September 2023

Reggiane Re.2000 Falco

Supermarine Spitfire Vb

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Reggiane Re.2000 Falco

377a Squadriglia Autonomo, Regia Aeronautica

Palermo-Bocadifalco Sicily, 1942.

Supemodel 1/72 with various decals

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The Reggiane Re2000 Falco (Eagle) is an unusual aircraft that was only used in small quantities by the Italian Air Force, but definitely relevant to my Malta Air War theme. Despite excellent performance, high speed, long range and manoeuvrability, it was rejected by the Regia Aeronautica because of concerns about reliability and specifically, a dislike of the large structural wing fuel tanks which it was thought would be difficult to build, prone to leaks and vulnerable to enemy fire. Despite this rejection, Reggiane continued with the design as a private venture and were given permission to export it, with Sweden (60) and Hungary (70, plus 204 of a locally produced derivative) as the main customers. Even the RAF contracted to buy up to 300 Re2000s, but the contract was cancelled when Italy entered the war on the Axis side.  A naval variant served onboard 3 Italian battleships (and later ashore as naval Base defence) with catapult assisted launch then recovering ashore after a sortie.

A small number of Italian owned Re2000s (about 14 of various marks) were issued to 23 Gruppo, 3 Stormo, based at Comiso in Sicily, forming an experimental fighter section as part of 74 Squadriglia. After 23 Gruppo were redeployed to Libya, this squadron remained in Sicily, as the independent 377a Squadriglia, based at Palermo Boccadifalco as well as Trapani further to the west. The aircraft, many of which were upgraded to the long range GA variant, operated over and around Malta during 1941 and 1942, mostly escorting supply ships heading to North Africa where the aircraft's long range enabled it to reach almost as far as the Tunisian coast.  They also undertook regular raids against targets of opportunity in Malta, strafing and dropping light bomblets often at dawn.  During one of these raids the Italian Re2000s gained their only recorded air to air kill, an RAF Blenheim. Despite its aerial qualities, the Falco's weak point was its Piaggio P.XI radial engine, (a licensed derivative of the Gnome-Rhone Mistral Major, itself a derivative of the Bristol Jupiter) which was difficult to maintain and woefully unreliable. Locally built Hungarian Heja fighters with improved Hungarian engines and armament had some success on the Eastern Front.  Regianne used the RE2000 design as the basis for their superb later Re2001, Re2002 and Re2005 series of fighters, changing the wing design to encompass a more conventional fuel tank arrangement and fitting a more powerful and reliable in-line Alfa Romeo engine (based on the German DB601).

Building the Supermodel Reggiane Re2000 Falco Kit:

First issued in 1971 by Italaerei (before they simplified their name), this is a fairly simple model kit with fine but quite prominent raised detail (easily toned down). Subsequent releases appeared as Supermodel kits and remained available until the mid 1980s. The recently issued Italeri kit is related to this mould, but with detail upgrades (e.g. cockpit, undercarriage and lowered flaps).

As befits a kit of this era, it has no cockpit to speak of, but once the slightly chunky pilot figure is fitted on his bench seat, there is little that can be seen, although I did add an instrument panel to block the forward view into the engine! Unfortunately the one piece canopies (two types, early and late are provided) preclude easily opening the canopy.  A single piece lower wing fits precidely into the joined lower fuselage halves, but when the upper wings are fitted they leave a noticeable step at the joint.

The rest of the kit goes together well, with good, albeit not perfect, fit. Although it matters little at this scale, the kit itself is a bit of a melange, sometimes claiming to be a Re2000 Series II GA, but with some parts for a Series III. The box art shows the naval variant that was carried by 3 Italian battleships.  Rather like the British Hurricats, it was intended for a one-way flight! The wing guns are not appropriate for any version;  they were a proposal for the catapult launched naval variant, but never fitted.  

For my build, and for my Malta theme, I have chosen to represent an Re2000 Series II of 377 experimental fighter Sqn, based out of Palermo in Sicily. Decal came from several sources, using an illustration from the Richard Caruana Fighting Colours book as the basis. Paint is Humbrol 91 with Humbrol 83 blotches, plus a Humbrol 128 underside.

As with the other Supermodel kits, this is a simple but effective little model of a less common type, suitable for a quick build if you want but with plenty of potential for superdetailing as well !

Link to more Italian WW2 aircraft on my Adversaries pages

September 2023 - Spitfire Vb 249 Sqn RAF Krendi Malta

Link to September 2023 Part 2 (Supermarine Spitfire Vb) >>

Part 1

Flight and ground crew of 377a gathered in front of a Falco

The catapult variant of the Falco.

Background picture: A Harvard in Italian Air Force markings at RIAT 2023