Breda Ba.88
The Breda Ba.88 Lince (Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

: Lynx
A lynx is any of the four Lynx genus species of medium-sized wildcats. The name "lynx" originated in Middle English via Latin from Greek word "λύγξ", derived from the Indo-European root "*leuk-", meaning "light, brightness", in reference to the luminescence of its reflective eyes...

) was a ground-attack aircraft used by the Italian
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

Regia Aeronautica
Regia Aeronautica
The Italian Royal Air Force was the name of the air force of the Kingdom of Italy. It was established as a service independent of the Royal Italian Army from 1923 until 1946...

 during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. Its streamlined design and retractable undercarriage
The undercarriage or landing gear in aviation, is the structure that supports an aircraft on the ground and allows it to taxi, takeoff and land...

 were advanced for the time, and after its debut in 1937 the aircraft established several world speed records. However, when military equipment was installed on production examples, problems of instability developed and the aeroplane's general performance deteriorated. Eventually its operational career was cut short, and the remaining Ba.88 airframes were used as fixed installations on airfields to mislead enemy reconnaissance. It represented, perhaps, the most remarkable failure of any operational aircraft to see service in World War II.

Design and development

The Breda Ba.88 was designed to fulfill a 1936 requirement by the Regia Aeronautica
Regia Aeronautica
The Italian Royal Air Force was the name of the air force of the Kingdom of Italy. It was established as a service independent of the Royal Italian Army from 1923 until 1946...

 for a heavy fighter bomber capable of a maximum speed of 530 km/h (329 mph)(more than that of any other aircraft existing or being planned at the time,), armament of 20 mm cannons and range of 2,000 km (1,240 mi). It first flew in October 1936. The project was derived from the aborted Ba.75 also designed by Giuseppe Panzeri and Antonio Parano.

Technical description

The Ba.88 was an all-metal, twin-engine, two-crew, high-speed monoplane
A monoplane is a fixed-wing aircraft with one main set of wing surfaces, in contrast to a biplane or triplane. Since the late 1930s it has been the most common form for a fixed wing aircraft.-Types of monoplane:...

, with a high-mounted wing. It employed a "concentric" fuselage
The fuselage is an aircraft's main body section that holds crew and passengers or cargo. In single-engine aircraft it will usually contain an engine, although in some amphibious aircraft the single engine is mounted on a pylon attached to the fuselage which in turn is used as a floating hull...

 design, with a framework of steel tubes and a metallic skin covering which was both streamlined (having a very small fuselage cross-section) and strong. However, this internal load-bearing structure was very complex and of outdated design, as monocoque designs were starting to be developed elsewhere. The internal struts resulted in excessive weight compounded by manufacturing delays. The narrow confines of the fuselage would require the Ba.88 to carry bombs in a semi-external structure, much to the detriment of the aircraft's aerodynamics. The all-metal wings had two longerons, and housed the engine nacelles, undercarriage main elements, and the majority of the 12 self-sealing fuel tank
Self-sealing fuel tank
In aviation, self-sealing fuel tank is a fuel tank technology in wide use since World War II that prevents fuel tanks primarily on aircraft from leaking fuel and igniting after being damaged by enemy fire....

s (the only protective armour
Vehicle armour
Military vehicles are commonly armoured to withstand the impact of shrapnel, bullets, missiles, or shells, protecting the personnel inside from enemy fire. Such vehicles include tanks, aircraft, and ships....

 in the aircraft), providing a 1,586 L (419 US gal) total capacity. All three undercarriage units were retractable, which was unusual for the time.

The aircraft was powered by two Piaggio P.XI
Piaggio P.XI
|-See also:-Bibliography:* Gunston, Bill. World Encyclopedia of Aero Engines. Cambridge, England. Patrick Stephens Limited, 1989. ISBN 1-85260-163-9...

 air-cooled radial engine
Radial engine
The radial engine is a reciprocating type internal combustion engine configuration in which the cylinders point outward from a central crankshaft like the spokes on a wheel...

s. They were of the same type as used in other projects such as the Re.2000, and drove two three-blade, continuous-speed
Constant speed propeller
A constant speed propeller is a type of propeller that can change its blade pitch to take better advantage of the power supplied by an engine in much the same way that a transmission in a car takes better advantage of its power source...

