The Caproni-Reggiane Re.2000 Falco I was an Italian interceptor/fighter, serving in the Regia Aeronautica (Italian Air Force), Hungarian Air Force, and Swedish Air Force during the first part of World War II.
Design and development
The Reggiane Re.2000 was designed by Ing. Longhi who took his inspiration from the contemporary Seversky P-35
which it superficially resembled. The Re.2000 prototype's first flight was on 24 May 1939
, in Reggio Emilia
, flown by Mario De Bernardi
, and achieved a maximum speed of 515 km/h at 5,000 m. This was the Reggiane
company's first aircraft having aluminum
skin (panels) rather than an exclusively wooden structure. Mock dogfights to test it against other existing fighters found that it could successfully outmanoeuver the Fiat CR.32
and the German Bf 109E
. The Regia Aeronautica rejected it, however, due to its unreliable engine and vulnerable fuel tanks.
Only five Serie Is served in the Regia Aeronautica, including the prototype. They were organized into the Sezione Sperimentale Reggiane inside the 74a Squadriglia in Sicily. Later it was renamed 377a Squadriglia Autonoma Caccia Terrestre, and received nine further Serie III Re.2000s. It was based in Sicily, and fought in North Africa, Malta and Pantelleria, mainly in an attack role. The last Re.2000 was sent back to the factory in September 1942.
The Regia Marina (Italian Navy) experimented with a carrier version (Serie II) of the fighter which was successfully launched by catapult, but the idea was not implemented, and the Navy used the aircraft to a limited extent, flying only from land bases. Differing with the Serie I, both Serie II and III variants were equipped with radios.
The aircraft was much more prominent in the Hungarian
air forces. In fact, 80 percent of Re.2000 production went to these two countries, with Hungary ordering 70 and Sweden 60 machines. The British
government was also interested in the fighter, putting in an order for 300 Re.2000s, but this was cancelled when Italy
entered the war alongside Germany
Service in Sweden
The Swedish purchases of various types of Italian warplanes in 1939-41 were an emergency measure resulting from the outbreak of war, as no other nations were willing to supply aircraft to this small neutral country whose domestic production didn't become sufficient until 1943. The Swedish Air Force
purchased 60 Re.2000 Serie Is, which received the Swedish designation J 20 and were delivered during 1941-43.
All of the J 20s were stationed at the F10 wing, Bulltofta airbase, Malmö, in the southern tip of Sweden in 1941-45. They were mainly used to intercept Axis and Allied bombers that violated Swedish airspace. One J 20 was lost in combat, shot down while intercepting a Luftwaffe Dornier Do 24 near Sölvesborg on 3 April 1945.
The pilots appreciated the type, which performed well under harsh conditions. But its mechanical reliability didn't meet Swedish Air Force requirements, with the aircraft having to spend a lot of time in maintenance. At the end of the war, the 37 J 20s that remained in service were so badly worn that they were decommissioned in July 1945 and subsequently scrapped, while one was kept for display purposes.
Service in Hungary
The Re.2000 Serie I also served in Hungary as the Héja
(Falcon) I and II, the II being the same aircraft with a different engine and Hungarian machine guns. The Hungarians used the Re.2000 fighters to serve on the Eastern Front of World War II
. Although combat performance against Soviet Air Forces
was quite satisfactory, the aircraft was not popular with the pilots due to reliability issues and handling difficulties. Hungarian fighter pilots flew Fiat CR.32s
before, and as the Re.2000's flight characteristics were markedly different (being much more prone to stall
), accidents were frequent. Of the first squadron deployed to the Eastern front, all 24 Re.2000 aircraft had suffered accidents (minor and major) within a month after combat deployment. Due to the less rugged landing gear than that of the CR.32's, landing and takeoff accidents were also common on the makeshift Russian airfields.
In a much publicized accident, István Horthy
(the son of the Hungarian regent Miklós Horthy
), serving as a fighter pilot with the Hungarian Second Army
died in 1942
when his Re.2000 crashed shortly after takeoff.
- Initial prototype, 1 built.Re.2000 Serie I
- Production model, 157 built. Serie I had modified windshield and slight equipment changes.Re.2000 Serie II
- Ship-borne version, 10 built. Serie II had a 1,025 hp Piaggio P.XIbis engine and arrester gear.Re.2000 (GA) Serie III
- Long-range fighter, 12 built. Serie III had redesigned cockpit, increased fuel capacity and option of auxiliary fuel tank or 4,410 lb (2,000 kg) bomb load.
Hungarian versionsHéja I
- Hungarian designation for Serie I.Héja II
- Hungarian designation for modified license-produced Serie I. Héja IIs had a 986 hp WMK 14 engine and two Hungarian 12.7 mm Gebauer machine guns.
Specifications (Re.2000 Series I)
- Cattaneo, Gianni. The Reggiane Re.2000 (Aircraft in Profile Number 123). Windsor Berkshire: Profile Publications Ltd., 1972 (reprinted from 1967). No ISBN.
- Mondey, David. The Concise Guide to Axis Aircraft of World War II. New York: Bounty Books, 1996. ISBN 1-85152-966-7.
- Punka, George. Reggiane Fighters in action. Carrolton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 2001. ISBN 0-89747-430-9.
- Taylor, John W. R. "Reggiane Re.2000 Falco I (Falcon)". Combat Aircraft of the World from 1909 to the Present. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1969. ISBN 0-425-03633-2.