 km/h
max speed alt=273 mph
cruise speed main=340 km/h
cruise speed alt=211 mph
range main=2750 km
range alt=1,709 miles
ceiling main=8,000 m
ceiling alt=26,250 ft
climb rate main= m/min
climb rate alt= ft/min
loading main= kg/m²
loading alt= lb/ft²
power/mass main=kW/kg
power/mass alt= hp/lb

*3× 12.7 mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns
*1600 kg (3,528 lb) of bombs




* Donald, David, ed. "The Encyclopedia of World Aircraft". Aerospace Publishing. 1997. ISBN 1-85605-375-X.
* Green, William and Swanborough, Gordon, eds. "Fiat BR.20... Stork à la mode". "Air International" Volume 22, No. 6, June 1982, p. 290-294, 307-312. ISSN 0306-5634.
* "Il CAI sul Mare del Nord" (in Italian). "RID magazine" October 1990.
* Lembo, Daniele. "Fiat BR.20 una Cicogna per la Regia" (in Italian). "Aerei nella Storia" n. 29, April-May 2003, West-ward edictions.
* Massiniello, Giorgio. "Bombe sull Inghilterra" (in Italian). "Storia Militare" magazine n.1/2005.
* Mondey, David. "The Hamlyn Concise Guide to Axis Aircraft of World War II". London: Bounty Books, 2006. ISBN 0-753714-60-4.
* Sgarlato, Nico. "Il Disastro del CAI" (in Italian). "Aerei nella Storia" magazine, June 2007.
* Taylor, M.J.H. (ed). "Jane's Encyclopedia of Aviation". London: Jane's, 1980. ISBN 1-85170-324-1.

External links

* [ Spanish Civil War photo showing an early model BR.20]
* [ BR.20 on Avions legendaires, French language]
* [ Warbirds on Fiat BR.20]
* [ Commando Supremo on BR.20]
* [ Br.20 in Spain (Spanish language)]

ee also

similar aircraft=
see also=

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем написать реферат

Look at other dictionaries:

  • FIAT — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Fiat (homonymie). Logo de Fiat Créati …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Fiat V.I. — Fiat Veicoli Industriali Création 1929 Dates clés 1975 devient IVECO Personnages clés Gianni Agnelli …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Fiat — Automobiles S.p.A. Lema You are, We car Tipo Filial de Fiat Group Automobiles …   Wikipedia Español

  • Fiat — S. p. A. Rechtsform Società per Azioni ISIN IT0001976403 Gründung 1899 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Fiat 15 — Constructeur Fiat V.I. Années de production 1911 1922 Classe Camion léger …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Fiat 18 — Constructeur Fiat V.I. Années de production 1911 1920 Production > 20.00 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Fiat — Group Тип Публичная компания …   Википедия

  • Fiat S.p.A. — Fiat S.p.A. Tipo Sociedad Anónima NASDAQ: FIATY …   Wikipedia Español

  • Fiat A.10 — Constructeur Fiat Aviazione  Italie Premier vol 1914 Utilisation Caproni Ca.2 Caproni Ca.32 Caproni Ca.33 Farman MF.11 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Fiat C.R.32 — Fiat CR.32 Fiat CR.32 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Fiat C.R.42 — Fiat CR.42 Falco FIAT CR.42 Falco …   Wikipédia en Français

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”