 3.2 m (10.4 ft) diameter Breda propeller
Propeller (aircraft)
Aircraft propellers or airscrews convert rotary motion from piston engines or turboprops to provide propulsive force. They may be fixed or variable pitch. Early aircraft propellers were carved by hand from solid or laminated wood with later propellers being constructed from metal...

s. The engine nacelles also carried the two main undercarriage units. It had a twin tail to provide the dorsal 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Breda-SAFAT machine gun
Breda-SAFAT machine gun
Breda-SAFAT was a series of machine-guns mounted on Italian aircraft during World War II. The weapon came in 7.7mm and 12.7mm variants. The 7.7mm model was similar to the M1919 Browning machine gun and could use some types of .303 British ammunition. The 12.7mm version could fire a...

 with a better field of fire.

As for armament, the aircraft had three nose-mounted 12.7 mm (0.5 in) Breda machine guns with 400, 450 and 400 rounds respectively. Another Breda (7.7 mm/0.303 in caliber, with 250-500 rounds) with a high arc of fire, was fitted in the rear cockpit and controlled by a complex motorised electrical system. A modern "San Giorgio" reflector gunsight
Reflector sight
A reflector or reflex sight is a generally non-magnifying optical device that allows the user to look through a partially reflecting glass element and see an illuminated projection of an aiming point or some other image superimposed on the field of view...

 was fitted, and there was even a provision to mount a 20 mm cannon instead of the central Breda-SAFAT machine gun in the nose. The payload was composed of three bombs of 50 kg (110 lb), 100 kg (220 lb) and 250 kg (550 lb), or a Nardi dispenser for 119 2 kg (4 lb) bomblets. All these weapons gave the Ba.88 impressive armament for its time.

The forward pilot's cockpit was fully instrumented, with an airspeed indicator
Airspeed indicator
The airspeed indicator or airspeed gauge is an instrument used in an aircraft to display the craft's airspeed, typically in knots, to the pilot.- Use :...

 capable of reading to 560 km/h (350 mph), gyroscope
A gyroscope is a device for measuring or maintaining orientation, based on the principles of angular momentum. In essence, a mechanical gyroscope is a spinning wheel or disk whose axle is free to take any orientation...

 and an altimeter
An altimeter is an instrument used to measure the altitude of an object above a fixed level. The measurement of altitude is called altimetry, which is related to the term bathymetry, the measurement of depth underwater.-Pressure altimeter:...

 (useful to 8,000 m/26,250 ft).

Testing and evaluation

Despite its structural weight liabilities, the single-tailed prototype set a speed record over a 100 km (60 mi) circuit on 3 February 1937 by reaching 518 km/h (322 mph), taking the record away from France. Another record was obtained on 10 April 1937 when it achieved 475 km/h (295 mph) over 1,000 km (620 mi). Piloted by Furio Niclot Doglio
Furio Niclot Doglio
Furio Niclot Doglio, MOVM was an Italian test pilot and World War II fighter pilot in the Regia Aeronautica. Doglio set nine world aviation records in the 1930s during his time as a test pilot. During the war, he claimed seven kills , flying FIAT G. 50s and Macchi C. 202s, establishing himself as...

, the Ba.88 prototype had two 671 kW (900 hp) Isotta-Fraschini
Isotta Fraschini represents two Italian manufacturing companies which produce, respectively, marine engines and luxury goods. In the early 20th century it was famous worldwide as a luxury car manufacturer.-History:...

