RE2005 in action
The 22nd Autonomous Group led by Major Vittorio Minguzzi was the only one to make operational use of the RE 2005. It received a total of 36 aircrafts per month.
The totally dedicated crews and pilots of the 22nd allowed the Sagittario to see far wider and more successfull operational service than the Fiat G.55 in the period before the Italian armistice..
The RE 2005 were frequently scrambled against 9th Air Force B-24s and often claimed victories. The aircraft were concentrated in the 362' Squadriglia, based at Naples-Capodichifla under Capt. Germano La Ferla. After an allied bombing on 4 April that damaged this airfield, the unit began dispersing its aircraft on nearby Capua airfield.
The first 362' Squadriglia Sagittario was MM.494, fresh from gunnery trials at Furbara and immediately used for several interceptions, On 2 April 1943, twenty Italian fighters caught a B-24 formation just off lschia and claimed two victories, one of which attributed to Minguzzi in the RE 2005 prototype. "The Sagittario dominated the situation in every respect," wrote the pilot in a report for the 3' Squadra which provides a vivid description of the powerful improvement over previous types."The aircraft is in ideal flying conditions at an altitude of 7000-7500 meters and can make repeated attacks on American heavy bombers in all positions and from all directions. 1...] 1 can therefore say that the speed and handling qualities are excellent even at 7000 meters and that compared to the Macchi 202, the Sagittario made two attacks in the time required by the Macchi 202 for a single pass. It is however necessary to conserve ammunition, because the fact that the Sagittario can keep a firing solution longer means that ammunition is depleted much faster." Forced to return u'ith his engine out, Minguzzi made a difficult landing in the dark, and it is possible that it was this episode which showed the need to fit a landing light under the left wing. The request reached the company and the light was installed on all Reggianes on May.
Between 10-12 April, the Italian Reggianes again fought well. On 10 April, a RE 2005 formation clashed with the USAAF bombers. Lt. Giulio Torresi, who had made his first RE 2005 flight just the day before, claimed a B-24 individually plus three shared. The next
day, two more B-24s were claimed by maresciallo Marcello Baccarh and Lt. Armando Moresi, whose aircraft MM.092343 was shot down. Moresi survived and was picked up by a trawler. On the 12th, maresciallo Tullio Arduini damaged a B-24.
The lack of success of the following days was compensated by the air battle of 28 April. To prevent the defenders from concentrating their fire on a single fighter, attacks were made information agaihst areas not protected by defensive turrets. Minguzzi, Donati, Torresi and a fourth pilot claimed two Liberators.
On 29 May, the 22nd Group deployed to. The entire unit scrambled on 25 June, but noachieving much, but the next day four aircraft were damaged on the ground by an enemy air raid.
Anticipating the imminent invasion of Sicily, on 2 July the 362' deployed to Catania with about ten RE 2005, virtually all that existed. The squadron lacked all logistic and tactical support, but it fought well.
The first day of fighting, July 11, immediately showed that the battle would be fought uphill. Lt Dilissano and his aircraft were lost in circumstances unclear to this day, while Torresi claimed one Spitfire shot down confirmed and one probable. In the afternoon, five RE 2005 clashed with Spitfires, possibly from 111st Squadron, losing Lt. Luigi Nitolia while Lt. Enrico Salvi managed to return with his aircraft damaged. The three survivors, La Ferla, Arduini and Lt. Vaghi, claimed one Spitfire each.
The fight went on alternating ground attacks, scrambles and road strafing, on 13 July Torresi shot down over Catania airfield a Spitfire which was attacking Lt. Vaghi's aircraft. This Spitfire (ES282 of 93 Squadron). It was flown by a New Zealander, EW Bridges, who was captured but managed to escape. Two days later, hunger led him to surrender again to his captors, but he escaped again and rejoined his unit on 24 July.
Although the 362nd took off again from the surviving Fontanarossa, Sigonella and the Finocchiara airstrips, it soon found it impossible to operate effectively. Thus on 14 July La Ferla decided to send his ground crews back, while the last airworthy RE 2005 were flown back by Arduini and Sgt Major Lucio Biagini. Oral accounts say that both fighters were on Reggio Calabria, where they had been taken on by the 371k Squadriglia. The British found five wrecks at Catania, including MM.494/362-4, 092346/362-3 and 092354/362-1, 362-7, wich were destroyed on the ground by air raids.e
Of the three aircraft scrambled on 21 August, MM.096101 (flown by Biagini, now with the 35 Squadriglia) returned with its rear fuselage severely damaged. On 25 August, three 362" and a single 369" machine were scrambled, but Lt Dario Signorini was brought down near Piedimonte D'Alife by a formidable tailplane vibration while flying MM.092356. The aircraft was lost, but the pilot made a successful parachute jump despite becoming unconscious.
After this two episodes, the RE 2005 fleet was grounded and two S.82 transports flew back to Reggio Emilia the two fuselages with structural damage.
On 25 August De Prato carried out test dives at Guidonia. He then flew the aircraft, possibly MM.096101, back to Reggio Emilia where three more dives were made on 27, 29 and 31 August. According to De Prato's 1950 account, the tests concluded that the "shaking" began at 660 kph true air speed and that they were caused by inadequate dynamic balancing of the empennage, the ballance was probably lost during full excursion rudder maneuvers performed by the pilots during dives. After correcting the ballancing, De Prato dived the aircraft to 988 kph TAS, convincing himself that the structure of the RE 2005 was fully capable of pulling g's, but that trouble arose when "such problems were caused due to the uncontrolled maneuvers necessary in war situations."
In other words " Our pilots were used to small rudder control surfaces, such those of Maccis and Messershmitts,with such aircrafts full excursion rudder movements were not a problem the rudder freely during dives.
The VNE (velocity to be not exceded) with rudder extended left or right of more than half course was calculated at around 800 kph.
On 8 September, the day of the Italian armistice, SUPERAEREO ordered the 22nd Group (by now equipped with a mix of RE2005s and RE2001s) and other units to provide air cover for the fleet which would leave La Spezia at night "with the anticipated schedule and route marked in brown" on a map sent out already on 26 August. Things went differently and 22nd Group pilots ended up destroying their own aircraft to avoid capture by the Germans.
By the way some other Reggiane 2005 from other Squadriglie survived, some more were produced for the Germans, ANR and Romanian airforce: the 2005s were to be seen again.
Re 2005s saw service with the ANR (northern Italy's fascist airforce) in 1943/44, while about 15 were used by the Germans of Fliegerzielstaffel 20 from June to December 1944. It has been reported by several sources that this aircrafts were used in combat over Berlin, Bucharest and Ploesti, having the Luftwaffe enough aircrafts and spareparts to fully equip one Staffel. The Sagittario was higly rated by the Germans, wich even considered undertaking production by their own after the destruction of the Reggiane factories in 1944.