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The Fiat CR.42, a logical development of the Fiat CR.32, was the last single-seat fighter biplane to be produced. It entered service with the Italian Regia Aeronautica in May 1939 before being exported to Belgium, Hungary and Sweden. Its combat debut came when the Belgian air force threw its fleet into action during the German invasion of the Low Countries on 10th May 1940. Despite being quickly overwhelmed, the Belgian pilots managed to make a number of aerial claims. The CR.42 became heavily involved in the fighting in North Africa and although it was gradually replaced by more modern fighters, it continued in a point defense and ground support role until the end of the war.Drawing on research from a range of sources, this book examines the extensive employment of the Italian fighter plane during the course of World War II.
British and Italian biplanes clashed over the Mediterranean at Crete and Malta, and in East and North Africa early in World War II. Both the Gloster Gladiator and the Fiat CR.42 Falco represented the peak in the development of the biplane fighter, which could trace its lineage back to World War I. However, by the time both aircraft entered service in the late 1930s, they were already obsolete. Nevertheless, they gave sterling service on all fronts in the Mediterranean and Africa in 1940-41. Indeed, the CR.42 was the Regia Aeronautica's staple fighter in both North and East Africa, Greece and over Malta in 1940-41, during which time its pilots routinely fought British and Commonwealth squadrons equipped in the main with Gladiator biplanes. Some bitter dogfights were fought between these two types as the Allies attempted to gain control of the skies over North Africa, Greece and East Africa. Both types were flown in the main by highly experienced pre-war pilots, and this in turn made for some closely fought engagements. The first known combat between the CR.42 and the Gladiator took place on 14 June 1940 over North Africa and the last engagement between the two types occurred on 24 October 1941 over the East African front.
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