 K 14 engines. This record speed was increased to 554 km/h (344 mph) when the modified prototype, using a double tail, was re-equipped with the definitive engines; the 746 kW (1,000 hp) Piaggio P.XI-RC40s. This time it broke German records in a 100 km (60 mi) stage at an average speed of 554.4 km/h/344.5 mph (with 1,000 kg/2,200 lb load) on 5 December 1937. Finally on 9 December 1937, another world record was set when averaging 524 km/h (326 mph) over 1,000 km (621 mi) with a 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) load.

The Ba.88 had all the design specifications to be a very effective heavy fighter-bomber. It had a slim, streamlined shape (noted by all aviation observers), a rugged structure, heavy firepower, long range and high speed, with the same horsepower of medium bomber
Medium bomber
A medium bomber is a bomber aircraft designed to operate with medium bombloads over medium distances; the name serves to distinguish them from the larger heavy bombers and smaller light bombers...

s such as the Br.20 (but at 9 tonnes/10 tons vs. 5 tonnes/6 tons). Despite its promising beginning, the addition of military equipment in the production series aircraft resulted in high wing loading
Wing loading
In aerodynamics, wing loading is the loaded weight of the aircraft divided by the area of the wing. The faster an aircraft flies, the more lift is produced by each unit area of wing, so a smaller wing can carry the same weight in level flight, operating at a higher wing loading. Correspondingly,...

 and detrimental aerodynamic effects with a corresponding loss of performance, below any reasonable level. The contract was subsequently canceled, but production was later resumed, mostly for political reasons to avoid closing production lines of Breda and its satellite company IMAM.


Production numbers of the first series (production started in 1939) were 81 machines (MM 3962-4042) made by Breda, and 24 by IMAM (MM 4594-4617). The first series included eight trainers, with an elevated second pilot's seat. This was one of the few combat aircraft to have a dedicated trainer version, but it was not enough to prevent the overall failure of the programme.

The second series totalled 19 Breda (4246-4264) and 24 IMAM (MM:5486-5509) machines fitted with small engine cowling rings. There was a limited evolution in this series, with the second series mainly being sent straight to the scrapyard.

Operational history

Two Gruppi (Groups) were equipped with the Breda Ba.88 on June 1940, operating initially from Sardinia
Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea . It is an autonomous region of Italy, and the nearest land masses are the French island of Corsica, the Italian Peninsula, Sicily, Tunisia and the Spanish Balearic Islands.The name Sardinia is from the pre-Roman noun *sard[],...

 against the main airfield of Corsica
Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea. It is located west of Italy, southeast of the French mainland, and north of the island of Sardinia....

, with 12 aircraft on 16 June 1940 and three on 19 June 1940. The crews soon found that the Bredas were extremely underpowered and lacked agility, but the lack of fighter opposition resulted in them being able to perform their missions without losses.

Later, 64 aircraft became operational serving 7imo Gruppo in the North African Theatre with 19imo stationed in Sardinia, but their performance remained extremely poor resulting in the 7imo Gruppo being grounded from the end of June until September, when the Italian offensive against British forces started. Of three aircraft used, one was not even capable of taking off, and another could not turn and was forced to fly straight from their base at Castelvetrano
Castelvetrano is a town and comune in the province of Trapani, Sicily, Italy. The archeological site of Selinunte is located within the territory of the comune. It was the birthplace of Giovanni Gentile, the key philosopher of the Fascist movement in Italy.The town is predominantly a farming town,...

 to Sidi Rezegh.

With anti-sand filters fitted, a maximum horizontal speed of 250 km/h (155 mph) was reported in some cases and several units were even unable to take off at all. These machines were fitted with "Spezzoniera" Nardi dispensers (with 119 kg/262 lb bomblets), 1,000 rounds for the three 12.7 mm (0.5 in) machine guns and 500 rounds for the 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Bredas. Although the weapons were not loaded to full capacity and the aircraft was lightened by eliminating the rear machine gun, observer, bombs and some fuel, lessening the weight did not substantially affect the aircraft's performance. Such attempts to reduce weight failed to achieve positive results.

By mid-November, just five months after the start of the war on 10 June 1940, most surviving Ba.88s had been phased out as bombers and stripped of useful equipment, and were scattered around operational airfields as decoys for attacking aircraft. This was a degrading end for the new, (theoretically powerful) Breda Ba.88. This action forced the Regia Aeronautica to use totally outdated aircraft in North Africa, such as the Breda Ba.65
Breda Ba.65
|-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Angelucci, Enzo and Paolo Matricardi. World Aircraft: World War II, Volume I . Maidenhead, UK: Sampson Low, 1978. ISBN 0-562-00096-8....

 and Fiat C.R.32. As an additional problem, Regia Aereonautica remained without any suitable heavy fighter, a notable weakness for a major air arm.

Similar "heavy fighter-zerstorer" projects were developed in several countries. In France, the Breguet Br.690 even with only 1,044 kW (1,400 hp) was more capable than the Ba.88. Despite some problems of reliability, the Br.690 showed a practical usefulness that the Breda never achieved. It is notable that the Ba.88 was also a contemporary of the Messerschmitt Bf 110
Messerschmitt Bf 110
The Messerschmitt Bf 110, often called Me 110, was a twin-engine heavy fighter in the service of the Luftwaffe during World War II. Hermann Göring was a proponent of the Bf 110, and nicknamed it his Eisenseiten...

, with no great differences in hp, weight, P/W ratio or wingload. But the difference in success was immensely in the Bf 110's favour.

Niclot was the only pilot capable of flying this machine at its best (and only in the racer version which was much lighter), while the average pilot was not capable of using it effectively. Despite its impressive world records and aggressive, slim shape, the Ba.88 was a failure and totally unable to undertake combat missions. Its structure was too heavy, wing loading too high, and the engines were quite unreliable with insufficient power. The Piaggio P.XI was quite powerful, but never reliable, leading also to the overall failure of the Reggiane Re.2000
Reggiane Re.2000
The Caproni-Reggiane Re.2000 Falco I was an Italian all metal, low-wing, monoplane with a Curtiss-style retractable undercarriage, used in the first part of World War II. This lightly built and highly manoeuvrable interceptor/fighter, similar to the Seversky P-35, flew for the first time in 1939...

. (Hungary substituted the engines with similar ones for the first license-produced examples).

Three Ba.88s were modified by Agusta
Agusta is an Italian helicopter manufacturer. It is based in Samarate, Northern Italy. It is a subsidiary of Finmeccanica. The company was founded by Count Giovanni Agusta in 1923, who flew his first airplane in 1907...

 plant in late 1942, to serve as ground-attack aircraft. These aircraft, denominated Ba.88M had a wingspan increased by 2 meters (6 ft 6½ in) to alleviate wingloading problems and dive brakes. They had Fiat A.74 RC.38
Fiat A.74
-See also:-References:*...

 engines, while nose armament was now four 12,7 mm (o,5 in) Breda-SAFAT machine guns. They were evaluated at Guidonia
Guidonia Montecelio
Guidonia Montecelio is a town and comune in the province of Rome, Lazio, central Italy.- Geography :The community of Guidonia Montecelio lies to the north-east of Rome, some kilometres from the Grande Raccordo Anulare - a ring-shaped motorway which forms a circle around the capital...

. They were delivered to the 103° Gruppo Autonomo Tuffatori, at Lonate Pozzolo
Lonate Pozzolo
Lonate Pozzolo is a town and comune located in the province of Varese, in the Lombardy region of northern Italy.The airline Cargoitalia has its head office in the Avioport Logistics Park in Lonate Pozzolo.-External links:*...

, on 7 September 1943, the day before Italian Armistice. They were evaluated by Luftwaffe pilots and that was the last heard of this unsuccessful aircraft.

Specifications (Ba.88)

See also

External links

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